Sword And Crown
Torrid Tarot: Queen Of Swords
by Lauren Dane, fantasy (2007)
Ellora's Cave, $5.20, ISBN 978-1-4199-0889-7


From what I understand, the Queen of Swords in the tarot deck represents a cautious woman whose life experiences are shaped by past betrayals. She's supposed to be shrewd as well as a good judge of other people. Since we are talking about an Ellora's Cave book, the Queen of Swords must also have a Magic Vagina that will save the world.

Rhea Harris is full of "sex magic". That's the phrase used in this story. This story is set in an alternate world where science and magic co-exists, although there are many people who doubt the existence of magic. Rhea is a "Rex Scholar" (you're expecting "Sex Scholar", aren't you?) making her rounds at universities giving educational lectures and promoting belief/acceptance of magic when she's not swatting away the horny toads attracted to her sexy magical self. She lives with her shapeshifting feline familiar Sarai.

Our hero Jaac Sarne knows Rhea as Sa'Rhea, with an unneccessary apostrophe that is just begging me to issue a fatwa on the use of that punctuation mark in future paranormal romances. Stop with the T'om, D'ick, and Har'ry already! Jaac has loved and lost Rhea some fifteen years ago (when she went on to marry his brother - long story, don't ask) and now he's back asking for her help to beat down the Nameless that is threatening to destroy all that is good and holy. Time for Rhea to spread her legs and do that sexy magic thing to destroy the bad guys! I mean, don't you just love these kind of stories?

"Babe, the terrorists are attacking Ulan Baator!"

"Quick, baby, unzip your pants and stick it into my Marvelously Magical Vagina now! Three pumps and a huge spurt will show those bastards who they are messing with!"

"Oh no, the Klingons are back and they have taken Master Ugu hostage!"

"Let me get comfortable, spread my legs, and show those villains who the boss is around here!"

"Yikes, the camels are on the loose! How do we get them back into the pen?"

"This calls for my Magical Oral Sex Attack! Bring me the kneepads, baby!"

"Oh no, we're close to the last page but look, Darth Vader is coming to kill us all!"

"This is serious. It's time for the all-powerful Annihilating Anal Assault!"

At any rate, Rhea has been exiled from her people due to some crime committed by her now-dead husband that allowed the authorities to scapegoat her for their own mistakes. It's a long story and you'd best read this book yourself to find out what happened. Now that the Nameless are attacking these people, of course they need her back. Apparently the private parts of these ungrateful wretches are not amazing enough to turn back the tide of evil. Rhea however is no fool so she makes sure that her return comes with a condition that the ruling folks give her full power and authority to get her job done. So, now it's a matter of shagging until the bad guys are gone and then shagging some more in the name of love, right?

I am at first scared to even look at Sword And Crown due to it being packaged as a Magic Vagina story. Even the title reflects that aspect of the story, depending on how deep one's mind is in the gutter. However, I am pleased to report that apart from that ridiculous and overused Magic Vagina - Just Pump To Operate premise, much of this story makes a most enjoyable read. Jaac's dialogs are a bit wooden but he's a man with plenty of self-awareness about how immature and weak he was back when he allowed Rhea to be wrongfully punished and his determination to make things right is commendable. I just wish there's more to making things right here other than his whipping out his Mr Happy to do that magic sex thing. Rhea is a very likable heroine - smart, capable, and doesn't take crap from anyone in this story. Her second time romance with Jaac has enough emotional aspects to it to make it more than mere lust.

I could use more details in the world-building, however. For example, I have no idea what a Rex Scholar is or what Rhea actually does when she's living among humans. The lack of concrete details on the setting makes this book feel somewhat incomplete and half-baked.

I can't say I enjoy Sword And Crown without reservation. It is, after all, a Magic Vagina story. But it does has me thinking that I should probably take a look at the author's other books that don't try too hard to be oh-so-sexy to the point of eye-rolling absurdity. There are enough good things about this book to get my groove going - the romance has enough chemistry and emotion instead of just being sex all the way, the psychology of the main characters is well-done too - so really, it's just that Magic Vagina thing that I can't really get past.

Rating: 81


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