Synopsis (from Goodreads):
Half-sister to Richard the Fair, Alys has been schooled in the sheltered ways of the convent, far from the treachery and intrigue of castle life. Until she is taken from the cloister and brought to a place filled with secrets. Here she is to meet her future husband, a man some call a monster. His name is Simon of Navarre, a powerful and mysterious lord practiced in the black arts. This sensual stranger both terrifies her and fascinates her…and sets her heart burning with an unfamiliar fire.
Jaded by war, no longer able to believe in human goodness, Simon has turned toward the realm of darkness. But the master magician finds himself bewitched by the innocent Alys, who fears his very touch could damn her forever. Yet even as Simon begins to work his seductive magic, Alys senses the wounded soul beneath the cooly elegant facade. Now, as the two become pawns in Richard’s treacherous scheme to become England’s king, only one power can save them: the unstoppable force of love
What to do when you want to write a pseudo-historical romance novel that will sell? The recipe, according to Anne Stuart, is simple. It goes, more or less, like that:
- One dark hero, handsome and dangerous, who’s been through a lot,
- One innocent heroine, fresh and unspoiled but clever enough to be interesting to a man who’s been through a lot,
- Her brainless but extremely pretty sister, innocent as well, who will be through a lot (relatively speaking of course, no lasting damage, don’t worry. Oops, spoiler.),
- Her sister’s foolish suitor who’s been through a lot but remains so sweetly innocent,
- Her ugly, cruel, ambitious and ruthless brother who is begging to be murdered because he is fat, evil and hasn’t been through a lot.
Sit down, dear prospective author, and make yourself comfortable. Have some coffee. So…you want to set your book in the Middle Ages, right? Overall one hour of Wikipedia research will suffice. The first important pointer: don’t bother too much with historicity. As funny as it might seem, historians don’t read historical romance. It’s enough you mention the Fourth Crusade, Saracens, nunneries, Henry III, Merlin, wizards, witches and, er, maybe horses. Yeah, horses are a good idea because they’re cute. Riding them bareback is completely medieval, don’t you think?
The second pointer: even if it seems strange make your characters think and speak like modern people. Who cares about a medieval mindset and vocabulary? Not your target audience, believe me. They just want to understand your book without much effort. As long as heros or heroines are falling in love hard everything will be understood, forgiven and forgotten. Promptly.
Next important thing: the hero must love children and, generally, be protective of the weak – then he might murder other men in cold blood and nobody will criticize him. Remember: children, women and pets. These are untouchable. The rest is cannon fodder. Your baddie mustn’t win but he has to come close to victory. Kill him off near the end – if he has assaulted sexually his sister and killed his own wife he won’t be mourned.
Finally add no less than two spicy sex scenes plus some groping here and there. Lack of historicity is completely ok but lack of gratuitous sex will doom your book. Garnish the plot with melodramatic, saccharine sauce and hearts and here you go, your romance novel is ready. So what it’s just empty calories, with no nutritional value whatsoever? Numbers, dear author, think of important numbers. Your account balance. Sales volume. Next orders from publishers.
Melodramatic, inconsistant and predictable story. I am not impressed. Low Meh.