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The Wombat Resists @UrsulaV
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In my ongoing quest to find a good medieval romance, I started one listed among the top on a goodreads list I googled at random. The heroine is riding stallions on page two and I’m seriously reconsidering my desire to get to page three.
It is an immutable law that every romance set in this era includes a flashback to the first time the heroine saw a naked dude, unless she hasn’t, in which case she will lament her lack of flashback.
Now she must fend off the advances of a minor character so that the reader knows she is super hot but also tough.
She is now riding a stallion bareback at full gallop while putting her clothes back on. Like you do.
Nopeing out of this one based on sample. God, I wish Kindle had a “you downloaded a sample and found it lacking” marker.
Next sample! Next highly rated romance! Next...aaaand he’s riding a stallion on the first damn page.
Back in another life, when I worked for a tiny game company, we had the Time To Crate measurement. How long am I playing before I will be required to push a crate somewhere?

Thinking these novels need a Time To Stallion index.
Anyway, dude and his stallion have “male power singing in their blood.” So, uh, that’s a thing somebody wrote.
Suppose it really depends on the male singing in question how impressive that is. You get a real different hero with the Three Tenors than Straight No Chaser.
Anyway, the hero is riding in alone on his stallion with no device on his shield and also no one’s ever met him, but I will bet you a dollar no one asks for ID before they start in on the arranged marriage plot.
And everybody’s got stallions now. Sure, why not.
Oh, this dude’s nickname is “the Sword.” I realize I don’t get to complain about that particular but of phallic symbolism, but at least I hung a lampshade on it.
Ok, there’s birds now. I will hang around a bit longer if we’re gonna do some falconry.
Now we’re make googly eyes at each other over top of a falcon which seems vaguely unwise, but also reminds me of the time my friend Fox put googly eyes on her falcon’s hood.
Yes, everything is more sexy with tiny razor-clawed death machines.
Watch me fail to seduce this peasant who is actually my fiancée in disguise! says the hero, who will not be winning any awards for being quick on the uptake today.
This dialogue is causing me intense physical pain. Nobody drops that many adjectives in casual speech to the guy on the next stallion.
Ooh, the plot thickens! Heroine has just discovered her half brother is actually her cousin and she’s not really the lord’s daughter so she has to marry the non-brother? for Reasons? but maybe a cousin? but she just got disowned and there’s about to be a lot of stabbing.
I’ll be honest, I didn’t follow most of it. Just that somebody’s gonna get stabbed.
Something about Normans and Saxons and Jerusalem. I guess we don’t stab Normans?
Noooo, foolish minor character! You cannot defeat the hero, you don’t have nearly enough stallions!
Heroine is going to stop the stabbing by running away so nobody gets to marry her. But first, a flashback!
The hero’s kiss has sent “odd frissons shimmering through her.”

Shimmer is possibly not the verb I’d have picked on that one. More of a visual descriptor, really.
Why am I doing this to myself?
All right, there’s a prophecy and a prostitute, and...hmm, “Prophecy & Prostitution” sounds like the best Austin pastiche ever.
The hero has “the intense stare of an eagle or a god.” The heroine is shimmering again.
Heroine said “I do,” then fainted at the altar. They’re just finishing up the ceremony anyway, because eh. (All I can hear is the Princess Bride: “Skip to the end!”)
Oh thank god, my tablet’s running low. Good night, Internet! We are spared, for at least a little longer!
Internet. Internet, you know how I was reading that baffling medieval romance?

