2008, Medieval Romance (1480s England and Scotland)
Zebra, $3.99, 356 pages, Amazon ASIN 142010442X
Her One Desire is a debut novel set toward the end of The War of the Roses with an interesting heroine who is the daughter of the Lord High Executioner (strains from The Mikado kept running though my head whenever it was mentioned). While the characters and basic storyline were okay (though the author is obviously a member of the "Richard III Wasn't Such a Bad Guy After All" club) the writing itself was difficult to navigate at times, and at others, just plain bad.
Lizbeth Ives is running away from the eeeee-vil Lord Hollister who killed his wife and Lizzy's two nephews (hmmm… dead nephews…) and would like to do the same to her, when she bursts into her father's room where his is "interrogating" two Scottish spies. One lies dead on the floor, but when the other uses the distraction of her interruption to knock out the executioner, Lizzy winds up helping him escape through the tunnels which run beneath the Tower of London.
In return for saving Broderick Maxwell, Lizzy asks for his escort to York. She has in her possession proof that Lord Hollister and the Duke of Buckingham are poisoning King Edward IV and she intends give it to the Duke of Gloucester so that he may save his brother, the king. Broc finds this all very interesting, for he was in England looking for reasons to take back to James III that Scotland should make an alliance with France against England. Broc will take her to York, but then he will take her - and her proof - to Scotland. Along their road trip they face many dangers and close calls and, of course, fall in love.
Lizzy has been beaten down by life. She is shunned outside the Tower as the executioner's daughter, but the prisoners call her an angel for her efforts to relieve their suffering. Her father emotionally checked out after his son was executed on trumped up charges by the same Lord Hollister who is making Lizzy's life a misery. She is a bundle of fears, especially of the dark and of water, and continually counts - paces, steps, etc. - to help get through difficult moments. It is an effective physical mannerism that evoked sympathy in me for Lizzy whenever she started to count, and is used as a barometer for her emotional growth.
The physical mannerism Killion has given to Broc was a more annoying one - neck popping. The continual left-right jerk of Broc's head to pop his neck bones really got on my nerves. As a character, Broc is also less interesting than Lizzy. He's always been jealous of his brother's position as heir and his betrothal to the woman Broc has wanted for years, but now that his brother is dead at Lizzy's father's hands, he's not so sure anymore. He quickly falls for Lizzy and there is a lot of lust-think going on right from the beginning; you'd think that being tortured, watching your brother die, and then escaping through dark tunnels would keep a man's mind off his cock, but apparently not. However, Broc continually vacillates on what to do about it. He will have her, he will control himself. He will marry her, he won't marry her. Make up your mind.
There were many moments where the writing took me out of the story - especially the way some words were used. Killion offers a glossary of historic terms at the back of the book, but I'd already looked up one that was used ad naseum: "wowf." It is, as Killion states, a Scottish word which means "deranged," but it is attributed to Sir Walter Scott, 1802 - certainly not a medieval term. And then there is a repeated use of the word "angst," a Victorian word, but one so linked to existentialism and psychology that it stopped me dead in my tracks whenever is was used - and it was used a lot and in very odd ways. For instance, to describe nipples: "Excitement and angst tightened her nipples, sharpening them to sensitive points" and as a synonym for vomit: "She turned toward Lord Hollister and expelled her angst over the front of his elegant surcoat." I kept thinking of Inigo Montoya in The Princess Bride - "I do not think it means what you think it means."
Killion certainly knows her way around the love scenes, which are definitely Hot - an AAR colleague recently pointed out that the middle ground in sensuality has been almost absent recently, everything is either Warm or Burning - and I appreciated that. However, the less said about sex on horseback, the better, except to say "Why?" and "Ouch!"
I think Killion has some interesting ideas and characters and stories in her, but she needs more experience in communicating them in an effective and pleasing manner. Her One Desire is ultimately a novel of unfulfilled promise.
-- Cheryl Sneed
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