REVIEW: Alena by Merline Lovelace
The wild heart of a warrior beat in the breast of Alena, daughter to a queen and mother to a king. A Celtic princess, she resolved never to bend to Roman rule. But how could she foresee that the iron fist of Rome would stoke her soul with the velvet glove of passion.
Marcus Valerius, Prefect of the Seventh Legion, had proven himself many times over in combat. Now newly come to Britannia, he would ensure the peace – despite the wiles of a tall, tawny-haired barbarian goddess with witchcraft in her lips!
Dear Ms. Lovelace,
I can’t remember when I learned of this book or when I first read it since that was before I began keeping my reading journal. But I loved it. Roman Britain with a native Princess recklessly pitting herself against a ruthless man she views as part of the subjugation of her people even as he fights his own growing attraction to this hellcat. What’s not to love?
Well, upon rereading it, the first 150 pages has a “Marcus gets mad and tries to yank a knot in Alena as she once again defies him” vicious cycle. Rinse, repeat, etc. But then Marcus is a hardened soldier and it seems plausible that a show of strength on her part would call to something deeper in him than mere lust – although he has plenty of that. Still this opening half of the book did begin to wear on my patience. How many times is Marcus going to bend Alena to his will without quite breaking her while she spits defiance in his face? It seemed endless.
Yet, I knew good stuff was lying in wait for me. Once the journey that Marcus endures as he takes his charge back to her venerable mother’s court in order that Mummy Dearest and her sot of a husband can, with Rome’s guidance of course, choose widow Alena’s next husband whom they count on to hold her young son’s lands until he reaches adulthood is finished the action truly picks up.
Marcus gives in to his attraction, and yes lust, for Alena and with a clever maneuver secures her hot bod for himself. He’s also determined to win more than sex from her and goes about it with enthusiasm as he teaches her more than her dolt of a first husband ever did about coupling.
The road to their HEA is still rocky and no where near the end, though. It’s push and pull and some icy silences mixed with rages that apparently shake the stone walls of their house in the fort. Alena quickly wins the hearts and adoration of her husband’s men while he learns that she’s smart in addition to being fearless. The images I got are that these two give new meaning to “knock down, drag out” and that wise people steer clear until the dust settles. The final breakthrough that allows them to, at long last, admit their true feelings arrives in the heels of great personal sacrifice for each other and what must have been one hell of a battle. Which is entirely in keeping with a soldier of Rome x a fearless woman of the warring Brigantes.
Still when the book was over I realized that I’d actually learned a lot about these people and their world that I hadn’t known before. I also appreciated that you might have held back a bit in portraying them as people of their times but not by that much. The Lopocares enjoy nothing so much as displays of horsemanship preferably followed by a good free-for-all fight while most of the Romans view the Natives with a fair degree of disdain and patronage.
At times Marcus can come across as a highhanded Roman lout yet since the timeframe isn’t even a decade past the revolt of Boudicca, his iron hand becomes more understandable. Alena can appear pigheaded in her constant efforts to defy Marcus and shape her own destiny yet the difference in her self determination and strength as compared to the more staid Roman matrons of Marcus’s world is what makes her the woman he’s hell bent on winning. When they finally cry pax and yield to love, it’s all the sweeter for what they’ve gone through to get there. B