Deceive Me Not

Love Me Not

My Lord Stranger

Only in My Dreams

My Lord Destiny by Eve Byron
(Avon, $5.99, PG) ISBN 0-380-80365-8
This is the second of Eve Byron's books that I've read. The first took me an unheard of six days to finish. This one took longer. The problem? Byron starts out strong and just absolutely fades coming around the first turn. While she is adept at creating unusual backgrounds for her characters, they never seem to quite measure up in the end -- they lack depth. In My Lord Destiny (an embarrassing title by the way), you've got two sets of lovers in pursuit of one of the greatest legends of the ages -- that of Merlin of Camelot -- and it goes absolutely nowhere. Nowhere. It was so disappointing.

The story starts out strong -- in 1820s, Wales at the estate of Gavan and Gwyneth St. Aldan, a brother and sister whom, legend has it, are descended from Myrddin (or Merlin) himself. What's more, the legend contends that the great sorcerer and his true love will one day be reunited in the guise of two others. Gwyneth is an avid believer in the legend. Gavan is not. When amateur archeologist William Whitmore comes to St. Aldan and discovers a book reputed to tell the true tale of Myrddin and his lost love, Gavan's contented country life comes to an end.

Within days of the book's discovery, Gwyneth, Gavan, and William are under attack by a mysterious band of men charged with stealing the book and keeping its contents from the masses. Someone is afraid that "the old ways" will corrupt the "one true faith" and this someone (the identity of whom is never in doubt) goes to great lengths to secure the book. Gwyneth, Gavan, and William escape to the home of William's sister, Priscilla, the unconventional milliner to the Ton.

Gavan and Pris see stars the minute they clap eyes on each other, and spent the entire course of the book trying to ignore their true feelings. Why? They've both lost at love. Big surprise. Gwyneth and William are also in love, but William disappears shortly into the action so Gwyn just sort of hangs around with nothing to do but annoy people.

Itís disappointing. The whole idea of Merlin and his lost love had such possibilities. The legend and lore of the Arthurian tales -- never mentioned. The magic and mysticism of Avalon and Camelot -- ignored. Occasional mention is made of magic -- the fact that Gwyneth can see things others cannot. But it is never fully explained (little is in this book) and falls by the wayside in favor of the oh-so-overdone "never gonna love again" plot.

So what originality existed disappears about 3 chapters into the action and only returns, briefly, at the end. By then, of course, itís way too late for redemption. I finished the book only out of obligation. I felt little or nothing for the two main characters, Gavan and Priss, and only slightly more for Gwyneth and the oft-missing William. The author's vivid descriptions of Priscilla's hat making methods are amusing, but these nice little touches are undone by too little dialogue and too much self-conscious inner thought.

If the author had kept her original vision in sight, chances are My Lord Destiny would have made for a much more fulfilling read.

--Ann McGuire

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