Bantam, $5.99, ISBN 0-553-57761-1
Historical Romance, 2000
A long, long time ago in 1216 Scotland, there’s a feud going on (what else is new?). The MacTiers has destroyed most of the MacKillons. Whoever are left of the decimated MacKillons now resort to banditry to survive. Among the most intrepid robbers and bandits is Falcon, who’s actually our heroine Melantha. Our hero Roarke of the MacTiers and his merry men stampede the countryside to kill the pest, only to end up in Falcon and gang’s clutches instead. The MacKillons decide to hold these MacTiers for ransom. The MacKillons are hopelessly inept, led by their bumbling Laird. Guess who ends up whipping them into shape. Guess who falls in love with whom.
Thing is, I can count the number of scenes where Roarke and Melantha actually interact with maybe ten fingers. Eight tops. And deduct two or three scenes where they boink, and I get a romance that isn’t actually a romance. It’s more of a rushed affair. Melantha and Roarke are always talking to anyone else but each other, doing something somewhere apart from each other, and they jump into bed at 157 (boinking after a brush with death – yawn). Then Roarke realizes she’s the one for him. Why? Beats me.
Fair enough. Maybe this is a historical fiction mismarketed as a romance. But even when I look at it that way, The Rose and the Warrior still suffers from severe schizophrenia, not certain whether it wants to be a comedy or tortured drama, and veers from one to the other in disjointed and unpolished incoherency. Roarke is a cold warrior who feels little emotion after he blames himself for his wife and child’s deaths. Put him in a castle full of the people who seems as if they are the more stu – er, more special siblings of Tweedledum and Tweedledee and it’s like putting a serial killer in a nursery of babies. The final denouement where Roarke more or less abandoned the Tweedledums and Tweedledees to his merciless laird’s clutches is like witnessing lil’ babies being mowed down by bullets. It’s traumatic, it’s absolutely horrifying.
If he’s dark, let make her dark too. It’s only fair, right? But no, Melantha, for all her infamous ability to outwit her enemies and pursuers, has to can’t kill Roarke to protect her clan.
The Rose and the Warrior isn’t a good romance or even a good historical fiction. It’s full of too familiar plot elements, and worse, the two leads are as right for each other as Freddy Krueger is for Carol Brady. Pass!