Moonlight And Shadow
by Isolde Martyn, historical (2002)
Berkley, $14.00, ISBN 0-425-18608-3

This story is set during the... uh... (lemme open my Horrible Histories books, let's see) the final phases of the War of the Roses, which is about... uh... (lemme browse through the Horrible Histories book on that particular War)... oh whatever. I can reread this book and tell you what the entire war about, because Isolde Martyn doesn't skimp on the details when it comes to the war between the Lancesterians and Yorkies. But I'll take my Horrible Histories books anytime - at least it has a sense of humor and a distinctive voice.

Isolde Martyn's history is impressive in the age of wallpaper historicals, but her characters remain some of the flattest, dullest I've ever read. They bicker for the smallest of reasons, they sometimes even act like contemporary dudes and dudettes. Maybe it's time someone takes away Ms Martyn's history books and have her read some more outright drama for inspiration, because Heloise Ballaster and Miles Rushden are two of the most tired, annoying characters ever.

Heloise is your everyday battered daughter, whose father is so evil and nasty that "caricature" is an understatement where Sir Dudley Ballaster is concerned. She dresses up in man's clothes (for the love of my sanity, don't ask) and meets our hero Miles, who buys her deception. Oh, and have I mentioned Heloise's gift of inner sight yet? And yes, she heals too. Who wants to see me go berserk and get really medieval on this book with a meat cleaver?

As for Miles, let's no go there. Imagine all the standard medieval romance heroes flattened into one giant pancake, and that's Miles.

There's sickbed gropings, supernanny to his son nonsense, marriages of (in)convenience, and lots of childish misassumption and second guessing riddling this story. I am hard pressed to imagine anyone but readers with fetish for lots of historical details to the exclusion of decent characterizations and plottings getting excited over the antics of Heloise and Miles. They put the mono in the stereo in stereotype.

Isolde Martyn, yes, you're a historian. You've taken three books to bludgeon me in the head with that, and yes, I'm impressed. But for goodness sake, lady, for the $14.00 you charge for your stories, is a little more time spent to plotting and characterization too much to ask? Isolde Martyn - take away the history and what's left is the tupperware equivalent of a romance author: reliably mediocre (for now) and overpriced.

Rating: 45

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