I read more over lunch, and has Gone Places.
I...I am honestly at a loss to explain the places it has gone. This is honestly a bit like when I livetweeted Hatoful Boyfriend. Anything I say is going to make me sound higher than the Pope. when last we left, our heroine had just gotten married. Her father who probably isn’t her father dies ten minutes later and spits out a dying curse on the hero, there’s some crap with prophecies, blah blah, also she’s a Druid now, because why not.
This is not the weird part.
Also the hero’s afraid she’s pregnant by her half brother so he’s gonna wait until she has a period to actually get consummating, which is certainly not a weird ploy by the author to ratchet up sexual tension for a month.
This is still not the weird part.
In what is possibly the weirdest extended metaphor I’ve ever seen, and DEFINITELY somebody’s kink, the hero has decided that he’s gong to tame the heroine like a falcon, and by that I really do mean he’s wrapped her in bells, put her in a dark room, and is handfeeding her.
And you thought pony play was out there!
HERO: This is a great idea.
HERO’S BROTHER: She’s a witch, also WTF
HEROINE: This was actually kinda hot for the first few minutes but it’s been three days and I am super bored now.
HERO’S BROTHER: I...uh...yeah, I got nothing.
HERO: I only have to keep this up until the Stockholm syndrome kicks in!
HERO’S BROTHER: She’s a witch, but just...WTF
REAL FALCONERS: There’s usually just so much more poop involved. Like so much poop.
MAID: I think I’ll just poison everybody.
PEASANTS: Yeah, we hate to interfere with your...uh...whatever the hell this is...but we could kinda use a midwife out here?
HEROINE: Get these damn bells off me, I’m going.
REAL FALCONERS: Did we mention how much poop is usually involved?
MAID: Poison for everybody!
HERO: My treacherous bride has metaphored off to meet her lover!
HEROINE: *delivers baby*
HERO: Get off your knees in front of that bed I’m really pissed off—OH SWEET JESUS THAT WAS WAY MORE PLACENTA THAN I WAS EXPECTING TO SEE HERE
HERO: Ok, I may have been a little hasty, but—
HERO: *collapses*
MAID: I thought that poison would never work.
REAL FALCONERS: Is she regurgitating the bones anywhere?
HERO’S BROTHER: The witch has poisoned him!
HEROINE: I will save him!
HERO’S BROTHER: Orrrr I could kill you for being a witch? I like that option?
HEROINE: I’m wearing a cross, though. Neener neener. Also I’ve totally got the antidote.
(far in the distance) ...did we mention all the poop...?
HEROINE: I shall now kiss the antidote into him.
HERO’S BROTHER: Did I ever mention that time he got his fingernails pulled out in a Turkish prison?
HEROINE: Uh oh, I got distracted by the sexiness kissing the antidote in and accidentally poisoned myself.
HEROINE: I invented artificial respiration in the medieval era also wow, SO poisoned right now.
HERO’S BROTHER: He really hasn’t been the same since the Turkish prison.
HEROINE: Gonna run a couple laps to burn some of this off, but please, continue your infodump.
This is as far as I’ve gotten. I had to put the book down and stare at the wall for a bit. This is so far beyond any weirdness I was expecting that I am flabbergasted.
The number of you who recognize and have read this book is both heartening and a little terrifying.
Ok. So now I guess the other subplot is turning up, which is that Druid ladies don’t have babies unless they have orgasms and don’t have male babies unless they’re in love, so HERO is all “Imma woo you” and HEROINE is all “I don’t think you realize how you’re coming off here.”
Yes, it’s agonizing and contrived, but frankly, after the bird play thing, I’m not gonna bat an eye.
HERO: I’m gonna let you out of the sexy bird lockup. But keep the bells on.
HERO: You’re in love with me now, right? So you’ll get pregnant on command?
HEROINE: Are you in love with ME?
HERO: Don’t be ridiculous, manly brooding manly heroes don’t do that.
HERO’S BROTHER: Turkish prison!
HERO: That, too.
HEROINE: Then I guess nobody’s getting what they want today.
HERO’S BROTHER: Wasn’t there a poisoner around somewhere?
Several days pass during which nobody really worries about the poison thing and HERO and HEROINE nearly get it on but are interrupted by the maid.
Meanwhile HEROINE has broken out in doomful premonitions.
Everyone has gone hunting, which means a lot of falconry innuendos. I need more wine. Or any wine.
Ok. Ok. Gonna get through this tonight if it kills me. Or all of us.
So our, um, power couple here has gotten separated from the rest of the hunting party and they were supposed to have hawks but I don’t know where they went, maybe they just had them out at dinner, I don’t know.
Anyway, they’re separated from everybody else and suddenly half-brother/cousin/antagonist/I don’t even know but his nickname is the Scots Hammer so—uh—yeah—is now chasing them because plot.
They go into a sacred Druid grove because nobody will chase them there and it looks like we’re finally gonna get a sex scene so I really need more wine.
Ohhhh Jesus.
The...ah...ok...the hero’s erection has just been described as “hard with generations yet unborn” so...yeah. How’s the weather where you are, Internet? Bit chilly here, kinda cloudy. Yep. Sure is weather.
You can probably guess what part of her anatomy is now being called “the jewel beyond price.”

