Heart of a Warrior
When I first saw my copy of Heart of a Warrior, I was a little taken aback by the cover. It shows a burly looking warrior-type who is bare-chested and looking a trifle confused. But I’ve seen terrible covers on great books before, so I set aside my doubts and started reading. Unfortunately, the cover reflects the contents of the book pretty well. The hero is burly looking and a trifle confused, as anyone would be if they happened to fall in love with such a revolting heroine.
David D’Aubere is the Earl of Lynchburg in name alone. Since England recently lost most of its French territory, he no longer has any holdings, and has been reduced to fighting for profit. After his successes at the battle of Wakefield, Queen Margaret rewards him with a marriage to the Lady Jeanette, the Earl of Cornwich’s daughter. He marries her by proxy without even seeing her and then goes to take possession of Glenwood Castle, one of Cornwich’s properties. He has more than one surprise waiting for him upon arrival; his new “wife” is severely mentally and physically challenged.
Riley Snowden is also without property. Her family were enemies of the Earl of Cornwich, choosing different loyalties – the Yorks over the Lancastrians. Several years ago her brother killed Cornwich’s son. In retaliation, Cornwich had the Snowden properties confiscated and the Snowden name legally obliterated. Riley has vowed revenge. She has come to Glenwood Castle to kill the Earl of Cornwich, but while she is awaiting him in his room, D’Aubere appears instead. Learning that he is Cornwich’s new heir, she decides to kill him too, but fails. David takes pity on her because she is beautiful, and throws her into the dungeon instead of executing her. But in order to gain her freedom, he asks something very improper of her that relates to his marriage to Lady Jeanette; his father-in-law requires an heir, and David believes Riley’s the woman to help him.
The first problem I have with this book is that the author’s understanding of the medieval period seems to be somewhat flawed. Some of the characters’ thoughts and actions are far too modern. For example, the hero at one point refuses to confess to a priest because, as he says, “When I confess, it will be to God alone.” It’s 1461. Martin Luther isn’t even born yet. The Protestant Reformation isn’t even a twinkle in anyone’s eye. There are also some corresponding dialogue anachronisms like the characters saying “have sex” instead of “being intimate” or whatever they would have said. I am not an expert on the medieval period, but I know that “having sex” is a modern turn of phrase.
Secondly, Riley comes across as excessively stupid and immature. She may have all the thoughts and emotions of vengeance, but she is so inept that I’m surprised she didn’t wind up hurting herself. She knows she’s supposed to go along with D’Aubere, to placate him so he’s willing to spill a few state secrets, so what does she do? She alternates being fake seductive with little emotional outbursts like, “You are my enemy! I submit to you only as a prisoner of war.” Well, I guess that leaves him in no doubt of her loyalties. Good going there, Riley, you’ve really got him snowed. He hardly knows which way is up.
The heroine is unlikable in pretty much every other way as well. She has no loyalty. She waffles both politically and in regards to D’Aubere. She betrays him again and again. Why he loves her and forgives her I cannot fathom. To give you an idea of how much I disliked her, in the middle of the book she falls ill and D’Aubere summons a healer to tend to her (At this point Davidson also inserts an ugly stereotype: healer, good; Catholic Church, bad. Needless to say, as a Catholic I was offended by this.). The healer sees D’Aubere and is attracted to him, and at this point I’m intrigued. I’m thinking, “OK. Maybe the heroine will die, and D’Aubere will get it on with the healer. She’s much nicer.” This was a pretty accurate indication of how I was enjoying the book thus far.
There is a fair amount of sex in this book, and some of it is fairly purple. I can’t say that it was all bad, but most of it left me unaffected. When Riley and D’Aubere begin their sexual relationship, they are not involved emotionally at all. She, of course, has orgasm after orgasm. How she can do this with a complete stranger who is basically coercing her was beyond my understanding. I’m not saying that women have to love their partners to have satisfying sex, but I think it’s better when they know them and don’t fear them.
Heart of a Warrior is now in a tie for my most disliked book this year. The characters are unlikable, the setting is inaccurately drawn, the dialogue is melodramatic, and the plot twists and turns in strange and extremely improbable directions. The author simply does not understand the medieval period at all. If you are looking for a good book set in the second half of the 15th century, I would pick up a copy of The Maiden and the Unicorn by Isolde Martyn while steering very clear of this one.