I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, “I am so glad I was not a woman in medieval times!” or any other time period for that matter because of the way women were treated until the latter years of the 20th century.
Marian Robertson is known as the “Robertson Harlot” by her clan and her story is known and has been adapted and enhanced upon all over the Highlands. She was the escape goat for her father and brother when something went terribly wrong and she has lived as an outcast for five years with her daughter. She moved away until her father passed away two years ago, and then moved back on the outskirts of the village, telling people she is a widow named Mara and hoping nobody recognizes her. Her older brother who is now the laird and her two younger brothers are the only ones who know who she really is but they don’t even speak to her.
Duncan MacLerie works for his cousin, the Earl of Douran, as the clan negotiator. He negotiates contracts between his clan and other clans to build allies and strengthen his clan. He is known as the Peacemaker because he works well with others and always does the right and noble thing. Because of this, he is an easy target for when negotiating a contract with the Robertson Clan. When Iain Robertson, Marian’s brother who is the clan chief, notices that Duncan is attracted to his sister, he drugs Duncan and then claims he dishonored his sister and forces Duncan to marry her.
Duncan had no clue that Marion was the “Robertson Harlot” when he met her and she never said anything because they just had a few short encounters and Marion had put a stop to it because she was afraid of causing trouble for the clan or of being noticed. To not cause problems for his clan, he agrees to marry Marion.
Marion begs her brother not to force a good man like Duncan to marry her but when her brother refuses to back out, she gets him to agree to a handfesting instead, a trial marriage that lasts a year and one day and at the end of it, the couple can go their separate ways if they wish. She knows what her reputation is and would hate to ruin Duncan’s life with an actual marriage. She plans to move far away when the year is over.
When Duncan beds Marion on the night of their handfesting ceremony, he discovers that she is a virgin. Now he has all kinds of questions. How can she be a harlot if she is a virgin? How can she have a daughter if she is a virgin? Whose child is she? What are the Robertson’s covering up that is so awful as to make everyone believe that Marion is a harlot? How could the Robertson’s treat their daughter and sister so horribly? He tries to get answers out of Marion but she refuses to tell him because she doesn’t know him well enough to tell him the truth.
Duncan takes Marion and her daughter, Ciara, back with him to his clan who treat her better than her clan did after the night so many years ago. Although, she is starting to fall in love with Duncan, she thinks he deserves better than her. Duncan believes that Marion doesn’t want the marriage and will leave after the year is older so when has sex with her, he uses the pullout method to prevent pregnancy. This makes Marion think that he doesn’t want to make any mistakes so she can leave at the end of the year.
I felt so bad for Marion because her father chose her brother over her because men were thought to be so much more important than women back then. The only thing daughters were good for were to make marriage alliances with other clans. She had lived in poverty for five years even though her father could have set her up with a better life since she was covering up a secret for her father and brother but he chose not to and even after he died, her brother didn’t offer assistance. She also had to put up with people mistreating her because they thought she was a harlot. Even Rurik almost said the word, “whore” to Duncan while talking to him once which bugged me since Rurik married a woman who was pregnant with someone else’s child. If he wouldn’t have married her, she would have been known as a harlot so I didn’t get why Rurik would judge unless he knew and he was just trying to goad Duncan into telling the truth about Marion. Marion put up with a lot to protect the ones she loved and to keep her secrets.
Ciara was adorable. I especially liked the way she had a crush on Tavis, one of the MacLerie guardsmen who carved wooden horses and animals for her. She told her mom she was going to marry him. Hmmm, perhaps a future book?
I’m really into this series and its characters. Of course, I have already downloaded the next book.