Series: The Montgomerys and Armstrongs, Book 1
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Length: 372 Pages
Formats: Mass Market Paperback, Kindle,
Disclosure: An ARC of this book was provided to me by Ballentine Books publisher Random House Publishing Group via NetGalley. This rating, review, and all included thoughts and comments are my own.
Enchanting and Endearing
Their clans are vicious enemies but their king wanted an alliance between them, and what the king wants, the king gets...no matter who or what it costs them all.
Montgomery Laird Graeme Montgomery is furious that he's being forced to wed the daughter of the Armstrong Laird. For decades the two clans have warred with each other. His own father was slain in battle by his future bride's grandfather. To add insult to injury, he's heard Eveline Armstrong is...damaged. Mentally. Graeme will be unable to father children and risk his line being brought low by that sort of illness. For the clan Laird it is a bitter pill.
She has hidden herself so well for so long, too well, really, for her deceptions - though for good reason - have become her cage. Eveline knows she is loved by her family, but even they could not save her three years ago, and since her fall and subsequent illness, she has used the silence she endures to give the impression she's touched in the head. It's kept her safe, but it has a high price.
She's not damaged, nor is she stupid or ignorant, and she's definitely not mentally ill. What Eveline is, is deaf.
She knows that her father is unhappy about the king's decree, but once Eveline meets Graeme she can only see the opportunities. Maybe in another household, away from the threat that locked her into the lies she lives, she can be both a good wife and mother, be accepted for who she really is. All she has to do is convince Graeme that she's not what he thinks, and win over a clan raised to loathe her family with every fiber of their being.
This book represents everything I love about Scottish historical romance. Honorable Scot warriors, braw and mighty, and the strong, intelligent women who love them - and are loved by them. It just sets my heart to pitter-pattering, especially when the characters are as eminently lovable as Graeme and Eveline are in this book.
Readers for whom historical authenticity is paramount may not find this book as appealing as I, but I've never been one to quibble over those details. In fact, I often find the more historically accurate books to be a bit too realistic and depressing for it. This book had just enough of a medieval Scottish feel to maintain my willing suspension of disbelief but not so much that I was either annoyed, dismayed, or utterly horrified by what life was really like back then, especially for women.
And it had Graeme and Eveline. I loved them both. Graeme was the perfect alpha male, strong and commanding, but with some truly endearing moments of confusion, uncertainty, and vulnerability. I've always felt it's those less than perfect moments and how the characters respond to them that define my favorite alpha males and make them the most lovable. Graeme is right up there with my favorites.
As much as I loved him, though, it was Eveline who made this book such a rousing success for me. I always appreciate books with a hero or heroine who have to deal with a disability of some sort, and I loved the slant the story took with Eveline's deafness. Her character was completely sympathetic, but not once did she come off self-pitying or weak. The decisions she made in relation to her own clan were extreme, but understandable, and the efforts she made with Graeme and the Montgomerys were laudable. She was smart, resourceful, and independent. I just adored her.
I loved them both together, too, and the arc of their relationship evolution was full of just the sort of heart-touching romance...and sexy intimacies...that I love most in romance novels. That, along with Eveline's challenges in her new home, were the strongest elements of the story.
They were also the majority of the story, and that's the only reason this book didn't quite hit the full five stars for me. For all I loved what was there in the plot, I have to admit that it seemed a bit too straightforward and lacked the depth that could have made it meatier and more intense a read. What little external conflict there was struck me as a bit predictable and lacking in originality.
I liked it well enough, but I knew fairly early into the book just what the conflict climax was going to entail and how it would resolve. When I can see it coming that far in advance, it doesn't leave room for many pleasant surprises.
Obviously, that was only a minor complaint, because I heartily enjoyed this read. It's my first experience with Maya Banks in the mainstream, and I have to say, I'm thrilled by it. This was a wonderfully strong, emotionally satisfying, excellently cast way to kick off a new series and I can't wait to get another shot at the Montgomerys and the Armstrongs both.