The Laird Of Stonehaven
by Connie Mason, historical (2003)
Leisure, $6.99, ISBN 0-8439-5232-6

While I am reading Connie Mason's The Laird Of Stonehaven, it occurred to me that this book is actually okay. By "okay", I mean that while Connie Mason has generally been associated with books to be handled in radioactive gear, The Laird Of Stonehaven is actually comparable to some of the medievals written by authors supposedly better and hipper than Grandma Mason. I'm not saying this book is good - it has its share of problems - but it's no better or worse than some of the medievals published by Granny Mason's more contemporary colleagues.

I have a really great laugh when the author calls heroine Blair MacArthur a "Faery Woman". I don't care if "Faerie Woman" is an authentic phrase to describe Scottish half-fae, half-human folks, the phrase just cracks me up, I don't know why. But I'm seriously thinking of getting people to call me "Faery Woman". It's kinda cool, don't you think, "Mrs Giggles, Faery Woman"? Anyway, like all heroines in romance novels set in 15th century Scotland are wont to do, Faery Woman is a healer. Pigs, women in labor, soldiers, you name it, she'll heal 'em. There's even a Dead Baby Come Back scene that is actually done better by dear Pascal from Katherine Kingsley's classic No Sweeter Heaven. When she's not healing, she's tossing and turning at night dreaming of this man that will deflower her in a ravishing embrace. This man turns out to be Graeme Campbell, a man her father orders her to marry so that she will be protected from the plans of her Evil Half-Brother and the Evil Suitor once the man dies. (The father offers a nice dowry to Graeme to ease his pain at marrying a hot babe.)

But Faery Woman doesn't want to marry, because prophecy says that any Faery Woman that gives her heart away to an uncaring suitor will lose her magic. Of course, it did occur to me to wonder why she's so afraid to have sex with a husband that doesn't love her - doesn't arranged marriages happen all the time? Then again, she is a romance heroine and has a tendency to confuse desire with love. Graeme is a laughable character. He doesn't want to love again because his true love Joan the Maid died in a bonfire. Hey, don't laugh - if that Passions idiot Sheridan can claim to be Princess Diana's best friend in that special Princess Di Exploitation Episode, Graeme can be Joan's boyfriend, I guess.

So commences a typical arranged marriage story. Since this is a Connie Mason story, expect Psychotic Other Woman (Put Away Your Knives) and I Love The Heroine Because I Can't Get An Erection With My Ho (The Hero Broken Record Remix) songs. Also expect other golden oldies like Running Into Him When He's Bathing And Naked. But overall, Graeme is a complete nutcase. The author doesn't know how to deal with her hero's characterization consistently. For example, he claims not to believe in witchcraft even as he accuses the heroine ad nauseum of summoning "evil spirits" to ruin his plans. I would expect an admirer of Joan will be more sympathetic to women accused of witchcraft, but for some reason Graeme ends up blaming witchcraft for Joan's death. It doesn't make sense. It also doesn't make sense and it is even infuriating when Graeme plots to sleep with Faery Woman and make her lose her magic so that she will be safe from the witchcraft that he still insists doesn't exist. Is this man nuts? Nothing - absolutely nothing - about Graeme makes sense.

But I won't dismiss this book out of hand. Faery Woman may be a nitwit, but she can often take care of herself. Well, she has to: her husband is an exceptionally stupid man that allows the villains to go after her not once, but three times in this story due to his insistence on blaming everything on his wife's summoning "evil spirits". However, at least Graeme apologizes publicly when he realizes what an idiot he has been, so it's not that bad, really. Despite Graeme's broken character, the simple plot is capitalized fully by Granny Mason in her presenting a very enjoyable tale of a dim-witted woman that can somehow take care of herself because nobody else will do it for her. The pace being fast and well-handled especially contributes to my enjoyment of this story.

Of course, there are better medievals out there. But there are worse too. I have read a few Scottish medievals recently that are awful compared to The Laird Of Stonehaven's simple, no-nonsense, spectacularly unoriginal but nonetheless enjoyable story. If you really have to read a Connie Mason book, start with this one. There are some unintentionally funny moments, but there's no denying that this one is miles better than the typical Connie Mason books of yore. I think it's safe to remove Connie Mason from the National Health Hazard list. Welcome to the twenty-first century, Granny. Now you go, girl, and give all those mid-tier historical authors out there a run of their money!

Rating: 78

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