The author gives this book a specific setting in time and place, but I wonder why she even bothered. She would have been better off setting this story in a mythological land since the way her characters act is in no way believable.
The book opens in the year 1136 along the Scottish border. Helena is a Warrior Maid who, along with her two sisters, controls her family holding and its men-at-arms. That is, until the Norman Pagan Cameliard is sent to marry one of the sisters and take control of the holding. On the night of the wedding, a very drunk Helena is dragged away by Pagan’s right hand man, Colin du Lac, after trying to kill Pagan in order to free her sister from being forced to marry him.
So begins a long and random chain of events that was never once believable and, unfortunately, not especially enjoyable either. Helena leaves the castle and takes Colin hostage with the vague intent of keeping him prisoner until Pagan agrees to an annulment. They set up camp, encounter a thief, fight with English ruffians, face a threat to the castle, etc. In between all that they go fishing and act on their mutual attraction (though not at the same time). Of course, the book doesn’t end when they consummate their relationship because Helena is a warrior and does not wish to become a submissive wife.
I like strong heroines, but Helena is not what I have in mind. I can think of very few times where Helena’s over-the-top woman warrior attitude and love of fighting resolved a problem; it creates countless new ones instead. Right before a battle she and Colin absurdly squabble over where she should be fighting because he wants her away from the action and she wants to be at the front. I could understand if she fought because the castle was undermanned, but both her ability and her bloodthirsty ways are far beyond the bounds of believability. It doesn’t help that Helena is emotionally dense and makes inexplicably stupid decisions, both in her relationships and in her fighting.
Even more grating is the fact that the author doesn’t even bother to explain this anachronistic behavior in any way. Helena is a better fit for the world of Xena, Warrior Princess, than 12th century Scotland. And for a woman who drinks and fights like a man, it’s disappointing that Helena starts out as, of course, a virgin. Perhaps to balance Helena’s aggressive side, Colin is a capable knight who really enjoys peaceful activities such as cooking and making love. He is so famed for his gentle lovemaking that countless women have asked him to be the one to take their virginity. I kid you not. A knight who cooks is more believable than Helena, but in the end it doesn’t matter.
The book doesn’t consist of a single overarching plot, but rather a number of smaller subplots that are resolved and then replaced by another throughout the book. There are various fights and full-fledged battles while Colin and Helena battle both in and out of bed. In the end, nothing is very memorable except for how this book does not work. The dialogue is silly, the characters act stupidly, and the author tops it all off with a Big Misunderstanding at the end that is both silly and stupid.
I thought this book was bad, but at times it was almost an enjoyable kind of bad. It doesn’t generally drag and the characters act so ridiculously that it created some situations with unintentional humor. This is the second in the series, and it appears that the plots of the books overlap. But in my case, I’m not going to bother with any other.