You know something’s wrong when you’re 39 pages from the end and you seriously contemplate DNF’ing the book because you just wish it was over. The heroine was already killing the book for me, but then the last 100 or so pages were drawn out for no reason. It was so frustrating!
The book was pretty cute in the beginning. The heroine and hero were childhood sweethearts, but Connor abandoned her to fight for the English and Mairi never forgave him. They’re forced into each other’s company when Mairi and her brother are temporarily left behind in England while their family traveled home. I was anticipating some lovely frenemy sparring and was eager to see the charm that was so apparent in the last book in the series, Seduced by a Highlander. Unfortunately, I didn’t get that.
The more I got to know the heroine, the less I liked her—especially when I found out that although the hero did leave her to go to fight for England, it wasn’t as black and white as she would have liked to imagine, and she was hardly a victim. The hero asked her to go with him! He wrote to her again and again asking for her to join him, telling her that he was going to build a house for them. He didn’t callously abandon her. He wanted to marry her and was only leaving for England because it was a family duty that he was obligated by honor to fulfill! She claimed that he gave up too easily—even though it was four years later before he admitted defeat—and that he wasn’t sincere because he didn’t beg her. She criticized him for expecting her to be willing to leave her home and blamed him for choosing England over her. All I can say to that is what was she doing if not choosing Scotland over him?
In addition to that, her bloodthirsty attitude toward getting rid of the Protestants really rubbed me the wrong way. I know that the tension between the Catholics and the Protestants was real, but it made the heroine hard to like. It’s not that I don’t like historically accurate religious attitudes in my romances—I loved Flowers from the Storm after all—it’s that I was extremely turned off by heroine’s genuine bewilderment over the hero’s tolerance toward the Protestants. After talking to the hero about his remorse over the Protestant massacres she did eventually agree that wiping out whole shires of people was wrong, but I would be lying if I said that she ever really learned any tolerance. She was always freaking out on the hero and accusing him of betraying Scotland.
The hero is the only thing that kept me from rating this as an F. He was practically a saint with how patient and forgiving he was of Mairi’s spaz attacks. She would make wild accusations and fly off the handle constantly, but he always ended up forgiving her for doubting his devotion. Mairi was the only one keeping them apart. The minute Connor saw Mairi again he was desperate for another chance. He had finally given up hope three years before and had moved on, but nothing could keep him from trying again now that she was close enough for him to make her listen.
A driving force for this plot—beyond Mairi being Catholic and disliking the Protestants—was her determination to fight. I didn’t mind her desire to battle, but I did dislike the modern attitude she was given. At one point she said
“Mayhap I would mind being a lass less if I spent more time around a man who was at least aware of his knuckles when he tripped over them.”
Connor and Mairi finally get back together and admit their love and their desire to stay together, but that was page 235 and I was baffled over what the author was going to do with the next 116 pages. As it turns out, there was a whole lot of nothing and the extra pages existed for no other reason than to throw ridiculous roadblocks in their path to keep the relationship from being resolved. At that point my patience was spent and it was a chore to finish. I just wanted it to be over.
”How did I ever survive ye, woman? Do ye remember that time when we were babes—ye were barely five summers old, I think. I had snatched the doll ye had been playing with and ye chased me and then began to cry when ye couldn’t catch me.”
Och, damn him to Hades, why was he bringing up their childhood? “If ye dinna’ mind, Connor, I would prefer not—“
“Feeling terrible fer what I had done, I walked back to ye and handed ye yer treasured doll. Ye took it gently, kissed its head and then whirled it around yer shoulder and smashed it into my face.”
“I never struck ye with a doll,” she insisted, refusing to drift off into the past with him. “You are a liar and have always been one.”
“I lost two teeth.”
“So? Ye grew more, didna’ ye? I was sent to bed with no supper because of ye.”