In the early days of romance adventure stories were a fairly standard part of the landscape. One need look no further than Dangerous Men and Adventurous Women edited by Jayne Ann Krentz to read all about the risk takers and adventurers who peopled the books of the late eighties and early nineties. Then the tide changed and books which had once been full of daring exploits in exotic locales began to revolve around balls, spies, and familiar locations like Western Europe or America. The disappearance of the swashbuckler occurred so long ago I had actually forgotten how much I loved those old tales.
Then I read House of the Four Winds by Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory. It’s the story of Clarice, a princess from the principality of Swansgaard, a duchy with twelve daughters and one son. The prince will one day rule but his kingdom will be impoverished if he must pay the dowries of twelve princesses. Upon their 18th birthday the twelve girls must go forth and find their own futures and fortunes.
As the eldest Clarice is first to leave the nest. She takes passage on a ship disguising herself as young Master Clarence, a swordsman. It’s an easy disguise to maintain since Clarice is indeed a master of the blade. A rebellious crew, a mysterious pirate island, an evil sorcerous and true love all await Clarice along her journey. It’s a true rip-roaring adventure story with a sweet romance at its heart. Hero Dominick is a to die for beta male; he doesn’t look for a leadership role nor is he jealous when Clarice proves a better fighter than he. But he is a man who can lead when called upon to do so, who can battle when he needs to and who is up for an adventure at a moment’s notice.
Immediately after reading it I remembered all the wonderful classic romances which had swashbuckling risk takers at the heart of them. The first book that sprang to my mind was the Jude Deveraux classic The Raider. Inspired loosely by Zorro, The Raider is the story of Alexander Montgomery, foppish, drunken fool by day, daring masked rebel by night. Another swashbuckler hero from the classic days of romance is Devon Crandall of Laura London’s The Windflower; a pirate with a secret who is a truly delicious hero for heroine Merry Patricia Wilding. And of course one of the original swashbucklers was Christopher Seton of Kathleen Woodiwiss’s A Rose in Winter. Following the classic style of Zorro, Christopher is one man by day and another by night. Both of his incarnations manage to win the heart of Erienne Fleming. The heroines in these books jumped right into the adventure with their heroes but they played more of a support role than an active one.
Modern writers have turned the archetype of the swashbuckler/adventurer on its head by having the heroine be the chivalrous, resourceful sword fighter or pirate. Anaïs de Rohan of Liz Carlyle’s The Bride Wore Scarlet is an artist with the blade. Yasmeen of Meljean Brook’s Heart of Steel is captain of a ship and a great fighter as well. Famed aviatrix Evangeline Starke from Deanna Raybourn’s City of Jasmine who is flying around the world and finds herself embroiled in an illicit treasure hunt, qualifies. Amelia Peabody of Elizabeth Peter’s Amelia Peabody series brandishes a pistol instead of a sword but is the epitome of an adventurer. Anne Cleeland’s Daughter of the God-King is very similar in style to the Amelia Peabody books and contains the same delightful mix of adventure and romance. Linda Howard’s Heart of Fire centers around the hunt for treasure and her Son of the Morning definitely qualifies as a modern day adventure tale. The heroes in these novels are all adventurers, too, joining their ladies in fights, flights, and triumph over villainy.
And after remembering all those adventure romance titles I loved I immediately went on the hunt for new ones to enjoy. AAR’s Special Title Listings had several books I am happy to add to my ever growing TBR. A quick search of Amazon revealed that Deanna Raybourn has a book coming out in October that will fit this bill nicely. And since there are twelve daughters in the Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory book I am sure I will have a steady stream of those novels coming.
So what about you, do you read adventure novels with romantic elements? Have any favorites you would like to recommend?