The Wolf and the Dove - Kathleen E. WoodiwissSPOILER WARNING - THIS REVIEW TALKS ABOUT PLOT POINTS
I adore the Lady Danger series by Sarah McKerrigan. Someone in that review suggested if people loved meaningful medieval romances that they should check out The Wolf and The Dove. This was written back in 1974, but I love medieval romance and eagerly bought a copy. I mean, medieval times haven't changed that much, right?
Well, medieval times haven't changed - but WOMEN have changed since the early 70s. At least, I had really thought we had until I saw some of the reviews here! It really upsets me that women readers thought that Wulfgar was a hero. To delve into this we have to examine the plot.
Aislinn is raised as a loved noble woman. She is engaged to a neighboring lord and all is going well. Then in storms the Normans and her father is slain right before her eyes. Her mother, an intelligent, caring healer, is beaten and turned into a rag-wearing slave. Aislinn herself is raped by the first knight who comes through. Then Wulfgar shows up.
He pretty much immediately begins to RAPE HER DAILY. She is clear about not wanting sex. He doesn't care and continually rape her. His "excuse"? He's a bastard son. So what? William, his liege lord, is a bastard and he's crowned king. There were lots of bastards in these days. I understand the whole "wanted love as a child" angle. But that doesn't give a man leave to continually rape a woman.
You could say "all men raped women in 1066" - but first, this is not true, and second, he was a knight. Knights took vows. Yes, some shady knights would occasionally rape a woman. However, a knight I would want to fall in love with would not be one of those. And no worthy knight would continually rape a woman.
OK, let's say he felt a simmering love for her and this was his (albeit inappropriate) way of showing it. But then when his sister shows up and starts emotionally abusing Aislinn, he just lets it go on. Soon Aislinn is wearing rags, the sister has stolen all her property and Wulfgar keeps raping her. Oh yes, and the mother is still wearing rags and treated like dirt too. Aislinn doesn't really seem to mind.
Wulfgar treats her completely as a whore. Yes he eventually buys her nice clothes (because she has none left and is going to appear at court). He's hoping to get some good sex in return, because right now she's being passive while he rapes her.
Which brings us to Aislinn. We are told repeatedly in the book that her main quality is that she is gorgeous. Any man who looks at her wants her. That is the sole reason they desire her - to have sex with her. Wulfgar doesn't really seem to care if she's happy or being sniped at by his sister. He just wants her more active in bed. Aislinn herself is entranced by his handsome good looks - but she refuses to put out in bed because she's just a whore and it bugs her. So her solution is ... to nag him incessantly. She is grumpy and sour, with the intention of getting him to marry her! She nags him non stop so that finally in the end he gives in and "surprises" her with a wedding.
Voila! She is now a tigress in bed, and he is thrilled.
I know there are MANY women out there who like male agressors, and that is fine. I am quite happy with a strong male. But there is a very distinct line between a strong male and an abusive male. A survey of women in the 15-24 age range found that **60%** were involved currently in an abusive relationship! *All* of them had been in a violent relationship at some point in their life. Isn't that scary? Do you think if we women read about repeated rape as being a "normal" part of a sexual relationship - never mind a relationship that is full of emotional abuse as well - that it affects our ability to draw the line when our actual sexual partner gets rough with us and refuses to respect our wishes?
Back to the book. So let's just say for a moment that it IS ok for a knight to repeatedly rape a woman - and for this woman to get "Stockholm Syndrome" and want this to go on forever and marry this guy. Is the rest of the story enjoyable? Well, the answer is NO. Rather than having actual depth to the characters, the ending makes everything completely meaningless. It turns out Aislinn WAS a virgin when she first slept with Wulfgar and somehow NEITHER noticed it!! Hah, highly unlikely! She was a healer, she knew about sex and virginity. Certainly Wulfgar knew from the soldiers he hung out with what the signs were! It also turns out Wulfgar isn't a bastard, that his siblings were. So now all childhood and modern traumas are neatly sewn up into little squares and made smooth.
How about the writing style? I know many books with horrendous plots where the writing was amazing and I loved it anyway. Here we have typos, we have grammatical errors, and we have jumps of scene and time without any transition or warning. You have to re-read a section to make sure you know who is talking and when it is taking place.
The book is very beauty obsessed. People are looked down as being "old women" or "too thin" or "infertile" or such. People are only treasured if they are curvy, beautiful and can have kids.
I was taking notes as I read this and I kept writing down that there was "odd situations" going on. What characters did or said made no sense based on their background and personality. They were being dragged along to suit the plot. Several aspects of the ending situation involving a child were completely unbelievable to any parent.
There were several God-like situations where characters made allusions to things they couldn't possibly know. There are historical inconsistencies. Just one example - they talk about rapiers in the year 1066, when rapiers were developed in the 1500s. There are also factual errors. Most birthmarks are caused by the birth process and the very few that are inherited do not skip generations. That was a deux ex machina if ever one was written.
I really wanted to like this story. I appreciate authors who can write long novels and fill them with interesting content. I adore the medieval period and love stories based in this time frame. I am generally VERY lenient as far as storyline goes. But this one bothered me greatly. It really concerns me that so many readers (judging by the reviews) felt that repeated rape of a woman was fine - and that her technique of nagging constantly at a guy to force him to marry her was fine as well. These are about the OPPOSITE of what romance is supposed to be about.
We need more books about QUALITY relationships. The guy should be worthy of marrying, not a rapist. They should share a relationship where they wed because they want to, not because the guy is nagged endlessly until he gives in to the "feminine desire for a ring". Maybe then we could start seeing a drop in this incredibly distressing 60% domestic violence rate that modern women are trapping themselves in.
I don't consider myself a feminist - but it really bothers me greatly that women are allowing themselves to be abused like this - and extolling the behavior in book form as a great, fun read.
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