Lord of Ice
I happily devoured Lord of Ice in one gulp. Only after I had turned the last page did I realize that it made a rather unsatisfying meal.
Damien Knight, earl of Winterley, was a war hero on the Peninsula. Now that Napoleon is imprisoned on Elba Damien is experiencing what we recognize as post traumatic stress syndrome, which includes disorienting battle flashbacks. Believing that he is going mad, he is reclusive until he gets word that his friend, Jason Sherbrook, is dead and that Jason’s illegitimate niece, Miranda FitzHubert, is now his ward.
Damien goes to Birmingham, to visit Miranda at school. He attends a play and falls in lust with a gorgeous actress, whom he propositions. The actress tells him that she’s not that kind of girl and leaves, only to be set upon by a band of footpads. Damien goes into battle mode and kills the footpads, in the process frightening the actress out of her wits. The next morning they meet again – for the actress is, of course, Damien’s ward Miranda.
Miranda is a spirited lass and the hellion of the school, who slips away to the theater because she loves acclaim and applause. Damien informs her that her acting days are over, and that he intends to take her to London and marry her off to someone respectable as soon as possible. The rebellious Miranda promptly leads him on a hoydenish adventure, after which she falls in love with him. She accedes to his wishes, hoping that he will be the one to marry her.
Although this is an absorbing story, very capably written, I had a few problems with it, starting with its unreal characters. Damien is a god of war who, in the climax of the story, combats fifteen armed men at the same time and kills them all, relatively unscathed and not even splashed with gore. When a hero is that awesome, it makes it difficult for me to believe in him or his troubles. Even Superman has Kryptonite; I don’t think Damien has any weakness at all, aside from his bad memories of war, which seem to be easily banished by Miranda.
There’s also a villain, who is obsessed with an insane desire to murder Miranda. Halfway through the book, the villain’s drive to do evil starts to seem a little weak. Foley props him up by wedging in another motive: the villain now also lusts after Miranda, and wants to rape her before he murders her.
Miranda is a familiar type – a flirtatious, headstrong teenaged spitfire who, in spite of this, is certainly the most real and compelling character of the story. From beginning to end, she always seems much younger and more vulnerable than Damien. The moment she falls in love with him is a beautiful but melancholy description of a girl reveling in her first consuming crush:
A quiet, womanly acquiescence settled over her with a willingness to set aside her childish ways; her tinselly, adolescent dreams of theatrical fame; and all her angry, headstrong willfulness. Instead, she would accept this strong, just man’s rule, although his very gentleness had already begun to tame her.
Miranda’s love for Damien has an adoring, submissive, hero-worship quality that troubled me. Damien’s love for Miranda seems tinged with sexual desperation, for he can free himself from his inner demons by making love to her. I didn’t actually feel that they had a whole lot in common, aside from lust and a sort of dysfunctional mutual need that seemed an uneven ground for a marriage.
All in all, this is a thoroughly readable novel that contained no surprises (well, one – there’s a scene in which Miranda seduces Damien that definitely stands out as unique in my experience). Although I think Foley is a talented writer, and I will certainly give her another try, I found Lord of Ice a little disappointing.