Pocket, $6.99, ISBN 0-7434-6508-3
Historical Romance, 2005
Mared Lockhart has plenty of reasons to be angry with Payton Douglas. For one, her family bartered her to that man in exchange for a sum of money that the impoverished Lockharts used, not to improve their farm, but to send Mared’s brother Griffin to London to recover a stupid beastie that is supposed to restore the Lockharts’ luck. Unfortunately, Mared’s anger is rooted in more irrational reasons, like she hates hates hates hates hates Payton because he is cute and he is supposed to the enemy of the Lockharts for daring to be English and to raise sheep instead of cattle like all pure-blooded Scots do.
Mared’s irrational xenophobic little-girl “I hate him because he’s hot!” nonsense gets really tedious after fifty pages. Unfortunately, this book has 384 pages and the whole conflict hinges on Mared taking her time to come to her senses that she likes Payton. It is like putting the fate of the world in the hands of Angelica Pickles from that cartoon Rugrats. Please let the story end quickly so that my pain will too! I try to sympathize with her as it can’t be easy growing up as a Lockhart woman (apparently men who marry them will die) but Mared seriously challenges my patience. She pulls off childish pranks and runs wild like a crazed baboon in Payton’s estates. Payton is no prize either. He puts himself in his current predicament because instead of wining and dining Mared, he forces her to be his housekeeper in a misguided attempt to tame the shrew.
Ultimately Mared is just too immature and bratty for me. She can be amusing at times, but whenever I am warming up to her, she will do something really stupid and I will be cringing all over again. Payton is a nice guy but Mared brings out the worst from him, turning the both of them into two little kids pulling each other’s hair in the playground. If Ms London has restrained Mared and showed me that she has some adult and rational basis for her childish actions throughout the story (and this goes for Payton too), this book would be an amusing Highland version of The Taming of the Shrew. As it is, Mared and Payton both make me want to give them both a time-out and force them to sit quietly in some corner so that I can have some peace and quiet to myself.