July 2008, Medieval Romance (1060s England)
Pocket, $6.99, 384 pages, Amazon ASIN 1416550895
Master of Surrender reads like a wannbe Kathleen Woodiwiss novel with overwrought emotions and prose, a feisty, feisty, feisty heroine and a mean-to-her hero. Which is okay, I suppose, if you like that sort of thing. I don't.
Sir Rohan du Luc and his seven friends (each of whom, I assume, will have their own book that I will not read) survived a Saracen prison where they were tortured and branded on the chest with their own swords. They are collectively known as The Blood Swords and have cast their lot with William, Duke of Normandy, and his conquest of England.
They arrive at Alethorpe, a Saxon stronghold being held by Isabel in the absence of her father and brother, neither of whom has returned from the fighting at Hastings. The castle is quickly subdued and Isabel has the first of many, many confrontations with Rohan when she informs him that she "will never bow to a bastard!" and orders him to leave. Oddly enough, he doesn't. But when a misguided attack on Rohan by her squire leads to a death sentence for the boy, she promises her body in exchange for the boy's life.
What follows is a series of shouting matches and groping and foot stomping and kissing and bellowing and … you get the picture. We've all read this book before, and frankly, all the high drama tired me out. Making matters even worse is the supremely awkward writing that littered the novel. Here's an early example: "Putting her from his mind since she did naught but cause him ire, Rohan continued to scan the room, his gaze landing on the seven knights who since that time in Iberia six years ago moved together as one with him."
This is Tabke's first historical romance, but she has several erotic romances to her credit, which just made the singular un-hotness factor of the love scenes very surprising. I never felt a real connection between Rohan and Isabel, the romance was tepid - even with all the shouting - Isabel's feistiness about got on my last nerve, and Rohan's deliberate cruelty to her once he worked out that he loved her was unnecessary and eyeroll-inducing.
All of this just makes Master of Surrender a mess, and one that took me more than a week to get through. Don't waste your time on it. I wish I hadn't.
-- Cheryl Sneed
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