When I opened this book to a random page and saw this little dialogue exchange...
"I forget. Did you rape me while I was screaming down there or did y
...moreWhen I opened this book to a random page and saw this little dialogue exchange...
"I forget. Did you rape me while I was screaming down there or did you decide it would be more aesthetic to do it in comfort?"
"When I rape you, you will remember."
...I thought I was going to get a freaky deaky bodice ripper. It's certainly one of the more floridly dramatic ones I've read, but the plot itself is rather subdued and quite slim. For such a long book, it should have dragged. But it didn't. Instead, the added length give the author plenty of time to flesh out her characters. (And for the record, despite copious threats and fears of rape, there ain't none.)
Alexandra Douglas has grown up with the three Trevor boys, and has a contracted marriage with the heir, Will. But Will dies, either a victim of accident or murder, and she feels her contract is null and void. But with Will's death there is a new heir, Roger, the most bullying and intimidating of the 3 boys and the blackest of black sheep. Alexandra is not alone in thinking that Roger had a hand in helping Will along to his death. But as time passes, she discovers there's plenty more going on under the surface than what she's believed. And when Roger gets in trouble with Queen Mary's anti-Protestant crusade, Alexandra is determined to rescue the man she loves.
So yeah, it's real simple when it comes to the bare bones, but there is so much that goes on at an emotional and character development level. The secondary characters aren't shabby either, with Roger's best friend Francis Lacklin being a main catalyst for the events that propel this couple along their path of destiny.
Roger was a good character, starting out all shady and threaten-y as he's seen through the eyes of those who he grew up with (and tormented). He was also beaten within an inch of his life by his dad, so to think he turned into a twisted individual isn't that much of a leap for those who wonder what he's up to (if anything). But of course we discover he's not the demon everyone thinks he is, and instead has a real conflicted and tormenting relationship with his best friend.
Alexandra had her shining moments as an overreactive twit, but she didn't annoy me all that much. The first part of the book, with her thinking Roger was a murderer, reminded me a lot of a gothic. There's also witchcraft and prophecies that drive Alexandra's decisions and doubts. She ends up turning into the kind of heroine any hero would want.
The two of them reminded me a lot of the hero and heroine in Barbara Kyle's A Dangerous Temptation (aka The Queen's Lady), both in what they get up to (smuggling Protestants) and how they think (shunning dogma of any faith). I recommend that one, too. I read it several years ago and it's really stuck with me, despite the hundreds of books I've read since then.
The best thing is that everything seemed organic, gradually progressing, realistic. Nothing seemed rushed, except the obligatory tacked-on epilogue where romances got tied up and babies were born and that barfy stuff. I'd have been very happy had the book ended where it did without the superfluous epilogue. I'd quote it, but it's spoilerific. Damn, it was soooooooo good.
Apparently this is being reworked for a re-issue, so I have no idea what she'll change. I'd recommend getting the original, just because that's how I roll and there are a few places where political correctness and an urge to tone down the WTF could prevail.(less)
Lolah Burford seems to be a love-her-or-hate-her kind of author. After reading this, my first Burford, I wouldn't say that I hate her (much) - more th...moreLolah Burford seems to be a love-her-or-hate-her kind of author. After reading this, my first Burford, I wouldn't say that I hate her (much) - more that I don't get her. Throughout the entire book, I kept thinking, "Why did she write it that way? Is there something deep here I'm simply not seeing? Because, wow, this dialogue is crap, and the rest is no great shakes either."
Or something like that.
On more than impulse, on a compulsion she did not reason with, she followed the little group, in the crowd, past the Cross and Stone, past the apple tree beside both among whose last pink and white blossoms and young leaves hung the naked mutilated body of what had been a Highland man, pushing ahead of them, and after a time, as she had somehow known she would, she saw Diar's black head and his unlaughing face set in lines she almost did not recognise and his eyes that swept over her and past her, unseeing, and did not see her, and his large hands lost in the heavy bands of iron constraining him, and his leg irons about his neck, for him to carry.
Sorry, I got buried in commas and passed out from lack of oxygen. Hand me the smelling salts and let me dig my way out.
