St Martin’s Press, $7.99, ISBN 978-1-250-08473-6
Historical Romance, 2016
Niall Braewick and his brothers are the only survivors of an attack by Clan Alwyn and Clan MacClaren seventeen years ago – the rest of his family were killed by those treacherous villains. The brothers were separated that night, and today, Niall wonders whether he’d see them again even as he does his thing as this tough, surly mercenary. Are his brothers dead? At any rate, he burns to avenge his family, and as it happens, when the story opens, Chief MacClaren is in need of mercenaries to toughen his defenses against the Alwyn folks (guess their former partnership to take down the Laird of Kincaid didn’t last long), and Niall gets an invitation to that place.
Naturally, his plans to kill the old man are complicated by his loins burning for the perpetually oppressed and distressed daughter Elspeth. When she’s not tormented by her stepmother, she’s almost drowning because she tries to save little girls, being mauled and molested by lecherous men all over the place, being carted off into forced marriage, and whining because her beloved father is forcing her to marry a brute that she doesn’t care for. Seriously, by the time the book comes to a close, it’s actually an act of mercy that Niall is marrying her, because this darling is a calamity magnet. The one day she goes by without her virtue or life on the line is probably the day when she’s dead, I tell you.
It doesn’t help that, when it would be more prudent to let the hero help her, Elspeth would buckle up and resist his efforts. She would not be patronized – she is not a child! And yet, every time she does something on her own, it just sees her falling into the clutches of lecherous fiends, being clobbered by her evil stepmother, or something equally merry. She is no match for anyone here, and yet, she insists that everything will be okay if she can have a word with her father. The thing is, she’s had many words with her father, and that man is not much help to her, so I don’t know why she keeps doing the same thing again and again.
And when the hero wants to marry her, you guessed it – she acts like she is entitled to pick a dude that she loves. Even more hilariously, she’d threaten to tell her father if Niall doesn’t do as she demands. Yes, this is one lady who is definitely not a child. Give her autonomy, and see her walk right off a cliff while screeching to the hero that she is a grown-up who can take care of herself. And yes, she falls into the clutches of the bad guys in the denouement – for the obligatory rescue thing, of course – because she’s an idiot that way.
The romance takes place under false pretenses – or, to be more accurate, Elspeth has no idea of his real identity for a long time. Don’t count on angst or drama to come out of this, though. She’s too busy getting into trouble when trouble isn’t trying to get into her, and he’s too busy coming to her rescue. Ain’t nobody got time for that psychology nonsense, no siree!
As for Niall, he’s a stock action hero who spends most of his time coming to the heroine’s rescue, so he’s not much of a character here.
Lily Blackwood is not new to the game, as she previously wrote romances under the name Lily Dalton. This one reads like an earnest but cringe-inducing effort of a first time author, however, so I don’t know what to make of it. The Beast of Clan Kincaid isn’t a complete loss, though – the first two chapters are actually quite gripping, and it is only when it becomes apparent that Elspeth is never going to get a moment’s reprieve from evil penises and stepmothers, and she’s going to abet her own problems by being a twit, that things take a fast turn down the hill and straight into the drain. Maybe next time, the author will come up with a plot that is a bit more sophisticated than something lifted from a Looney Tunes episode.