This is the second installment of capsule reviews of romance novels written by Laura Kinsale. Read Part I first, if you’re so inclined.
For My Lady’s Heart: Hot damn. Dialogue in Middle English. A story based inspired by Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. A relentlessly honorable and completely adorable hero who hasn’t had any nookie in 13 years. A dangerous, scheming princess who doesn’t know how to trust anyone, doesn’t want to trust anyone, but is thrown for a loop by a knight who refuses to let her push him away. Kinsale once again busts through romance conventions (when people make fun of romance novels as being brainless and predictable, I like to tell them about this book) and makes her characters real to you in a way nobody else can. A
The Dream Hunter: This is the only book of Kinsale’s I don’t love. I don’t hate it, but it didn’t grab me the way her other books did. Arden, the hero, is wonderful. He’s shy yet courageous, and very, very sweet. The heroine…. Oy. I don’t know, I found it hard to like her. Kinsale says that Zenia presents a role reversal (usually the hero is the one being the demanding, tormented brat, not the heroine) that few readers are comfortable with. She may be right, but I don’t know. I liked Zenia by the end of the book, but the way she treats Arden during much of the book is almost too much for me to take, and I think that if the roles were reversed, if Arden had been the one pulling all that crap on Zenia, I think I would’ve disliked him too. In fact, I know I would’ve, because my dislike of heroes who mistreat heroines too badly is legendary, and a big big part of the reason why I’m not particularly fond of romances from the 70s and 80s. I’ll try re-reading it soon and see if my opinion of the story holds. B-
My Sweet Folly: Folie is quite possibly my favorite heroine of all time. She’s no raving beauty, but she’s full of love, integrity, common sense and the most wonderfully droll sense of humor. I re-read this book just to enjoy her various quips and to see her relate to different people in the book. The hero, Robert, is a rather interesting mixed bag. Some of the shit he pulls on Folie is almost as bad as what Zenia does to Arden in The Dream Hunter, and his character (or rather our expectations of what his character should be) go through a couple of abrupt about-faces. But overall, he’s really hot, he doesn’t mistreat Folie too badly for too long, and he has pretty good reasons for being an asshead. Some people thought the external plot was tiresome and that the rest of the book didn’t match the wonderful first chapter, but personally, I really liked the book as a whole. A-, but Folie is A+
Shadowheart: The sequel to For My Lady’s Heart, it features Allegretto, the boy-assassin who was assigned to “guard” Melanthe in the first book. Kinsale does a great job of portraying so many different aspects of medieval Italy: the importance and power of the Church in people’s lives, the intense rivalries that would erupt between city-states, the non-stop plotting and scheming and skullduggery. The love story isn’t too shabby either. It’s a coming-of-age tale for Elena, the heroine, and Allegretto achieves redemption, so hooray all around. And the love scenes… people bitched about how disturbed they were by them, but you know what? I liked ‘em. I don’t normally enjoy BDSM sex scenes, but I thought the ones in Shadowheart were really hot and completely in keeping with Allegretto and Elena’s characters. The only small peeve I have with the book: Not enough scenes from Allegretto’s viewpoint. A-