Amethyst & Gold

Sand Castles

As Anne Avery: Bartered Bride

Fortune's Fancy

The Highwayman's Daughter

Summer Fancy

The Wild Swans by Kate Holmes
(Love Spell, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-505-52383-3
Knowing up front that The Wild Swans is a fractured fairy tale encourages the reader to approach this story with a light-hearted, tongue-in-cheek attitude. The story is silly without being ridiculous, sentimental without being mawkish, skewed without being twisted and comical without being cartoonish.

James Richard Henry Michael Bledgabred Taillefer, King of Avalon, Darian, Longshore and the Western Isles, Duke of Lemaire-over-the-Sea, Count of Borghame . . . yadda, yadda . . . affectionately known as King Jim to his loyal subjects, is royally fed up with women, particularly women who prattle and blabber too much. He remarks in jest to his best friend Harry that if he can find a woman who won't talk his ears off, he'll make her his queen. "On my honor, I swear it."

Her Royal Highness, Princess Arianne of Montavia, certainly won't be prattling or blabbering for a while. Her twelve younger brothers, hellion princes all, have been turned into swans by an old crone who cursed them. Smart old crone, I'd say. The dirty dozen will be circling the wild blue yonder until Arianne has knitted each of them a shirt made from nettles. And while she's knitting, she can't whistle while she works. Or utter any words. She's even afraid that if she communicates in writing, she'll condemn her brothers to everlasting fowl heaven.

Arianne is staying at the old crone's cottage while she knits the nettle shirts. When King Jim stumbles onto the cottage, he's delighted. Here's a luscious peasant maiden who isn't yammering away. The only way that Arianne can express herself is through body language and facial expressions. Knowing that men interpret body language and facial expressions in a slightly skewed, unique way, it's obvious that the King and the Princess will be at humorous cross purposes for a while. Richard begins to call her "Goldie" and is totally enjoying himself as he finds a willing and silent audience to listen to his kingly exploits. He is delightful as he theatrically demonstrates how he rid the kingdom of a BIG dragon.

Richard takes Arianne back to his castle, still believing that she's a peasant. She hadn't planned on going with him, but the guy has eaten most of her food supply. How can she cook and knit? Going with him seems the best solution. His staff has mixed impressions. Some love Arianne, and some think that she's not good enough for the king. Richard is somewhat puzzled at Arianne's constant knitting, but then he's confused about Arianne and his attraction to her. The sexual attraction is a strong and compelling thread throughout the book.

There is danger lurking in the background. An evil cleric who wants to control the kingdom is just waiting for the right opportunity to set his nefarious plans in motion. When Arianne arrives he sees a golden opportunity to do away with King Richard and Arianne.

One of the unique secondary characters, one that the king holds in high esteem, is a character called John Paul. You might say the king is quite attached to John Paul. Without getting into much purple prose, let's just say that John Paul, Richard's southern friend, always seems to have a mind of its own. Whenever Arianne is around, John Paul becomes a sort of sexual heat- seeking missile. Hearing Richard talk to John Paul as if he's real is high humor, even if it's humor that most women don't relate to.

The Wild Swans may not be for everyone's reading enjoyment. Those who need to dissect, analyze or critique their reading to discover the deeper significance probably need to find historical, angsty stuff. However, those who enjoy a light-hearted, romantic romp need look no further. In addition to the Happily Ever After, The Wild Swans is a Happily Getting There.

--Linda Mowery

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