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28 April 2006

Circle in the Water (1994)

By Susan Wiggs

From the book description: "Never one to forget a slight, King Henry VIII sought revenge against Stephen de Lacey, the handsome and defiant Baron of Wimberleigh. When a gypsy horse thief interrupted the king's daily hunt, Henry saw a way to bring the insolent nobleman to heel - he gave Stephen a choice of marrying the brazen wench or watching her hang. Stephen wanted nothing to do with his unwelcome gypsy bride, even when he realized Juliana was a princess from a far-off land, fleeing the fires of a deadly uprising. But with each day, she moved closer to his heart - and to the secret that could destroy him."

Like a little summer fling, this book was - predictably - fun and forgettable. Susan Wiggs remains my favorite romance writer, and I am in the midst of casually working through her out-of-print back catalogue, almost all of which are available through my library system. No better time for fluffy, quick reading than sunny summer days! While it stood not a chance of being as entertaining as my Wiggs favorites, The Drifter (my first), The Mistress, Summer by the Sea, and Halfway to Heaven (I read the latter two while on vacation in Cancun and Jamaica, respectively - coincidence?), but it still exceeds in character and charm the vast, amorphous dribble that is the romance genre.

First published in 1994, and possibly written much earlier, I understand how much more refined her writing has become and why she has edged away from the formulas of romance in favor of more complex, unpredictable, original contemporary novels: there are only so many sex-on-page-220 books an author can write before becoming bored with convention. Here, she seemed bored but unwilling (unable?) to break away from those hard and fast expectations of genre.

Did it leave me gasping? Nope. But I always did prefer cowboys to knights and nobles...

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