4.5 Stars – Emotional & Smokin Hot Read with Real Character Growth
I was not expecting to like this book as much as I did. I was intrigued by the description but concerned that it would be more politics & war centered than romance centered. I’m not squeamish in the least but I don’t particularly enjoy reading about battles or training warriors. So I was hesitant.
The first chapter of this book didn’t really grab me. It goes into a lot of back story and I found it difficult to follow with all the similar Scottish Clan namesakes. I kept picking it up and putting it down and thought I was probably going to live up to those initial concerns. But once I got in about 30 pages the book became one I could not put down!
The quest to free Scotland from English rule is a backdrop to a beautiful love story and the parts that were focused on that plotline were interesting to read. It wasn’t a chore to read through those parts, which surprised me. The romance was the main focus and Monica McCarty does a truly excellent job developing their relationship.
I’m not typically a fan of “arranged marriage” plot lines. I usually feel there is a no risk they won’t end up together and the sexual tension in the book often dies a sad death right after they consummate their marriage. But that is not true of this story. The fear that, even if they did end up together, that the hero might never truly love the heroine, is palpable. Here is a man who actually has a reason to hold people at a distance. His hesitation and resistance to it make complete sense. Yet throughout the book his emotions are so strong and raw that you just can’t help but melt for him.
I read a lot of other reviews about this book before buying it. A lot of people described Tor as cold. Even the book describes him as cold. His behavior in many parts certainly is. To Christina, he most definitely would seem that way. But as a reader, we have an inside look at his thoughts. And I would not describe Tor as cold at all. No.
He is stoic.
There is a major difference in my opinion. In his deepest heart he is warm and tender and truly cares about people. The fact that he does not express it doesn’t change the fact that he is indeed full of warmth. He is truly a complex character and discovering his many hidden layers, the reasons he is the way he is, is part of what makes this book so great.
In fact, his emotions and reaction to being intimate with Christina made the love scenes in this book incredibly intense and passionate. So much feeling. Heart pounding. Breathless. Now here is an author who understands how to write a LOVE scene, as opposed to a sex scene. Much was explicitly written, which will appeal to those of us who like an extra racy read. But the characters emotions are interweaved into each scene in such a way that you can’t help but be moved. Oh, just divine.
I can’t say that Christina’s character was developed quite as well as Tor’s. She is a great character and you do still get a good understanding of her feelings. You ache right along with her when she aches. But her actual activities in the book are dull compared to what Tor is doing when they are not together. The parts of the book where he is off training his men are interesting and compelling. While Christina is relegated to household duties. Long descriptions of food and decorations and her millings about the castle were a snooze fest for me. And there is a bit of a reliance on cliché romance novel tropes like the hero finding the heroine caught in an unflattering situation…meant to endear her to him of course.
Christina’s desire to have Tor confide in here was a huge part of the storyline. I would have preferred to read about her finding ways to develop his trust that went beyond making his castle feel more homey or using her uncommon reading and arithmetic skills. But honestly, this is a small gripe. If her part had been written a little better it would place this book at a solid 5 stars.
My only other criticism of this book is that I knew who the villain was instantly. So, don’t expect any mystery there. It doesn’t take too much away from the book, but I think the author could have been a bit more clever.
Oh, and I have to add that the breaking point in this book, where you know that every thing has change or their romance is forever gone, is so damn heartbreaking. You can just feel them shattering into a million pieces. And Tor’s god-I’m-an-idiot moment is so poignant I wanted to read it ten times over.
All in all though, this is a great book. It is completely worth the read.