The attack of the three armed heroine!!!
Look closely at this cover! Yes, this is every graphic artist's nightmare. At last, all those years studying art - parents paying for your tuition - you get your first cover art published! You're making money! You're famous! Oops!! You forgot to remove one of the arms from the heroine. I happen to be one of the proud owners of Christina Dodds' three armed woman cover Castles in the Air and I wouldn't part with it for a million gazillion dollars - However, the cover of the book is all that's saving it!
This is one of Christina Dodds' earlier works and it shows. The story is set in 1100's England after one of the many crusades. In fact Eleanor of Aquitaine has a small bit part. Nothing better than a queen for bit parts.
This story is a quagmire of secrets. She has secrets, he has secrets, his friend has secrets, the villain has secrets, his parents have secrets, the horse has secrets. And they're all dark sinful secrets, except maybe for the horse. We also have a number of kidnappings. The hero, Raymond, kidnaps his betrothed (Juliana) because she's been refusing the King's command to come to court to get married. My first reaction was: what woman in the 1100's would disobey any King's command? I had a problem right away with that. Then there is the kidnapping - she doesn't know him - she's afraid, who wouldn't be? But what happens? For some reason she jumps to the conclusion that he is a "castle builder." Of course, he pretends to be the castle builder. So, every thing is hunky-dory. I'm sorry folks, but if this guy kidnapped me (no matter his hunkiness), scared the crap out of me, threw me over a horse pommel, I wouldn't be riding back with him to fortify my castle. Puleese!
Now, let's talk a little bit more about the cardboard heroine, Juliana, shall we? She has at least three nasty men hanging around the castle who are constantly insulting her. Now, we are told she has backbone, but never once did I see it and never once did she even attempt to get these losers out of her domicile. Also, there is no chemistry between Juliana and Raymond, none - nothing - nada. And the sex scenes are like fireworks going off in the distance...we hear them, but we never see them.
And, then there is the villain. There is never any doubt that he is the villain - in fact, it is so obvious I first doubted he was one - but he was. He also happens to be one of those chatty villains. You know the kind - they have to give an hour-long dissertation about why they're going to kill you right before they kill you.
Leave us not forget the "misunderstanding" my children. It was just too silly for words and at a ridiculous place in the book. Why would you spend time arguing when you're racing around trying to save your daughter (the other kidnapping) from the clutches of the gabby villain? Maybe, you know, the villain's got to do his monologue so you need to give him time to get his humongous speech together. And don't get me started on the absurd scene with Eleanor of Aquitaine and the castle wall - groan.
As you can tell, this book didn't live up to my memories of it and if not for the three armed heroine on the front cover, it might have ended up in a yard sale.
Time/Place: 1100's England
Sensuality Rating: Don't Blink