St Martin’s Press, $7.99, ISBN 978-1-250-08475-0
Historical Romance, 2016
You know how I always go on about how so few heroines are willing to be proactive in making things happen for themselves? Well, Tara Iverach is one such heroine. Awesome, isn’t it? But maybe it’s because there is only so many awesome to go around – maybe there’s a limit to the quota – but it seems like the author gives all of that to the heroine and none of that to the hero Magnus.
You can say that this one is modeled after Rapunzel, although I’d say it’s more the recent animated movie, Tangled. Tara has been kept isolated from the world by her guardian, and she is finally released from her “tower” only to end up in a more dangerous prison. You see, she learns the news of the death of her sister from her guardian the very same moment that he tells her that she would be taking her sister’s place as the betrothed of the eldest son of Lord Alwyn. On her way there, she and her nun companion are waylaid by lecherous highwaymen, and she is rescued by a man, Magnus, who claims to be the eldest son of Lord Alwyn. He even steals a kiss. Her betrothed! Things don’t seem so bleak after all… until she realizes that Magnus is the “wrong eldest son”. The official eldest son, if you know what I mean, is Hugh, a wildly, comically evil fellow that practically breathes rape and abuse every time he is on the planet.
Magnus isn’t the wrong eldest son – he learns after meeting his brother in The Beast of Clan Kincaid that he is actually Niall’s lost brother. Lord Alwyn is in fact one of the men who orchestrated the death of his real father, and Magnus swears revenge on the man he has considered his father all this while… by brooding. Wringing his hands and doubting himself a lot. While actually preventing Tara’s escape even as he swears that he will help her escape. By doing so, he keeps placing her in harm’s way, but he vows that he will keep her safe. Maybe his brooding powers work in mysterious ways, but frankly, that guy is a useless plank who is more of a hindrance than anything else.
It is Tara who orchestrates her escape in the end, and it is Niall who decides that the best way to keep Tara safe is to have her marry Magnus. Magnus… well, I suppose he looks pretty. Oh, and he has sex with Tara, without considering what will happen to her if Hugh finds out. But that’s okay! He has sworn to keep her safe, just like he has sworn to help her escape. This guy is very good at swearing, but not much good at actually doing something useful.
I like Tara. She is resourceful, daring, and self aware – and best of all, in a realistic manner. Which is to say, she is not some super-feitsy all-capable superheroine sort; she tries, and if she fails, it’s because she’s a sheltered girl way out of her depths. I can only imagine that she falls for Magnus because he looks like a saint compared to the cast of cartoon villains in this story, and it’s not like the poor dear has a decent selection of blokes to choose from. Really, though, she deserves better.
Oh yes, the cartoon villains. This one has so many over the top MUAHAHAHA moments that I find it hard to take it seriously. Hugh is just crazy and abusive, spewing cuss words and threats 24/7, and he is also a cheat, a coward, and more. And he’s not the only one. Every bad guy here is just evil. EVIL. The whole thing just feels absurd.
In the end, I am giving The Rebel of Clan Kincaid three oogies, mostly due to the heroine. The hero is a passive brooding waste of space, a disappointing turd on a tree stump despite his initial bravado of wanting revenge and what not, and the cartoon villains make it even harder to get into this story.