Man, my sex scenes seem so classy now.
Okay, it’s all sword and sheath metaphors now. And also her various secretions taste like sandalwood which seems like...not normal, but maybe it’s a Druid thing.
He’s cherishing the jewel of her passion with sultry fingertips. My editor would fire me.
Out of a cannon.
Into the sun.
Okay, I’m gonna spare you like two pages of adjectives to get through “and a good time was had by all.” We cut directly after this to the hero brooding on the battlements.
The Scots Hammer is going to attack the castle! Probably! The reinforcements are stuck in the mud!
We are 79% through this book and my left eyelid has developed a twitch.
The next sex scene is about what you’d expect, although the description of the heroine’s “hidden rain” is...well, again, words someone wrote.
She still has bells on, by the way. They’re doing all this with bells on. It’s like the joke about how Baptists can’t have sex standing up because it might lead to dancing, except that it’s Morris dancing.
Blah blah flicks of ecstasy’s silken whip blah blah silken rains of pleasure blah.
Okay, so now we cut to the dead father’s funeral—remember him? No? It’s okay—where in order to hold off the Hammer, there is going to be a party with games and they’re going to invite the enemy to play games.
HERO: You tried to steal my wife!
HERO: The other day!
HERO: Trial by ordeal!
HAMMER: Jesus Christ I’m here for a funeral why are you like this
HEROINE: Noooo! One of you will die now!
HERO: That’s the plan!
HAMMER: I seriously only came here for a funeral what is wrong with you people
HERO: It’s the only way!
HEROINE: But I love you!
HAMMER: This really sounds like a you problem, not a me problem?
Anyway, there’s jousting. But oh no! HERO’s lance breaks first! HEROINE is appalled! HERO jumps out of the way a few times, then yanks his enemy of a charging stallion because yeah, why not.
HERO: I have won! Swear fealty to me as your liege or die!
HAMMER: Liege. Liege is good?
HERO: Great! Here, have some land!
HAMMER: I swear to god I was just here for a funeral can I go now?
HEROINE: I shall heal you!
HAMMER: *sigh* Whatever. You doing ok?
HEROINE: Yeah, it’s fine.
HERO: I have seen them together and they don’t hate each other so now I am super jealous again.
HEROINE: We went over this! He’s my half brother! also I was a virgin!
HERO: So. Jealous.
HERO: I am super mad and convinced you’re going to leave me for the Hammer.
HEROINE: Oh god, not again.
HAMMER: Hey, look at the time welp gotta mosey
HERO: I bet you cheered for him to kill me!
HEROINE: I’m starting to think you might just be an asshole.
Rather than pursue this extraordinarily sensible line of thought, we get more sexy times.
Hero goes out hunting. Maid shows up telling Heroine that he’s fallen off his horse and is dying. Heroine rides off and is immediately captured by the leftovers from Hammer’s army.
HERO: I have a weird feeling. I’m going home.
PEASANTS: Uh, aren’t you supposed to be badly injured?
HERO: Huh?
MAID: Oh, uh, hmm, uh—HEROINE rode off with the HAMMER?
So a ransom notice is delivered for HEROINE, of “thrice her weight in gold and jewels.” HERO is concerned that this is pretty much all his budget and also they’re totally gonna kill him. MAID has run off.
HEROINE: What? Why did you do this?
MAID: Do you remember the, oh, five hundred times I mentioned that Normans killed my entire family?
HEROINE: Yeah, but I didn’t realize you meant anything by it.
HEROINE: ....this is awkward.
MAID: Saxons represent, yo.
MAID: Ya know, if you’d just let him die of poison, we could have made this all real simple.
HEROINE: That was you?
MAID: are the WORST Druid.
HEROINE: Well, you’re all idiots. He thinks I’ve run off with the Hammer, he’s not gonna pay good money for me. He’s probably getting an annulment right now.
MAID: ...dang, that last bit of gloating was unwise.
HERO: Look, I haven’t got that kind of money.
PEASANTS: Hang on, we have cash.
HERO: I am deeply touched.
PEASANTS: Ok, but you’re not off the hook for that bird sex dungeon thing. No one is getting over that in a hurry.
HAMMER: Hey, I left spies with the remains of my army because I am the only sensible person in this book.
HERO: Let’s attack!
HAMMER: woo!
HEROINE: Yay, the peasants like you now, I can leave town!
HERO: Wait, what?
HEROINE: Yeah, we rejiggered the prophecy. Go marry some other chick.
HERO: But I’m super in love with you!
HERO: Where’s the old lady with all the prophecies, anyway?
HEROINE: oh, uh, turns out she was a thousand year old Druid ghost who’s been hanging around the castle. As one does.
HERO: ...’kay.
And then they had a bizillion kids and lived happily ever after, The End.

Some of you keep telling me the sequel is worse and I am attempting to disbelieve.
I do not know if I can tackle it. Not tonight, anyway. Thank you all for bearing with me through...things I really, really did not expect.
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