Author: Claudia J. Edwards
Publication Date: 12/1/86
Publisher: Warner Books
Blurb(GR): The distant Forest Province had been torn apart by corruption and rebellion. On the direct orders of her king, Tevra, Colonel of the Light Cavalry, arrives in this strange land with instructions to restore order - at swordpoint, if need be.
Yet no steel blade can hold sway in a realm where shapes of death can be fashioned from the still of the air. And even the most ungodly works of the sorcerers pale before the mysterious powers of the Forest King himself - but is he Tevra's ally, or her deadliest foe?
Imagine the scene: a kick-ass heroine begrudgingly sets aside her military uniform to pour herself into an elaborate red ball gown (which of course she looks fabulous in) and attend a ball in her honor. Upon entering the room, she’s approached by a gorgeous, powerful man. She immediately notes that he “smells of almonds and sunshine,” and then feels a “storm of lust” as they dance the first dance together. Their eyes connect, and she feels an instant tug of connection.
If you’re like me, then your eyes were probably rolling out of their sockets around line two of that description. BUT NOW, just imagine that the heroine says this to that man:
“…forgive me, but I wasn’t in love with you. I wanted you. That’s a very different thing.”
And then she suggests that they have a one-night stand to get it out of their systems – right after she fights a duel on her own behalf and negotiates peace with a forest full of bandits, of course.
YES! I feel like I’ve been waiting and waiting for this day – the day when a romance novel could surprise me this much. Here’s my not-so-secret secret: I love romance novels. But I also hate romance novels. I get so tired of feeling disappointed again and again and again: by heroines who are spineless, by heroines who are unrealistically tough, by heroes who are alpha male stalkers, by love stories that are little more than embellished lust, and by endings that are neat little happily-ever-after packages. I’ve read those stories, and they weren’t very interesting the first time around. And yet, they just keep getting written.
And so to this book I say: where have you been all my life?! Well, it turns out that this book has in fact been around for almost my entire life. It was published when I was five years old! I’m only sad that it’s taken me twenty five years to read it. And I’m very sad that this author is no longer with us, but I intend to read everything she ever wrote now.
I love that Tevra both fits and breaks the mold for romance novel heroines. She’s a powerful, brave, heroic woman who can also wear a dress. But she also feels like a very realistic soldier: she’s cool, experienced, and logical – although sometimes a bit too logical. She’s of medium height, in her thirties, has short practical hair, and is scarred from battle. She’s definitely not one of those heroines who is supposed to be an experienced soldier and yet also has ankle length hair that brings all the boys to the yard, if you know what I’m saying. She’s a genuine badass! But Tevra is vulnerable too – even in a world where women are able to enter the military and hold rank, she faces challenges and she faces them with more intelligence than brawn.
But this book isn’t just about Tevra going around kicking butt and ruling the day. This is a true romance novel, of the rarest type: one that features a deep, substantial, wonderful love story that’s based on so much more than just stupid lust (although a little bit of lust, of course). I also need to mention here that this book includes a love triangle, and here's the amazing part: it didn't make me want to vomit. AND, she didn't turn one of the suitors into a complete douche bag just to make the decision easier. There's nothing simple or easy about this romance.
And never fear! This book has a wonderful, happy ending that was so satisfying I actually got a bit teary eyed about it. It’s like everything that I’ve ever wanted to read in a romance novel was distilled and placed into this one book. I can’t recommend it enough!
Many thanks to my blogging partner Flannery for sending me this book without telling me anything about it and ordering me to read it.
P.S. – that cover? With the chain mail mini dress and weird monster? And that title? Have almost nothing to do with this book.
Perfect Musical Pairing
Radiohead – House of Cards
I don’t want to be your friend; I just want to be your lover.