Once a Warrior

The Rebel and the Redcoat

The Witch & the Warrior

The Rose And The Warrior
by Karyn Monk
(Bantam, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-553-57761-1
The Rose And The Warrior contains what can often be a fatal flaw in a romance: the long separation. In fact, the long separation in this story nearly encompasses the entire book and it was a fatal flaw from which the book could not recover.

In the Scottish Highlands of 1216, an elusive thief known as "The Falcon" has been plaguing the clan MacTier for months, stealing food, horses and even the very plaids off the men sent to find him. Roarke, the most experienced warrior of clan MacTier, has been sent to capture the rebellious Falcon and his band of thieves once and for all.

But it is Roarke and his men who are surprised by the Falcon and captured. It's not long before Roarke realizes that the mysterious thief is actually a woman -- Melantha of the clan MacKillon. A clan that was earlier decimated by the marauding clan MacTier.

Melantha decides to take her captives back to her clan and hold them for ransom. While being held at the MacKillon castle, Roarke comes face to face with the results of the destruction inflicted by his clan and discovers the items stolen by the Falcon are used to feed and clothe the remaining members of the MacKillon clan.

Roarke is concerned at the inability of the MacKillons to defend themselves, and takes it upon himself to instruct the inept group on how to protect themselves and fortify their stronghold. When Melantha is captured by the MacTiers, Roarke must decide whether his loyalties lie -- with his clan or with the woman who has stolen his heart.

Much of the story is revealed through Roarke's eyes and he's a wonderful character --an aging, battle scarred warrior facing the results of a lifetime of fighting. Melantha simply does not come alive as effectively.

But the biggest problem with the book concerns the aforementioned separations. After Melantha captures Roarke at the start of the book, they are separated until about page 150. Then only seven pages later they make love. Actually have sex would be more appropriate. Melantha is angry at Roarke before and angry at him after. Sort of the "I hate you, now let's make love" syndrome. There is no build-up, no opportunity to watch their relationship grow.

After that, there are more lengthy separations with brief moments together. This continues right up until the conclusion. Unfortunately, during their times apart, the action focuses on the antics of the misfit remaining members of the clan MacKillon. This was humorous initially, but soon became annoying. By this point, finishing the book became a tedious uphill battle.

I've enjoyed books by Karyn Monk in the past, and won't let this misstep keep me from reading her books in the future. But to categorize The Rose And The Warrior as a romance would be incorrect, there was nothing remotely romantic about it. If you're like me, and dread the long separation, consider yourself forewarned.

--Karen Lynch

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