Harlequin Historical, $5.25, ISBN 0-373-29238-4
Historical Romance, 2002
I have nothing against medieval characters behaving like medieval characters. But this is provided the author can pull me into her medieval romance first. The premise of Lord Sebastian’s Wife is based on an obscure medieval practice, apparently, in which a man and woman can be married provided they tell each other “I take you for my future husband (or wife)”. When they were silly kids in love with each other, Beatrice Coleville and Sebastian Banbury did just that. Now they are called on to actually get really married. Thing is, he believes her to have slept with another man. She believes that he doesn’t want her because he withdrew from her when he learned he was penniless.
I have to look up reviews of this book to make sense of this story. Thanks to Jean Mason’s review on The Romance Reader, I finally go “Ah, so that’s why these two are making a big fuss over some silly words each spoke to the other when they were kids!” The trouble is, I’m not well-versed in medieval history. Anything not found in my well-thumbed copy of The Measly Middle Ages and Dark Knights & Dingy Castles, I will plead ignorance to. I did some online searching hoping to learn more about this tradition, but unfortunately, I can’t find many webpages to enlighten me.
Still, knowing at least a little about this practice, the story finally makes sense. But by then, I’ve already finished the book. Before I realize how binding those words are, I thought Sebastian and Beatrice silly people who put way too much importance on words spoken when they were kiddies. I thought Sebastian is a jerk while Beatrice is a doormat.
Hmm, maybe I should reread the book again. And then I remember that this is, after all, an annoying big misunderstanding story that sees the hero treating the heroine like dirt most of the time. I recall just how the characters annoy me, and even now when I realize that they may have a good reason to annoy each other, they’re still annoying nonetheless.
In the end, I just shrug and put this book aside. I may not be fair to Katy Cooper, but let’s face it, any book that expects me to know obscure things beforehand, instead of slowly drawing me into the story and showing me why the characters behave the way they are – well, this book is lucky. I’m in a good mood to give it a passing grade on the grounds of the prose being readable, at least.