Getting an initial idea’s never been a big problem for me. But I was seriously unencumbered by romance books and didn’t really know if there was one way of starting that was more “acceptable” or popular in published books than another. I thought back—Where could I get romance novels that had at least a few redeemable qualities, and for free? Then I realized that my husband’s mother and grandmother were in a sort of “reading circle.” One family member bought a book or two, read it and passed it on and so on until the last woman reading took all the finished texts to a local place to donate them. Some books were suspense, some were romance. I asked my husband’s mother to choose a few “smut books” to bring on her next visit. We laughed, and she hauled about a dozen north.
Prowling through the options, there were two that caught my attention and that I devoured. Here they are (along with my reviews).
by Amanda Scott
Zebra Books; 2001
Mary Kate, a young Highland lady, must overcome her pride and self-made political entanglements in this humorous romance steeped loosely in sixteenth-century history. One cold October night in 1586, Mary Kate meets the man she will marry, struggle against and eventually struggle for. Quickly getting into trouble, Mary Kate finds herself possessing not only dangerous political knowledge thanks to her eavesdropping, but also the affections of two intriguing and dangerous men. Returning home she is stunned to learn that her father has arranged a marriage for her to a young Border lord—the same man she knocked out cold at her relatives’ home. The rest of the novel is full of Mary Kate’s generously humorous attempts at maintaining her own dignity and sense of independence while learning to deal with her sometimes possessive and roguish fiancé.
One issue that may make the tale tougher to swallow by some is the fact that Mary Kate’s husband does spank her and discipline her as many husbands considered “proper” in certain historical periods and cultures. With that understanding in mind, this book still has a little of everything (and certainly a lot to offer for a light read): scandal, kidnapping, the trials of miscommunication and ex-lovers and the recurring idea that everyone has a place they can be content in life, even if they don’t initially recognize it. This romance is a unique brand of story--a page-turner guaranteed to make you giggle. A comedy of errors with similarities reminiscent to “The Taming of the Shrew,” Amanda Scott’s novel “Border Bride” is an entertaining read filled with passion and power struggles. Only Scott’s 2nd novel (writing it first as Lynn Scott-Drennan) it was originally a hard sell due to the humor interlaced in the somewhat harsh environment of the Scottish Borders in trying political times.
The Knight and the Rose
by Isolde Martyn
Berkley Sensation: Historical Romance; 2003
This enjoyable read was based somewhat around an actual medieval court case. Set in the 1300’s in Yorkshire area, the author even journeyed to key locations to better enrich her research. When Lady Johanna finds herself trapped in an abusive and loveless marriage, her mother contrives to prove that Johanna was married earlier to a young man who has only now returned to reclaim his bride. With Johanna’s father suffering from what appears to be a stroke, there seems little in their way to successfully getting the more recent marriage annulled by the Church. But her would-be husband has dangerous secrets of his own and the longer he stays to try and free her, the closer he comes to being ensnared himself. The language feels a little more authentic in this one but is still quite readable, and the research appears to run deeper.