by Elizabeth English, historical (2001)
Jove, $5.99, ISBN 0-515-13154-7
On one hand, this is a Scots arranged marriage thing. On the other hand, Elizabeth English tries to make the story a little bit different from the usual typical arranged marriage thing. Still, there's something missing from The Border Bride, and I'll try to put my finger to it by ripping, er, I mean describing the plot. Maybe by then my brain juices will be gearing for action.
It all began when Alyson's father murdered Jemmy's brother. Now, Alyson's half-brother was held hostage by Jemmy's clan, the Kirallens. The boy will be released by the Kirallens when the Darnley laird weds his daughter to the Kirallen laird's son. The wily Darnley however promises to wed a daughter, not his legitimate shrewish (and predictably, non-virginal) daughter but his bastard daughter Alyson (predictably, virginal) instead.
Will Jemmy, the Kirallen son, find out?
Jemmy is a seafaring dude who left his clan because he is sick of the incessant feuding. Now that he is given a chance to be the Scots Mahatma Gandhi, what does he do? Whine that he misses the sea, his life and mistress is the sea, blah blah someone is reading way too much Hemingway blah blah. Talk about half-hearted college crusades.
So they marry. Jemmy gets the finger from his own people who are so nasty and stupid that it boggles the mind. The same Stupid Killyuckens also treat Alyson like smelly stuff, apart from the obligatory few maternal servant women. I'd think this would make Jemmy and Alyson unite and burn the whole Killyuckens keep down in one happy bonfire, but no. It's the usual suspicion thing between them, even as, of course, the obligatory baddie tries to cause trouble.
There's some superficial paranormal angle here, and of course, the obligatory character assassination of everything British. At the same time, however, the story is well-written, Alyson on the whole is a smart woman, Jemmy... well, he's Jemmy. It's not a bad story - it tries to be different, at least, even if it succeeds only halfway. But there are so many things that could have been done better - the characterization, convincing distrust and conflict, a more cohesive personality for the hero, and less caricaturish secondary characters are just a few I can think of (heh).
Still, I did finish this book in one setting, and while I do go "Hmmmph!" at some parts of this book, I'm never bored or exasperated. It doesn't grab me by the neck and choke me until I submit to the greatness of Elizabeth English, but it does make me make a mental note to see what this author has to offer next. So, all in all, not a bad book, and for a debut full-length novel, well, it's a good start.
This book at Amazon.com
This book at Amazon UK
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