Leisure, $5.50, ISBN 0-8439-4649-0
Fantasy Romance, 1999
Oh boy. In trying to tell me that I should love the heroine because she’s good and pure, et cetera, the author manages to lose me completely. Why can’t these writers show me the main characters are worth rooting for instead for forcing their supposed virtues down my throat, I will never know. By making the heroine “more sympathetic”, that is, can’t tell a lie even when the situation demands it to save her hide, wringing her hands and shedding tears at the correct cue, the whole characterization of Lady Taras of Widnes comes off as the millionth in a long line of wimps to grace a romance novel.
Oh, and the hero Cynewulf’s pretty boring too.
Lady Taras is a witch, she knows magic. Of course, I, as a romance reader, may just puke at the thought of the heroine being any less than a pristine pure and devout woman, hence I am subjected to the first few chapters of Lady Taras going, “I can’t! I can’t! Oh the pain of casting love spells for people who asks me, but I can’t tell them no, so here I am, wringing my hands in guilt! (Like me, I’m virtuous.) I can’t accept their money too! Like me please, I may cast pagan magic, but I’m not greedy. See?” Wimp.
Since I can’t love a heroine who isn’t trustworthy (read: she’s a bungler), she casts a love spell for a knight. The spell causes the knight to turn into a frog instead. Uh oh. The King, her distant cousin, is delighted, of course. He practically blackmails her into using her new spell to turn his enemies into frogs. First on his list is our virile hero Cynewulf, a rampaging Viking leader who is terrorizing England.
Our heroine (“Please like me, I’m lying to save my Mother’s reputation! Honest! I’d rather die than to do anything remotely resembling self-preservation!”) of course goes off to find this Viking Wolf of the North and of course, she couldn’t do it. Cynewulf kidnaps this woman and admires her “strength” (men, typical, give them a clingy woman and they’re in heaven).
What happens next? Taras’s family betrays Taras’s love for Cynewulf, Taras saves Cynewulf, Taras flees in shame (“Like me please, my family is evil, so I can’t bear the guilt of being associated with them, oh, don’t you love me when I’m such a selfless martyr?”), war comes, Cynewulf finds Taras, Taras flees again (“I’m not worthy! I’m… oh just like me, dammit!”)…
Taras, yes dear, I like you. Really. Now run along and play with your boring, stereotypical “Noble Viking” hero, and do warn me when you’re coming back. I’ll make sure I’m not at home.