I’m not a fantasy reader, but I’d been eyeing the covers of the Sword Dancer novels by Jennifer Roberson for years. When a friend gave the series an enthusiastic thumbs up for romantic content, and pointed out that Jennifer Roberson also wrote three historical romantic tales, including Daughter of the Glen and two stories about Robin Hood and Maid Marian, that was enough convincing for me. I cautiously ventured into the first volume, Sword-Dancer, and fell into head over heels character love with Tiger, a legendary swordsman as rough as the harsh Southron (sic) desert in which he lives, and the narrator for most of this epic tale.
Tiger, a former slave, earned his name and a distinctive facial scar by defeating a fierce sandtiger, an act that has defined him. He lives by the sword, hiring out his special skills to earn his living, and spending a good deal of that in cantinas such as the one where he first encounters the intriguing Del. In Tiger’s world, women are useful for pleasure. They don’t carry swords of their own and they certainly don’t have any lasting effect on his life.
Del is different. Her fair coloring marks her as a Northron (sic) woman, giving evidence that she is far from home. She has a good reason. She needs Tiger to guide her through the dangerous and unfamiliar desert region so she can continue her search for her brother, abducted by the bandits who brutalized her and killed their family. When Del gets knocked down, she comes up swinging.
Tiger can respect that. What he’s not so sure about is the ability of a woman to handle a sword, and a magical one at that. So begins an unlikely, often contentious, often befuddling partnership as these two disparate individuals must work together to unravel an increasingly intricate web of magic and mystery.
The romance is what stands out most for me, as Tiger and Del forge a true partnership over the course of six books, challenging and comforting each other. Two wounded souls who open their hearts gradually and at times reluctantly, they are at turns each other’s polar opposite and perfect complement. It’s Del who tends Tiger when he’s been subjected to his worst nightmare, caring for his most basic needs when he can do nothing for himself. It’s Tiger in turn who is Del’s safe place to land when she discovers her brother’s whereabouts and faces the horrors of her own past. They can be there for each other because they know what it’s like to hit rock bottom…and then be forced to keep digging. That’s the kind of pain only love can heal.
The end of the sixth book, Sword-Sworn, counts in my top five romance endings ever, and the very last line is flat out perfect, summing up everything Tiger’s entire character and everything he found with Del in only a handful of words.
I’ve gone back to read the final paragraphs many times over, always with the same mixture of satisfaction and regret. Though Tiger and Del’s happily ever after is exactly what they needed and deserved, I wasn’t ready to be parted from them. Thankfully, that parting is short-lived, as the author is currently at work on two more adventures for this remarkable pair. Whatever trials await Tiger and Del next, I have every faith that they, and their love, will triumph in the end.
Anna C. Bowling considers writing historical romance the best way to travel through time and make the voices in her head pay rent. She welcomes visitors to her blog, Typing With Wet Nails and to follow her at Twitter.