Friday, August 31, 2007

Untamed, by Elizabeth Lowell [1]

*/***** (1/5)

Elizabeth Lowell's UNTAMED provides for many paranormal elements steeped in tradition (rather than outright magic) as excuses for its plotting and pacing. After a while, it just seems like Lowell relishes lapping on one esoteric rule after another. The book also grasps and offends at quantifying love, and measuring it. For example, only love can produce a male offspring with a Glendruid witch (like our heroine) while pleasure will merely result in daughters. The implication: somehow, male offspring require a higher level of intimacy than female offspring. For the majority of 408 pages, rumors of another man (Duncan) restrain our hero Dominic's desire for Meg and he awaits Meg's monthly bleeding before consummating their marriage. Meanwhile, Meg snips at Dominic's crude practicality over wanting land and sons, and laments over his lack of faith in her and his dearth to love (Meg cannot love any man whom she knows will not love her back). She's a virgin of course, and the novel again involves a virgin heroine's sensual awakening.

The prose wasn't bad, but failed to engage, and the plotting/pacing stagnates. The ending represents the epitome of cheeseball. The conclusion showcases our hero Dominic's transformation into the "Glendruid Wolf," a legend portending peace and prosperity for the people of the land. This ridiculous "transformation" into the "Glendruid Wolf" hinges on Dominic discarding the sensible thing and mouthing his words of love for Meg first. I found all the people coming forward to show their dedication and devotion for their abducted Glendruid mistress terribly cheezy. Meg's lack of faith in Dominic resonated throughout (he can't love, blah, blah, blah) and especially in the end when she doesn't believe he'll rescue her consequently risking war. She lacks faith in her husband despite the fact that she's the recepient of Dominic's very tender affection and caring throughout the novel. He ignites and pleasures Meg.

The backdrop of UNTAMED? It's a time following the William the Conquerer's conquest of England, a time when the Normans vanquished or assimilated the Saxons. King Henry I awards the Saxon stronghold in Northern England Blackthorne Keep to our tall, dark and handsome Norman knight Dominic le Sabre. In the absence of any legitimate Blackthorne male heirs, the King awards Lady Margaret ("Meg") and Blackthorne Keep's opulent and fertile lands to his redoubtable Norman knight Dominic.

Like many a man during the time, Dominic dreams of land and sons. He views sons as a means of preserving peace. Meg resents serving as the tool for any man's aspirations for land and sons, though she's willing to marry Lord Dominic in order to avert bloodshed. Following the marriage, Meg isn't averse to all of his sensual servicing either.

And this is where all the rules of paranormal tradition factor into the story. The paranormal rules range from ridiculously contrived to offensive.

Meg hails from a long line of Glendruids, women many consider witches. Glendruid witches traditionally fail to bear many children, much less sons, and they're rarely impassioned exhibiting a very cold demeanor to passion and love. Incidentally our hero Dominic has little trouble stirring Meg's passion on his first attempt. Glendruids are revered and much loved by the people of Blackthorne Keep, and if the Glendruid women are forced in any way, the rules call for the dessication of Blackthorne lands, cattle and its people. If the Glendruid women are cast off, again the people will revolt. If the Glendruid women are pleasured, but not truly loved, then a daughter is possible. If there's love -- and only love -- can a Glendruid bear a son. A Glendruid hasn't borne a son for centuries. There's also a legend that the next Glendruid son born (dubbed the Glendruid Wolf) will hail a time of peace and prosperity. Furthermore our old Glendruid witch Gwyn explains to us, "ultimately [it] rests on the woman's love, not the man's. Many Glendruid women have wanted sons to bring peace to their world. Not one has managed the kind of love a son requires." Oh, and for good measure, Lowell adds another caveat to the Glendruid traditions so Glendruid women aren't tricked into loving their men: "Glendruid women see beneath the sensual lure of broad shoulders and handsome faces. They see a man's soul." Of course it doesn't hurt for the man to possess broad shoulders, a chiseled frame and a handsome countenance either. Nothing less would do for a hero in a romance novel!

Dominic promptly resolves to teach Meg to love him. We all know the rest, right? In the process of trying to make her love him, obviously he loses his own heart to her. The sexual tension in UNTAMED involves having the hunky, experienced dark knight ignite a virgin's passions in spite of her scathing resistance. Dominic answers Meg's feisty imprecations with his experienced wiles of seduction. Despite Meg's notorious indifference to passion, she succumbs to Dominic's touch and kiss on their very first meeting. The rest of the novel interminably plays out the seducing-the-virgin-and-igniting-her-passion routine. It's a kind of antiquated and tedious banality under the most contrived paranormal contexts (rules). Obviously, Dominic will cede control of his heart and soul to Meg first, and in so doing, Meg wins the game! Yay!

The lengthy and wearisome seduction of said virgin was just too much. Over the days and weeks, he slowly assaults her "defenses" (which are nonexistent) with caresses, light touches, and kisses. Nothing happens whatsoever. The books is mildly sensual, if that. The plotting/pacing feeble, the ending cheezy beyond belief.

The title of the book stems from the tradition/rule of Glendruid witches exhibiting a cold, detached disposition towards passion and love. Meg is untamed, and similar to Dominic training and taming a peregrine to his touch, so too does Meg soar to new heights under Dominic's experienced touch. Again, the same'ole-same-'ole sexually-experienced-hero-igniting-virgin's-passion routine. Of course, there's also making the hero recognize his love for his heroine. In this particular version of the typical romance routine, we see very cheesy paranormal elements thrown in for good measure as well.

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