I love a book where my heartstrings are pulled all over the place! This one did that to me. The author made love and hate the male protagonist of the book. Let me just say…I am so glad I was not born in the 1300s or any century except for the one we are in now. Women had to put up with a lot and men could basically treat them however they wanted to without anyone doing anything about it.
Jocelyn MacCallum is being married to the man known as the Best of the Highlands, Connor MacLerie, who has been rumored to have murdered his first wife because she could not give him children. Jocelyn’s father has agreed to marry Jocelyn to Connor in trade for her brother who has been imprisoned by Connor for some unknown offense….plus her father will get men and supplies to help him rebuild his clan and lands after a particularly hard time.
She gets just a few minutes to pack and say goodbye to the man she thought she was going to get to marry who has fostered with her family for years.
Connor MacLerie has become dark and dangerous since the death of his wife. He lets people believe that he pushed her down the stairs of his castle. It helps keep people at arm’s length from him. The council of elders of his clan is demanding that he marry to have an heir to help the clan but it has been hard to find a wife since no father wants to marry their daughter to The Beast who killed his first wife. When Jocelyn’s brother gets imprisoned by him, he uses the opportunity to trade his life for Jocelyn’s hand in marriage. He sends his cousin to make sure she meets his requirements that the girl is plain of face and not an empty headed ninny and to close the deal. He does not want a beautiful wife but he wants someone smart and who will not cower in fear of him.
When Jocelyn reaches Connor’s castle, she is caked and dripping in mud along with Connor’s cousin Duncan. It didn’t say right then what had happened but I got the impression that Duncan and Jocelyn didn’t get along too well and may have had some sort of contest of wills where neither won. As soon as Jocelyn reaches the castle, she is to be wed and bedded so that her brother can be released. She refuses to clean up and asks to be wed right then. Connor agrees but he is not one to be argued with and she sees that he will be hard to live with.
I felt so bad for Jocelyn because Connor treats her like she is invisible. He takes her virginity and leaves her chamber to go to his right afterwards. He wants her for one thing only and that is to have a son with her. He tells her this too. He even tells her that after she has a child or two that she can go back home or to a nunnery if she wants. He gives her no control over the running of the castle like most wives would have and ignores her at meal times. He just goes into her room at night, has sex with her and leaves. I wanted to shake him and tell him to quit treating her so bad.
When she gets news of her mother dying, he just leaves her alone and doesn’t offer any condolences or comfort. Some of his clan members try to tell him that he needs to treat her better but he gets angry with them for getting into his business.
I thought it was funny, when he overheard some villagers talking about him how he spent more time with the whores in the village than he does in his wife’s chamber. Well, I didn’t think it was funny but it gave him a clue as how poorly he was treating her. Unfortunately, Jocelyn heard it too.
Some of the elders have come to visit and notice how Connor treats Jocelyn and they are not happy. I absolutely loved his uncle’s swordsman, Rurik. He and Connor like to fight and wrestle and Rurik speaks his mind, unlike the rest of the clansmen who are too afraid of Connor to say anything to him. Rurik likes women A LOT and is a huge flirt. He flirts with Jocelyn and he tells Connor that he needs to get over his first wife and start treating Jocelyn right or he will destroy her.
When Jocelyn doesn’t get over her grief from her mother’s death and just gets more and more depressed and frail, Duncan asks Connor if they should send for his aunt and the Lady Rhona so that she can have other ladies to keep her company, Connor agrees. Rhona helped Connor’s first wife when she kept miscarrying and is good with herbs and remedies. She has been at court and knows how proper ladies should act. The king is planning to make Connor an earl but he hasn’t let many people know it and needs Jocelyn to know how to act as a countess.
Just as Connor is starting to treat Jocelyn better and care for her, she starts having accidents…too many to be coincidence. She falls down some stairs once and then a stone is loosened where she stands on the battlements and leans over to watch the men practice sword fighting each day and she almost falls over the edge. She also has been getting sick a lot. I suspected Rhona with her herbs even though she seemed so nice and helpful. When Jocelyn is late on her courses (menstrual cycle), her breasts are sore and she is having morning sickness, it’s obvious to me that she is pregnant but she thinks she is late because of her depression for her mother’s death and when she mentions it to Rhona, she gives her an herbal tea to sooth her discomfort. All of the sudden, Jocelyn gets super ill and when she wakes, Rhona tells her that she is cramping because she started her courses from throwing up so hard. I believed that Rhona gave her something to make her miscarry and I suspected that she may have been the reason Connor’s first wife kept having miscarriages also.
Connor realizes that someone is trying to hurt or kill Jocelyn and he thinks they are trying to make it look like he did it so he starts keeping a guard on her.
Jocelyn notices that Rurik and Rhona do not like each other but she can’t figure out why and nobody else seems to notice it. I don’t think the book ever revealed the reason. Maybe he suspected something was odd with Rhona too.
Without giving up the whole ending, I can’t really go into much more detail.
Some of the secondary characters were interesting like Duncan and Rurik. I hope both of them get their own story in future books of the series.
I am so happy with this book that I’ve already downloaded the next book. I tried to start reading it but I was so tired that I only read the first page and fell asleep. Guess what? It’s about Rurik! Yummy….er, I mean, Yay!