Almost nothing worked for me in this book, though there were some promising elements. This is the first book I’ve read by Bertrice Small and it clearly showed me that her books are not for me, as the writing style and tone are very different from any other historical romance I’ve read.
The biggest problem I had with this difference was that it made the book the largest non-stop case of “telling not showing” that I have read in a long, long time. I read all 416 pages and I honestly still do not have a feel for any of the characters. We’re never really shown their emotions or any internal conflicts they may be going through. It’s hard to describe, but I feel if you read an excerpt of her work you will know exactly what I mean. The entire thing was so simple in its delivery, almost immature (though the frequent use of the word “fucking” makes this book one for mature audiences).
Summary. Bond of Passion is the sixth book in The Border Chronicles series, but from what I understand they are only loosely linked (location and time period). The story takes place over several years, which is different from most other romance novels. It centers on Annabella Baird, the daughter of small-time laird, and Angus Ferguson, the Earl of Duin. Angus is admired far and wide for his handsome looks, though he lives a quiet life. He has no interest in involving himself in politics, but instead wants to live peacefully while taking care of his family, people, and land. He was actually quite a refreshing hero, especially since most Scottish heroes are in the gruff and rough-on-the-outside category.
Annabella is also known far and wide, but for being plain-looking, especially with three younger sisters who are all very beautiful. At the grand old age of 20, her parents are worried that she will never make a match, so when her father is advised to make a piece of land Angus has been coveting part of Annabella’s dowry, Angus agrees to marry her. He wants that land, it’s time for him to marry, and he has no need for a beautiful wife who will tempt other men and might betray him. He values respect and obedience, and from what he’s heard Annabella will fit these requirements.
This is the point in the summary when I would tell you what the main conflict between them is … however there wasn’t one. So maybe I would tell you about the single, main subplot that they battled against … but there wasn’t one of those either. We hear constantly—constantly!—about how plain Annabella is, but Angus quickly looks past this and is delighted by her wit, loyalty, affection, and passionate nature. They fall in love with one another quite easily, no muss, no fuss. Neither of them has any flaws, and without any conflict between them it made their story a little boring. The summary incorrectly hints at strife and torn loyalties between them.
Historical Subplots. Bertrice Small does her research and the story is steeped in the volatile time of Mary, Queen of Scot’s rule. All the big players make an appearance: Mary Stuart, Earl of Morton, Lord Darnley, Earl of Bothwell, James VI, etc. Annabella and Angus’ life are deeply woven into those historical events, including a dramatic scene involving Annabella and Darnley. I love the history of that time period, but the focus was sometimes too heavily on trying to give the reader a history lesson for context, as opposed to the romantic relationship and our leading characters. While the book starts off slowly, it quickly picks up speed as new subplots are added at a rapid pace. By the time you reach the last section of the book, it feels like there are five different things still going on that now all needed to be wrapped up.
Other Criticisms. I was extremely annoyed by the fact that Annabella gives birth and then we never see the children again. They are mentioned a few times, but they’re always off-page or only because we’re being told that they’re being removed from the room. That’s it. Nothing else. It didn’t seem like Annabella or Angus had any connection with their children, though their lust for one another is alive and well throughout the book. I don’t even want to count the number of times they have sex and while some of it was hot, Annabella turned into a demanding and expressive little piece very, very quickly and the frequent use of the words “fuck” and “fucking” always jolted me (not used to those in historicals). There was also the way that Small describes climax. *blushing like crazy* I wanted to post it as a Goodreads status update to share my amusement, but was far too embarrassed. *deep sigh, gathering courage* I’ll be brave and include it here:
Angus roared with his own release as his throbbing cock exploded its juices deep into her, flooding her secret garden with his lustful tribute.
Angus roared in reply as his love juices burst forth in a torrent of excess.
Yes, those are direct quotes.
Bottom Line. In the end, the strongest emotion I felt was one of disappointment. There were interesting components to the story that could have been explored further (don’t want to include spoilers), while other distracting additions could have been left out. The characters, both main and supporting, could have been very engaging had they been fleshed out more and given some depth, but we were given one-dimensional paper cut-out figures, instead of complex and compelling people. Bertrice Small’s writing style and tone obviously work for some people, but this book showed me that I am not one of them.
Recommendations. If you like Scottish historical romances, you might like …
Claimed By a Scottish Lord by Melody Thomas
His Wicked Ways by Samantha James
To Beguile a Beast by Elizabeth Hoyt
The Bride by Julie Garwood
The Secret by Julie Garwood
Some Like it Wild by Teresa Medeiros
MacCarrick Brothers series by Kresley Cole
Highland Pleasures series by Jennifer Ashley