The Lady's Champion
I like big men. I wanted so badly for The Lady’s Champion to be the hefty-hero Iove story I’ve been waiting for. Instead, it was a huge disappointment.
The Champions of Aldland were originally warrior heroes who saved the country from tyranny, but now they have become entertainers, albeit admired and skilled ones. Like the Champions Guild itself, Brandon the Bear is past his legendary days. The greatest fighter of his era, he is now aging, feeling the effects of old injuries, and overweight. None of this bothers fangirl Lady Natalie Blackmere, who has staged a tournament at her castle. But Natalie doesn’t want to meet the Champions as the lady of the manor, so she trades places with a barmaid friend. Unfortunately, while she’s away, her castle is seized by bandits, leaving her with the Champions – who don’t know who she is and blame her, rightfully, for the disaster of the loss of Blackmere and the death of one of their friends.
First off, Natalie is an utter moron. Obsessed with meeting the Champions in disguise, she refuses to do the ceremonial greetings and congratulations, which means all of the Champions think the lady of the manor must suck. (This is accurate). Natalie’s chamberlain tells her of rumored bandits on the roads, so Natalie decides to send all the castle guards after them. Yes, all the guards. (Natalie has obviously never played the video game Sid Meier’s Civilization). Oh, and she’s nearly bankrupted her estate, apparently due to the belief that she should not raise taxes and instead pay for everything out of her now-spent dowry.
Natalie’s not the only unappealing idiot here. I was hoping to read about how Brandon, past his physical prime, learns that he still has a lot to offer. Instead, we, and he, learn that he’s a washed-up coward. He barely keeps pace sparring with the untrained Natalie, who knocks him out of the fight by hitting him on the site of an old injury. He tells Natalie that he wishes he could ignore the entire overthrow of her castle and run away. Perhaps to compensate for this, he later decides to attack the entire castle by himself, which, shockingly, leads to his incarceration (fortunately, for Reasons), in Natalie’s old bedchamber and not, say, a dungeon. And I know the whole ‘biggest dick I’ve ever seen’ heroine reaction is a cliché, but it’s genuinely not sexy for the hero to tell the heroine that women have been disappointed by his length in the past, and then for her to reflect, “It was no different than any other she’d seen.” It’s as if the author has deliberately gone out of her way to make him look bad.
It goes on. The castle-stealing bandit decides to set himself up as a lord, but then dismisses the followers who helped him seize the castle. Nobody notices connections between the origins of the Champions and the situation in front of them, suggesting that this might be a time to return to a purpose beyond entertainment. I will give a small credit for the presence of a woman Champion who is a positive lesbian secondary character, and fundamental literacy on the part of the author, but that’s about all I can praise.
I continue to believe that just like a plus-size heroine, a hero can be big and sexy. Let him shine where I know a bigger man can – in feats of strength, in acts of endurance, or in any of the many, many things a hero can do that involve his emotions and his brains. Whatever you do, don’t put him in this book.