Mills & Boon, £4.99, ISBN 978-0-263-24823-4
Historical Romance, 2015
In a previous book that I have not read, Lady Rowena de Sainte-Colombe managed to get the king’s approval to join a nunnery and take up vows. But not if her father has his way – he’d be damned if he lets the lands go to his despised nephew. It’s always a nasty nephew, isn’t it? So Lord Faramus, the daddy, has a plan. He summons Sir Eric de Montfort, a former knight of his who has gone on to carve a good name for himself, and tells Sir Eric to kidnap Rowena from the nunnery and marry her. He’d toss in some lands and such to Sir Eric to sweeten the deal – that guy will only move up the social ladder.
Sir Eric is understandably aghast at the whole thing. However, Lord Faramus lets it be known that he doesn’t care who marries Rowena – he’d rather it be Sir Eric, of course, since he and Rowena know one another all the way back from when they were kids, but he has no problems asking other knights to do it. Knowing that he would not want another knight – who’d have no problems forcing Rowena to agree to a marriage – to go after Rowena, Sir Eric decides to say yes. He won’t force Rowena to marry him, though. He’d bring her to his place, and then wait until her father has come to his senses. There would be no marriage. He makes this very clear to Rowena when he kidnaps her. Isn’t that sweet of him?
Lady Rowena’s Ruin starts out pretty promising. Okay, some readers may find Sir Eric bland, and I can see where they are coming from, but me, I find him a nice change after one so many whiny man-child crybaby heroes in romance novels these days. He’s determined to embody the principles of chivalry and gallantry, and he’s pretty nice while he’s at it. Initially Rowena and he have a pretty good understanding about their situation, with him coming clean and she managing to read between the lines and coming to some dead-on conclusions about her father’s motives. While she is determined to take up vows, it’s pretty obvious early on that she’s not really into it: she sees taking up vows as the only way she can avoid being under her father’s control.
The story soon becomes another rather typical “Damsel in a big castle, and someone seems to be determined to kill her!” story. There’s nothing really wrong with this, but as I turn the pages, the main characters, especially Rowena, begin acting inconsistently.
Rowena’s maturity actually regresses after her initial show of brainpower – the way she thinks about love is more akin to how an eight-year old girl would approach life. She will never marry again… because the boy she used to make daisy chains with died. I’m not kidding. She’s like a blank slate when it comes to desires and emotions, as if she has yet to hit puberty, so those scenes when Eric makes the move on her can seem quite obscene in a “The FBI are going to arrest me for reading this, right?” way. Sometimes she would be sensible, but for the most part, she stops communicating with Eric while harboring all kinds of wrong assumptions about him, experiencing little girl lust for him while acting like she’d die from the “Eeeuw! Cooties!” of it all if he kisses her again… the whole thing is just weird. Mentally, the heroine can go from an eight-year old to a much older girl and back again, and it’s confusing. At least, it’s confusing if the reader didn’t catch on quickly that Rowena’s creepy girl-child moments are convenient excuses for the author to prolong the drama between the hero and the heroine.
After all, with Sir Eric being who and what he is, a more sensible lady would have little reason to say no to him as a husband. So, Rowena has to be the way she is to keep the story going, and this is a shame, because she started out like a bright girl.
Eric is a more stable character, but he can also be uncharacteristically obtuse or passive. Why? So that the enemy can come close and put Rowena in danger, just in time for the camera moment of a climax, of course.
At the end of the day, Lady Rowena’s Ruin is an okay read, but it loses me when the author begins treating her main characters too obviously like puppets on a string, making them act inconsistent and weird just for drama. The whole thing feels too artificial for me.