Why do all the ladies from this series have to be virgins? Except for one, all of the eight women in this series have been virgins and there is a big importance and emphasis put on it. I know that the setting is in the early 1300s but all the men in the series have bragged about the many lasses (in some cases hundreds of lasses) that they have been with so there must have been a lot of women who were not virgins. Of course, the heroines in this series are usually noble women so that might make a difference since noble born women have only two choices in life; get married or become a nun. For some reason, their noble born husbands want virgins. I get that part but I wish one of the heroes of these books would fall in love with a regular lass who isn’t a virgin or a noble. It’s such a double standard that the men can have hundreds of lovers but the women have to be virgins.
Okay, my rant is over.
Robert Boyd is said to be the strongest man in Scotland. He is idolized by the men and women of Scotland but he feared and hated by the people of England. They call him the Devil’s Enforcer among other names. He’s part of Robert Bruce’s secret Highland Guard, a group of warriors who are the greatest Highland warriors in Scotland. Nobody knows who they are and most believe they are myth and some think they are ghosts or phantoms, appearing out of the mists and then disappearing just as mysteriously. Boyd fought alongside William Wallace and has been seen with the Black Douglas so he is a wanted man by the English.
Robert Boyd along with a few of his friends are imprisoned when the English break a truce. Some of the men have already been executed. The English have the rest of them doing hard labor, tearing down a stone wall at Kildrummy Castle but the men know they will be executed once the job is complete or they will die from the poor conditions. One of his friends is slowly dying from lack of food and too harsh of conditions.
Lady Rosalin Clifford can see the prisoners from her tower bedroom. Her brother, the Baron of Clifford has been named the overlord of Scotland and is in charge of the prisoners. She is not yet seventeen but has become infatuated by one of the prisoners. She watches the huge, muscle-bound prisoner takes care of his friends by taking on their work, giving water rations to the weaker men and even taking on punishment meant for the others. She thinks he is the epitome of what a knight should be. She feels bad for the prisoners and starts secretly leaving food for them but when the men get caught with it and one gets severely beaten, the huge prisoner intervenes. He gets sent to the pit and Rosalin’s brother sentences him to death but Rosalin helps him escape.
Six years later, Clifford raids a village where Robert Bruce stores his grain so Robert Boyd and his men go on a mission to get it back during a fair. Rosalin is at the fair with her fourteen year old nephew, Roger, who is a squire and her seven year old niece. Some of her brother’s soldiers, along with her brother try to fight off Boyd’s men when one of the men notice who Roger is and grabs him, thinking that they can use him to negotiate with Clifford. Rosalin latches on to her nephew and won’t let go so Boyd puts a burlap sack over her head and grabs her to make her let go of Roger. He plans on letting the lass go until he finds out who she is.
Now, Robert Boyd has a way to force Clifford into a truce. He has Clifford’s son and his beloved sister. Rosalin tries to talk him into letting them go and tries to appeal to the man she thought he was six years ago but she is starting to think she made a big mistake by helping him escape because all she can see is a man bent on revenge for what her brother and the English have done to him, his family and his countrymen.
The anger Boyd had for the English was so strong that he never fully connected with his Highland Guard partner of over six years because he was born in England. He never let Sir Alexander forget that he was English. Even though Seton had fought alongside him for so many years, Robert Boyd treated him with hatred and distrust. They fought all of the time; Seton didn’t like the pirate techniques of the Highland Guard, believing in honor and chivalry while Boyd was more realistic knowing that wasn’t always possible but Boyd always belittled Seton which bugged me. I was routing for the two to work things out once Robert Boyd realized his hatred for the English blinded him.
My favorite part in the book was when Robert Boyd is mad at Rosalin and basically orders her to wash him as he bathes and she says, “I’m afraid I’ve not much experience bathing men but it isn’t much different than washing a pig before market.” It set him right in his place and rightly so.
The author really knows her history of Robert Bruce’s struggle to free Scotland from English tyranny. She has a way of writing that makes me believe I am right there riding along with the heroes and heroines. The men of her stories are strong warriors and a lot of times they are misogynistic as they would be in those times but the heroines always break through the macho behaviors because their love for each other is so strong. Half the time, I feel like strangling the male characters because of their chauvinistic ways and double standards but it is what makes her books so enjoyable and believable because men back then would have been just like that.