The medieval romance is such an endangered species that it needs all the advocates it can get. For that reason alone, I wish I could recommend Lady’s Choice. But what the subgenre really needs is good medievals, not merely competent, middling ones like this.
On her sister Adela’s wedding day, Sorcha Macleod eagerly waits to see if Sir Hugo Robison will come to stop the ceremony. Sorcha believes her sister loves Sir Hugo, not the pompous old man she is about to marry, so she sent several messages to Hugo, telling him he has to come claim Adela before it is too late. When masked riders descend on the ceremony and sweep Adela away, Sorcha is overjoyed, believing Hugo came after all. But a few days later, she meets Hugo for the first time and learns that he is not the man who took her sister.
Hugo had flirted with Adela when they met the previous summer, but gave her no reason to believe he was interested in marrying her. He wastes no time telling Sorcha that if anyone’s to blame for her sister’s predicament, it’s her for meddling in other people’s business. It doesn’t take him long to deduce who must have abducted Adela, and he knows too well how dangerous this enemy is. When Sorcha takes off to rescue her sister, Hugo follows to save them and foil the villain’s scheme.
This book is apparently the latest in a series, though it’s the first I’ve read. As with many historicals these days, Sorcha comes from a massive family, and the opening chapters introduce a large cast of characters and labor to explain the relationships between them. While it’s generally easy to understand, the book very much has the feel of dropping into a larger story already in progress. Specifically, this entry seems to be a direct sequel of the author’s previous book, Prince of Danger. The prologue shows the villain being shoved off a castle wall and into a river by a woman who is later revealed to be Sorcha’s sister Isobel, whose story was told in that book. The villain has a grudge and is after a treasure that all the characters who presumably were around in Prince of Danger know about. Sorcha and Adela, among others, don’t know about it, and aren’t given many details for a long time. That meant that, as a newcomer, I also wasn’t given any details, which left me without much of a reason to care about any of this. As such, the book may work better for readers who have been following the series and have more of an investment in these matters, though I doubt even they will find too much satisfaction here.
The main characters are both thin and flat, never displaying any depth beyond their surface characteristics. Sorcha’s sole personality trait seems to be spunkiness, which grew tiresome fast. She’s the stereotypical “impetuous” heroine, who’s immature, has a big mouth and often acts without thinking, leading her to make some poor choices. After a while, Hugo comes to admire how everything she does comes out of love for her family, but I couldn’t give her any credit for her motives when her actions were so annoying.
Hugo is cocky and overbearing, yet somehow still comes across as bland. He’s just this generic alpha hero who never manages to become interesting in his own right. One word of caution for readers who demand political correctness: he tells Sorcha early and often that she needs to be spanked and finally hoists her over his shoulder and delivers a smack to her backside at one point. The last time I reviewed a historical where the hero lifted the heroine over his shoulder and slapped her on the rear end, some readers took serious offense to the scene. Such readers should probably steer clear of this book. Personally, I was so weary of the both of them that I was beyond caring about anything they did.
While never quite slow, the pace has a tendency to drag. The plot takes too much time idling without ever kicking into a higher gear. On a long day early in the journey, Sorcha begins to wish something interesting would happen, and I knew how she felt. It takes more than a hundred pages for Hugo to take off in pursuit of Sorcha, meaning everything up until that point is basically setup. The love story takes quite some time to develop and is simply okay at best. I did like how they don’t rush into sex and the consummation of their relationship is put off for a very long time, but that’s really the only part of the romance I found noteworthy.
Before this review sounds too negative, let me be clear that the book isn’t bad so much as blah. The author’s note at the end of the book reveals an impressive amount of research, and Scott’s knowledge about the period comes through clearly. That’s at least one point in the book’s favor. But good research doesn’t automatically equal a good story, and this book is a case in point. It’s competently written and I didn’t have much trouble getting through it, but the lackluster characters and dawdling plot kept it from being any more than an acceptable read.