Shadowheart by Laura Kinsale

Posted October 13, 2011 by Meoskop in Book Reviews, Historical, Romance / 0 Comments

A darkly colored cover, on the left a half profile of a intently staring male face covered in a hood, on the left decorative scrollworkThis one I should probably revisit. In 2004 I absolutely hated it. the market has changed dramatically, the book has recently been reissued (with a weird YA angry druid cover) and people adore it. In the theme of not changing it up much – here was my take on it’s initial release.

If you disapprove of Romance as a genre, you have definitely entered the wrong blog. If you’re not that into homoerotic vampire novels – sit right down. Pop quiz, how many authors have been ruined by the cash cow that was Lestat? I have at least six in my personal bag of regrets. There’s nothing like unexpectedly seeing a new book by a favorite author and then finding out it’s likely to be painfully bad. (I just thought of three more. I have to stop. It’s just – I can’t. I’m sorry, but no.Too painful.)

Laura Kinsale is back after beating writer’s block into submission and she’s got something out that I think is called Shadowheart, but I could be wrong. It’s something heart and likely you don’t care anyway. It’s got one of the greatest opening lines EVER – even better than Lessa being cold –

“On plow monday, all the chickens died.” 

I’m going to start saying that to people randomly. I might want it for a bumper sticker.
I’m picturing saying it to my brother with a very somber intonation just to hear him say “WTF?” in that special sibling way.

I can’t decide if I hated Shadowheart or loved it – Kinsale took the assassin from one of her early books and converted him to hero. This isn’t something I recall seeing much. (Lass Small crashed and burned in the very early 90’s, late 80’s  with one where she took an abusive ex from a prior book and tried to bring him round) Anyway, pretty standard lost princess and the beast thing but Kinsale decides to mix it up with the beast actually being a beast (no redemption there to be had) and the princess being (unexpectedly) into mild pain and dominance games. The thing is it totally worked in the context of the story.On a blue background with gold lettering and edges, a white bird sits atop a ruby colored gem

Characterization was tight, sense of place was strong, the… see, here’s where we go back to “I’m sorry, what?” The princess comes to realize she can love the sociopathic killer and hurt him too, all while bringing peace and modern democracy to her feudal kingdom.

Is this a new face of exploration in romance? Are we freeing the “I like it when you hurt me” crowd from their standard roles as discarded mistresses? Does it show he’s not sociopathic that he goes all weak in the knees for her Alpha Chick routine? I was like, why did we go here and should we, maybe, you know, leave? And yet I didn’t. I wonder if this is the new Lestat or if I’ll be using it as an obscure reference to someone else’s book in a decade or so?