Genre fiction lover: Romance, Sci Fi, Fantasy, Mystery, Urban Fantasy
This book had such potential. Sure, it was a rather wallpaper Scottish historical awash with Clans and Lairds and Feuds and such, but I rather enjoyed the first book of the series. So I decided to give this one a go.
The set up is simple and the start of the book gives the book its' initial emotional heft. Genevieve McInnes is the heroine and she has a harrowing back story. She is the beloved and gorgeously beautiful daughter of the powerful Laird of the McInnes clan. She caught the eye this is awful guy, Ian McHugh who wouldn't take no for an answer.
While riding with an escort to the home of her betrothed, her escort is slaughtered and she is kidnapped by McHugh. He takes her to his keep amongst his people and while there, for an entire year, he rapes her, tortures her, has one of his men hold her down while he slashes one side of her face (so no one would ever want her), allows his men to rape her, imprisons her and starves her. This went on for a year.
All this happens prior to the opening of the book. When we meet Genevieve, Ian is dead at the hand of another powerful clan, the clan of Eveline Montgomery another woman he sought to kidnap and imprison. Eveline's own kidnapping becomes a big plot point in this book.
So, yeah, as a start this is heavy stuff. It immediately creates a strong sympathy for the heroine and, I am not gonna lie, I wanted things to work out happily ever after for her. Who wouldn't? And the telling of this happens within the first few chapters of the book in such a way as to create a very affecting mood. It was well done. I was feeling very positive about the book.
Of course, Bowen Montgomery was going to come and save her. He Had to! He was a hero. His job is to help her through her trauma and show her that not all men are monsters!
He does. But not in a way that I wholly enjoyed. In fact, I found myself incredibly frustrated with the narrative decisions as I read on in the book. I couldn't turn my mind off and accept what would have been a fairly enjoyable book and it is because nobody seemed like real characters. They didn't feel like they had any depth whatsoever, they all felt like plot devices.
For instance, every single person at the McHugh keep hated Genevieve. Except one person -- I'll talk about her in a minute. But the rest of the McHugh clan, all despised Genevieve. They took every opportunity to call her a whore. They spit on her and try to stone her. Mind you, they all knew she was a young woman who had been kidnapped from her family, repeatedly raped, beaten and starved. And yet they all hated her and take delight in continuing to humiliate her in front of the Armstrong and Montgomery men who have come to take over the Keep.
My issue isn't that the people hated Genevieve, but in how the author presented this group. There were no individuals here. Sure she threw out a name or two, but throughout he book, the McHugh clan was always presented as a collective. They were like a hive mind that all thought exactly the same thing. How it is possible that there wasn't a kindly woman who tried to sneak her food? Or other women who looked at her plight with pity? Or even a little shameful relief that it wasn't them? Even if they couldn't do anything about it because they were so cowed, it shouldn't stop one or two of them from feeling something other than hate and disdain. Why wouldn't there be at least a couple of men who were disgusted with their Laird for what he did? Wouldn't a handful of people possibly enter a conspiracy of kindness, maybe trying to lighten her burden in some small way? But no. The Hive all had the exact same opinion all the time throughout the book.
Except for one person. She was a young woman who took it upon herself to be the only person to befriend Genevieve. But instead of feeling 'Ah, at least here is one person that breaks my Hive theory' I felt "well here is the plot device person necessary to interpret what the Hive is feeling.' Because that is largely what she did. Since there were no individual persons with individual thoughts and responses in The Hive, Taliesin would come and tell Genevieve and Bowen what The Hive was thinking. Not only that, since she is clearly a "good person' and the only McHugh character with individual thought and action, she is obviously a future heroine in the series.
And then there is Genevieve. She suffers from Romance Novel Heroine Syndrome and Woman Constantly in Jeopardy. She is good and merciful and plucky and brave and selfless and did I say brave? When the Montgomerys and the Armstrongs come to take the Keep, everyone else is wringing their hands, sure they are all going to be murdered, but Genevieve responds like a Boss. She tells Taliesin to get the women and children to safety, she walks out to confront the newcomers to plead mercy for The Hive.
After Bowen and his brothers speechify that they plan to take over the Keep and be benign overlords largely because of Genevieve's pleas, The Hive all dis Genevieve and call her a whore and a slut, blah blah blah. Genevieve simply chin-trembles that 'Tis the truth, I am unclean. I am ashamed of what I am.'
Countless times throughout the book Genevieve tries to help The Hive, but they always try to humiliate her. I am sorry but I would have been like, 'You assholes can all have a seat!'
This is largely why I really did not enjoy the book. Rather than attempting to make this a story about Genevieve getting her life back, it becomes an unending series of plot devices of 'how can we continue to pile on this character to keep her in jeopardy and continue to manipulate the readers sympathy?' And even worse, rather than even do a modicum of lip service to her recovery from her trauma (I mean, REALLY this woman should be an emotional/psychological wreck) the book curiously bypasses it to jump right into the sexy times. Genevieve is soon attracted to Bowen and constantly wants to touch him. He of course wants to show her what real loving is. Genevieve and Bowen's romance could have been really effective and sweet, but it was almost as if the author didn't want to delve too deeply into character, but rather stick with plot contrivances to create tension.
And then the cherry on top of the sour cake is the fact that after one year of being raped by multiple men, Genevieve never gets pregnant. But guess what happens after a few magical times with Bowen? Yup.
Beyond all that the prose was incredibly repetitive. There is an overuse of the the phrase 'Tis the Truth' and 'I shall never love another woman but her.' Both Bowen and Genevieve inner monologue a lot and many of the thoughts are the same over and over. Rather tedious.
Suffice to say I think this was a clunker.