My Lady Beloved
by Lael St James, historical (2001)
Sonnet, $6.99, ISBN 0-671-53787-3

Linda Lael Miller, Pocket Book's Multigenre Product Author Prototype #244 (#243 is Karen Robards), decides to create another pseudonym for her historicals now. Is she keeping her Linda Lael Miller name for contemporaries? I'm sure the author, her agent, her publicists, and everyone at Sonnet/Pocket are excited over this dawning of a new horizon for the author, so to speak. But speaking as a reader, Lael St James' beatific arrival into the medieval romance genre is not that much of a celebration, if My Lady Beloved is anything to go by.

Medieval damsel Gabriella Redcliffe is trying to be happy. She is about to be married to one Cyprian Avendall, whom she doesn't love. But for the sake of getting her hands on the Avendall money - oh, for her sisters, and her father, and her lands, never for herself, so please don't hate her, et whatever cetera - she is resigned to a loveless marriage. Maybe she will fall in love with Avendall later in the marriage. Hope springs eternal.

Then comes Morgan Chalstrey (where on earth do they get these names from?), bent on vengeance on Avendall, who then proceeds to kidnap Gabriella close to her wedding day.

Alright, let's see.

Avendall = evil. Check.

Morgan = misunderstood. Check.

Morgan's best friend feeling protective over the lass they kidnapped. Check.

Heroine who falls for wounded hero. Check.

Hero who has been burned by love - it's his fault, he's not worthy, et cetera. Check.

Gabrielle, incidentally, has no personality apart from displaying abrupt mood swings. The book prose veers slightly towards adjective overkill: Gabrielle doesn't just feel afraid, she veers, she feels faint, she struggles not to weep with mortification. And the plot is as manufactured as the persona of Lael St James, the latest multigenre money-making cashbot for Pocket. Formulaic plot, formulaic romance, formulaic packaging - all that's missing is a $2 rebate offer. Maybe that's for Prototype Cashbot #245.

Rating: 71

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