The Warrior Bride
This book would have been so much better if the concepts of logic or credibility had been introduced into it. It’s a shame, because this probably could have been a decent read – or at the very least a pleasant diversion – with the addition of those two qualities. Without it, The Warrior Bride is a resounding disappointment.
Lachlan MacGowan would have died at the battle of Evermyst if it weren’t for the mysterious warrior named Hunter. Haunted by the knowledge that he owes his life to this warrior, Lachlan vows to find the man and repay his debt. Imagine his surprise, then to chance upon Hunter half-naked and discover that “he” has a perfectly lovely pair of breasts. (You’ll have to imagine that surprise, in fact, since the whole situation is presented with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer to the temple.) Several arguments, death and/or dismemberment threats and semi-naked scenarios later, he decides she’s the woman with whom he wants to spend the rest of his life. She, however, has other ideas.
Hunter is known by many names, almost all of them masculine. Born Rhona, an early tragedy forced the heroine to assume a masculine persona for her own protection – a persona which she is now basically convinced is true. Needless to say, she has issues. These issues don’t stop her from wanting to jump Lachlan once she realizes he’s not going to go away. They do, however, seem to preclude any common sense, and inspire a martyr-like attitude about her own potential happiness.
The first major problem that this book has is that we’re supposed to believe that Rhona, as Hunter, is completely believable as a man, and not just an unshaped youth, either – a hardened warrior. Her face, voice, and build don’t give rise to any suspicions. She plays several male roles, and has for many years without respite, and everyone around her accepts completely that she’s a grown man. Yet, once unmasked, she’s quite lovely as a woman. The lack of believability or logic inherent in that particular premise is staggering, and distracts from any sort of suspension of disbelief that the book may require – which it most assuredly does.
Next, there’s the somewhat murky story of Rhona’s past, which emerges at a painfully slow and unsatisfying pace. There are several aspects that aren’t completely clear, and while it may have helped to have read the previous books in the trilogy, the reviews by my colleagues lead me to believe that they probably wouldn’t have helped much. To add insult to injury, a major aspect of Rhona’s backstory appears to have been recycled, uncreatively, from the previous storylines. This murky quality extends itself to her current “mission.” What suspicion prompted her to set herself on it? Why is she so melodramatically determined to offer herself to the villain even after she has all the information she needs? If she can think through a mission and keep a clear head in battle, why does she lack the obvious judgement needed to gather evidence before jumping to conclusions? All these questions, sadly, are never answered.
This book makes several attempts at humor, few of which worked for me on any level. Now, humor is subjective in all cases, but in several instances here the humor relies on the characters making seriously idiotic assumptions, and clinging to those beliefs in the face of all contrary evidence and protests by other characters. Example: when Rhona broadly hints to Lachlan that she has “the same needs as he does,” he immediately jumps to the conclusion that she prefers women. Not to be outdone, when he doesn’t take Rhona up on her subtle offer, and even worse, doesn’t nail the blatantly flirtatious maidservant at the inn (presumably right there in front of Rhona in the room they’re sharing, since they don’t seem to have many other options) when she all but throws herself at him, Rhona is certain that it’s he who “sins against nature” with other men. And so it goes. Apparently, this was meant to be funny, but it drags on for several chapters, and definitely loses whatever meager charm the joke might once have had, while perpetuating the beloved Little Misunderstanding plot device that we all hold so dear.
Why isn’t this book an F, you may wonder, given all these heinous errors in judgement? Well, the book does have some good qualities. The author adeptly creates plenty of sexual tension between her leads, albeit through vaguely uncreditable scenes in which the heroine sits around half-naked, having conversations as if it were the most normally thing in the world to have her boobs hanging out in front of strange men. Likewise, there is a great deal of suspense in the book, even though some of it inspires as much resentment as tension, since it’s achieved by withholding even the most basic facts for nearly ridiculous lengths of time. Still, the book could have worked on these levels if it hadn’t failed so miserably on others. If anything, that fact is the most frustrating bit of all.
The Warrior Bride concludes a trilogy, all of which were awarded D-level grades by AAR reviewers. Earlier work by this author fared better with our staff, including three B-level grades, and I admit to a certain curiosity, and a grudging desire to find out if what went wrong in these books went right elsewhere. I’d suggest you do the same, and spare yourself the disappointment and disbelief that this book can only produce.