Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Laird's Lady by Joanne Rock

Rosalind of Beaumont is a lady beset on all sides. With her parents and brother dead, she has been running her keep on the border of Scotland with the help of her father's Squire, Gregory Evandale. But he has been gone this past year, serving the King in hopes of being allowed to marry Rosalind. Despite the fact that her keep is mostly undefended, Rosalind puts on a good show in hopes that no one will attack her home.

That hope is cruelly dashed when Malcolm McNair comes to beseige the keep on behalf of his liege, Robert Bruce of Scotland. Rosalind poses as a boy to hear out the raider, then decides to fight him, taking to the battlements herself with a crossbow to fight alongside her people. But they are sadly outclassed and quickly defeated. But then she has to explain to Malcolm where her "brother" went to.

She claims that "he" sneaked out of the castle and went for help, which Malcolm finds hard to believe, but he can't exactly claim otherwise. He imprisons Rosalind in her own dungeon, only to find her sick and feverish when the time comes to bring her out, because one of his own men thought she needed to be punished for shooting at him... but is sorry and heartsick at seeing her ill.

Malcolm brings her back to her rooms, where she slowly recovers... but still treat him as her enemy afterwards. In return, he treats her with kindness and deference, because he finds her strength of will and courage powerfully attracting. A series of kindnesses by him make her see that Malcolm isn't the bad man she thinks he is, and she almost starts to fall for him, until Gregory Evandale shows up, and she tries to tell him to go, only to be kidnapped by him.

She quickly finds out that Gregory is not the man she took him to be, but when Malcolm finds her gone, he assumes that she ran off with Gregory, and goes in pursuit of her. She is grateful to be rescued, and gives herself to Malcolm at last, even if he doesn't really believe she was abducted. But it will take a visit from Robert Bruce, and Rosalind's hardest decision in her life, to change her allegiance to Scotland, before Malcolm can finally marry her and be happy. But before he can do that, he must find the person or persons responsible for the attack on the castle that killed Rosalind's mother, father and brother. Will he find that his own people were responsible after all?

This book was an okay romance, but had another trope I find endlessly annoying: the heroine with the bad taste in men before she finds THE HERO. To wit, Gregory Evandale, her father's squire, is the man she is in love with and he turns out to be murdering scum. Why can't romance writers ever write a heroine in love with someone who just turns out to not be the right man for her? Why does it always have to be a bad man, and not only the bad man, but a man disasterously wrong for her, who's insane, evil, and/or plans some horrible sexual torture for her? Does the heroine's taste in men always have to be that badly wrong?

It's just annoying because then I have to wonder if the heroine has such bad taste in men, how can I see a happy ending for her? She might be just as wrong about the hero, too! It makes the heroine look stupid, and I don't like that at all.

So, an okay romance, just standard. Nothing really stood out at me, except the hero's taking special pains to leave Rosalind's garden intact when he had to repair the castle (after she revealed how much the garden meant to her) was actually rather sweet and brought a smile to my face.

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