Avon, $5.99, ISBN 0-06-108713-0
Historical Romance, 2001
Master of Desire is better off retitled Mistress of Desire if you ask me. Kinley MacGregor is an author who creates wonderful heroines who aren’t afraid to grab life and the hero by the balls, but her heroes more often than not are dull, humorless sorts, archetypes of the typical hero. Here, it’s no different.
Medieval tomboy-under-a-lady’s-disguise Emily’s problems begin when her father Lord Hugh and Lord Draven de Montague bring their latest feud to King Henry II. It’s all in the bad timing, as King Henry II is already in a bad mood because every one of his noblemen seems to be at each other’s throats. To set an example, he decides to force these two men to compromise. Hugh’s daughter will be “safeguarded” at Draven’s place for a year to ensure both parties’ continuous good behavior. Actually it was supposed to be marriage, but both aghast parties manage to get Henry to tone it down to “safeguarding”.
Emily is the only daughter available for any romance heroine duties (the other two sisters are indisposed), but one look at our tall, dark, strapping knight of a hero and her heart goes pounding. Armed with dreams of marriages of love and advice from her saucy but faithful maid, she sets out to nab her man and enjoy his money, holdings, and body. But Draven believes that he is under some sort of berserker curse, because he has seen his parents succumb to uncontrollable passions that lead to violence and mayhem. He cannot subject poor, fragile (hah!) Emily to his own nature, can he?
So the stage is set from our shy hero shrieking in terror as he flees our fragile flower’s unrelenting pursuit for his virtue.
Only, of course, that is done in a way that has Draven behaving in a typically cold, withdrawn outer self and an inner self seething with unsated lusts and all. He’s quite the usual typical hero, really, only his humorless self is made palatable because he is never cruel to the heroine. The heroine, on the other hand, can do silly things at times, but hey, at least she isn’t afraid to grab what she wants in life, and that’s a good thing in my book. But since our hero insists on playing the reluctant shy-shy virgin for so long, the story soon becomes a one-sided story where the heroine has to do all the work. I feel exhausted on Emily’s behalf.
A lot of Master Of Desire is familiar – the setting, the hero’s brother, the saucy maid, et cetera – but in this case, it works rather well because Ms MacGregor sprinkles a healthy dose of humor and good nature in her story. This one is a light read with enough spunkiness from the heroine to make it all an enjoyable romp.