Robert's Lady
by Nicole Byrd, historical (2000)
Jove, $5.99, ISBN 0-515-12853-8


Here's my dilemma: I recognize that Nicole Byrd can write well, and given time, can well be an author of wonderful and emotionally intense dramas. Shall I give encouragement to this mother-daughter writing team by withdrawing my surgery tools? It is their first book after all.

Then again, I don't have literary aspirations, and it's my $5.99, so I do regret having to say that I find the portrayal of the heroine in Robert's Lady somewhat disturbing.

Katryn - never can recall reading her last name - has been pining for Robert who is her sister Eleanor's hubby-to-be. When Robert is lost during the battle with that tubby upstart Napoleon, Eleanor marries another. One day, Robert Manning returns, just in time to celebrate the arrival of Eleanor's firstborn. Since Katryn is always in love with Robert, she suggests that they get married instead.

She will win his love, she decides. Too bad that the name Robert calls out during the honeymoon night isn't hers. Or when Robert is implicated in treason. What is a lady in love to do?

Now, I do admire a woman who fights for her love. But I also think it's pathetic when a woman's life revolves around a man and nothing else. Katryn has little hobby or motivation to do anything in life apart from Making Robert Happy. This is a woman who, even after her crush has long been given up for death, pines like a tragic heroine in a Greek drama, shedding tears every night. Others may find these sort of women romantic, but I think Katryn really needs to go out more.

And it's fine if Robert is a man worth fighting for. He's not. Long after post-war trauma can be used an excuse, this jackass still pines for Eleanor. Listen, young man, you made your bed, you bloody well sleep on it. He is also secretive, treats Katryn condescendingly, and generally acts like a complete mule that I am very tempted to administer the Frying Pan Extravaganza on that ninny. And his way of knowing that Katryn's the right one? Let's see... he kisses the very married Eleanor, and discovers that there isn't any fire like the way he does the canoodies with Katryn. (Guess who happens to stumble upon our two irresponsible lovebirds.)

Does that mean that if there is fire in that kiss, Robert is willing to ditch that walking doormat Katryn like hot coals? Is this man going to kiss every woman he sees every month just to see if he still loves Katryn?

No matter how much a jackass Robert is, Katryn is the right woman for him. This woman is pathetic, really. She spends her time fretting over how unattractive she is compared to her sister, getting worked up when Robert talks to Eleanor, getting mad when Robert humiliates her in public with his mooning over Eleanor or cozying up to some other woman. But all is forgiven when Robert wags his wonky at her, because she so loves this man. One night of love and she's back to step one, a starry-eyed woman whose character has no depth apart from a Martyr In Love.

That's the problem with Robert's Lady - the authors set up the stage for complicated characters, but never actually doing anything to develop these characters. Every one is a one note character from beginning to end. Katryn's love for Robert remains bright and ideal, but the author never did show me why this woman has so much blind faith in such a fickle, irresponsible man. The result? A flat, one-dimensional story that has me snorting in derision. This is what happens when people don't have social lives, I tell you.

Rating: 64


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