Zebra, $5.99, ISBN 0-8217-6617-1
Historical Romance, 2000
A female heroine who would rather ride horses – astride please, none of those sissy sidesaddle nonsense – and pepper people with arrows instead of doing the needlework like other sissier medieval noble daughters. Say hi to Bria Delaney, people.
Also say hi to the hubby, Lord Terran Knowles, the thinly disguised “inspired by the Sheriff of Nottingham” dude, who is rumored to be cruel and nasty and a wife-beater-and-killer. But hey, it isn’t his fault, it’s his assistant that is doing the nasties. Judge our hero not for his not-too-intelligent state.
The plot is divided roughly into two main acts. Act I – Is she a virgin? – has our hero doubting our heroine’s state of purity. How shocking! He adamantly refuses to believe that our heroine is a virgin despite her obvious lack of inexperience in kissing, hugging, etc etc etc. The dilemma is solved in an “Oops! Did I hurt you dear when I thought I didn’t need to control myself when I shagged you?” climax.
Act II follows our intrepid heroine’s alter ego, the Robin Hood-y Midnight Shadow as she thwarts our hero’s assistant’s heinous acts on the poor innocent peasants. Like all heroines though, she swoons and loses all logic the moment our hero unzips (or whatever they do to medieval jeans) himself and flashes his impressive coronet scepter at her. Midnight Shadow rushes headlong into danger, regardless of risk, regardless of sanity. She doesn’t need stratagems or plot machinations, no indeedy. She is Heroine, she will be impetuous.
Midnight Shadow is another one of those uninspired medieval Robin Hood yee-ha’s. Heroine with no common sense, hero with little likability factor (the “He’s handsome so he’s cool!” rule at work here) or appropriate grovel, and lots of wishy-washy behavior on the main characters’ part. The latter is especially in the hero’s abrupt turnabout from “I love my dead wife!” to “I never loved that useless woman!” the moment he sees the scrumptious sight of Bria. And Bria, like all good obedient heroines, actually forgoes rescuing her friend from her hubby’s dungeons for hubby’s mighty schooling in the saddle.
Therefore, Midnight Shadow, I’m afraid, is not at all an interesting, romantic, or memorable book. Maybe if Xena the Warrior Princess had stepped in and done a few backflips, things will improve. Alas, no strong heroine, no strong hero, no credible plot makes this book one mediocre read.