The Lion's Lady

In The Lion's Lady by Julie Garwood, we have an interesting pair of romantic leads. One is traditional. The hero is wealthy beyond compare, handsome, and skilled with a blade. The other is untraditional. The heroine is a beautiful blonde, strong, intelligent - and she was raised by Dakota Indians. So when she reaches the England of the early 1800s, she is far from a Pride & Prejudice heroine. Instead, while she is good at imitating the performance on the outside, on the inside she simmers with a love of nature, a desire to speak plainly, and an instant attraction to Lyon.

I love heroines who can hold their own and who can protect themselves. I enjoyed Christina in this novel. She was an interesting woman, with a variety of facets. I could appreciate her strengths. I liked how she would strive to do what was right and that Lyon - while upset - would react intelligently to the actions.

I enjoyed learning details about the cultures, although I think more could have been woven in. We only see small glimpses of Dakota life and culture. There could have been much more woven into her statements - some use of the language, some stronger aspects of how she views life. Instead we got only generic "she loves nature" and "she likes to ride bareback" types of information.

There were some issues with the writing. Dialogue is sometimes given without an indication of who is talking in situations where multiple people could have said something. It leads to confusion and the requirement to re-read paragraphs once it's finally made clear what is going on. There are also situations where the mood changes and the dialogue goes from talking to yelling - but you only are informed of that after reading a sentence or two. It should always be clear in the reader's mind what is going on, and it's the author's responsibility to present that clearly.

There are a few typos which Pocket Books should have caught. Also, the intro of the book is laid out in a confusing manner. It can be off-putting to readers to feel like they have to get to chapter 3 in a book before the pieces begin to tie together.

I would be patient with issues like this if it was a new author or a self-published one, but this author is a "best-seller" who has an editorial team. They should have been polished out before the final version was released.

So, with all of that being said, I did enjoy the story. Garwood deserves credit for pulling off a difficult task. Reading a story with an "innocent to the culture" heroine can sometimes be tedious. "Oh, how do I use this fork?" "Ooops did I use the wrong word again?" Garwood does a good job of not falling into the insipid trench that many authors get caught by. There's a few times that it does begin to grate, but only a few.

I also like that Lyon - while certainly arrogant - is not overtly obnoxious. I've read so many novels which have heroes which border on abusive. Yes, Lyon orders his wife to stay home where it's safe. Yes, he's very upset when she goes somewhere quite dangerous. I find those reasonable feelings for his time period and perhaps for modern times as well. It can be challenging to write a historical novel and maintain what would have been typical for a character back then to do - and not alienate a modern reader. I think the balance is maintained here.

Christina's skill with a knife is quite reasonable and expected. I like it when characters make sense.

So I appreciated the story and Christina's character. Still, this is a book that I enjoyed but won't read again. I'm pondering about why. It feels uncomfortable that Christine - a woman who grew up in an open environment, raised in the Dakota lifestyle - would be so casual about sex. I'm fairly certain that all tribes in this area prized a female's chastity to such an extent that in some tribes women weren't even supposed to look steadily at a male. Courtship was a serious affair. I understand romance novels involve passion - but there's never a hint that she feels what she is doing is "inappropriate" for her culture.

Also, most of their relationship seems to be "Oh look, she's lying to me again" and "He touched me - my brain has stopped working".

And finally, I guess I resist the "Oh look he has God's own quantity of money, gigantic mansions, and he's the most handsome man on the planet too" storyline. Did he really need the largest mansion in the world to be a worthy hero? I would have been much more impressed if he took her out to his country estate and it was a snug home, gorgeously nestled into nature's beauty - something she would appreciate.

So I'll give this 4 out of 5 stars. Worth a read, but not my favorite.

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