Falling For Her
by Sandra Lee, historical (2000)
Bantam, $5.50, ISBN 0-553-58011-6

Was it only January 1999 when Sandra Lee released her debut Love At First Sight? It seems centuries ago. Falling For Her is actually a prequel to that one, i.e. it tells the story of how a married couple in LAFS meet and get married.

Lady Roscelyn is praying for strength not to murder her new husband Cerdic. The moron turns out to be an ugly, brutish lout who prefers her nine-year old sister to her and doesn't seem to care whether the latter is willing or not. But deliverance comes in a form that - well, gone a little awry. Actually, a little is an understatement. Norman knight Verdin de Brionne storms the castle barely a day after the marriage, kills every malefolk of Roscelyn and her hubby, and takes over as overlord.

King William, grateful, hands over Roscelyn - Saxon maid - to his faithful knight. Roscelyn has a Secret Document that will aid her in her quest to resaxonize England, but her loyalties start to waffle when she gets a good look at her new hubby naked.

Falling For Her retains the bawdy, colorful humor that characterizes LAFS and make the latter stand out from the glut of medievals out there. Likewise, FFH does stand out from its fellow medieval romance sisters when it comes to humor. There are lines that make me grin and even laugh. It's fun.

But - this is a big but - there is a problem - Varian. Like its predecessor in LAFS, Varian is a loud, bad-tempered bull rampaging around the castle grounds, shouting and making hasty judgements, fie to innocent roadkill happened to get caught in his stampede. A lot of unnecessary comedic errors arise from his thick-headed reluctance to trust his new wife and his tendency to misjudge her at the slightest tendency. It says a lot about the author's ability that while I do grit my teeth once or twice, I still can say I pretty much like this book at the end.

Growly heroes can be adorable, the hero from Loretta Chase's Lord Of Scoundrels coming to my mind, but Varian is very stupid at times. Here is a man who won't hesitate to wield his power and brutish strength, and I find myself cringing when I half-expect him to hit Roscelyn. So strong is his overwhelming power that it makes me uneasy. He barely changes from his brutish persona at the end, so one day I really fear he may just do something stupid that drive a wedge in the marriage or worse, physically harm Roscelyn. (It's not as bad as LAFS, where there is a scene where the hero, in a fit of temper, almost skewers the heroine rolled up in a carpet - of course he doesn't know she's in there, but such easy loss of control really freaks me out.)

FFH has wit, character, and feel-good stamped all over it. It's just too bad the control freak with barely-restrained temper really creeped me out, almost ruining whatever enjoyment I get from this one.

Rating: 74

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