The Treasure

Iris Johansen
December 2008, Medieval Romance (1190s Scotland and Syria)
Bantam, $25.00, 368 pages, Amazon ASIN 0553807315
Part of a series

Grade: D
Sensuality: Warm

The Treasure is being touted as Iris Johansenís long awaited "return" to historical romance.

It isnít.

Since we call spades, wellÖspades at this site, hereís a more accurate description: The author's newest "historical romance" nominally set in 1196 is actually yet another of the action-driven suspense stories she has been writing for at least ten years. Why the nominal? Because, despite the occasional reference to rushes on the floor, the extreme youth of the heroine, and the overall florid nature of the story, this tale feels as if could have been set in any time. Any time, that is, when characters still might be searching for the Holy Grail.

The book is a sequel to The Lionís Bride, though there isnít one single reference to that fact anywhere in the book jacket copy or on the authorís Web site (which is sadly out of date). As a result, a whole lot of readers are going to be a whole lot of confused since facts about heroine Selene and hero Kadarís past are just sort of thrown in as if the reader is already up to speed. I wasnít. Itís been more than ten years since I read the prequel and, honestly, it was never one of my favorites by the author anyway.

Seventeen year-old Selene (yes, seventeen) has always loved Kadar, the man who saved her and her sister from a life as harem slaves and helped them safely return to Scotland. Selene has always loved Kadar and he has always loved her, though as the book begins heís waiting for her to grow old enough to make the lurve slightly less creepy. His patience is exhausted by page 32 when the two have a decidedly tepid sexual encounter.

Soon enough Kadar and Selene are forced to travel to Syria (scene of Seleneís former slavery) at the command of an e-e-e-e-e-e-v-i-l sheikh who forces them to undertake a quest to search for an elusive treasure he believes will enhance his e-e-e-e-e-e-v-i-l powers even further. But not before said e-e-e-e-e-e-v-i-l one also forces them to have sex while he watches so Kadar can impregnate Selene with a child the e-e-e-e-e-e-v-i-l one plans to take.

The majority of the book features Selene and Kadar caught up in a lot of overblown action amidst a cast of overblown characters centered around the search for the elusive treasure of the title.

Honestly, I expect a book being billed as a romance to be one. Here, we are told over and over and over again how much Selene and Kadar love each other, but I never felt it. (Well, to be truthful, Selene and Kadar do most of the telling since this book is extremely dialogue heavy.) The author once exceled at exploring growing feelings between a couple, but now she doesnít seem to want to bother telling that side of the story. Which is fine if youíre not selling a book as a romance.

Time has marched on for romance, but the author hasn't done much of a job keeping up with changes in the genre. Her love scenes are decidedly lukewarm; the heroine is creepily young, fragile, delicate, and breathtakingly beautiful (with a massive side helping of feisty); andÖgee, to put it succinctly, the whole thing just feels kind of dated.

Truth to tell, I was very excited when I heard that Iris Johansen was returning to historical romance. Too bad she didnít.

-- Sandy Coleman

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