Book Series: Shefford Knights #1
Published by: Avon
Genres: Historical Romance, Medieval Romance
Format: Audiobook, eBook, Paperback
Buy on: Amazon, ThriftBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader
SPOILER ALERT ⚠
Johanna Lindsey was an Avon bestseller, starting with her first book, 1977’s Captive Bride. With 1989’s Defy Not the Heart, she reached #1 on the New York Times Best Seller list.
For a while—except for maybe Jude Deveraux—there was no other mass-market romance author in the 1980s and 1990s whose prolific writing achieved such commercial success as Lindsey did.
Johanna Lindsey: Romance Superstar
During this period, Lindsey was at her peak. For a solid 15 years, she put out book after book (with the best covers ever) that—with few exceptions—were all fun reads. Many of them rank among my all-time favorite romances.
For sure, they were not always the best written, blathering on about unimportant characters and telling more than showing. Often, the heroines could be so argumentative and stubborn that I wanted to shake them.
Even so, I loved her plots that featured close proximity, kidnapping, and forced marriages. They had heroes who were arrogant, charmingly domineering, and so sexy. These men could treat their heroines like crap one minute, then kill for them, then make passionate love to them, and brush their hair as after-play.
I ate Lindsey’s books up like candy and have the emotional cavities to prove it!
In Defy Not the Heart, Ranulf Fitz Hugh is a bastard, mercenary knight simply working on another job. He is to kidnap Lady Reina and bring her to her supposed betrothed, Lord Rothwell, an elderly man Reina’s never met.
Reina, not being a stupid girl, is sensible and realizes she’s in a precarious position as an unmarried woman.
Since Rothwell hasn’t yet paid Ranulf for his services, and Rothwell’s claim to marriage is false, why doesn’t Ranulf wed Reina himself? She’s a wealthy heiress, so such a union would make Ranulf a wealthy lord.
A marriage of convenience takes place. Then the two seemingly different spouses settle into married life.
I’ve read others complain about how little Ranulf and Reina interact with each other. Perhaps because Lindsey has a penchant for making her protagonists constantly fight, this scarcity is a good thing.
The scenes with Ranulf and Reina are all the more memorable.
After waiting hours to meet the lady whose castle he’s invaded, an impatient Ranulf unknowingly picks up an armor-clad Reina and throws her to the floor, causing her to crack jokes about housekeeping.
There are sexy bedroom sessions with light bondage and spanking punishments (although rather vanilla today, they were a bit controversial at the time).
Defy Not the Heart combines some of my favorite tropes to make this book a truffle-bacon-cheese-and-macaroni comfort read.
The Wonderful Characters
Ranulf is a brute, a knight with no time for chivalry: he bangs slutty, fat chicks, parties with his buds, pisses where he likes, and is an all-around ill-mannered boor.
But he’s secretly insecure. He’s so beautiful, so handsome that women chase him wherever he goes. He’s never received any genuine affection or love from a woman in his rough life.
As the illegitimate son of a noble lord, Ranulf had to fight for his own. Finishing one last job would enable him to buy great lands and show up his dad once and for all. But Reina’s offer of marriage is impossible to resist.
Reina’s one of Lindsey’s best heroines. This was not a challenging feat to achieve, considering how caustic so many of them were.
She is short and plain-looking, except for her pretty eyes. Reina’s charms are her brains and ability to lead. She’s no shrinking violet, a no-nonsense girl who’ll pull up her sleeves to protect her castle and people.
Reina’s witty, and yes, she gets prissy, although she’s no shrew. Some call her a mouse, but Ranulf’s pet name is “Little General.”
Although not beautiful, she’s not “Woe is me, my looks suck.” Reina knows it’s her practical qualities that get her the hunkiest man around.
“That feline rodent farted in my face!”
A Marriage of Convenience
I hate when arranged marriages in historicals come with the attitude of “I won’t have sex until you love me.” That’s so phony and modern-minded.
Fortunately, Reina has no problem looking forward to her marriage bed, and Ranulf has no problem performing his duties.
Alas, he’s terrible in the sack.
I love the fact that Ranulf’s an oaf in bed! Ranulf visits a prostitute to listen to advice on how to please Reina, as his lust is too great to let him last longer than a few seconds.
Unfortunately, Reina catches him in a compromising situation, though Ranulf shrugs it off and doesn’t apologize. He just asked for advice; he didn’t put it into practice, so why be sorry? It’s his wife and only his wife he wants.
And the results of his lessons are…memorable. 😋
There are so many enjoyable scenes in Defy Not the Heart. Ranulf’s reaction when Theo, Reina’s gay male attendant, bathes him is priceless, and Ranulf’s kindness to a club-footed young boy who is bullied makes me sigh with girlish glee.
Plus, I adore cats, and there’s something sexy about a man who does, too. Ranulf has a beloved kitty named Lady Ella.
If like me, you own cats, you may be familiar with the experience of waking up to a warm furball laying on your chest, tail up, butt planted directly in your face. That is what Ranulf’s jealous queen cat does to Reina, though much worse. It’s a riot!
Fabio and Elaine’s Best Romance Cover?
And, saving the best for last, I adore the fabulous original cover. It’s a dazzling Elaine Duillo masterpiece of camp.
Backed by a pink-purple sky, it features a blond Fabio looking like Prince Adam of Eternia in a white poofy shirt that drapes off his shoulders, baring his massive pecs & biceps, and purple tights that cling to his bulging muscles.
There’s that female model always posing alongside Fabio (I think it’s Lianna Loggins), this time with flowing raven hair, her fingers clutching Fab’s purple thighs.
She sports a sexy red dress that shows more boobies than most infants see in their first months of life. Reina’s supposed to have itty-bitty titties, so that was a major exaggeration on Duillo’s part!
Final Analysis of Defy Not the Heart
Along with Angel, Gentle Rogue, The Magic of You, and Secret Fire, Defy Not the Heart ranks as one of my favorite Johanna Lindsey books, and there are many to choose from!
Every year or two, I pull it out and re-read it. Check your brain at the door, and appreciate the ride.
Don’t expect literary perfection. If you’re in a goofy frame of mind, read about these two silly characters that make you fall in love with them just as they do.
|Rating Report Card|
The first book in the Shefford series from #1 New York Times bestselling author of historical romance, Johanna Lindsey.
Reina seethes with rage over her fate: taken captive by the knight Ranulf — a golden giant of a man — who has pledged to deliver her to the nuptial bed of the despised Lord Rothwell. She will never accept such bondage — and Reina offers herself to her kidnapped instead, offering to make Ranulf a great lord…if he agrees to wed her.
But the brave knight desires much more than a marriage of convenience from this proud, headstrong lady who treats him with scorn yet makes his blood run hotter than liquid fire. She must come to him of her own free will — or Ranulf will take her. For the passion that consumes them both cannot long be denied — even though gravest peril surely awaits them on the heart’s trail to a destines and turbulent love.DEFY NOT THE HEART by JOHANNA LINDSEY