My Forever Love
by Marsha Canham, historical (2004)
Signet, $6.99, ISBN 0-451-21128-6


With My Forever Love, I think it's safe to proclaim that a Marsha Canham book featuring a strong heroine is fun but one featuring a literally weak and constantly hammered-by-distress heroine, like this book, is the fastest way to get to Snoozesville.

The plot of the story can be summed up simply like this: Amaranth de Langois runs away after conking her latest cruel husband to hide in a village belonging to the reclusive shamed knight Ciaran Tamberlane. Her husband Odo sends his men after her and when these men find her, they also wipe out the villagers. Ciaran and his men save Amie just in time, and even then Amie is hurt enough to warrant an extended stay in Ciaran's castle. Ciaran's mysterious assistant Marak deduces Amie's secret soon enough but he decides to keep Ciaran in the dark. I know I'm reading a romance novel when Marak actually entertains matchmaking notions even when the woman in question is badly wounded. When Odo drops by to visit Ciaran, that's when the fun starts. Er, did I say "fun"? Maybe not quite.

The prologue of this book is the best thing about the story. It's a thrilling action-paced scene that describes Ciaran's fall from grace in the eyes of the Crusaders he fights with because Ciaran is tired of the senseless violence taking place around him. Ciaran is a very interesting hero in that he is a genuine Crusader - religious, sexually inexperienced, and has a noble and pure heart. His struggle to reconcile his principles with his disillusionment is poignant, but unfortunately, this isn't the focus of this story.

No, the bulk of the story revolves around everyone trying to protect wee, helpless Amie. Amie, to make things worse, is one of those silly creatures who can't lie properly while at the same time is prone to melodramatic declarations of martyrhood. Thankfully she's too weak for so long to run out of the castle to do much nonsense in this story. Instead, she drags the story through an excruciatingly slow sagging middle where the concerned males try to make sure that Amie is alright and safe from Big Bad Odo. There are some skanky scenes of Odo doing his sadistic jollies or some scenes of Amie and Ciaran exchanging tortured looks filled with desire, but nothing much actually happens to move the story along. Ciaran's story takes a backseat to the dull "Save the Amie!" antics and frankly, there is too much Amie in this story and not enough Ciaran. Amie is just not interesting. She's a standard heroine in distress only with a little more lurid abuse in her past than usual but nothing more.

Regarding Odo, I'd probably be more annoyed at his one-dimensional monster characterization if Ciaran and Amie aren't so dull that it is Odo's skanky behavior and rabid rantings that end up providing the only non-lethargic moments in this story.

It is only in the last few chapters of the story when Ciaran and Odo gear up for a final showdown that My Forever Love finally kicks up the pace. In fact, I can argue that the story finally comes to life at that point. Ciaran's internal conflicts rear to the forefront again while Amie finally does something to remind me that she's the heroine and not a sack of potatoes on Ciaran's bed, but it's too late as far as I'm concerned. The pace is just too slow and Amie is too passive and dependent on Ciaran. Fans of damsel-in-distress stories may enjoy My Forever Love better than me, but for me, this book is like a sleeping pill after the author's last few action-packed stories. Damsels in distress just aren't this author's forte, methinks.

Rating: 59


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