White Lion's Lady
by Tina St John, historical (2001)
Ivy, $6.50, ISBN 0-8041-1962-7


White Lion's Lady is a bizarre hybrid of cheesy concessions to medieval sad-bad hero clichés, plot devices that don't make much sense, and genuinely entertaining moments. In short, I am entertained, and I'm pretty satisfied with it, but WLL doesn't promise much beyond its generic title. You want a comfort medieval romance? Pay $6.50 to Tina St John and she'll whip you a quick, easy one.

The prologue, like all typical medievals, have our heroine Isabel de Lamere as an eight-year-old running away from a party (the birthday boy Dominic was being an ass) to get lost in the woods. Griffin, probably fourteen then, saves Isabel and ooh, she has this crush on her "White Lion" hero ever since.

Can someone direct me to a medieval where the heroine and the hero fall in love after they have pubic hair? Thanks. Or are they extinct now, and the medieval subgenre thrives on girlie love only?

Well, now, they were all grown-ups. Or at least, Isabel is eighteen now. She is about to be married to a Sebastian of Montborne, arranged marriage of course, when this man/brigand/ooh-what-an-insufferable-pig kidnaps her. He turns out to be, who else, our White Lion fellow, Griffin of Droghollow. Turns out that Griff is Dominic's foster brother, and Dominic has heinous plans for our Isabel ("Izzy"). But apparently the sight of pure, innocent, if tarty-mouthed, Izzy has our Griff so enraptured that, despite his track record of burning serfs' cottages and all for his evil foster bro, he immediately dons the Prince Charming mantel and goes on the run with Izzy. Okay, that and he also hopes that Izzy's betrothed will pay him lots of money so that he will be free of Dommy forever. They are now fugitives on the run. Run, Izzy, run!

Can they keep their hands of each other? Of course not - see below (tick).

Will Griff turn away because he feels unworthy? Of course (tick).

Will Griff and Izzy share sad stories at the fireside, and then overcome by the pain of remembered past, just have to shag to exorcise 'em all? Oh yes, definitely. (Tick.)

Will Isabel tells him she loves him after a splendorous shagfest, and then Sebastian comes and collects her, making her shriek to Griff, "Bastard! Bastard! Oh, and to think I love you, boo-hoo-hoo!" Yes (tick).

Will Griff stand back and let her go, so that she will at least find a life far better than what he can give her? Tick, tick, tick.

Okay, so what if the plot is nothing new? Great stories are made out of old formulaic plots before. But there are inherent flaws in the plot that distract me too. For instance, most obvious is the sudden "plot twist" towards the end that smacks of contrivance. The author pulls it out of her bottom, or if you want to be delicate and genteel, she cheats there. I go "Huh?" and reread the last few pages, and well, I still don't see that one coming. The ensuing conflict to pad a few more dozen pages reek of contrivance as a result. Contrivance, and of course, a possibility for a sequel in the works, which Ivy thoughtfully lets me know will be called Black Lion's Bride, coming soon (read the prologue and wait in bated breath, people!). Should I be peeved that the sequel's title remains just as bland and generic as White Lion's Lady? I don't have much high hope that the content would be any different.

And then there's the hero Griff. He has done some bad things (that's understating things mildly on my part), so what's it going to be, Ms St John? Griff the antihero to be redeemed or Griff the misunderstood candidate for the Officer Krupke reform school? Griff is no antihero, big mistake, because by making him a misunderstood fellow driven to sins because, oh, of promises, vows, and guilt, he becomes yet another sad, self-absorbed whiner who makes decisions for the heroine because it's for his, sorry, her own good. No biggie, really, but since our hero is one twisted, passive-agressive dolt who somehow thinks it's okay to rampage and burn cottages because oh, look, ma, he hurt inside, awwww, I'm supposed to feel sorry for him? Same with Izzy, whose baggage is of course the usual guilt, abandonment, boo-hoo nonsense only the really self-absorbed (or twitty) would spend their whole lives agonizing over? Not this reader. Get over it, you two.

I am surprised to find Izzy's beau a good guy. Cool, I think... until I realize how the author is setting him up as the hero of the sequel. Innovation in the name of commercial interests is good, but I can't help feeling manipulated too.

I'm not saying White Lion's Lady is bad. It's readable, and like I said, a comfy read filled with the usual safe, familiar plot terrains and the usual characters with plot baggages labelled "Destination: Typical". Can Tina St John write? Oh yes. But she's yet to move beyond being yet another generic voice in the increasingly generic medieval romance subgenre. And since she can be innovative, she just doesn't seem to want to be, I can't help but to feel cheated of my $6.50's worth of entertainment.

Rating: 73


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