The Bride Of Black Douglas
by Elaine Coffman, historical (2000)
MIRA, $6.99, ISBN 1-55166-596-4

This is my first Elaine Coffman romance novel, and I must ask - is this the author's usual style? Because the two main characters behave as if they are first year philosopher undergrads trying to outdo each other in a debate contest. It is amusing for a while, but after what seems like a millionth quote or "deep thoughts", I want to scream.

Meleri needs to escape a bridal contract her father has made with a cruel, obnoxious, horse-trashing (ohmigod, SHOCKING!) man. Her father, alas, is stricken with Alzheimer's disease and can't remember her most of the time, much less protect her from the contract. Meleri's solution? Run away.

Robert Douglas needs money, and worse, our handsome true-blue Scots is ordered by the King to marry an English lady in a few weeks' time or else. When he encounters Meleri, well, what the heck, she'll do.

The Bride Of Black Douglas takes the familiar path of a Highland romance. Yep, they're all there - the nanny, the hero's best buddy, the heroine's loyal servant girl, the sheep-like but happy clan folks, the cranky housekeeper. But hey, they and Mel and Rob are very nice, very likeable people. There's also a ghost element that blends just in and adds a poignant touch to the epilogue.

So there's really no reason why I can't give this book a two thumbs up. But Mel and company sprout off wise guru yadda-yadda's and unsolicited kungfu mantras at every opportunity. While this story doesn't dip into New Age Mysticism like Constance O'Day-Flannery's latest outputs, the barrage of phrases and quotes can be off-putting.

Comforting the grieving? "Whatever it is, put it behind you. No good comes from pulling up old, painful memories."

Perfect tea time chatter: "The present and the future belong to you. The past suits me, I think. At my age, it is ever so much nicer to relive the glorious hours when we were abounding with wealth and prosperity, or to reflect upon times when our name was the mightiest in all Scotland." (I am terrified to find out what this lady would yammer about after a few drinks.)

Brother to brother mantalk: "I am at war with myself. Contrary to what you may think, I am capable of remorse. There are times I feel ashamed at what I feel in my heart. I take pride in deeds done for those I care for. I feel with each sheep I shear, with each cattle I slaughter, that I am contributing something to Scotland, to the world." Remember: this is two macho brothers having a man-to-man talk.

Apart from wise nuggets of hackneyed Scots bombastic wisdom, there are also lots of follow your destiny, your heart! mandalas, and verbose prose (characters don't just ask why, they do a Broadway chorus of "Why? Why? WHY?!!").

In fact, come to think of it, this whole story seems like a musical. I can easily see it as a Scottish Les Miserables with happy endings, where all Scots prejudice is okay but English are scum. Oh, look, there's Robbie, at the head of the procession, singing at the top of his sexy baritone:

Do you hear us Scotties sing?
Singing our song to make you choke
We all know you English inferiors
Just wanna get into our kilt!
We come and steal your womenfolk
Who just can't take their hands off our posteriors!

Rating: 80

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