Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Key -- by Lynsay Sands -- A Review

Iliana Wildwood would do anything to escape from the depraved baron who sought her lands -- including marrying a barbarian. Fleeing to the Highlands, Iliana was wedded to Duncan, lair of Dunbar Castle. Certainly there was something about the virile warrior that made her weak in the knees--but something stank in the state of Scotland, and Iliana would not trust anyone until she' done something about it.

Determined therefore to resist her bandsome husband, Iliana found a way to keep her secrets safe. Employing a chastity belt, the spirited beauty managed to thwart the thane's advances. But then her husband changed his tactics and began a sensual assault that sent her intentions up in smoke. And as the air cleared, Iliana found that it had been her heart she had locked away, and that this stubborn Scot had finally found . . . The Key.

There are few of us today that would consider going too many days without a shower or bath, and often I have thought that most people who revere the ancient historical contexts of romantic fiction forget that bathing was not even thought of as a common activity in the "olden days." Most people are unaware that the reason that June is Wedding Month is because in the Dark & Middle Ages, this was the occasion for the second bath of the year. The groom and bride smelled relatively clean for a while.

So it goes with our hero and heroine, a prim and proper English lady who has agreed to marry a Scottish laird in order to escape from her stepfather, his greed for her inheritance, and abusive ways. However, she finds that her bridegroom is dirty and smells to high heaven, and refuses to bathe before his scheduled July bath time. So it has always been and so it will be. Iliana steadfastly refuses to allow her bridegroom anywhere near her until he is not nearly so pungent, and encases herself in a chastity belt, hiding the key (in plain sight, don't you know), and proceeds to let everyone think that the marriage has been consummated. Her father-in-law adores her (he later falls in lust and love with Iliana's mother), the household comes to love her, and her frustrated husband rants and raves because of his wife's stubborn withholding of his conjugal rights.

It is a funny story in many ways but there is some trouble afoot with political difficulties and greedy landowners. There is tenderness and caring, surprising respect for women in this laird's house, and in many ways and on many levels Iliana brings this family alive and back together. She is a woman of strong temperament who knows her own mind, creative, inventive, and able to bring out the best in those around her. She ultimately earns the respect of her whole household, but the budding relationship with her husband is the crux of the story and is truly the delight of this tale.

Lynsay Sands is a very good writer and she does another great job here. Well written, great historical research, flamboyant and unique characters -- what's not to like? I give this book a rating of 4.5 out of 5.


Tracy said...

I can't believe I haven't read this one. I just adore Sands' historicals as they always have that wonderful thread of humor running through it.

And ewwww on the bath thing. You'd think if he wanted sex that badly he would bathe!

Dr J said...

Tracy: I absolutely agree about the bath thing as well. Actually, you and I both know that human beings of the male persuasion are unbelievably stubborn, and Scotsmen who were ruled by tradition, more then than now, were exceptionally set in their ways. It also goes back to that thing about making sure that "the little woman" doesn't call the shots. Give me a break . . .