I can't help it. It's old, it's outdated, it's chock-full of screaming purple prose, but I love it. I first read this book when I was 17 years old and romance novels of its type were the new big thing. Back then, it was almost unheard of for the hero & heroine to bother getting married before they had sex, so this was actually a somewhat refreshing change. Since then, I've re-read Shanna too many times to count, and it still resides on my keeper shelf, next to my other all-time Woodiwiss favorite, Ashes in the Wind. For anyone who hasn't read it, I highly recommend doing so at least once.
As briefly as possible (and there's a lot to summarize here): Spoiled, beautiful, rich brat (Shanna - the terror) meets gorgeous, honorable, and courageous Mr. Wonderful (Ruark) - but there's a problem: He's condemned to die for a murder he didn't commit, and she's in his prison cell asking him to marry her and save her from the threat of an arranged marriage, soon to be forced on her by her supposedly unreasonable & tyrannical father (yeah right - he's really a cream puff at heart). In exchange, she promises to ease his last days with decent food and a few material comforts... oh, and to consummate the marriage. He's very taken with her right away and agrees for pretty much that reason alone. Although she feels guilty about it later, she (in typical spoiled little rich brat fashion) backs out on the second part of the deal. Ruark gets a little (very little) bit of satisfaction out of it however; he manages to take her virginity in the carriage before she can deliver him back to his gaoler.
Shanna sheds a few guilty tears when the scheduled execution date passes, but still goes whistling right back home to daddy, a newly made widow, under no obligation to marry. Unbeknownst to her however, Mr. Wonderful isn't dead. Technically he's still a condemned man, but the greedy & dishonest overseer of Shanna's father's plantation purchased him from an equally greedy gaoler, and now Ruark is Daddy's new (and soon highly valued) bondsman, and boy, is he upset with his little woman...
I cannot tell a lie, the push/pull factor in this story goes on seemingly forever, until Shanna finally does a lot of soul-searching and growing up, and realizes just exactly what she has in her formerly unwanted hubby. Frankly, if I didn't already have a long-term sentimental attachment to this book, I'm not sure if it could live up to my current standards for a highly recommended romance. It takes Shanna a long time to put away her childish fantasies and see Ruark for the hero he really is, and the spoiled, little rich girl routine becomes a little grating at times. HOWEVER, it's still a classic, and even by today's standards, it is a very sweet love story - IF you're able to forgive reformed brats, and watch them stroll off into the sunset with heroes who are probably too good for them, that is. And on the upside, the external plot is full of action and high adventure, and shows great attention to historical detail by the author. I'll always love it - most especially Ruark Beauchamp, my all-time favorite historical romance hero. He's what made me fall in love with the romance genre in the first place, and the yardstick I have subsequently measured all other romance heroes by. I very highly recommend it. It's a widespread sentimental favorite, old-school romance, and was actually pretty ground breaking and awfully darned cool for its time.
Awesome! one of the best romance novels of all time
This is the most-read book in my collection of books read. I reread it once a year. Shanna, the main character is headstrong, stubborn, spoiled, and raised to a life of priviledge. Shanna's father gives her a marriage ultimatum and Shanna tricks her father by going to the gallows in England to find her husband who will soon die and she can go home with his fine name attached to hers, a single woman. Story goes from England, to Carribean Islands, to the New World. Excellent story! Ruarke, Shanna's love interest in the book, is my idea of a perfect man.
Possibly THE single finest historical romance of all time. The first I ever read and the one I use to measure others by. Woodiwiss sweeps you into her world and doesn't let you go until the last word on the final page.
Rather than let her father marry her off, Shanna Trahern finds a condemned man with an aristocratic name to wed. He'll go off to the gallows, and she'll be a carefree widow. But the devishly clever Ruark Beauchamp thwarts her plan by escaping his death, only to turn up as a foreman on her father's estate, and even worse, he wants to claim marital privileges!