The storylines in this book take some erratic twists, with some plot points being dropped without conclusion. This review will discuss those in greater storyline detail than I would normally do, so I am erring on the side of caution and marking this review as containing spoilers.
The girl: Lady Meleri Weatherby has been engaged since childhood to the son her her aging father's good friend, but she now sees the light and realizes Lord Phillip is a cruel, cruel man. She knows she needs to end the engagement, but her father's mind is in the clouds, and her much older half-sisters are miles away in London (the Weatherby estate is in Northumbria).
"What she had once adored was nothing more than a thin veneer, cracked and peeling away."
The guy: Robert Douglas (he's the earl of something-or-other) is the latest head of the verra old Douglas clan. Things haven't been so good for this branch of the Douglases, and the ancient Beloyn Castle is falling into disrepair and there's no money to fix it (and it's mortgaged as well). Worse yet, Robert gets a letter from King George ordering him to marry an Englishwoman (being a Scot he hates the English), and he's got three weeks to find one. So, he sets off with his younger brother and they're on horseback trotting through the wilds of Northumbria looking for an heiress to marry. You would think he'd have better luck in London socializing with the swanks, but no...
The baddie: Lord Philip Waverly (I could have that wrong, the book's at home) is as bad as bad can be. He beats animals, grooms and has a mistress in London, and would really rather marry the mistress than Meleri. Meleri and Phillip even agree to end the engagement, but the Waverlys are in a financial pinch and they need Meleri's dowry something awful.
Sooooooo, Meleri knows she needs to escape, but there's no safe place for her to go outside of her old nanny who lives over the Scottish border in Gretna Green. She gets on her horse with nothing but the clothes she's wearing and heads north. All alone. She eventually *bumps* into Robert and younger brother Hugh who are camping out in the woods during their search for an English heiress (yes, I know that's stupid), and we get this:
"Let me see if I have this right. You did not need an escort because it was daylight when you left, yet you were upset because you were afraid of the dark, which caused you to make a wrong turn and get lost."
One things leads to another and it's decided that Robert and Meleri can solve both their problems by getting married. Robert's got an extra perk in the deal, because evil Philip and his chums are the ones who **spoiler coming** gang-raped Robert's twin sister and left her for dead. Robert doesn't tell Mereli about any of this, even though he knows she'll hate him for using her to get revenge.
K...are your eyes glazing over yet?
Robert, Hugh and Meleri head for the castle and they put off the wedding for a bit so she can get adjusted. There are then pages and pages of Meleri settling in and cleaning house. Mops, soap, buckets of hot water kind of stuff. Robert sees the light and it's insta-love so the revenge plot is dropped. Philip loses his three chums in Gretna Green (we think they were the rest of the gang-raping gang, but that is dropped and never resolved).
More pages of endless house cleaning with an occasional break for the horizontal mumbo-jumbo whilst we wait for the evil Philip to finally find his way to the castle and do his worst. Oh, and there's a twist with a ghost of a Douglas ancestor and a mystery about some buried jewels.
My final thoughts? A convoluted mess of a book with dangling storylines dropped left and right, a ditz of a heroine who is much too chummy with the staff, all wrapped up in a way too many descriptions of every single thing. Like this:
"Far as the eye could see, everything looked gray and grumpy, nothing but miles and miles of bleak landscape and angry gray clouds that were determined to drop their wet burden on anyone foolish enough to be out on such a drizzly day."
"She needed to know he belonged to her and no other but she could not claim him any more than wax can hold feathers fast near the sun....She looked up at him, his proud, dark head hovering like a bird of prey over her."
**spoiler coming*** And when Philip finally does get his hands on her and she regains consciousness to find herself bound and gagged she has the presence of mind to notice the "rainbow-hued ring" encircling the full moon and the "silver-dusted moonshine" doing more flowery shite like that.
All in all a very overblown bit of a wallpaper romance - and if you think there's a bunch of hot sex to make up for the plot holes and silliness think again - there's not very much of that to speak of. No velvet spears or heroine's love juices to be found here, pretty much all behind closed doors.
Off to the charity box with this one.