Berkley Sensation, $14.00, ISBN 0-425-18608-3
Historical Romance, 2002
Moonlight and Shadow is set during the… uh… (let me open my Horrible Histories books, let’s see) the final phases of the War of the Roses, which is about… uh… oh whatever. I can reread this book and tell you what the entire war about, because Isolde Martyn doesn’t skimp on the details when it comes to the war between the Lancastrians and Yorkies. But I’ll take my Horrible Histories books anytime – at least it has a sense of humor and a distinctive voice.
The author’s knowledge and research of history are impressive in the age of wallpaper historical romances, but her characters remain some of the flattest, dullest I’ve ever read. They bicker for the smallest of reasons, they sometimes even act like contemporary dudes and dudettes. Maybe it’s time someone takes away Ms Martyn’s history books and have her read some more outright drama for inspiration, because Heloise Ballaster and Miles Rushden are two of the most tired, annoying characters ever.
Heloise is your every day battered daughter, whose father is so evil and nasty that “caricature” is an understatement where Sir Dudley Ballaster is concerned. She dresses up in men’s clothes (for the love of my sanity, don’t ask) and meets our hero Miles, who buys her deception. Oh, and have I mentioned Heloise’s gift of inner sight yet? And yes, she heals too. Who wants to see me go berserk and get really medieval on this book with a meat cleaver?
As for Miles, let’s no go there. Imagine all the standard medieval romance heroes flattened into one giant pancake, and that’s Miles.
There’s sickbed gropings, supernanny to his son nonsense, marriages of (in)convenience, and lots of childish misassumption and second guessing riddling this story. I am hard pressed to imagine anyone but readers with fetish for lots of historical details to the exclusion of decent characterizations and plottings getting excited over the antics of Heloise and Miles. They put the mono in the stereo in stereotype.
Isolde Martyn is a historian, yes. She has taken three books to bludgeon me in the head with that, and yes, I’m impressed. But for goodness sake, for the $14.00 they are charging for her stories, is a little more time spent to plotting and characterization too much to ask?