The Lily and the Sword
by Sara Bennett
(Avon, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-06-000269-7
***
Sara Bennett’s debut romance is standard medieval fare with flashes of sparkle and hints that she my have quite an interesting voice, if she can aim for a more original plot in which to showcase it.

Lady Lily is the young widow of an older man, Vorgen, who plotted to overthrow William of Normandy and paid with his life. Vorgen was not only older, he was impotent, and Lily is still a virgin. William has sent one of is most trusted men, Radulf, to find Lily and bring her for questioning so she cannot try to unite others in a second uprising.

Radulf, known as the King’s Sword, has little trouble locating Lily because she happens to stumble into a church at the exact moment Radulf is there looking for her. Lily quickly lies to Radulf, claiming to be the daughter of a nobleman seeking sanctuary, and Radulf is honor-bound to keep her safe and escort her home. As they travel together, Lily and Radulf become lovers, and once her secret is revealed, desire is replaced by rage on Radulf’s part.

Aww, did the big mean knight get duped? Yup, and Radulf just can’t quite seem to get over it. Things take a turn for the worse when William decides the best way to keep an eye on Lily and her lands is to marry her off, and who better to take her in hand than his old friend, Radulf? Radulf can have Lily’s properties, too. Everybody’s happy, right?

Well, not really. There’s Lily’s evil kinsman, Hew, who has plans of his own. There is a scheming noblewoman who wants Radulf, and they share a past. Radulf refuses to trust Lily; she might destroy him as she destroyed Vorgen, though where he gets that logic I haven’t a clue. Does he think this little blonde singlehandedly caused an insurrection? Lily loves Radulf but knows he will never care for her. But the sex is great.

It’s a decent read, and Ms. Bennett has a natural flow to her storytelling that carries easily from one scene to the next. In the end, however, it’s all quite predictable. Radulf does have one secret that may strike readers as borderline repulsive, but overall he’s a decent hero. He doesn’t mistreat Lily, though he guards his emotions carefully. Lily, for her part, comes across as a bit of a medieval teenager with a crush. Since she’s presented as a young woman who has never known any romantic involvement, that’s probably a logical portrayal, but it did feel a tad on the immature side at times.

The Lily and the Sword may well please fans of early medieval romance. The back cover copy burbles about “how could a new author possibly be this wonderful?” and “the most exciting new author I have read in years”. Sorry, can’t agree. As a reader, I found this book acceptable, but ultimately unmemorable. Sara Bennett may well develop into an author to watch, but it will take more originality than this to get her there.

--Cathy Sova


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