Scottish Highlands, 1334: The McKenna clan flourishes under a family of warriors, fierce and righteous, faithful to their own until the last. But to produce an heir, the widowed eldest son must risk his heart again . . .
Lady Joan Armstrong Fraser was once the indulged and pampered daughter of a laird. But marriage to a brute changed her. When he sets her aside, she has only her wits and her beauty to protect herself and her child from the chaos of her former home. She will have to find another husband-a man whose strength is more than a weapon against the weak. A man she can trust . . if such a man even breathes.
Sir Malcolm McKenna has known Lady Joan since her childhood, a spoiled princess as dangerous as she is lovely. But when she steps forward to protect him against a false accusation, he discovers a character stronger than he guessed-and an attraction he yearns to explore . . .
This was such an entertaining book – with one big flaw.
Highland romance is the “larger than life” subgenre of romance, probably even more than paranormal books a lot of the time. It’s the one type of book that retains some of the stereotypical “bodice ripper” elements, but without the really terrible things that characterised stories of the 70s and 80s.
That is part of its appeal; the huge stakes, the danger, the big drama. People are always being attacked, hurt (in this case, the characters’ major injuries seem to disappear overnight, but anyway…), are at war, are the victim of men who want to rape them (okay, I could do without quite as much of that).
As this series is set in the 14th century, I do give the characters a bit of leeway when it comes to some of the more unsavoury elements of the stories.
Adrienne Basso writes really well. She is one of those authors who can really write; she keeps you turning the pages. If things aren’t all historically accurate, I’m fine with it. In this case, I can even overlook yet another historical romance set in Britain where autumn is called “the fall”.
There was adventure from start to finish that keeps you interested, as well as some more serious themes dealing with overcoming abuse.
However, I cannot overlook cruel stereotyping of “other woman” characters, in this case a woman who disappears halfway through the book and seemed to be there for no reason other than to make women look bad.
I have no idea why so many Highlander romances have one EEEVIL woman pitted against the heroine. It’s such an old bodice ripper trope, and we should be beyond that sort of misogynistic stereotyping by now. I’m tired of women in this subgenre always being angels or devils.
It would be better if the “evil” “other woman” occasionally had a decent motivation for her actions (how about political beliefs and loyalty to a different clan?), instead of her just being a spiteful monster?
In this book, the “other woman’s” voice is referred to as tittering and nasal and snide and using a syrupy tone – as well as possessing a natural shrillness that grated.
At one stage she is all of these just in the space of two pages:
Agnes said shrilly.
Agnes said in an irritating, nasal voice.
Agnes declared snidely.
And then she sends the heroine off to the stables for her former husband to beat and attempt to rape her.
The thing is, if this character had been eliminated entirely, it wouldn’t have ruined the book. The plot could have unfolded exactly the same way without her in it.
Aside from this, (and the endless use of ye and yer – I’m NOT a fan of alleged phonetic accents in writing!), this was an entertaining read.
Review copy provided by NetGalley.