Dear Ms. McCarty:
This book brought back my early days of romance reading. It reminded me of a time when Scotland was the setting du jour and revenge and deceit were the main plot devices. Theresa Medeiros gave the cover quote and the book, at times, reminded me of Medeiros’ old historicals such as Whisper of Roses.
The book opens with a heartwrenching scene. Margaret MacLeod is being returned to her clan by MacDonald of Sleat who repudiates her on the basis of a physical defect. Margaret is sent through a barrage of villagers in a manner designed to inflict the most amount of humiliation. Rory MacLeod, Chieftan of the Clan MacLeod, watches and his rage against the MacDonalds grow. (Of course, I did wonder why he didn’t rush in and save her right away instead of watching).
Two years later, the King of Scotland has ordered the MacLeods and the MacDonalds to cease their endless warfare and has required Rory MacLeod to accept as his bride, Isabel MacDonald, Sleat’s niece. Rory sees a chance to return shame upon the MacDonalds in an eye for an eye fashion. Isabel is charged with infiltrating the MacLeods and returning information to her clan to help defeat the MacLeods once and for all.
The clan politics and the settings are the strongest part of the story for me. Isabel’s father went along with Sleat’s plan because he needed help with a feud against another clan. Sleat hates the MacLeoads. Rory sees a chance to cement a different alliance with another clan in repudiating the MacDonalds and gaining revenge. Both clans have to pretend to abide by the promises extracted by the king whilst trying to kill each other behind his back while making it seem like they are getting along. Clever! Devious! What is not to like?
Well, unfortunately, this is a romance and at its core, the strength of a book should rise on the development of the relationship. To me, the relationship between Rory and Isabel seemed quite forced. For one thing, their motives were at odds with each other for most of the book. How can I believe that they love each other when they are constantly lying to one another? Second, mental lusting on both parts was what served to bridge the gap between the rivals. Isabel was so beautiful it seemed that the whole of the MacLeod clan could forget the degradation of their clanswoman. In some respects, the story’s movements were driven by cliches: Isabel being beautiful; the evil puppetmaster uncle constantly appearing to threaten her; both Rory and Isabel suffering physical ailments that bring them closer together.
The story was serviceable but lacked, for me, the magic of the old Medeiros. I found the strongest emotional scene to be the one at the beginning. While the story had a great setting, it was the setting that was memorable and not the love story. I am sending this book on to my blogging partner Janine because her opinions vary a great deal from mine, particularly when I am emotionally unmoved by a story. C
This book is part of a trilogy. The first book, Highlander Untamed is due in stores on July 30, with the second book, Highlander Unmasked released in August and the final book in the trilogy, Highlander Unchained, released in September.