The Lion's Lady (A LLB favorite)
By Julie Garwood, 1988, European Historical
Pocket, $5.99, ISBN 0-671-73783-X
First in the quartet, followed by Guardian Angel, The Gift and Castles

Sensuality: Hot

Do you believe in destiny?

Christina Bennett, the heroine of Julie Garwood's The Lion's Lady, believes in destiny. As a young child, Christina became a member of the Dakota tribe of Native Americans after her English mother was murdered while trying to escape her malicious father. Her mother wanted her to be raised as brave and strong as a warrior so that she could always protect herself against evil. Golden hair and bright blue eyes set Christina apart from the other members of the Dakota and she is revered as their lioness. True to her destiny, she grows to be as fierce and deadly as the stealthy feline hunter, dedicating her life to prepare to return to England someday and avenge the death of her mother.

Lyon, the Marquis of Lyonwood meets Christina after she returns to England. He catches his first glimpse of Christina at a party. The pair are attracted to each other from the very beginning although Lyon knows nothing about Christina's upbringing. Refreshingly, Christina does not deny her strong feelings for Lyon, in fact she is glad to have found a powerful and fearless warrior among the "white men" of England. As the lioness of her tribe she knows Lyon is her destiny. . . she will one day become the lion's lady.

After working many years in secret for the government, Lyon has become shrewd and confident in his abilities to solve problems and handle ticklish (and threatening!) situations. But Princess Christina (as she is known in England) somehow avoids answering all of his questions while continuing to stoke the fire that burns in his heart and shakes his soul each time he is near her. Soon he discovers the fierce warrior beneath her outwardly delicate and gentle demeanor, confusing him utterly.

Two mysteries evolve in this tale: Lyon's painstaking attempts to unearth Christina's true origins and Christina's plan to trap and punish her father, the man who murdered her mother. Lyon's questioning and prodding is foiled again and again by Christina's evasive and somewhat contradicting answers. Meanwhile, Christina becomes more and more desperate because her father will appear upon her 19th birthday to collect her grandfather's inheritance if she is not married. Strong and independent Christina finds it hard to ask Lyon for help, fearing that she will somehow compromise her dream of returning home to the Dakota.

Christina's mother left her a journal to explain what really happened in her disastrous marriage to Christina's father and to help direct Christina in her quest of revenge. Each chapter of the The Lion's Lady begins with an excerpt from the journal, an enticement that makes the book hard to put down.

Christina and Lyon are strong characters, perfect for each other. The love between Christina and Lyon is steadfast and all-encompassing. Christina gives her body and heart to Lyon and he gives himself completely to her, accepting her as she is and understanding her better than she understands herself. Lyon is patient with Christina and gives her his trust and love, understanding her hesitance to trust a "white man", the enemy in her eyes. Christina knows that Lyon is her destiny and she has no trouble acknowledging her passion for her warrior. However, Christina must overcome her desire to return to the land she grew up with and the family that raised her.

Like Garwood's other novels, The Lion's Lady is filled with humor and richly-created secondary characters. Lyon's best friend Rhone is involved in an escapade of his own besides being around to support Lyon and Christina against her evil father. Lyon's naive sister will make you smile while Christina's Aunt Patricia, a manipulating and spiteful "old bat" will have you grinding your teeth, particularly when she arranges the abduction (and almost rape) of her own niece!

Julie Garwood is the master of quirky heroines. Christina's "fish out of water" qualities make for many funny moments as do Lyon's discoveries about those quirks and his slow yet loving acceptance of them. For her part, Christina's "nature's child" is fully accepting of Lyon's dangerous past; she reveres what he fears she will find distasteful.

Destiny, danger, and delightful dialogue - a super combination! The Lion's Lady is not a book you will soon forget.

-- Alina Laurie

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