Love Me Forever
When I hear the word “warrior” used to describe an historical hero, I expect certain things from him. I expect him to be arrogant, muscled, stubbornly sure of himself, intimidating, closed off from his emotions, willing/able to take on all comers in fights, able to accomplish the impossible, etc. What I don’t expect is for him to long for love in his life and spend most of his time verbally communicating with his chosen woman about the nature of love, her love for him, and his love for her, until I want to beg him to just stop talking about it.
It’s ironic, really. We romance readers spend a lot of time bemoaning the “Big Misunderstanding” plot because we always say, “if the darn people would just talk to each other, this wouldn’t be a problem!” In Love Me Forever, there is no big misunderstanding (though there are a few important small ones), and the hero and heroine talk endlessly to each other about their feelings. I discovered I don’t like this extreme over-communication any better than I do the Big Misunderstanding. I never realized how tiresome it could be to have two admirable people swearing their eternal love to each other page after page after page.
Love Me Forever is a Renaissance romance set in early 16th century Scotland. It wants to be a story about two strong people who have been badly scarred by their past experiences, but are saved and made whole by the redeeming power of love. It didn’t fully achieve that goal for me, no matter how many times the characters told me, themselves, and everyone around them, that they loved each other. There are some very appealing aspects to this book, but I was dissatisfied by a few important elements, which made my reading experience somewhat disappointing.
For fans of Ms. Fletcher’s previous work, the heroine is Brianna Cameron, sister of Ian, hero from Isle of Lies, a book I read and enjoyed. Both of the lead characters from that book play large parts in this one, acting mainly as sounding boards for our talkative hero and heroine.
I was absorbed immediately with the opening, which had an interesting premise. Brianna is in a severe carriage accident in the early pages, and is rescued by someone she cannot see. She is badly injured and wakes from her unconscious state to find herself being cared for in a small cottage by a huge, badly wounded (therefore disfigured) warrior she does not know. This would be enough to frighten anyone, let alone a defenseless 16th century woman who has already known pain and suffering at the hands of her recently deceased, unlamented husband. But Brianna has worked hard to regain her courage and esteem after years of abuse. She deals with a very difficult situation with as much grace as anyone could. I started to get excited, thinking this might be a different kind of read.
Royce, her rescuer, is in the cottage recuperating from his own recent battle wounds and is suffering from what I suspect is either depression or PTSD or both. He is a gentle and solicitous caretaker of our wounded heroine who cannot move without severe pain. This struck an odd note for me, since it is not what I would expect from a hardened 16th century warrior (I’d think he’d be a little awkward at caring for anything other than his horse), but I appreciated his concern for Brianna’s sake.
As they heal from their respective injuries, they spend a lot of time talking and learning about each other. They begin to feel sexual attraction for each other and talk about that too. Then they talk about how Brianna needs to be in love before she can be intimate with a man. They talk some more about whether they’re in love and, therefore, can be intimate. They are. It’s beautiful, heartfelt, romantic and sweet. HEA – end of book, right?
No, we’re just at the beginning. After the snow’s end when Brianna has healed enough to travel, they head back to her brother’s keep. Royce wants to marry her. Brianna, whose past experience has made her skittish, requires constant reassurance that he loves her before she will agree to marry him. She doesn’t trust her own judgment after previously thinking herself in love with her heel of a husband. So Royce reassures her, again, again, and yet again. I started to miss the cottage days where everything was dreamlike, and the talking was fresh. Much feels repetitive at this point.
At the keep we discover, along with Brianna, that Royce is in fact Royce Campbell, a clan leader and warrior of such legendary repute that seasoned fighting men are uneasy in his presence. This doesn’t assuage Brianna’s concerns, or reassure her about the soundness of her judgment when it comes to matters of the heart because she feels that Royce lied to her. She waffles back and forth and back again, with Ian’s wife Moira acting as her pseudo-therapist and Ian playing that part for Royce (because warriors love to talk at length about their feelings to other warriors?!).
Meanwhile, our non-alpha, not-very-intimidating, legendary warrior nearly prostrates himself at Brianna’s feet to get her to agree to marry him. He shows his temper on a few occasions when her indecisiveness penetrates his veil of adoration, but even then, the discussions usually end with a variation on, “I’ll love you forever. Don’t worry about a thing. I’ll protect you always.” Intimacy follows many of these discussions, and the love scenes are sensual and beautiful because these characters do really love each other.
Of course, because Royce says he will protect her always, he can’t. Readers of romance novels, like viewers of soap operas, won’t be all that surprised to discover that trouble for the pair is caused by a certain individual from Brianna’s past – to say more might constitute a spoiler, but if you’re not concerned about the possibility, feel free to check out this past column segment.
Royce and Brianna are both likable, smart characters, and their relationship worked on many levels. However, on the whole, they frustrated me, because I feel they are characters out-of-time. While I’m not a stickler for absolute historical accuracy, I also can’t believe people in 16th century Scotland spent so much of their time longing for and discussing the why’s and wherefor’s of love. Discussion of feelings was discouraged then, and it struck me as out-of-tune every time Royce encouraged Brianna to open her soul to him and vice versa. If they had started out behaving more reticently and worked their way to open communication, I would have willingly swallowed that because I liked them. But their openness with each other was too much, too soon, and couldn’t sustain itself without becoming repetitious.
I also doubt a legendary Scottish warrior who could defeat whole armies by himself would be able/willing to lower his necessary defenses and fall so all-consumingly in love in the space of a few weeks, even if he was in a funk and searching for his soul when he met the woman of his dreams. What kind of warrior is he if he can forget his caution and training so quickly, and let this mere woman (in 16th century terms) lead him around by the tip of his sword? Shouldn’t he be afraid/wary of showing any vulnerability at all? He does keep a few barriers up for awhile, but I couldn’t get past the incongruity of his behavior overall. The reader is told over and over again what a warrior Royce is, but we never actually see him acting that way until near the end of the book, so what we’re told about him doesn’t ultimately match what we’re shown and it’s disappointing.
Love Me Forever features likable characters and a plot that is believable up to the point when the “only in romance novels” plot device makes its appearance. The hero and heroine demonstrate too many modern sensibilities for their time and engage in so many discussions of love that the narrative flow of the story is inevitably slowed. After enjoying Isle of Lies I had high hopes for this book, but the author is unable to sustain its early promise.