Falcon’s Love by Denise Lynn
(Harlequin Hist, $5.50. PG-13) ISBN 0-373-29361-5
Falcon’s Love is an excruciating read. Set in Normandy during the time of the war between King Stephen and the Empress Matilda, this book tells the story of Darius of Faucon and the love of his life, Marguerite.

The book begins with Darius dreamily remembering his youthful, informal marriage to Marguerite and their honeymoon in a lowly cottage. A messenger of King Stephen and Queen Maud interrupts his dream, issuing orders for Darius to secure a keep near the sea and hold it until a husband can be found for the widowed mistress. Darius is given one month to complete his task or be tried on trumped charges of treason.

When Darius reaches Thornson Keep, he finds that it is home to smugglers loyal to Empress Matilda. Unwilling to lose men in a fight to get inside the keep, Darius rides to the gate and requests admittance. He is surprised when a white flag of surrender is flown and he is allowed inside.

The decision to yield the keep is made by none other than Marguerite. Six years before, her marriage to Darius was nullified and she was given to the Lord of Thornson. Now the widowed lady of the keep, Marguerite has serious problems that she needs to hide from Darius.

Darius is shocked to find that his former wife, the woman he has loved since childhood, is a traitor and a smuggler. Since he was yanked naked from Marguerite’s arms and carried back to his father bound to a pole after their abbreviated honeymoon, Darius has had no word of Marguerite beyond that she was married off to another man. Marguerite is now a lovely grown woman, a mother and a widow. Darius doesn’t know whether to hate Marguerite for her treasonous loyalties or succumb to his heart, which tells him she is the same woman he’s always loved.

Darius listens to his heart and attempts to help Marguerite with the difficult situation in which she has been placed. Marguerite is a TSTL (too stupid to live) heroine, however, and makes Darius’ mission far more complicated than it has to be.

There are major problems with this book. Marguerite’s character is hugely irritating. Marguerite runs away, hides her son’s paternity from Darius, continues the smuggling activity, and puts herself in danger several times. Darius’ character is little better, in that he keeps forgiving Marguerite her stupidity and that he falls madly in love with her all over again even though she proves to be a liar and a sneak. When Marguerite finally shows a little honor and tells lies in an effort to finally do the right thing, that’s when Darius decides she can’t be trusted.

It’s also uncomfortable that Marguerite remembers her dead husband so fondly. Darius can’t tell her enough times how he’s never stopped loving her, and they go to bed together almost immediately, but Marguerite mentions several times how much she loved her dead husband. The reader is treated to Marguerite’s memories of her sexual relationship with her husband.

The most annoying thing about the book, though, is the character of Earl William. He’s a powerful peer of the realm and an enemy to Darius. The earl arrives unannounced at Thornson with orders for Marguerite to marry another man. Earl William is a proper villain at first, bringing turmoil to Darius’ and Marguerites personal relationship and interfering with the smuggling debacle. Then from one page to another the earl turns into a winking, grandfatherly type. He tells Marguerite “I have always gained much pleasure from goading the youngest Faucon, I am not certain what he resents more - my torment, or his own reaction to it.” Is the reader supposed to suddenly believe that this man who made life a living hell for Darius was only teasing?

If you like co-dependent heroes, stupid, selfish heroines, lackluster romance and medieval conversation peppered with modern phrases, this is your book. Otherwise, give Falcon’s Love a pass.

--Wendy Livingston

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