Top critical review
2nd in McJames Trilogy Not As Good As the First
Reviewed in the United States on May 31, 2011
First, I must say (again) that the cover artist for Wine's publisher has apparently failed to consider the author's notes about the book. (This happened in her Highlander series, too.) The McJames plaid is not blue and green, as shown, but blue, yellow and orange. (The plaid on the cover is not even the heroine's plaid, which is heather, tan and green.) Typically, Wine is not very good at describing the appearance of the characters (something I find surprising since she has a great mind for detail). Hence, I am always left wondering what some of them look like, including the heroine. Here, the heroine is first described as having "honey silk" hair, which I took to mean light in color though it was not clear, and then finally on p. 235, we learn she has "blond" hair, which is really quite opposite the black hair of the girl on the cover. I`m not sure we ever got her eye color. I couldn't recall it being given. I wish Wine would tell us early what they really look like. Anyway, the covers need to be more accurate. (What was the cover artist thinking?)
Now to the story...it is set in early 17th century Scotland when James VI is King of Scotland (he also becomes King of England in March 1603, the year this story begins though that isn't discussed until the 3rd book in the trilogy). This is the second in the McJames trilogy and tells of Brodick's younger brother, Cullen McJames. Cullen decides to take up the challenge of wedding the daughter of their enemy, the McQuade, a mean laird who cares nothing for his daughter. Cullen wants Bronwyn in order to end the strife between the two clans, and once he sees her, he lusts for her. Bronwyn McQuade is a high spirited lass who resents both her father's cruelty and Cullen's imposing his will on her, first stealing her from her clan and then forcing a seduction and a wedding she doesn't want. Cullen tells the Bishop who marries them that the king has given his permission for the wedding, which removes the need for her father's consent. But the king's permission had a condition, that Bronwyn consent, which she clearly did not. Cullen told no one of the king's condition, but is intent on having his way with Bronwyn one way or another.
I had great empathy for Bronwyn though she never had quite the strength of some of Wine's heroines. Bronwyn deserved to be wooed and not lied to, but in those days, women were mere chattel forced to serve the clan's needs, so there is no surprise at her being accorded little worth. Then she faces the scorn of the McJames clan, as they hate the McQuades for their many raids. That would have happened but it did make me pity her. Her two older brothers want to reclaim her just so she cannot breed to inherit her dower lands. Then even her body betrays her when she finds she cannot fight her attraction for Cullen (another hard to believe element since he did steal her and treat her as if her wishes weren't important). Cullen eventually comes around, but still.
Overall, I didn't like this story as well as the first one. I thought she could have actually had less lovemaking (I actually skipped some of it as it was repetitive. Instead, I would have preferred a bit more story. (I felt the same about the second in her Highland trilogy.) She can write well (Highland Heat, the 3rd in her Highland trilogy is a good one), but this one wasn't quite up to her best. Also, each of the books I've read has the same description of the plumbing of the day...enough with the water delivery system already. I'm giving it 3 stars as it was well-written and at times quite entertaining.