In the Warrior’s Bed by Mary Wine

In the Warrior’s Bed, Mary Wine, Kensington Brava, 2010, James Griffin cover art

3 Stars

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Something New-ish

After realizing that all the romance novels I read are at least 20 years old, I decided to give something newer a try. Mary Wine’s 2010 Scottish historical romance In the Warrior’s Bed is not a bad book, but it lacks that extra something that makes it memorable.

Actually it’s memorable for one thing: they didn’t get the cover right! If you’re anal-retentive like me, this will bother you. As much as I find them dehumanizing, a headless torso cover would have been preferable. The heroine is supposed to be blond yet the cover depicts a black-haired woman. And let’s not talk about the inaccurate plaid (grumble, grumble).

You can’t blame cover artist James Griffin because the heroine’s name is Bronwyn and most Bronwyns in Romancelandia have black hair, LOL. Plus the author doesn’t give a physical description of her heroine until page 69 of this trade issue book, and then it’s only to briefly describe her honey-colored hair. If one is writing a romance novel, there is no shame in giving a physical description of your character by page 10.

Book – In the Warrior’s Bed

Anyhoo, onto the actual book. We’ve seen this plot before: two Scottish clans are feuding, and the hero abducts the heroine, schtupps her silly and they fall in love, while the evil-doers do their bad thing and try to separate them/kill them.

In the Warrior’s Bed falters when the main characters Bronwyn and Cullen are not together, so fortunately, they’re together a lot. Cullen McJames is a sexy, masculine hero, but I couldn’t really understand Bronwyn. Her loyalty to her family is noble, although not reasonable. They treat her like a slave, humiliate her, and want her dead. Here’s this hunk with a brogue who wants to treat her like a lady, take her away from her violent clan, and give her lots of orgasms. But of course, she just has to fight him every step of the way.

As this is a modern Brava romance there will be no mention of manhoods, manroots, or members, however c***s will be constantly stirring in kilts. For the first half of the book, Cullen is in a constant state of priapism, even when the heroine is nowhere to be found. I thought the guy should have contacted his doctor because we’ve all heard what those commercials say about 4 hour erections.

Opinion of In the Warrior’s Bed

Although the romance here is a bit lacking, the love scenes are quite sensual. The good guys are good and the bad guys are eeevilll! Plus, there’s lots of blood and killing, which is fun in fiction. In the Warrior’s Bed ends nice and violently, so that’s a positive.

This is the second novel in a series of three books, so one day I may pick up the others out of curiosity because Ms. Wine’s writing style is to be admired. Still, it took me two weeks to finish this 277 page romance, as I kept putting it down and reading something else. I’d give it 3 stars, which is not bad, but not a keeper.

Sister Queens by Julia Fox

Sister Queens: The Noble, Tragic Lives of Katherine of Aragon and Juana, Queen of Castile, Julia Fox, Ballantine, 2011

3 Stars

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Book – Sister Queens: The Noble, Tragic Lives of Katherine of Aragon and Juana, Queen of Castile

While Julia Fox’s attention to little details is meticulous, her book Sister Queens: The Noble, Tragic Lives of Katherine of Aragon and Juana, Queen of Castile is mistitled. It’s a lopsided historical account of Katherine of Aragon, with scant attention placed on her older sister, Juana of Castile.

It read to me like Fox intended to write a biography on Katherine and maybe came up a few pages short, so she crammed in some facts about Juana. They were sisters, both queens, treated cruelly by their husbands and then cast aside in vicious games of politics.

I figure 2/3 of the book pertains to Katherine, 1/6 to notes and pictures and the other 1/6 to Juana’s life. It’s understandable to an extent, as Fox is an accredited expert on Tudor history, and there is so much known about Katherine and her marriage to Henry VII of England, a marriage that ended up fragmenting the Catholic Church and changing the face of Europe forever.

Juana the Who?

Sections pertaining to Juana’s childhood and her marriage to Philp Hapsburg are frustratingly truncated. It’s understandable as Juana spent most of her life—well over 40 years—locked away at Tordesillas, kept prisoner by her beloved Father, then later her son. Not much happens when a person is shut off from the rest of the world.

Fox maintains the now commonly held position that Juana was never insane, and backs this up with accounts from respectable people who came in contact with the supposed Mad Queen.

While I agree that Juana would not be considered legally insane by modern standards, she did exhibit such emotional mood swings which could be diagnosed as bipolar or manic depression. Juana’s documented strange, erratic behavior is downplayed by Fox. Certainly Juana’s treatment was unjust and callous, but there is evidence that, for a while, at least after Philip’s death and then giving birth to her sixth child, Juana was not mentally capable or willing to fulfill her functions as Sovereign Queen. Worse, Fox speculates so often about what Juana felt or did and how we will never know certain truths as hard proof is lacking, that she rarely comes to any definitive conclusion about Juana. We’ll never know anything for sure, Fox frequently states, so then why write about it?

Katherine the Great

In contrast, the parts on Katherine were painstakingly detailed. From Katherine’s grand entrance into London, her marriage to Arthur, then to his younger brother, Henry, each of her pregnancies and miscarriages, the death of her son, how she prudently ruled England while Henry was away at war with France, and then how valiantly she fought to save her marriage from divorce, these facts are all described in a well-annotated, scholarly manner, so replete with minute details of clothing, food and castles that G.R.R. Martin and Bertrice Small would be proud.

