Melissa McHugh's Reviews > The Scottish Witch

The Scottish Witch by Cathy Maxwell
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Aug 16, 2012

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Read in August, 2012

There is a lot about this book, and this series in particular that I like, but I’m beginning to find that the same frustations I’ve had with the last several Cathy Maxwell books are repeated here. So let me start from the beginning: The Scottish Witch is the second book in the Chattan Curse series. It has a fabulous and intriguing premise: The Chattan line has been cursed for centuries because their ancestor hand fasted to the daughter of Fenella, and then abandoned her for a wealthy English heiress. Fenella cursed the Chattan men that once they have married and fallen in love, and ensured the continuation of their line with an heir, they die. For centuries, this has proved to be true up to and including the last Earl of Lyon, who died after a second marriage to an opera dancer.

Neal’s story in Lyon’s Bride was so-so, and I wasn’t entirely fond of that book either. This one is better, because it has the one character that I really liked — Harry. He’s introduced as a former military officer, who had glorious victories but many casualties. The weight of which are on his mind, causing an addiction to opium and alcohol. The problem with The Scottish Witch is that all the development for Harry’s character is in the first book, which really short changed first-time readers. The scene at the end of Lyon’s Bride in which Harry kicks his habit should have been reprinted or in the second book altogether. He faced a huge daunting task to kick his addiction, and a reader who’d never read the first book has no way of knowing, other than Maxwell offering some brief references to it. He never tells Portia the extent of his proble — and in the beginning of the book, Harry is determined to return to his former life after finding the witch Fenella and saving his brother’s life. So I’m supposed to believe he meets Portia and all is well? Maxwell cheats the reader on a wonderful character. An entire star is lost here.

Portioa, on the other hand, is a wonderful character with a lot of complexity whom I found vastly entertaining. She’s fiercely devoted to her family and keeping them solvent, which leads her to pose as Fenella so her family can pay the rent. My problem with Portia is that the consummation scene feels wrong. She’s not much of an active participant and it bordered on…not force exactly, but she was never quite swept away. She later becomes Harry’s mistress without ever asking him for more and never asking him to clarify his position with her. That felt wrong for me. Portia becomes passive once she hooks up with Harry.

And my final problem with this story is the same frustrating one I had in the last book, and several others: There’s too much telling. Maxwell glosses over entire events, does little to develop the character’s relationship once they’re actually together. Harry only offers for Portia’s hand once they’re caught together. This book felt underdeveloped, like it was missing huge chunks. It doesn’t feel complete.

Maxwell is still an engaging writer, and I enjoyed the first half of the novel quite well, until the leads came together and began their affair. After that, it’s a slow slide into annoying without much payoff. I’ll finish the trilogy to see how it turns out, but I’m not entirely satisfied because I’ve read all of her books. I know she can do better. She has.
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Michelle I agree. I had the same issues


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