Timely Defense
by Nathalie Gray, historical/time-travel (2006)
Ellora's Cave, $5.95, ISBN 1-4199-0690-9


It is really unfortunate about the cover of Nathalie Gray's hilarious time-travel romance Timely Defense. Here's a true story: the car I was in was stopped by the cops while I was asleep in the back seat - don't worry, they had this new law stating that all cars must have three seat belts installed in the back seat, and the car I was in happened to be stopped as part of a random check - and there I was, with the dead tree book of this story spread wide on my chest and held in place by one hand, the androgynous fellow's naked back saying hello to the startled officer's face. It took some time to convince that young man that a genteel lady of advanced age like me would never read anything as low as smut.

Anyway, all that is behind me now, and I really hope that publishers will think twice before slapping ugly naked people on book covers. At least make the naked people look good, hmmph.

I have to say, Nathalie Gray can be quite a chameleon when it comes to her stories. I have read stories from her that range from kick-ass futuristic romances to Gothic raunchy romps, but this one is a laugh-a-minute romp reminiscent of Sandra Hill's brand of comedy. I have a strong suspicion that if you love Sandra Hill's books, you will love Timely Defense. Conversely, if you don't like Sandra Hill's brand of humor, you may develop an allergy reaction to this one.

Alexandre-Jean Bernier is a lawyer, and he embodies the worst caricature you can imagine associated with that profession: mean, mercenary, and uncaring when it comes to truth and justice. Don't worry, he's not born that way, he can still be repaired. Nothing a freak storm that sends him reeling from an airplane in the present day to a castle in 1148 Switzerland can't fix, really. When "Sir Ayjay" awakes to the hospitality of Lady Marion Werdenberg-Sargans, a widow in need of a strong man to help her fend off the unwanted advances of a neighboring brute, our hero will discover that his shining armor isn't completely tarnished yet at that point.

This is a very hero-centric story, which is to say, AJ steals every scene he is in, to the point that the heroine is merely an extension of the environment that reacts to AJ's incorrigible ways. AJ is really a hoot. If I have any complaint, it's that his personality doesn't gel with the stated blackguard personality that the author claims he has - AJ comes off more like a very charming, most cocksure, and very naughty rogue who has a gentlemanly streak in him. Still, he is a riot to follow as he turns the medieval era upside down even as he wins the maiden and slays her figurative dragons. Characterization could have been better, I suppose, especially since Marion doesn't register as anything more than AJ's damsel in distress here, but what the heck, I'm too busy laughing. A part of me also points out to me that AJ's sense of humor is more like Sarcastic Emo Livejournal Girl brand of funny than Straight Metrosexual Male kind of humor, but really, I'm too busy laughing to care.

If laughter is the best medicine, then Timely Defense is the pill.

Rating: 82


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