Katherine’s letters and actions are documented facts. Her character is fully analyzed, so Katherine becomes a fleshed-out human being before our eyes. There may be a few mysteries about her motives, but there is never a doubt about who she is.

A Lopsided Account

Were this a book just about Katherine, I would have appreciated it much more, rating this at least a 4. I’d like to consider myself an amateur historian when it comes to the Trastamaras & Hapsburg Spaniards and I found the sections on Juana disappointingly sparse in comparison to Katherine’s. The only information new to me about Juana was the number of visits her grandchildren made to her while she was imprisoned (18 in 20 years).

It’s unfortunate that this book is so uneven with much more written about Katherine than Juana. The parallel themes Fox attempts to draw about the sister queens’ fates are not thoroughly convincing. If she had framed her book on a point by point basis, rather than writing this chronologically, perhaps she would have made a more definitive case. As it was, I’m not sure what her ultimate thesis was besides pointing out the obvious tragedies.

4 stars for the Katharine sections + 1.5 stars for Juana’s = 2.75, rounded up to 3 stars overall.

April Fool’s Day by Jeff Rovin

April Fool’s Day, Jeff Rovin, Pocket Books, 1986

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

3 Stars

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Book – April Fool’s Day

Jeff Rovin’s April Fool’s Day is an adaptation of the 1986 slasher pic that was loosely based on Agatha Christie’s Ten Little Indians/And Then There Were None. But while Christie was a master of characterization and suspense, April Fool’s Day —the book—just doesn’t compare, not to Christie’s book nor the ’86 film, starring Scream Queen Amy Steele and many other young B-movie actors from that era.

Mind you, it’s not a bad book; it’s one I’m happy to have read, but if I had to choose, I’d favor watching the movie again as opposed to re-reading the novel.

If you enjoy references to 1980’s pop culture like soaps like “Search for Tomorrow,” Heavy Metal cassette tapes, and tongue-in-cheek references to Ed Grimley, I must say, this might be an interesting trip down memory lane. It’s also noteworthy that despite rose-colored nostalgia goggles, it was not a simpler time, as some “kids” were doing the same things back then that they’re doing today.

The setting is an isolated island filled with hard-drinking, pot-smoking, partner-swapping, rich, young college students named Muffy, Evelyn (Skip), Arch, Harvey (Hal), Nichelle (Nikki), Chaz, Nan, Kit and working-class outsider, Rob, and each character has a unique role in this deadly tale.

April Fool’s Day Movie Poster

Opinion of April Fool’s Day

As the title is April Fool’s Day and it’s part of the horror/slasher genre, expect some violent murders and outlandish twists. Personally, as a horror film buff, I hated the movie the first time I saw it. But then upon a couple of re-watches, I realized how funny and dark it was. However there were missing pieces that never quite made sense. Those missing pieces were either never filmed or left on the cutting room floor. Reading the novelization filled in those missing pieces (especially about Nan and Skip), yet it took away much of the delight and silliness of the original premise.

SPOILER ALERT:

If I hadn’t seen the movie and had read this book when I was younger, I would have enjoyed it very much. But I’m old and judgmental, and you can’t create a crew of awful, rotten kids without (SPOILER) killing all of them off one by one in truly gory fashion like you would in a real slasher film (/SPOILER)

I’m glad I read this, but into the eBay box it goes to find a new home.

God Emperor of Dune by Frank Herbert

God Emperor of Dune, Frank Herbert, Berkley, 1981

3 Stars

Rating: 3 out of 5.

The Book – God Emperor of Dune

For a book with such a great title, I sure am less than whelmed. I’m certain Leto Atreides II, God Emperor of the known universe, would chide me for my inability to fully understand the truths that he pontificates on… so just call me “stoo-pit.” That’s what most of this book is: Leto pontificating and berating people for being too stupid to understand his prescient brilliance.

This is a book I can’t possibly review properly. I’ll need to re-read it once or twice more to really get it. Too bad the SciFi/SyFy channel didn’t produce one of their wonderfully cheesy and camp-tactic miniseries for this book, as they did for “Dune” and “Children of Dune.” Alas, we’ll never get to see what their vision of a cheaply-made CGI giant worm/demi-god who speaks English with a heavy, non-specific European accent would have looked like.

What I Learned From God Emperor of Dune

1) An all-female army is superior to an all-male army because there’s no infighting or hierarchal structure among women (My childhood as the oldest of five kids—four of us female—attests otherwise; I recall a lot of hair-pulling and scratching during my early years. But the God-Emperor sayeth, so it must be.)

2) It’s easy for a beautiful, female human being to fall in love with a neutered giant human/worm hybrid who’s, quite frankly, a bit of an asshole, so long as you were bio-engineered just for that purpose.

3) A woman can come to orgasm by watching a virile male climb up and down a mountain using nothing but his bare hands.

4) To prevent evil despotism that crushes human vivacity and freedom from ruling for millennia, one must become an evil despot who crushes human vivacity and freedom, and rules for millennia.