In Hot Pursuit

The Knight's Redemption

The Lairdís Lady
by Joanne Rock
(Harl. Hist, $5.50, PG) ISBN 0373-29369-0
This medieval tale has a little of everything Ė Scots fighting Brits, the need for revenge, the need to make things right, betrayal and love. It is historical only because the author throws in some mention of kings and fighting. The Lairdís Lady is essentially a tale of one heiress and her Scottish conqueror. And it is essentially an average romance reading experience.

Rosalind of Beaumont is the lady of the keep because several years ago her family was killed in a fire that all assume was set by marauding Scottish border raiders. Her English blood is up and she will forever hate the Scots. A young squire who had aspirations of marriage with Rosalind convinced her to hide the fact that she is the only surviving member of her family. They and the keepís people put out the tale that her younger brother lived and is in charge. This squire, Gregory Evandale, then leaves to join the Kingís forces, with hopes of convincing the King to grant him leave to marry Rosalind. He has been gone for over three years with nary a word.

Now that King Edward is dead, the Scots are looking to gain ground. An army under the command of Malcolm McNair shows up at Beaumont to claim the keep for Robert the Bruce. After a brief skirmish between the Scots and the keep led by Rosalind masquerading as her brother, the Scots win the day. If Malcolm had not seen Rosalind yield a cross bow he would not have been enthralled with the lady, or so he tells himself. But enthralled he is. Malcolm is a hard-fighting knight, who along with his brothers, fight to help the Bruce return Scotland to its glory. He has hopes of gaining the favor of the Bruce, his friend, who will bestow the Beaumont keep to him. If he gets the girl, he would consider that icing on the cake.

But while sparks fly and there is heat between Rosalind and Malcolm, there is tradition, the fire, Rosalindís need to avenge her family, Malcolmís need to protect and the misconceptions they hold that stands between them. The tale revolves around Malcolmís claim to the keep and the loyalty of the serfs to Rosalind. Even after Gregory returns and Rosalind realizes he is not the man she thought he was, she cannot forgive Malcolm for the actions of his countrymen.

There are sparks between these two and the sexual tension and interactions are warm. The word play between them is at times witty and sharp and at other times exasperating in its repetition of the same old arguments. Action is minimal as the story is character driven. Malcolm is a strong hero and one who blends strength and power with kindness and logic. He is a warrior but he has a heart and a yearning for home and hearth. Rosalind is a little less well defined. She is strong and independent. She is almost too independent. She is slow to see the reality and holds to her stubbornness just a tad too long, almost to the point of being a shrew. This stretches the tale, but does not really add to the enjoyment.

Gregory is the antithesis of Malcolm in every way and one wonders how Rosalind can be so smart in the one sense and so taken in by him on the other hand. Luckily she comes to her senses sooner rather than later. The other characters are present but add little panache to the story.

When all is said and done, The Lairdís Lady is simply about the laird and the lady. While a pleasant interlude, their tale boils down to lust and heat fighting against misconceptions and the past. Sadly, that is not quite enough for full engagement.

--Shirley Lyons

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