As Linda Lael Miller:

In Your Dreams


My Outlaw

One Wish


Springwater Wedding

Tonight and Always

Two Brothers

The Vow

My Lady Wayward by Lael St. James
(Pocket, $6.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-671-53788-1
The amazing genre-hopping Linda Lael Miller moves into medievals with this second installment of her “My Lady…” trilogy. After spending the better part of two weeks reading My Lady Wayward, I sincerely wish Miller had stuck with her much better pioneer romances.

The book starts with Lord Gresham Sedgwick being attacked by a mummer who bears him a striking resemblance. Left to die in the fields, Gresham is found by two young sisters who are boarding at the local abbey. Elizabeth Redclift, a.k.a. the good, obedient one, wants to tell the Abbess about the stranger. Meg Redclift, a.k.a. the impetuous feisty one, convinces her sister to keep it a secret.

Both are worried about their third sister, Meg’s twin Gabriella, who has not been seen or heard from since leaving to meet her betrothed. Meg gets the idea that maybe Gresham, who looks to be a strong warrior, will help her find Gabriella.

When Gresham wakes up, he has no memory of who he is, only his name. After spending a short time in the abbey, Meg and Gresham must flee to escape the plague. The book takes a turn into a road story. Meg and Gresham meet an assortment of characters on their journey to London-town. Most are stock characters to provide them with information or a convenient reason to have them sleep in the same bed.

Meg is half in love with Gresham before he’s at the abbey two days and goes the rest of the way on their journey. When Gresham’s memory starts returning, namely when he calls her Monique during a half conscious grope session, she frets incessantly that she’ll lose him. Not quite halfway through the book Meg’s talking about just knowing she is the only one for Gresham. Already?

As expected, Gresham starts having feelings for Meg as well, but is afraid something in his past will come up to harm her. Why? Well, that never really comes up. In fact, a lot of what Gresham remembers about his past is glossed over. Certain events are remembered, but not really explained or developed, leaving the reader to wonder why they were brought up at all. Part of the problem is the author spends too much time focusing on unimportant details, like Meg’s “unhealthy” obsession for bathing. Was it necessary to go through the melting a bowl of snow routine twice in the same chapter? Gresham’s past ends up buried in the minutiae.

The other problem is it is very hard to drum up interest in the characters, Meg especially. Meg seems to know a lot about sex and seductive behavior, despite being fostered in an abbey. She shamelessly flirts with Gresham, for example wiggling her bottom against him and then feigning innocent by asking, “What’s this?” Suffice to say, it’s not exactly standard behavior for a 12th century virgin. Her headstrong nature is really nothing more than foolishness. She spends a lot of her time whining and saying “Hold me” to Gresham. Honestly, she says this at least a dozen times. In short, she’s a standard annoying heroine who longs for action and adventure, as long as she doesn’t get too dirty or cold doing it.

Aside from some surface treatment, such as the threat of plague and the general uncleanliness of everyone, except the heroine of course, one could never tell this was supposed to be a medieval. Yes, there is a Faire and lots of token period words, but there is no real medieval feel to this story at all. In fact, this book could easily be Miller’s Orphan Train trilogy dressed up in medieval clothes.

Details about Gresham and Gabriella are neatly, if not believably, tied up in the end and there is the expected lead in to the final book of the trilogy. If Elizabeth is anything like her sister, count this reader out.

--Anne Bulin

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