cover image Uncommon Vows

Uncommon Vows

Mary Jo Putney. Onyx Books, $6.99 (384pp) ISBN 978-0-451-40244-8

This disappointing historical romance serves up a plot hinging on amnesia--a hopelessly overworked gimmick--and a distressing scenario of abuse that even Putney's ( Dearly Beloved ) substantial doses of Christian piety cannot disguise. The effect is as uninspired as the work's inclusion of the hoary, ugly stereotype of a Jewish moneylender. Twelfth-century England is troubled by political unrest, and Meriel de Vere, not knowing if her family and the Earl of Shropshire are friends or enemies, conceals her identity when she is mistaken for a poacher by the hunting party of the earl, Adrian of Warfield. Adrian is attracted to the beautiful, spirited Meriel, so he locks her into a chamber in his castle and tries to coerce her into becoming his mistress; when this fails, he proposes marriage. Meriel would rather die than marry Adrian, and hurls herself out of a window. She survives the fall, but is afflicted with amnesia. Having forgotten her aversion to Adrian, she promptly falls in love and marries him. Yet Adrian knows his wedded bliss is a fragile thing that could be destroyed when Meriel's memory returns--as, of course, it does. (Apr.)