Avon, $5.99, ISBN 0-380-81790-X
Historical Romance, 2003
My problem with this book, one that really distracts me while reading it, is probably exclusive only to me, so take this review with a bit more salt than you usually do. I enjoy myself with Born in Sin (and wondering why this author’s Sherrilyn Kenyon persona can’t be as this fun), but in the end, my reservations keep me from giving this book a full recommendation.
Our hero, Sin MacAllister, as a boy was sold by the knight he was a squire to to the Saracens. This was, of course, during the Crusades. The Saracens trained him to be an assassin, but the mojo of King Henry manage to make our hero a turncoat. Today, he is Henry’s assassin, sorry, “private advisor”. Henry has a new mission for him: wed Caledonia MacNeely, a hostage, and go back to Scotland and squash some rebellious pests sulking around Scotland. Callie isn’t going to take all this lying down, however, but her brother Jamie is the perfect plot device for the author to cut Callie off at the knees.
Yup, that’s the problem I’m talking off: the author’s cutting off the heroine at the knees, a frequent problem I have with this author’s books. This story is enjoyable, but it is like following a very obviously-rigged soccer match. Callie has never a chance. Circumstances are such that she is never allowed to even come close to matching Sin in terms of trying to win their battle of wills. When she escapes, let’s make Jamie wander off and has her running back to Sin to get that brat back. When she can have the upper hand, let her see Sin’s bleeding wound and have her, like all heroines inbred with the Pavlovian instinct to drop everything, bend over, and heal, fall over in a flurry to nurse the very man she was calling a foe a while earlier. Let’s have her be so grateful that he saved Jamie that she immediately falls into a deep 100% “he must be a kind man, he really must be, I trust him and he’s so-oo-oo hot!” trance.
Callie can string her thoughts together, that’s a good thing, but she’s like those frog things in those “Whack the frog” game machines. The moment her brainpower shows up, wham! Ms MacGregor whacks it back down with her hammer.
Callie is dragged even further under by the author’s the Loyal Best Friend of the Hero plot device. Simon here seems to have one sole function in the story: to remind the heroine (and me) that Sin had a horrible childhood of bastardy and lack of acceptance, he has no friends, he is so lonely, et cetera. The heroine, as a result, is silenced into guilt-of-privilege-motivated compliance when she could have stood up to the hero.
Thanks to Simon also, I am never allowed to forget that the author has created a contrived tortured hero whenever that idiot plot device opens his big mouth. I begin to resent this not-too-subtle even self-congratulatory aspect of the story. Yeah, yeah, Ms MacGregor, I am aware of your hero being Dark and Tortured and I know you want me to love Sin forever and ever but give me a break on the not-too-subtle anvils, please. Let the hero do his own talking instead of this Simon all but conducting a slideshow seminar on 1,001 Reasons to Love Sin MacAllister.
The later parts of the book are much more enjoyable, thanks to most of the above contrivances being pushed to the background for external conflicts and our main characters trying to make their marriage work. Here, the plot and character development are nothing new, but while the author does try to twist and tweak around the formula, in the end these tweaks are too inconsequential to provide this story with any actual innovation.
I do enjoy this story because its characters, while being familiar archetypes, are well-written and there are some fine moments in the story. But the author is very obvious in her plotting techniques, and many of her story’s plot aspects come off contrived. In the end, this book’s greatest sin to me is that it underestimates my ability to “get” it. There’s something rather patronizing about the way the story turns out. It doesn’t feel right. But hey, like I said, that’s just me. I’m confident that this book will find a more receptive welcome from other romance readers.