The Deed

The Key

The Switch

Always by Lynsay Sands
(Leisure, $5.50, R) ISBN 0-8439-4736-5
Aric of Burkhart finds himself on a personal roller coaster ride in Lynsay Sands’ latest historical. Swearing off woman for good, after catching his fiancée in bed with another man, Aric is enjoying a drunken evening with his closest friend Robert of Shambley when King Henry II drops into the tavern with a direct order.

The King is at war with his own traitorous sons, and his less than loyal wife. Knowing that time may not be on his side, he sets out to find a husband to protect his illegitimate daughter, Lady Rosamunde. It has long been rumored that Queen Eleanor murdered Rosamunde’s mother, and the King fears for his child’s safety should he meet an untimely death. When he hears that Aric has broken his betrothal, he chooses him as the lucky groom. Aric really has no choice, one does not say no to the King, and he’s quickly en route to the convent where Lady Rosamunde awaits.

Rosamunde never had any intention of marrying. She has spent her entire life living in a convent, and had expected to take the veil, as was her mother’s wish on her deathbed. So, when her royal father shows up with a husband in tow, it’s quite a shock to the naïve girl. Will Rosamunde and Aric be able to make a life together amid a country in turmoil? And will they grow to love each other, in spite of their hastily arranged marriage?

The novel opens with a promising, and funny, start when Aric and Rosumunde must consummate their impromptu marriage with the King of England standing right outside the bedroom door! Rosamunde’s education in the convent understandably didn’t cover martial relations, and the act is promptly explained to her by a nun who only manages to tell her when and how “not to do it.” However, the story quickly deteriorates after this amusing opening.

Aric is the typical scorned romance hero. His fiancée, and his mother, were both unfaithful, so therefore all women must be common whores that are constantly looking for the opportunity to toss up their skirts for willing men. His fear that the innocent Rosaumunde will tumble with another man the minute he turns his back leads to his often inexcusable treatment of her. He barks out orders, and she is expected to follow them meekly. He even refuses her access to the stables (where she has worked all her life while at the convent) because he imagines clandestine trysts with lovers that don’t exist.

Rosamunde is a stock romance heroine, the innocent and sweet virgin desperate to be useful but unable to voice an opinion about her own life. She swore to her father to always obey Aric, so that means that even though she’s miserable, she chooses to do nothing about it.

Even though Rosamunde is as pure as the fallen snow, Aric quickly becomes jealous concerning his new bride. He’s constantly being urged by secondary characters in the novel to control his temper. This jealousy became tiresome rather quickly, because Rosamunde really doesn’t do anything to provoke it, nor do any of the men that come into contact with her. And instead of Aric learning to overcome these feelings, and working out his past for himself, he needs the aid of secondary characters to see the error of his ways.

Rosamunde puts up with Aric’s irrational behavior, happily traipsing along taking care of sick animals. It doesn’t occur to her that maybe her husband is wrong about anything, and while this can be chalked up to her promise to her father, and the time period, it was still hard to swallow.

I have enjoyed Sands’ work in the past, and this novel does have its shining moments - including the use of real historical figures as characters and the humorous opening scenes. However, Aric’s jealousy and stubbornness along with Rosamunde’s inability to tell him to take a flying leap quickly grated on this reader’s nerves.

--Wendy Crutcher

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