Warner Forever, $5.99, ISBN 0-446-61025-9
Historical Romance, 2001
Ah, new blood to the romance genre to be skewered and ripped apart by yours truly. No, no, seriously, I try to be nice to new authors. Sue-Ellen Welfonder’s debut effort Devil in a Kilt isn’t awful. But at the same time, while the author is new, the story is not. And the sameness of this story is just too uninspired and dull – maybe the author hasn’t gotten the hang of making the old seem new, maybe she has read Julie Beard’s romance writing manual too religiously, I don’t know.
It’s about our heroine Linnet MacDonnell (quick, spot the clichés) who has the Sight (oohh… not that it actually comes useful in this story), who is good at healing, who thinks her freckled skin and red hair unattractive features, who uses weapons better than most of the guys (not that it will help her with anything), and who is being sent to her new hubby (by arrangement) Duncan MacKenzie, laird of the feuding clan.
Duncan doesn’t like her, he thinks all women are sluts, he will never love again, he just wants her to be faithful, he wants to mash her boobies, he doesn’t want her, he wants her, he doesn’t… thankfully bad guys cause trouble towards the end (the usual sort, involving a finale that has the Big Bad kidnapping our heroine – who’s good with weapons, I’m told, by the way – and our hero on the rampage to her rescue) to break the monotony.
I hate Duncan. On one hand, I’m told he’s the Black Stag, the man that has haunted Linnet’s useless vision since her… er, long time ago. On the other hand, I’m told he’s a rakish hero, a friend of Robert Bruce the King. The other harlots of our Stag’s acquaintances must be blind, deaf, and dumb because the only evidence of Duncan’s charm I see in this story is he telling Linnet that he will never want her for anything except babies almost immediately after she arrives at his place all tired and weary, But does our hero offer refreshments? No. Way to go. And he is puzzled when she refuses to smile at him.
And Linnet? Way to go too, lady, to be attracted to the man who has done nothing but to mock, humiliate, and manhandle you. When you say you “want to know passion”, I never guess it means passion of the S&M kind.
How does Duncan learn that Linnet is a virgin and hence pure and worthy of his love, however much his love is worth? Why, easy. At the belated boinking, where he feels this almighty skin where all a woman’s worth is measured in, and oh, his wife is pure! His wife is virtuous! But he still can’t tell her he loves her, because he swears he will never love again, blah blah blah. Whatever, really.
Oh, and did I mention Duncan’s son whom the oaf thinks is not his? Again, whatever!
Am I asking too much from a debut author? That is, is at least a decently developed relationship too much to hope for? Devil in a Kilt is so formulaic and transparently so, I can almost see the author muttering as she writes, “Formula AK876 – must make heroine mothers quiet brat to prove her worth, Formula 54-XXCF – must make heroine healer with some Sight, Formula 453VVB…” Needless to say, I don’t find this one remotely memorable. Maybe some other time.