By Johanna Lindsey, 1991 (reissued 2002), Medieval Romance
Avon, $7.99, ISBN #0380756277
2002 hardcover reissue: William Morrow, $19.95,
Now here’s a book you can’t judge by its cover, or rather, by its title. Yes, it’s about desire, more like ire and desire. . .
The story starts with a beating, the one of a mother before the eyes of her daughter; the ultimate test of power of a greedy, blood thirsty 12th Century, when women were but chattel, wombs for future destructors, and at best, bargaining chips for political negotiators.
Such is the fate of Rowena and her mother; respectable Ladies who must bend to the will of the step-son who wants an alliance with an old rich Lord, a snickering, dirty old Lord closer in image to the word disgust than desire.
Did I say ire and desire? Wait, it gets worst before it gets better, but well worth the wait.
Rowena naturally balks at having to consumate her wedding night but concentrates on her mother’s life and good health. Her rotten step-brother has told her that, once the deed is done and she is with child, maybe, just maybe, she’ll get her mother back (the same mother who begged her not to give in, who was ready to be beaten to death to spare her child the terrifying ordeal ahead).
Rowena laughs and cries at her fate and knows not what could possibly happen that would be worse.
But finally fate does take a hand in this desperate woman’s life. The old Lord keels over on the “nick” of time. But Gilbert the step-brother has a plan. He’ll find Rowena another donor before anyone suspects the old man has died.
So Warrick deChaville is abducted. No one knows that he’s a knight nor Lord of Falkhurst nor Gilbert’s sworn enemy. No one knows he is possibly the last man on earth with whom Gilbert would want a forced alliance with, much less someone with whom he’d want to “lend” the body of his luscious step-sister.
Did I mention desire?
They’ll beat the knight senseless until they can chain him to a bed and gag him. Meantime, Rowena, the beautiful but virginal Lady Rowena, must. . . rape him to extract sperm and a son.
I don’t know which was more violent, the mother’s beatings or trying to have sex with a giant whose muffled screams and violent shudders only serve to remind the rapist of the humiliation he feels.
Yes, but then there is desire.
When Rowena realizes she must arouse her foe in order to accomplish the deed despite the compelling and tragic circumstances of their “mating”, she begins to feel attracted to Warrick. Desire, tormenting her and igniting him, forfeiting one life while humiliating another to greater bounds, this desire that permeates her body despite the violence and the pain that still lies ahead for her, astounds her. And hounds her. . .persistently despite her despair, and worst of all, overriding any justification, even the fate of a mother.
“I am glad ’twas you,” are her parting words to him, honest words that will haunt him when all he thinks of is revenge and words that will daunt him when he will use her own chains to bind her to his bed, watching her ire turn into her desire. . .
But blinded for the moment by his fury, he will begin her three day purgatory. He will give her like for like in every sense of the word. The blow to his pride however will last much longer, and he will do what he can to strip her of her own pride, to make a mockery of what was done to him. And through it all, ire is mixed with desire so that something else betrays Warrick other than his desire for Rowena, something just as blinding as fury; something incomprehensible to him that is neither lust nor greed. It is this something that from the very beginning has manifested itself in his contradictory behavior. It is something called. . . love.
And these contradictions appear in his treatment of Rowena. He threatens to beat her for this and that, but never does. When he notices that the peasants’ clothing he makes her wear irritates her skin, he lets her wear better quality attire. And Rowena, who has been used and abused, sees that beneath Warrick’s gruff exterior lies a man who can love as fiercely as he can hate, and that what he hates is what he truly loves. When she decides to act upon this knowledge, Warrick comes to realize that it is no longer revenge he seeks. And what he needs comes with an altogether more different price tag, a more expensive one, aye, it comes with his heart.
Before your very eyes, you see the brute turning himself the lover. You see gruffness becoming gentleness, lust becoming passion, a sexual being becoming sensual, and, what you will enjoy the most I’m sure, is to see the irate and proud Warrick deChaville. . .beg Rowena. So if you truly loath Warrick in the first part of the book as I have, be patient! The irrevocable loss of his heart to Rowena will make up for it.
Victims of circumstance, maybe, prisoners of each other, certainly. You have crafted an excellent story, Ms. Lindsey, one that is not just believable but true, the kind of story I have come to appreciate and value.
If you are looking to feel the story, as I have, try reading it while listening to the hymns of Anuna Omnis by of Celtic Heartbeat. As the angelic voices float around you, so will the gentle violence, the underlying sadness, and the love of Rowena and Warrick.
— Liana LaRiccia
LLB: When I first read this book, my grade for it was a B+. However, after reading Liana’s review, I re-read the book and discovered it was, to my surprise, a DIK for me.[fusion_separator style_type=”shadow” top_margin=”20″ bottom_margin=”20″ sep_color=”” border_size=”” icon=”” icon_circle=”” icon_circle_color=”” width=”” alignment=”center” class=”” id=””/]