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am 27. Mai 2007
This book starts, rather strangely, part-way through the plot. In the first few pages we disocver that Hero and Heroine had previously met offstage, had a romance, become lovers and then had a Big Misunderstanding which meant each thought the other dead and the man thought the lady had betrayed him. When this story starts, these events are a year in the past and the man, Lucas Murray, is returning to the village where the woman Katerina Haldane betrayed him to have his revenge on her (in some unspecified way as he's not a man to do violence to women). When he discovers she died on the same day that she betrayed him he doesn't know quite what to do but then almost instantly he runs into trouble and is rescued by... you've guessed it... the woman who died a year ago.

Lucas instantly accuses her of turning her back on him and thus we start Phase II of the Big Misunderstanding, this time being detailed for the reader rather than as backstory. I was rather concerned that this plot device would run through the whole book but fortunately Lucas discovers the truth when, most fortuitously, he happens to be listening at a peephole to his enemies discussing their future plans and they just happen to talk about the events a year ago and lay the whole truth out for Lucas's greedy ears. How convenient, but unfortunately for this reader it felt like an incredibly lazy author's plot device which wasn't believable. But of course it didn't completely solve the Big Misunderstanding as although Lucas now knows he was mistaken he has very much hurt Katerina and he has to ask her for forgiveness. Sadly it appears that, for Lucas, apologising is about as easy as trying to nail jelly to the ceiling.

We are told right from the start who the baddies are - Agnes, Katerina's half-sister who rather fancied Lucas herself but was rejected, and Ranald, an uncouth and violent man who wants to marry Agnes so that he can become Laird. At the moment the Council who choose the Laird will not accept Agnes as her husband Robbie is unsuitable (and also missing, he ran away when he realised how awful Agnes was); if they knew that Katerina was alive and if she married Lucas the Council would almost certainly confirm her as Laird, thus the original attempted murders of Lucas and Katerina a year ago. Now the two are back together (or at least in proximity to each other) Agnes and Ranald mean to try again to murder them, and with more success. Can Lucas and Katerina survive, can they keep the people safe, can they forgive each other etc etc? This is a formulaic book and there are few surprises but the story moves along reasonably well and there's a plot underpinning it, not something one always finds in this kind of book. For some reason it continued on a couple of chapters further than strictly necessary after the main plot had finished; this was presumably to give a more rounded view of the love story but it felt rather superfluous to me.

I'm never entirely convinced by books with Scottish dialect. "Weel, mon, ye isnae stupid..." just reads uncomfortably to me. This book is littered with that kind of speech and it can become a little trying after a while. However the author is able to catch a little of the feeling of life in those times in the harshness of Scotland and the way in which the clans and families cared for each other. Despite its good points this book is probably one for fans of Hannah Howell rather than new readers, particularly because of the strange way in which the book starts partway through the story of Lucas and Katerina because it is part of a series.

Originally published for Curled Up With A Good Book, [...] © Helen Hancox 2007
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