Lady Of Valor
by Tina St John, historical (2000)
Ivy, $6.50, ISBN 0-449-00424-4


Lady Of Valor is a superior book to its predecessor Lord Of Vengeance. Indeed, I start out expecting this book to be a keeper from its excellent first few chapters. Sitting back with my ever-ready tray of chocolates at hand, I am ready to tuck in and enjoy. Unfortunately, Lady Of Valor soon becomes a Fourth of July parade of clichés, never really redeeming itself until the last few chapters.

But it's a very entertaining parade, I must say.

Lady Emmalyn of Fallonmour is given a brief taste of freedom and independence when her husband left for the crusade. She whips the whole place in order, implements ideas that her husband would never agree to, and live a nice, wonderful life of being The Boss. Until one day Sir Cabal rides up and tells everyone at Fallanmour that the husband's dead and Cabal is given authority by King Richard to be the temporary boss around here.

Emmalyn isn't happy to be back under a man's thumb, but soon she realizes that gruff, cold Cabal is actually a big koochie teddy bear a woman can snuggle up to. Sparks fly, but there's always this Big Secret of Cabal being the infamous Blackheart, slayer of infidels big and small, whom Emmalyn, peace-loving medieval heroine, loathes. And Emmalyn's brother-in-law is looking at her plump estates hungrily. Oh, and of course, she may be soon called to marry another fellow by the Royal Court.

Now, I do adore Cabal, who, underneath all that cold, calm, I'm-Superman facade is a lonely, lost man in need of the love of a good woman. He is capable, larger-than-life, and despite his bulky brutish reputation, he is never cruel to Emmalyn.

However, Emmalyn loses me occasionally with her sometimes too-modern sensibilities. It's hard to read about a lady of the castle mingling freely with her staff and serfs, especially when she starts advocating Peace in the 90's (1190's, that is) slogans and letting young boys steal from her orchards because she believes in Peace and Sharing. Commendable attitude, of course, but from a highborn woman, it's tad unbelievable.

And there's the parade, of course. Let's do a checklist of the obligatory secondary accessories for our hero and heroine:

- The protective and maternal nanny
- The protective, wise, and kind Captain of the Guards
- The evil seneschal/accountant
- The evil, abusive dead hubby
- Hubby's evil abusive brother
- The token feisty young man for our hero to play daddy figure to
- The lovelorn young woman that loves young man above
- The small, orphan boy that steals from our heroine for the obligatory charity act of our heroine
- The maid who is also our heroine's confidante

I can go on, but the characters - and plot too - of Lady Of Valor are too familiar that the whole sameyness isn't even amusing. Could be worse - the hero and the heroine could boink for the first time after a Brush With Death, I thought after page 185. Then I read page 212 and groan.

Yes, Lady Of Valor has some fine characterization, great sexual tension, and there are a few scenes that resonate with emotion. But put these in the same book with samey, uninspired secondary characters, a plot that isn't anything new, and it loses much of its credibility as a really good romance.

Hence, Lady Of Valor is a hit-and-miss affair, although to me, it hits more than it misses. Still, it did miss too often for me to give it an unreserved two thumbs up. Maybe one thumb and a pinkie.

Rating: 81


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