The Black Swan
by Ana Seymour, historical (2001)
Jove (Irish Eyes), $5.99, ISBN 0-515-13063-X

In Ireland, 1562, Claire O'Donnell is trippy and giddy over her upcoming (arranged) marriage to Cormac Riordon, whom she saw one fine day ages ago and had been soooooooooo in love ever since. (Off-topic rant: I know it is easier to write a story where the heroine is nailed dead in love with the hero just like that - fait accompli - but can we also have some variety here? Like a hero AND heroine falling in love together?)

Unfortunately, she soon finds out the hard way that Cormac doesn't want to marry her. The Riordon Curse is such that any bride of the Riordons will die painfully and horribly within the first year, and Cormac doesn't want Claire's death on his conscience. But does that mean he will sit down and tell her why he can't consummate the marriage? Of course not - what do you think this is, the Oprah Winfrey Show? No, our hero takes off - just like that - leaving the O'Donnells humiliated by our wise hero's rejection.

As a result, Claire's brother kills Cormac's father, and - oh boy. But our two leads are very practical people when it comes to things outside communication. Daddy died? Ah, no big deal. Claire treats her father-in-law's death like the death of a stranger: great, now she has to make sure everyone behaves. After all his initial bluster, Cormac gets down to the serious business of making his arranged marriage work. So Daddy died - your point being...?

The Black Swan gets off an annoying start with a plot that is all due to a Big Misunderstanding. Thankfully, the second half of the story soon gets down to it, like they say: Claire and Cormac become somewhat interesting characters and their developing romance, while still remaining predictable, is very readable and compelling enough to keep me reading. Throw in some obligatory British pig scum politic subplot - hey, this is an Irish romance, after all - and The Black Swan ends on a rather high note.

It's just that the first half of the story - ugh. Still, a good read nonetheless.

Rating: 82

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