by Karen Ranney, historical (2013)
Avon, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-06-224244-0
The Devil Of Clan Sinclair has a problematic romance that makes it hard for me to get into it, and I'd have to go into some detail about why this is so. Because the problems crop up in the late half of the story, this review is going to contain some spoilers, I'm afraid. You know what to do if you want to read this book on a clean slate.
I don't come across many historical romances like this one nowadays. This one takes place over two years, a secret baby story that takes a while before the secret baby is baked in the oven, and the main couple spend some time separated from one another in the middle parts of this story. It's all part of the plot, of course. Let me explain.
Virginia Traylor, an American heiress in London, meets and falls in love with Macrath Sinclair, an inventor who may be rich but is without any title that will please her father. The poor girl, used to frequent beating by her governess and others, often under the instruction of her father, doesn't have much choice when she is wedded off to Poor Lawrence, the Earl of Barrett. Macrath makes a sad face and retreats to his home in Scotland to lick his wounds.
Lawrence is an invalid, and he resents Virginia just like he harbors all kinds of anger against the world. The poor darling has a horrible marriage, although she is close to his sisters and she gets along fine with his mother, but luckily, Lawrence dies off within a year. And then, the will is read and the family discover that Lawrence deliberately left everything to his male heir. Since Virginia didn't conceive, it's time to get knocked up with a brat ASAP or the whole family will be tossed out by Lawrence's cousin.
So Virginia runs off to meet Macrath, and they are soon in love again and everything is fine and amazing and OH MY GOD THE SEX IS FANTASTIC . She couldn't tell him, however, so they go separate ways again. This time, Macrath runs off to Australia to lick his wounded ego. She gets knocked up alright, and it's a boy too, but then smallpox comes, and Virginia contracts it.
She is still down with smallpox when Macrath shows up, discovers the baby, goes THAT LYING CREATURE WHAT A WITCH, and runs off with the baby. Virginia runs after him and he plots to throw her off his land so that she will never see the baby again, but he's so cute and she's so hot, so everyone is confused.
I've summarized half the story by this point, and the rest of the story is basically two people going all sadistic and passive aggressive on one another until the crazy bad guy runs around to show me that the hero is a much nicer person compared to this violent crazy schmuck so, really, he deserves her like she deserves him so let's all wave at them as they happily sail off into the sunset.
The problem with this soap opera is that this book needs a hundred or more pages to make the whole drama work. The author spends the first half of the book having Macrath and Virginia batting eyes at each other and reciting poetry. The reader has to believe, from these scenes, that these two are truly meant to be together, and, therefore, have faith that the love remains pure and strong even when they are doing their best to act like ninnies with chronic communication issues. I don't buy this attraction between those two, as I find their intimate moments more mawkish and cheesy than anything else, so the rest of the story is a train wreck that I can't stop gawking at.
I feel that a hundred more pages would have improved this story because all the histrionic drama is crammed into the second half of the story, and the drama is fighting for space with various secondary characters and the crazy guy subplot that, I feel, can actually be removed from the story without altering the story significantly. It's either more pages or some ruthless excision of some unnecessary stuff - like the crazy guy - because as it is, the internal conflict in this story is resolved in an unsatisfying rushed manner.
More space and time is needed to make the internal conflict work because, well, let's face it, we have a hero who kidnaps the heroine's baby while she is suffering from smallpox. And he then wonders whether she will bring the disease to his people when she - still weak from having just recovered from smallpox - travels all the way to Scotland to get her baby back. It may not be well done of Virginia to hide her baby's existence from him, yes, but she's forced into it, and really now, the poor dear lives in a time when she has no option but to do what is needed to avoid being thrown out of a home. The second half of this story has Macrath being cruel to Virginia and she trying very hard to remain attracted to him, and it's like watching two people completely wrong for one another convincing themselves that they will be great together, forever.
The fact that Macrath can be so cruel when the mood takes him, and how resistant he is to any possibility that Virginia may not be as evil as he thinks she is - this doesn't bode well for the future happiness of this couple. It also doesn't help that his reaction to every conflict is to run away. Worse, while he is sulking away in his corner, he will judge the heroine for not reading his mind. How dare she doesn't write to him! How dare she doesn't acknowledge his dramatic flounce! It's true - she doesn't deserve his love! He loves Virginia - but on his own terms. His love is one-sided and selfish, as he accepts her only when she's completely agreeable and living up to his fantasy ideal of what she is supposed to be.
And Virginia can't be any more wrong for him. The poor darling doesn't have any freedom to make a choice of her own in this story. Her father forced her to marry some guy who turned out to be a petty and cruel jerk, and when the jerk died, she has to get knocked up to ensure that the family doesn't get evicted from their home. Then smallpox hits her, followed by Macrath running off with her son. She's also a very clingy person, not that I blame her as she grew up isolated from everyone else by her control freak father, and her "love" for Macrath comes off like a desperate attachment to the first cute guy she meets that doesn't immediately treats her like crap. Macrath does treat her like crap later on, and reading how she still finds him charming and attractive through all that nonsense leaves me torn between pitying her and wanting to shake some sense into her.
It's not like she can leave Macrath anyway, right, what with the baby tying her to that donkey? The poor dear. Her "happy ending" with Macrath is more of how the poor darling finally settles for the one guy that doesn't treat her as bad as the other men in her life. Then again, "settles" implies that she has a choice in the man she falls for, and she doesn't really, not in this story.
The Devil Of Clan Sinclair has a romance that just doesn't work for me on a fundamental level, so I'm afraid I'm going to have to give this one the finger.
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