Falling for Her
I don’t think I “get” Sandra Lee. I got the impression this book was supposed to be an amusing romp, but it just felt like a great dull bore to me.
Lady Roscelyn of Cyning has just lost her father, brothers, and new husband in the battles against the Norman invaders. Now a Norman Lord – Varin de Brionne – has come to take possession of Cyning and hold it for William. Lady Roscelyn wants England returned to the Saxons, and is even in possession of a secret document that she believes will undermine William’s ability to rule. All she must do is somehow get this document to the Pope while ostensibly helping the new Lord fortify his holdings. Of course, sparks fly from the moment the two meet and it is only a matter of time before her loyalties begin to waver.
Lee throws an awful lot of elements into the mix here, but most of them never seems to have much purpose. When Roscelyn and Varin first meet, Roscelyn is conveniently in a compromising position, dangling from the witchwife’s hut. Roscelyn wound up this way while trying to protect the witchwife from superstitious and angry villagers. But once the purpose of Roscelyn’s ungraceful introduction to the new lord has been served, the villagers are never angry with or superstitious of the witchwife again. Like many other elements, it was just a silly plot device to get Roscelyn dangling from the rafters and make her introduction to Varin embarassing. The witchwife is actually the town doctor and without her the peasants would have no healing potions, so why should they distrust her? The witchwife is also a meddling old woman who does everything she can to push Roscelyn and Varin together. Instead of being endearing, though, she’s annoying and smug.
Roscelyn’s late husband Cerdic was actually an evil man, and they were barely married a day before he was called off to battle. Thus Roscelyn is neither upset about his death, nor has she lost her virginity. How convenient. Unfortunately, it turns out rumors of Roscelyn’s husband’s death were greatly exaggerated. Cerdic is not dead, but out there plotting to get his lands back in the most dastardly way possible. Varin knows this and whenever Roscelyn makes a suggestion as to how to run the holdings, he assumes that she is actually in league with her husband to unseat him. Even when he learns the truth and starts to trust her, he continually waffles back and forth over which way he should believe her loyalties lay. Varin only really decides he can trust her about 18 pages from the end. This did not convince me of his undying love.
Roscelyn feels much too twentieth-century to fit in the medieval setting. She’s feisty almost to the point of being obnoxious. In his turn, Varin seems like a thick-headed idiot. He is presented as a great Lord who will finally run Cyning the way it should be run and make all the peasants happy. Yet he makes shortsighted mistakes and publicly ridicules Roscelyn when she points out the weaknesses in his plans. We are told that he is a good Lordholder, but we never see it. In fact, other than the fact that he’s incredibly good looking, it is hard to see what Roscelyn sees in him, or for that matter, what he sees in her. I guess they just enjoy bickering.
You see, Roscelyn and Varin do little other than bicker and kiss, bicker and kiss, all day long. Their bickering just becomes slightly less vitriolic as the book reaches the end. The all-important “secret document” and all the agonizing Roscelyn does about it come to nothing, as does a weird ongoing plot thread about a dog Varin used to own. To top it off, Lee’s prose is redolent with “’twas”-s, “‘twould”-s and “’twere”-s, even in the narration. It gets very tiresome.
Nothing in this tale interested me in the least, and it was a chore to finish it. However, it is possible that what I found irritating others might find humorous. I hope so. If someone reads this book and enjoys it more than I did, please post a message letting me know what I missed.