The plot is a pretty slow mover since only a few things happen over and over. Diarmid MacLyon is coming home from a bender, sees the pretty Mary Elisabeth Grant, and decides to abduct and marry the maiden and ravish her mercilessly. But his dad is not pleased about his house getting trashed during the merry revels, so he kicks Diarmid out, naked as a jaybird. The young lad makes his way back home just in time to see King George's troops, on a post-Culloden Moor vengeance trip, hang his dad and the entire company take turns with pretty Mary. He barges in and gets strung up himself, but Mary's connections with an officer get him out of the noose and thrown into prison. From there, he winds up an indentured servant in the colonies while Mary sleeps with every man who crosses her path in order to get money/protection/influence on her mission to save the butt of the man who - after the hangover - really hates her guts.
Most of the book is either Diarmid being a stubborn Scots who would rather get flogged than obey any order, or Mary getting pounded by every man she meets - young, old, friend, stranger, American, British, French, Indian, you name it. How she's not a pox-ridden wreck by the end of the book is only by the grace of it being fiction. She really is the most put-upon heroine I've ever read, even getting sodomized by a thief who also rapes her with his knife handle at the same time. OK, I'm a fan of the traitorous body trope in all its cheesy glory, but Mary's eventual enjoyment of it really left me feeling icky. Luckily, lingering on detail isn't Burford's style, but the sheer number of Mary's "encounters" with guys eventually grew to squeamish proportions.
Quite a few times I wondered if this was a "literary" bodice ripper. The odd style is something I can only describe as wordy austerity and soulless emotionalism. I feel like a git just typing that, but really, words sorta kinda fail.
And given the fact that Burford's husband was a poet (William Skell Burford) who co-founded a literary magazine, I'm presuming that Lolah had a deliberate vision of what she wanted and how she wanted to write it. But it still comes across as consciously stylistic while at the same time being hideously sloppy and obnoxiously repetitious:
"Yes, Val, if you wish it. If it would make you any happier. I do not think it will, it does not seem to anyone, but you have done me as much service as anyone has, and I love you, Val, tho' not any longer, Val, for this."
So in this bit o' dialogue where Mary agrees to sleep with her kin Val in exchange for a favor, the only thing that really stood out was the overuse of his damn name and the damn stilted way the whole thing was written. Likewise, this little exchange between Mary and a rugged American trapper had me snoozing:
"You are a little foreign girl, you are just overbowled by your first woodsman, and I am overbowled entirely by a little foreign girl." His lips found hers again, and his sex hers. "Where are you from, little foreign girl?"
"From Scotland. And what is your name, little Scotch girl?"
"Mrs. MacLyon," she said, her voice a whisper, Diar's face not near her.
"Not a name like that, not now," he said, "not like this. What is your real name?"
"Mary Elisabeth," he said, "here with me in the woods and I in her, forever and ever, until we find her husband. What is your husband at Wecomica, or Annapolis, or wherever it is you want to go, and you not with him, and you with bruises on you?"
See what I mean? Bizarre. Or maybe you don't. Burford does a diligent job of having her characters speak in a distinct way that is tough to read quickly (such as "that what is you will be doing") but then has Mary sigh at the end, "I need a vacation" after all her bedsport trials. It was jarring to have Old World-y talk smooshed up against something like that.
I saw a comment recently that "If you're always aware that you're reading, it's not a good book." From the vast realm of opinions and assholes that is the internet, it makes sense and it's how I felt during this entire book. The story itself, the idea, was great. The execution? Oh, so very not so much.
The only part of the book that I really enjoyed was when Mary finally meets up with Diarmid and, after a long journey where she's been ridden hard and put up wet more times than she can count, his denouncing of her makes her act as sadistically rational as he is petulantly immature. (view spoiler)[She leaves everything he needs (his pardon, the key to his manacles, money, etc.) right in front of him to take if he wants it, rather than forcing it on him and having it be thrown away. Then she leaves him to make his decision. (hide spoiler)] It was a great scene, but the HEA at the end I so didn't buy, and everything that came before it was a real trial to 1) decipher, and 2) give a shit about.
There are a couple more Burfords in my TBR that I will eventually get to, and I'm sure they'll go a bit more smoothly since I've already gotten a semi-grasp on her odd style of pretentious slapdashery.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)