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Rory by Ruth Langan
(Harl. Historical #457, $4.99, PG) 0-373-29057-8
**
Pretty run of the mill stuff is authored up by Ruth Langan in the first book of her Irish-themed O'Neill trilogy. Set in 1560 during the reign of Elizabeth I, the action revolves around the monarch's attempts to civilize the Irish "barbarians" as personified by Rory O'Neill.

The "Blackhearted O'Neill" as he is known, becomes the most hunted man in Ireland in the years following the wedding day death of his bride at the hands of a marauding band of English soldiers. Rory revenges the death of his beloved by declaring war on the English, becoming a legend to the put-upon Irish in the process.

Grievously wounded after one battle, he is taken to the home of AnnaClaire Thompson, the daughter of one of Elizabeth's most trusted advisors. With a mixed English/Irish heritage, AnnaClaire is more liberal than most of her social set when it comes to the "Irish problem." When she discovers the wounded Rory in her home, she grudgingly agrees to take care of him and hides him, most conveniently, in the attic room reached only through her bedroom.

Of course, the beautiful maiden easily falls under the spell of the charming O'Neill. As for Rory, he takes one look at AnnaClaire and basically forgets he ever loved another. How quickly they forget.

AnnaClaire walks a fine, dangerous line with Rory sequestered in her attic and the smarmy Lord Dunstan paying court downstairs. In a typical testosterone-induced rage, Rory objects to AnnaClaire's relationship with the Englishman. It's a selfish display that AnnaClaire never acknowledges. A well-timed, "Hey bud, I saved your ass and you have the nerve to insult my date," would have been extremely satisfying. Instead, she falls into his arms and manages his escape when it becomes clear that the English have learned of his hiding place.

So, if you were on the run with a noblewoman and half the English army at your heels, where would you hide? Well, a conveniently stocked cottage in the woods for one, which gives you a perfect opportunity to flex a muscle that has fallen into disuse. Then of course, you'd go straight home to Mom and Pop. Oh, and don't forget to act surprised when the bad guys come a-knocking. Gorgeous our man Rory, but not very bright.

AnnaClaire gets her lover out of so many jams, you start wondering how the man managed to stay alive so long before meeting her. The lofty position held by AnnaClaire's father guarantees that the action will eventually come to a head in the court of Elizabeth.

Light on historic specifics, "Rory" offers little in the way of anything inventive and barely tweaks the "thrill-o-meter" in terms of actual romantic content.

-- Ann McGuire


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