The Lily And The Sword
by Sara Bennett, historical (2002)
Avon, $5.99, ISBN 0-06-000269-7

Oh boy. It's the time of the month again, where I just have to spend my $5.99 on some medieval romance that is like, oh, five trillion medieval romances out there. And it's not even well-done in a comfort read way - the hero and the heroine are caught up in everything from Evil Plot to Arranged Marriage to Big Misunderstanding to All Women Are Bitches and Now She Must Prove Him Wrong nonsense. I need The Lily And The Sword the way I need someone to sprinkle itch powder into my underwear drawer.

The Lily in question, the heroine, is the wronged damsel whose nasty husband was planning to betray the King, so our hero, the Bastard Sword - no, lemme check, his name is Radulf - anyway, Bastard here is sent to tame Lily. She tries to escape, but being a dingbat heroine, gets caught. She lies ineptly to him that she is, er, someone else, but he believes that all women are liars and bitches so hey, whatever. Eventually they will marry and then she will worry whether he will ever love her and trust her. Oh, how can she prove him wrong, all women are not bitches - at least, not her? Lucky for her she's still a virgin, because from the way Ms Bennet handles emotional drama, I guess the best thing she can do is to equate hymen to virtue. Amazing what a piece of useless thing can do to a woman's character.

May I suggest that we too impose a similar demand on men? Any men without foreskin are whores, sluts, murderers, traitors, scumbags, deadbeat boyfriends. How's that, eh, people? We can have the heroine pushing the hero away until he rips open his breeches and voila! See? Foreskin! Now he's pure and virtuous. Let's get down to business and perform an inept circumcision on Bastard here.

Bastard is annoying because his misogyny is treated like a privilege, not a flaw in this story. Lily, the dimwit, has to bend over backwards to prove her worth to him - shouldn't it be the other way? - and the silly Big Misunderstanding in the final leg of the story only confirms it. The characters in this story are dingbats.

The villain? Oh, the usual. The suspense or external conflict trundles along a familiar and predictable path, so does the romance and the love-your-hymen, love-your-man nonsense, and... and... sigh. I hope this is only a debut author's blues and Ms Bennett will do something a little bit more interesting in her future books.

Rating: 52

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