This was probably my least favorite book written by Monica McCarty. I’m blaming it on the fact that the MacLeods of Skye Trilogy was her first series…at least I think it was. I’m glad I started reading her later work first because her later work is spectacular but this was not. The story and plot were excellent as always but there were parts that droned on and on to where I was counting the pages hoping for it to end.
For example, there is a kissing scene in the book where I skipped over paragraphs and paragraphs because there was too much thinking and feeling going on….it was overdone and it was over explained. I counted ELEVEN paragraphs in between the moment Alex bent to kiss Meg and when his lips finally touched hers. The eleven paragraphs were filled with things like; Her body tingled. This time there would be no holding back. And…Her body felt taught with anticipation. I was thinking, “Get on with it already!” It went on and on like this until I saw the first sentence of the twelfth paragraph.
It said, “After what seemed like an eternity, though it had been only seconds…” I thought, “My sentiments exactly!” I was relieved to finally get to the actual kiss. I think the moment was lost with all the romantic hoo-haw. I get irritated when an author over-elaborates.
There was another scene where I was horrified at the timing of a make-out session that almost turned into intercourse. Alex and Meg had just been attacked as they rode their horses back to the castle by at least 13 brigands. When it was finished, all of Meg’s guardsmen who were with her were dead and so were all of the brigands. Only Alex and Meg remained but instead of mourning the deaths of the guardsmen who Meg had grown up with, she and Alex almost had sex. I was talking to the book, “HELLO! Dead bodies all around you!” Not only was it really strange but I thought it was cold-blooded and disrespectful.
I also think there was too much “filler” in the book. I think scenes could have been deleted or shortened. I think the author was trying to build romantic tension between Alex and Meg but went a little overboard with it but it just went on too long and started to annoy me. Part Two of the book was much better than Part One because there was less filler.
I feel bad for criticizing anything about Monica McCarty because I think she is one of the best historical writers on this planet but maybe that is the reason I am complaining. I have just come to expect so much more from her and she does not have the “filler” problem in her later book series so she must have realized it at some point in her career.
I guess I should give you an overview of what the book was about.
We met Alex MacLeod in the first book of the MacLeods of Skye Trilogy. He was the brother of the Chief Rory MacLeod. The book eluded to something dark that happened to Alex in his past which included an imprisonment but it didn’t fully explain. In this book, it explained that Alex MacLeod had been filling in for Rory as Chief of the MacLeods when the MacDonalds raided and stole cattle. When Alex confronted them, Dougal MacDonald overpowered Alex’s men. When Alex refused to surrender, Dougal cut the throats of Alex’s two cousins. Alex surrendered and was imprisoned by the MacDonalds for months. Alex has always felt responsible for his cousin’s deaths and wants revenge on Dougal MacDonald.
Alex went home to Skye for a while but then went off on his own fighting with the outlaw MacGregors. The king has become greedy and continually finds way to grab land away from the Highlanders. Now, he wants to colonize Lewis Island because he thinks there are riches to be had on the island. Alex and his brother Rory devise a plan along with other trusted Highland chiefs. Alex will go to court and Holyrood to try to act like he is a sword for hire and to get information on when the king plans to send the men who will colonize the island….something the king calls “the Adventurers of Fife”. Alex is to act like there has been a falling out between his brother and him to make his appearance at court seem believable.
Margaret Mackinnon or Meg as she is called is on her way to court from Skye with her mother. Her mission is to find a husband. Her father has been ill and her only brother will be unable to hold the clan together as chief without her help because he is what people back then call a “simpleton” and without her help, he will be challenged as chief. She needs a strong husband who will not try to take over as chief but will hold the clan together and discourage challengers. She has a long list of qualifications for a husband and she is lucky to be able to choose her own husband because her father trusts her enough to do the right thing for the clan. Most fathers would choose a husband for their daughters.
On their way to court, they are ambushed by brigands and one grabs Meg but she fights him which only makes him angrier so he tries to kill her but out of nowhere, a group of men who look like outlaws, rescue Meg and her mother from the brigands. She makes contact with the leader before he rides off into the forest.
While at court, Meg recognizes Alex as her rescuer but when she confronts him, he denies it because he does not want anyone to know that he was on the Isle of Skye nor does he want anyone to know that he was fighting with outlaws. Meg is attracted to him but dismisses him as a possible husband because she believes he is a mercenary which she thinks is distasteful and she knows he is hiding something.
Both Alex and Meg keep getting thrown together by different circumstances. I loved Meg’s mother who was playing matchmaker and thinks Meg should not only marry for the clan but for love. She was blatant in her attempts to get Alex and Meg together.
There was a lot going on in this book. Meg is highly sought after by men at court, not because of her looks but because of her lands. Before she left for court, she had already refused a betrothal to her father’s guardsmen, Thomas Mackinnon. What she doesn’t know is Thomas Mackinnon is working with Dougal MacDonald. Dougal MacDonald wants her because he is an evil creep who wants her lands and plans to overthrow her brother once he marries Meg but Meg gets the creeps from him and refuses him also. Though she has feelings for Alex MacLeod, she has narrowed down her prospects to her friend, Jamie Campbell. Jamie’s sister tells her that it would be unfair to Jamie for her to marry him because Jamie deserves to be loved but Jamie doesn’t care if she loves him or not. He just wants the best for her.
Note: I get really confused with the last names of certain clan members being the same like in the case of Thomas Mackinnon, the guardsman. I imagine he must be a distant relative of Meg Mackinnon but it seems weird that a Mackinnon would marry another Mackinnon. I guess they must have been far enough removed to marry….at least, I hope.
Finally, Meg realizes she is in love with Alex but Alex knows that his life is too dangerous to be connected to Meg. He wants revenge on Dougal MacDonald who is betraying the Highlanders by giving information to the king. Alex also will be a wanted man or dead after he fights on Lewis Island. If Meg is connected to him, someone could try to hurt her to get at him or try to get information from her. He rejects Meg in the worse way possible and breaks her heart.
That was all in Part One of the book but I can’t really go into Part Two without spoiling the book for everyone. I will say, even if I hadn’t already read the Campbell Trilogy, I really liked Jamie Campbell. He was a real friend to Meg and helped her even while putting his future and his life in danger.
The book is worth reading even with the long drawn out parts. I have one more book left in the trilogy to read. There is only one more MacLeod it could be about. There has been mention of a sister named Flora who the brothers haven’t seen for years because she went to go live with her mother when their father died.