I’m sorry, I just couldn’t finish this book. I tried. I really did but I just couldn’t get into it. I pushed myself to get to 37% of the book but had to stop there.
Like the first book, there was a lot of introspection…too much but unlike the first book where I liked the heroine, I could not stand the main female character. She was a total bitch. She was mean and condescending to her best friend and she was judgmental and bigoted. I couldn’t find any redeeming or endearing qualities about her. I didn’t warm up to her at all which is too bad because I really liked the leading male character. So, having too much introspection and a unlikeable leading character ruined the book for me.
Caterine has been married twice now. The second husband was elderly and the first died by the hand of English soldiers…at least that is what it sounded like in all of Caterine’s memories which were fragmented so I never really got a clear picture of what happened which is what the author probably did on purpose to make the reader curious but it had the opposite effect on me. I think the author was not giving all the details of what happened also to show that Caterine’s memories were just too painful to dredge it up even in her own mind but it just irritated me. Whatever happened, it was inferred that the English soldiers raped Caterine. Now she hates anyone who is English.
Her late husband’s clan, castle and land are in ruins because nobody is there to lead them. Very few strong men and servants stayed or are loyal to her. She has a step-son old enough to take over but he is a weak man who doesn’t believe in himself so no one will listen to him. Their provisions and store rooms are empty and they are on the verge of starvation.
Sir Hugh de la Hogue, a vile, fat and cruel Englishman, has threatened to take over her castle and he wants her for himself. He has been terrorizing the countryside and people who live there. He has an order from the King and if Caterine doesn’t come up with something fast, she will be forced to marry him.
Caterine’s friend, Rhona, comes up with an idea that Caterine needs a champion who will marry her and whip the castle back to its former glory but Caterine rejects Rhona’s idea. Caterine’s sister is married to a powerful man who knows many people. She doesn’t want to get married again so Rhona tells her that maybe they can get someone to pretend to marry her instead. Caterine still rejects the idea. I thought it was a pretty good idea but Caterine was rude and dismissed her friend’s idea like her friend was some air headed bimbo. It was sad how she treated her friend. Rhona sent a message to Caterine’s sister anyway.
Marmaduke (Yes that is his name, poor fellow; it was probably a fine name back in the day before someone decided to name their cartoon Great Dane Marmaduke) has pledged his life to the MacKenzie clan and its chief where he has lived for many years even though he is an English knight. He was beaten and whipped and left for dead after he turned his sword on the soldiers he was with when they started raping and killing women and children in a village. The MacKenzie chief found him and took him in and treated him like a brother. In fact, he married the chief’s sister but she died.
We met Marmaduke in the first book of the series. He was loyal and an all-around good man. He has a scar on his face and one of his eyes is blind from a sword fight but he still charms the ladies. His chief’s lady has asked him to be her sister’s champion and pretend to marry her. He would do anything for the lady but he will not pretend to marry something. He will marry Caterine for real but he won’t take the sanctity of marriage in vain.
When Sir Hugh comes to hassle Caterine, Rhona tells him that he need not bother the Lady Caterine anymore because a champion is on his way to help her, Caterine is surprised but Sir Hugh tells them that he will be there and wants to see the actual ceremony or he will not believe it and take Caterine for himself so now Caterine will have to marry the man her sister sends.
When Marmaduke and his four guardsmen arrive, Caterine is immediately rude and dismissive of them because Marmaduke is English.
I kept thinking that she deserved Sir Hugh if she was too proud and biased to accept help from anyone. I mean, she lives in a dark, cold and dank castle and is eating watery soup and her clothes are threadbare yet she is a total bitch to the people who are there to help her. Her only other choice would be to marry Sir Hugh so I didn’t get why she was so nasty to Marmaduke. I get that she had a horrible thing happen to her at the hands of Englishmen but once she saw that he was a good person, she continued to be cold and rude to him.
Someone snuck into the castle through the garderobe with the help of someone on the inside who got away when Marmaduke and his guardsmen accosted them. That person keeps slinking around in the shadows and is planning something devious.
Marmaduke has a plan to get Caterine’s step-son to lead his people by training him and giving him more confidence and he wants to make Caterine fall in love with him and take her back with him when he goes home.
Caterine is attracted to Marmaduke but keeps fighting it because he is English. Ugh! I hate when characters fight their feelings for so long that it just ruins the book. Plus she was just an ol’ bitty so how could Marmaduke even like her?
The book kept dragging along and I just couldn’t take it any longer so I stopped reading it.