Really Two & a Half Stars:
Being a fan of Sara Bennett's books, (Lily & the Sword", "Beloved Highlander" and "The Rose & the Warrior",) I looked forward to reading "Once He Loves". From the beginning of the book I found myself confused as to the character of Ivo -was he an oaf? - was he an interesting man? It was difficult to determine. Once he displayed his sexual talents, he came more to life, but thoroughout the story I found difficulty in feeling who he was- something was missing from the whole book, and it was depth and clarity of characters and story. As for the herione, Briar, she was so prickly and confused most of the time, it weakened her character, and you simply lost interest in her. (have you noticed how fragmented and confused female heriones are written?) If she called Ivo a "disgraced Knight" one more time, I would cringe. Sara Bennett usually writes strong, clear characters and stories which are great to relate to. However, in this book I don't think Ivo was given his due, and Briar became more and more fragmented as the story progressed. (SPOILER here) As for Jocelyn, how could she continue to hide her secret in the face of Briar's revenge? It just didn't make sense and overall didn't flow well. Sometimes you get the feeling the authors are so pressured to release a book a year by their publishers, they just spin them out.
Anyone can put words on a page, but it's those talented authors who move you and make them come alive. (Mary Stewart "The Crystal Cave"; "The Princess & the Barbarian" by Betina Krahn; Dark Queen Trilogy" by Susan Carroll (book 1 "The Dark Queen" - book 2 "The Courtesan", book 3 "The Silver Rose"; "Once a Warrior" by Karny Monk; "The Pize" by Julie Garwood, and "A Kingdom of Dreams" by Judith McNaught (although I bought 4 books by J. McNaught this was the only book I enjoyed though.