The Lady and the Falconer
by Laurel O'Donnell
(Zebra, $4.99, PG) ISBN 0-8217-5953-1
Indulge me for a minute here: is there anyone else out there in Romance Reader land that thinks they will impale themselves on a very large, very pointy object if they are subjected to one more hero who wouldn't know love it crawled up his kilt and bit him on the ...cockles and mussels?

I know the romance genre, like mysteries, suspense and every other form of paperback literature is about formula. But that doesn't mean a reviewer can't occasionally tear her hair out for want of originality. Take The Lady and the Falconer for instance. The book isn't that bad I've read a lot worse (believe you me). The heroine is cute and honest, the hero is brooding and carrying around a ton of baggage and the supporting villain makes Dracula look like Opie Taylor. But it's all been done before.

I know it's not fair vent my frustration on one author. My apologies to Ms. O'Donnell. Here's the review.

Pretty little Solace Farindale witnesses a brutal act and begs her father to exact revenge. He does. Fifteen years later Solace finds herself in the middle of a siege in which her father's castle, (the one he took away from the evil doer) is the prize. Solace wanders the keep worrying about her missing father, ignoring signs that her stepsister is the Bad Seed come to life, and staring at the mysterious but handsome falconer who has recently arrived at Castle Fulton.

It turns out the falconer, Logan, is the son of the guy Solace's father whooped all those years ago. Logan wasn't in the castle that day and has spent the better part of his adolescence and early adulthood feeling guilty. He goes to Castle Fulton to exact revenge, but doesn't plan on falling for the daughter of his enemy. That's the conflict love or revenge? Unfortunately Logan's emotional tug of war goes on for like 300 pages. It lasts through the fall of Castle Fulton and Solace's realization that Logan is a traitor. It lasts through Solace's escape from the evil clutches of the sadistic Baron Barclay. It lasts through her attempts to hire mercenaries, her removal to Logan's secret camp, her second escape, and the ultimate battle of good versus evil. In other words, it lasts a long time.

Admittedly, some of the action is involving, particularly those scenes involving the odious Barclay, a truly miserable creature who should top this year's Most Memorable Villain list. But when a reader finds the bad guy more interesting than the hero and heroine that's usually a sign that something isn't working. That "something" most definitely had something to do with characters who spend about as much time jumping to conclusions as they do jumping each other. On that note I can say, however, that the chemistry between the thickheaded Logan and the dewy-eyed Solace is consistently steamy.

Some readers may find The Lady and the Falconer to be a tad on the violent side - quickie beheadings, medieval tortures and all that. I didn't find it offensive, but I know there are some who may.

--Ann McGuire

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