The Rose and The Warrior
Over Christmas vacation I had the delightful experience of finding a book that I will always keep and remember. It was Karyn Monk’s Surrender to a Stranger, a wonderful book set in England and Paris during the revolution. Imagine my delight when I discovered that this author had a new book coming out. Wow. I couldn’t wait to get hold of it. Unfortunately, as you can see by the grade, The Rose and the Warrior doesn’t live up to the promise of Surrender To A Stranger. In fact I find it hard to believe that the same person wrote both books.
The Rose and the Warrior begins when a Robin Hood type band of men from the Clan MacKillion cleverly capture a far more dangerous and experienced band of warriors from the dreaded Clan MacTier. The head of the victorious Robin Hood group turns out to be, you guessed it, a woman dressed as a man. She is the heroine, Melantha, whose family was slain by the brutal MacTiers. In the years since their deaths she has become a clever enemy and has earned the nickname “Falcon.”
The head of the captured MacTier warriors is Roarke, a battle-scarred and war-weary veteran eager to retire. Melantha and her comrades bring the MacTier warriors back to the MacKillon clan holding, with the plan that they will be ransomed. The body of this story takes place in the MacKillion holding, where Roarke and his comrades get to know the people whom the MacTiers have so brutally fought.
As Roarke spends time at the holding he sees, for the first time, the devastation that warriors like himself foist on weaker clans. The MacKillions are not only weak, they are inept and Roarke is aware from the start that he and his fellow warriors could easily overpower their captors and escape. Roarke decides that he likes his captors. Knowing that the Clan MacTier will never negotiate for his release and that they will soon attack and destroy these people, Roarke gains their trust and begins to teach them how to protect themselves. He helps them with the battlements, coaches the boys and makes himself an all around hero to many of the Clan MacKillion. The fact that this behavior is treason is treated far too lightly by the author.
A major flaw of this book is that it imposes political correctness on a brutal period of history. The idea that Roarke, an experienced warrior would be so softened as to help his enemies seemed foolish. It was equally unbelievable that Roarke would be surprised at the damage that war inflicts. I have no problem with writers who hate war and what men do when they wage it, but I object when a writer seems to be saying that if only the aggressors knew what they were doing, they wouldn’t do it.
The second problem is that the Melantha and Roarke argue incessantly in their short scenes together. Somewhere around page one hundred and fifty Roarke and Melantha have sex. Up till this point they have had only one somewhat meaningful conversation and a few snippy arguments. Most of the time, Roarke has been off with other members of the clan proving what a good guy he is.
Even with the drawbacks however, Roarke is the best thing about this book. Though he is probably in his thirties, this was old for the time period and Roarke is feeling his age. In one of the love scenes Melantha watches Roarke remove his clothing and the description gives a hint of what could have been a wonderful book:
Melantha stared in fascination at the naked warrior standing before her, his bronzed body chiseled into a thousand hard angles and sinewy curves illuminated by the flickering candlelight. There were scars etched across the powerful planes of his chest and stomach and arms, each one a testament of a life spent in battle.
Melantha is one of those young tomboy romance heroines who has been raised as a boy. Her bitterness over the death of her parents is understandable but her characterization barely goes beyond that emotion. She’s a teenager (I assume) and not a very interesting character, despite her feisty nature. When she and Roarke finally got together, I wondered what they would talk about. I wanted to like this book but it bored me to tears. I can’t really imagine a reader who enjoys romance novels liking it since there are so few encounters between the hero and heroine. My recommendation? Go find yourself a copy of Surrender To A Stranger and skip this one.