The Bride of Windermere
by Margo Maguire
(Harl. Historical , $4.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-373-29053-5
**
If you've ever read a book and five days later couldn't remember a thing about it except that you didn't like it very much, you'll know exactly why I'm unimpressed with The Bride of Windermere . Its IFQ Instant Forgettability Quotient is right up there.

Wolfram Gerhart Colston (the multicultural name is explained in that his mother was the daughter of a German margrave) is a knight sent by King Henry V to escort Kathryn Somers, who has been residing with her stepfather, to court. For no apparent reason, Wolf believes her to be a child, and Kathryn (known as Kit) reinforces this misconception by dressing as a dirty urchin, also for no apparent reason. Kit is glad to go to London because she has long believed that she is as good as betrothed to her childhood friend, Sir Rupert, and she knows him to be in London. Before they are to leave Kit bathes in a moonlit pool, and guess who spies her, kisses her, and gets the hots for her?

Kit's stepfather is abusive, and Wolf rescues her from a beating. Because of her injuries, Kit spends most of the journey to London riding on the saddle in front of Wolf wrapped in his arms. He notices the urchin's hair smells of roses, but because Kit covers her distinctive blonde hair, even when she dresses in female attire, Wolf doesn't recognize her as the lady in the lake.

Wolf insists on a detour to Windermere. It turns out that he is actually the youngest and only surviving son of the Earl of Windermere. Through deceit and trickery, his cousin Philip is now the earl. Determined to right this old wrong and clear his father's name, Wolf is concealing his true identity by assuming a German identity and using Gerhart as his name..

In London, the wicked plot is revealed, and the king elevates Wolf to a dukedom and orders him to marry the king's own half-sister. Kit is, of course, the half-sister, who is devastated to learn that her parents were unwed. She is equally devastated to learn that she's to marry some doddering old duke, even though she hasn't a clue who the duke is or whether he dodders.

There is a Big Misunderstanding as Wolf thinks Kit prefers Rupert, and Kit thinks Wolf would rather marry some German girl as well as being ashamed of her illegitimate origins. They both have much to learn about the other before their forced marriage becomes a love match.

The book's most distinguishing feature is that it is placed in fifteenth century England during the reign of Henry V, an uncommon period for historical romances. But that's the only difference between this book and scores of others. Neither the characters nor the story line are very original. How many times have we read about beautiful maidens bathing in moonlit pools, unknown parentage turning out to be aristocratic or villainous relatives seizing property from the nice branch of the family?

There is absolutely no sense of immersion in the early fifteenth century. Other than riding on horseback and Kit's getting a fashionable new wardrobe, the author could have set this story in any century.

The villainous Philip began to remind me of the Terminator as his evil machinations keep going and going. Just when you think the hero and heroine have reached happily ever after, he's baaack.

As for the heroine, after a while Kit started to bug me. The author would have us believe that she is this intelligent, capable, determined woman, but she is one of those annoying heroines who is likely to burst into tears at the slightest excuse. I lost track of the number of times she is tearing up, crying, weeping, or sobbing in one person's or another's arms. She is also all things to all people: compassionate (she saves a child from Philip's excessively brutal punishment), hard-working (she rolls up her sleeves and scrubs down a filthy castle), accomplished (she single-handedly managed her stepfather's estate), long-suffering (she survived a long history of her stepfather's beatings), and sensitive (she's stricken at the discovery that she's the late king's illegitimate daughter).

I wasn't too enthralled with Wolf either. He has all this psychological baggage about his father's and brothers' death and his mother's emotional withdrawal. I'm starting to yearn for a little more alpha hero and a little less sensitive male. He also has this excessive hang-up about Sir Rupert. It's pretty obvious that Sir Rupert is no competition at all.

I'm sure I've forgotten more books than I remember, but it usually takes me longer to forget one that Bride of Windermere did. A book that doesn't hang in the memory for even a week is one I advise you to skip.

--Lesley Dunlap


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