September 2012, European Historical Romance (1689 Scotland)
Kensington, $6.99, 352 pages, Amazon ASIN 1420124005
I am afraid that this book may get a bit more of my heat than it deserves, so in a sense I am sorry. But there are only so many books I can read with the same exact plot without getting a little frustrated. Bear with me if you have heard this one before:
Scottish clansman, Thayne, is (of course) the guy that the whole clan looks to for leadership. He isn’t the laird, but given the way his wastrel brother acts, he may as well be. Thayne is honorable and honest and when the love of his life calls for his help, he rushes to her side to save her from an abusive husband. Despite Thayne’s best efforts, he doesn’t save Mary, but he saves her daughter – a newborn infant. Now all he has to do is get the infant away from its father and protect the child from a father who is willing to deny her just to get revenge on Thayne.
Cue the Sassenach wench running from an arranged marriage with an assumed identity as a governess. That is Amalie. The daughter of an earl is running to the Highlands in order to escape a marriage to a jerk when she stumbles – literally – into Thayne’s path. Once the dying Mary forces the obligatory promise on Amalie to care for the newborn, Thayne and Amalie end up on the run. Along the way, the enemy catches up with them and Amalie mistakenly becomes married to Thayne. Well, she thought she was just playacting. But according to Scottish law, the marriage is legal and binding and now Thayne and Amalie are stuck with each other because the bad guy will rape and abuse Amalie if she even steps from Thayne’s side. Oh, and Thayne is already betrothed before he meets up with Amalie and Thayne’s wedding will of course incite that family against him and his clan as well.
Now, I don’t want to give away the ending, but I am pretty sure that you can guess how most of these situations turn out. But nothing here is groundbreaking. In a case like this, I depend on characters to make the tired old story feel new and interesting. However, these characters just didn’t do it for me. First, Thayne orders Amalie to stay by his side no matter what for fear that Dunn-Fyne (the bad guy) will get a hold of her and rape her. Then he tells her she has nothing to fear because he has claimed her and no one takes something that is his. Then, still later, he yells in exasperation – “I canna’ be with you every moment!” and wonders why she can’t stand up to Dunn-Fyne for even a moment. Can you blame the poor lass for being confused? Talk about mixed messages! And Amalie is just as bad in her inconsistency.
Don’t even get me started on how long it took them to name the baby in their care or the fact that they fought over that long after a decision should have been made. And there is a significant difference between characters arguing in a way that raises sexual tension and just plain bickering. These two bicker – they aren’t cute when they do it and they aren’t endearing. They sound like a pair of squabbling siblings arguing in the backseat during a family vacation rather than an adult couple coming to terms with each other and their situation. While Thayne at least came to understand his feelings a lot sooner than Amalie, it stood to reason. After all, until the moment he met Amalie he had been in love with another woman! And a married one at that who was on her death bed! So of course he recognized the feeling. As I said, even his realization of his feelings didn’t really save him in my eyes.
Is the plot unique or exciting? Not really. It meanders through some tried and true patterns and it doesn’t bring anything new to the table. But I could have forgiven that. It was the lack of excitement in the characters that kept this book from ever rising above average in my opinion.
-- Louise VanderVliet
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