**spoiler alert** This book is set up in Scotland, and there’s a lot of talk about the lowlands and the Lady of the —. Which introduces a weird thing**spoiler alert** This book is set up in Scotland, and there’s a lot of talk about the lowlands and the Lady of the —. Which introduces a weird thing for a Laurens novel, especially a Cynster novel: the supernatural. Our heroine, Catrona, is portrayed as the most recent woman in a line of women who protect the valley from outsiders, keep it safe and healthy. There’s something vaguely witchy about her mysticism (though Scandal aka Richard calls her a witch quite often, usually as a term of endearment), but over all, other than an intimate understanding of herbs and a need to pray to the Lady, she’s quite normal for a heroine. She’s feisty, bent on getting her own way, outspoken, and as often portrayed, without a real family of her own.
So, there’s a supernatural element, and it’s not fully developed even though it’s supposed to be key to who she is.
The real issue with this book is there really is no suspense. Scandal meets Catrona and immediately falls in lust with her. Catrona’s guardian died before the novel starts, and leaves an unbreakable will (honestly? really) that states that if Scandal won’t marry her, the guardian’s heirs get absolutely nothing and the inheritance goes to the church. Oh, and Catrona isn’t a heir, so her and Scandal not getting married doesn’t affect either of the two actual parties involved.
Of course that means that Scandal, by the end of the week, is ready to marry Catrona. She refuses to marry him–until she’s caught in her own trap of trying to have his baby (without his knowledge) because the Lady told her she would have his children, but Catrona feels that in no way would he make a suitable husband. (Point: Why was Scandal not intensely angry that Catrona would try to have his baby but never ever plan to tell him. Knowing his back story as “the scandal that never was” as a bastard who’s father’s wife took in as her own child, and the Cynsters being a large clannish family, why was he not pissed at this half-assed plan of hers? )
So they get married. And he makes hard promises to her to not interfere with life in the valley, because the Lady has always rules. They do the classic not paying any actual attention to what their actions say (as usually happens) also, the lack of a clear honest conversation) until Scandal thinks she wants him to leave for London, and when he leaves she realizes she needs him there. And then he comes back just at the moment there is a mysterious fire.
This is the first fourth of the book. Then he gets poisoned, she nurses him back to health, he doesn’t think she poisoned him and reassures her immediately upon recovery (what?!? that never happens!) His family is all there, she gets along famously with them, and rethinks her seclusion of the outside world, lets Scandal help her with the property and everything is peachy.
Where is the drama? They know who poisoned Scandal, when he’s well the go confront her and she apologizes because she read the signs from the Lady wrong (and because obviously it was meant to be) because she poisons him with enough to kill an elephant but he makes it through.
I believe the drama and suspense is supposed to come from Catrona’s other potential suitors. The men who own the nearby lands have been trying to get a hold of Catrona and her land since she inherited them. Her guardian has does a superb job of protecting Catrona to the point that she doesn’t even know he’s been doing it, and he felt that Scandal was the only one capable of protecting her once she was on her own.
There are two potential suitors/villains. One only pursues until he realizes Catrona is wed, and to an overbearing man at that. The other still thinks he can get at the land. He’s the one that starts the fire, and then attacks Scandal on the way back from confronting the poisoner. Scandal is never in any danger, and the threat drops in an instant.
In all, this book is a fun romp, but really drama free. There is no suspense, no worry that it isn’t going to work, nothing really to even push the story along. But it was enjoyable, and Scandal and Catrona will make numerous appearances in other Cynster novels. ...more