Friday, March 1, 2013

The Key

The Key by Lynsay Sands

When her father dies, Iliana Wildwood, is horrified when Lord Greenweld storms the family estate and forces her mother to marry him. He locks Iliana up and uses her as a tool to keep Lady Wildwood in line and when she asks the king for help, he sends Iliana up to Scotland to marry so that he can work towards Lady Wildwood's safety. The only Scottish laird who qualifies to marry Iliana is Duncan of Dunbar Castle, heir to his father Angus. Iliana finds her new husband handsome but cannot believe the filth that his people live in as their is grime and dirt covering every well, they wear dirty plaids, and only take baths twice a year. Her husband is no exception and his stench leads her to refuse him on their wedding night and don a belt of chastity, complete with lock and a key she hides from Duncan. Duncan cannot believe his wife refuses him and vows not to let her change his life overmuch, even while he searches for a way to get her into bed without giving into her demands. Iliana overcomes her shock at the poor sanitary conditions of the keep when she learns her husband has big plans for his castle and his people and she begins to understand there is more to her husband than she had suspected.

Iliana sets about setting the keep to rights, sweeping and mopping, white washing and scrubbing, planting a garden, improving the quality and flavor of the food, buying everyone a new plaid, and offering everyone in the keep the use of her bathtub. Duncan is upset at the changes she is making, feeling that it is too much too fast and that she is not looking out for the best interests of his people, and as always, is upset that she continues to insist he take a bath. But quite by accident he ends up bathed and finds that he immensely enjoys the rewards that the act reaps and knows that his wife does as well. He wants to spend as much time in her bed as possible, but alas, when he begins to smell, she again refuses him. He is angry once again, but there is suddenly a new problem when someone attempts to kill Iliana in her bed at night. Now there is nothing on Ducan's mind but finding the person who is responsible and many believe it is Lord Grenweld, looking to get revenge on the Wildwood women. Iliana must find the strength to fight for those he loves and Duncan realizes that compromises that lead to the happiness of the woman he loves are well worth it.

Iliana was an interesting character; she was industrious in cleaning her husband's castle and adamant in getting her own way about the bath, and other things, but I found that she was too much to Sands' type. There were hints at her vast strength, such as when she attempted to escape from Greenweld, but we really weren't told of the courage that took and even her own husband seemed to shrug that away. Her insistence that things go her away, even though I knew she was in the right, came across as naive at times and I kept waiting for her to stamp her foot in anger like a child. Duncan was surly and rude and it is hard to like someone who thinks it's perfectly acceptable to take a bath twice a year and get upset when get upset when no one wants to sleep in the same bed. I understood that his grand plans for his clan were supposed to show a hidden depth to him, and they certainly made Iliana like him a lot more, but it was rather glossed over in summary so it did not really endear him to me all that much. They interacted a lot together, but it was often full of arguments or tension and I really would have appreciated them interacting in a more personal, happier, manner.

Iliana and Duncan obviously liked each other, probably because of their mutual desire to help those they care about, and the selflessness in achieving those ends. I just did not really feel a connection between them while reading the book and I just did not see how either of them fell in love with the other, and I believe that Sands' tendency to summarize things may be to blame. Instead of detailing a conversation, she'll say what they discussed and how they felt about it in one paragraph and this does not help a romance. There was some sex, it was pretty lukewarm, and entirely toward the end of the book. I found the addition of the chastity belt humorous at times and frustrating at others and completely unrealistic that a woman in those times would have refuted her husband's advances in that manner. The plot involving Lord Greenweld was an important part of the book but I found it popping up at odd times and didn't completely mesh with the storyline and the side romance between Lady Wildwood and Angus was almost ridiculous in its abruptness.

Rating: A funny book, certainly very fast with two hard to pin down characters in a so-so romance with some interesting tension toward the end.

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