The Lion in Glory
by Shannon Drake
(Zebra, $6.99, R) ISBN 0-8217-7287-2
Nothing bothers this reader more than so-called historical romances that could take place anywhere in history just by changing a few dates. That said there is also too much of a good thing and The Lion in Glory is such a book. Lengthy and detailed historical facts drag down a weak plot, making it a tedious read.

The book starts out with a ten-page prologue encapsulating the history of Scotland during the time between the death of Edward I and the rise of Robert Bruce. That should be the warning that what you’re about to read is as much dense history book as it is romance novel, if not more so.

The plot revolves around the Lady Christina, an Englishwoman living in war torn Northern England. Her brother Steven has been imprisoned for some perceived slight to Edward II and Christina is left to face the approaching Scottish warriors alone. Robert Bruce is expecting a paid tribute or he will raze Hamstead Heath. Although she wants to protect her home, Christina also does not want Edward to think they are being cooperative with the Scots, thus further endangering her brother’s life. To escape this, she has concocted a plan to capture the Scottish soldiers.

Jamie Graham, the emissary of Robert Bruce is not fooled by Lady Christina’s plan. Still, he informs her that Robert Bruce will not raze her village but simply take some of the fine horses and livestock. Christina, worried that this mercy will appear as compliance to Edward II, insists Jamie take her as a hostage. After much debate and discussion, he does indeed take Christina as hostage, along with Steven’s fiancée Lauren and an old knight Alfred.

So they are off. Christina and Jamie argue about who is the bigger menace, England or Scotland. They trade insults and condescension. An overlong bit involving the battle at Perth follows this. I commend the author for what must have been extensive research and her painstaking detail, but when a book is clocking in at 518 pages, it only serves to drag down the pace even further.

A lackluster hero and heroine do not help the pacing. Jamie is the type of hero who likes to embarrass the heroine by refusing to leave the room while she bathes, or forcing her to sleep right next to him. Of course this is all done because he’s afraid she’ll escape and betray them to the English but it still makes him come off like a boor. Christina is forever caught up in protecting Steven or protecting Lauren to the point where she is willing to do “anything” to ensure their safety. In romance land, we all know what anything means. Her martyrdom gets quite tedious after a while.

Also tiresome is Drake’s penchant for using a fragmented writing style when her characters are talking, particularly Christina. As she speaks, she stops and starts constantly, making her seem less intelligent and a poor communicator. This fragmented style just drags scenes out even more. For example, when Lauren finds out Christina has slept with Jamie, it takes seemingly forever to blurt out a simple disclosure. But no, Lauren sputters “And then…God! He let someone…he let someone else hurt you!” Christina sputters back “No one was set loose on me. It was he…I just meant that he…that it was completely my own doing.” Rather than add to the drama, it simple slows down the book.

That seems to be the underlying problem with The Lion in Glory. It is slow, dogged reading, taking forever to get from one point to another. If the relationship between Jamie and Christina had more spark and interest, one wouldn’t have minded the amount of history. As it is, lack of interest in the main couple makes one feel they might as well just go for a straight non-fiction book instead.

--Anne Bulin

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