“[At worst] yon Welshman has one dangling nut.”BLOOD RED ROSES
SPOILER ALERT ⚠
Blood Red Roses is understandably a difficult book for some to enjoy. It could be nostalgia goggles on this one for me, plus a love for the glorious red stepback cover. Or it could be the vivid Middle Ages setting, my favorite time period. Or it could be that this book is really a wonderfully written piece of romantic fiction, just styled in a way that appeals to a niche audience. I read this Medieval romance by Katherine Deauxville (Maggie Davis) twice: once in middle school and then years later in high school, and was swept away in the story both times.
Alwyn is practically ancient for her time period at nearly 28 to be unmarried. She’s a seemingly wild Welsh woman forced to be given a prize in marriage to the Norman knight, Fulk de Joburg, as she’s heiress to her dead father’s lands. They spend a passionate night together before Fulk is off again to fight for King William. It rang true to me that a woman would be forcefully bonded to her enemy, and he, being a man of war and conquest, would go off while she lived her life in her castle, waiting for his return.
What initially drives Fulk is simple. He was won lands in conquest and to help solidify the bonds of conquest, he must marry the daughter of the former lord of said lands. What drive Alwyn is simpler: hate towards her enemy and a desire to be free. Fulk and Alwyn don’t spend much time together, they’re not deep on intimate conversation either. Their times together are passionate and forceful.
My liking for this one could be because I love the brutal incivility of the Middle Age era. Deauxville injects an earthy historical ambiance that I really appreciate. What is the point of historical romance without history?
There’s a scene where Fulk and his men torture a man and semi-castrate him before he flees. Fulk comments that it could have been worse: “At worst yon Welshman has one dangling nut.” Another scene depicts Fulk and his men as they stare at a woman with hairless pudenda. The genital references seem to be a theme in the Deauxville Medieval series. There is a dwarf with a giant dong in the second book, Daggers of Gold, which also has lots of talk about circumcised penises (the hero is Jewish). The third, The Amethyst Crown, features more references to dwarves, foreskin, castrations, and shorn vulvas.
Blood Red Roses has middling ratings on some review sites, yet here I am praising it. I often have a contrarian opinion on certain books due to my personally peculiar tastes. The red-haired hero is extremely cold and distant. While Fulk is away, Alwyn has an emotional romance with a blond Scottish mason she fantasizes about and kisses. Later is taken captive by Powys, a black-haired Welsh lord from the hills. The latter was foretold to Alwyn by a fortune-teller who told her to choose Powys as her man. Then, there is Fulk’s cousin Geoffrey who seems to have designs on Alwyn himself.
Final Analysis of Blood Red Roses
Fulk and Alwyn have a lust-based relationship, one not based on trust or communication. Is it a love story for the ages? Probably not, but I enjoyed the atmosphere and the authenticity of the time period. This is a Historical romance with a capital H on the history.
Fulk is no reformed kind-hearted hero at the end, and Alwyn will always be a disagreeable shrew. Still, I can’t give this book a lower than “I love it” rating, because frankly, I did. Perhaps it’s a matter of temporal tastes, as back in 1991 when this book was released, it was fairly successful, winning the Romantic Times Reviewers Choice Award for Best Medieval Romance.