Berkley Sensation, $6.99, ISBN 0-425-18686-5
Fantasy Romance, 2002
The hero of Susan Krinard’s The Forest Lord isn’t a werewolf. No, he’s Herne the Hunter, in this book a fae exile who lives unhappily ever after in his domain – the woods of Hartsmere. You probably know who Herne the Horny is – he’s that guy wearing big antlers, the Darth Vader in that old Robin of Sherwood TV show, you know? Anyway, our hero is an immortal fae lord.
According to some stupid law, Herne the Horny can only return to his realm, world, whatever if he brings along a child he sires with a mortal woman. Something about not enough kids in the fae world, which really puzzles me, because later Herne the Horny will say that he has the ability to, er, power up his seed, so to speak, to guarantee a 100% possibility of super impregnation – so why aren’t the fae overpopulated by now? And also let me say here that there is no way I am even getting in bed with this superman unless I have personally snipped his tubes. Who the heck wants multiple orgasms when it comes with a full guarantee of nine months of torture and another extra diaper to change at 2 am in the morning?
Maybe everything’s just an excuse to have sex.
Anyway what happens is that our heroine’s silly daddy tries to kill Herne the Horny’s stag one day, and Herne is very angry. He wants the heroine Eden Fleming to give him a brat. Daddy manages to negotiate so that Herne will court and marry Eden first (don’t want to ruin the daughter, you know, and no, I am not joking).
Our heroine, young and naïve, wakes up from her honeymoon night, and next thing you know, she stumbles upon Herne and Daddy arguing. Hey presto, Herne reveals his true form – think Fred Flintstone wearing rags and sporting a stag’s head – and unsurprisingly, Eden shrieks and flees in terror.
Cut to six years later. Eden has left That Day behind her, and she has just lost a husband who doesn’t love her, et cetera, and now, she is also penniless. On his deathbed, her husband reveals that Eden’s son – whom she thought was dead – is still alive. She decides to look for her son (the son she had with Herne the Horny), but first, she decides to take her bankrupt bum to her daddy’s country home at Hartsmere first.
There, her son awaits. And there, Herne the Horny awaits too. Only this time, Herne disguises himself as a servant named Hartley Shaw. Sparks fly, an Other Man appears and makes a fool of himself, Eden’s aunt turns into a female Machiavelli, and it’s love, people, between Herne and Eden.
Actually, this story is less magical or paranormal than expected. It’s more like a standard shagging-her-under-false-pretenses romance plot with only a little faerie stuff added in. Still, the premise is interesting. It’s just too bad that by the last page, Eden and the Horny Herne have annoyed me so thoroughly that I can’t care less whether they live happily ever after or get eaten by rabid Care Bears.
Eden is basically a helpless creature. Everyone in this story – Herne, her aunt Claudia, her father, her late husband – makes her decisions for her or manipulates her into acting according to his or her own interests. When Eden acts on her own free will, it’s generally to stare wide-eyed as she finds herself in a situation not of her own making or to lament at how much her life sucks. And of course, she is always wrong.
And Herne the Horny is always right. Herne and Eden’s relationship is more like Jesus looking down in magnanimous beatification as Mary Magdalene gratefully washes his feet or something. Herne just keeps judging her in every – single – page that I feel really sorry for any woman who has to constantly live up to this man’s ridiculous standards. When she does this, she’s not a good mother. When she does that, she’s a silly town girl. Eden can’t seem to do anything right unless she’s catering to Herne’s whims. The tragic irony here is this: Herne is a fae creature who claims to be unable to feel love, yet here is this condescending pig making obnoxious judgements on whether Eden is loving their son enough or not. And while he is berating mortals for not loving the earth or something, he is plotting to impregnate Eden to give her a kid that will make up for the boy he is planning to steal and offer as a toll in his one-way trip home. This is like a charcoal calling the kettle and the pot black.
I also don’t really understand why the author chooses to have Eden seeing her father and aunt as the villains here. They take away her son because they want to protect both her and her son from the crazy weirdo in the woods, and that’s not so much a morally black and white situation as the author would like to believe. But in the end, to make Herne Eden’s only choice, Ms Krinard turns both the father and the aunt into some villains straight out of a VC Andrews reject bin. In the end, our heroine chooses the humorless, unbending, and suffocating hypocritical killjoy because what other choice does she have? Ms Krinard ruthlessly rips the ground from beneath Eden’s feet until she has no choice but to choose the least evil alternative – the lying asshole who insists that he knows what is right for her and her son and she’d better not question him or else.