Okay, time for honesty here: I'm not sure how to review this book. It was good, but a lot happened and there were several times it gave me pause. This book is the 2nd in a series, so I wish I had read the first book first, but I don't think it made a difference to this story.
Ellen MacArthur is a 17-year-old highland lass, her parents are dead and she lives with her grandfather, the laird of Lochearn. She has been promised to a distant cousin, Donald MacNab, from birth. At their marriage he will inherit Lochearn. Her grandfather's cousin, Gavin MacArthur, thinks the lands should go to another MacArthur, not a MacNab, and says Ellen must marry his son, Balgair. Ellen and her grandfather both refuse and send Gavin away.
They know he is angry and will attempt to steal Ellen and force her to marry Balgair, so she is sent away to Scotland's King James' court until it is time for her to marry Donald.
About a year later, Ellen has made a place for herself at court. She is well liked by James and his sister, and she receives word that it is time to marry her cousin. King James sends a visiting laird, Duncan Armstrong to accompany her home. He sees her to her home, where Balgair has killed both her grandfather and her betrothed. He intends to marry her straightaway, but Duncan talks him into waiting a month, and being unable to do anything else, Duncan rides out to inform the king of this treachery. Balgair tries to rape Ellen, and she runs, catching up with Duncan days later, and they return to court.
The king sends Ellen to Duncan's keep to await a decision as to what he's going to do with her, as she now has no protector. King James genuinely likes Ellen and does not want to see her come to harm. He knows Duncan will keep her safe and Balgair will not look for her at the border. A few months later, King James calls Ellen back and tells her he has made a decision. He settled the dispute of her lands and has decided she will marry Duncan. Duncan is, as they mention several times, well into his 30's. and in need of a wife. They agree, as they find each other pleasant enough and both know they could do worse. They do not know each other well, for even though she stayed at his home, they did not see each other very much - he was busy doing laird things and she spent most of her time with his sister.
This story had so many twists and turns, I never knew what was coming next! There were border raids, political intrigue, an imposter for the English throne, kidnapping; every time I thought things were wrapping up and they'd live happily ever after, something else came up. Bad for the main characters, but good for me as I enjoyed the story. I liked watching Ellen and Duncan's relationship grow and change. And when Duncan committed a faux pas against his wife near the end, I'm glad she didn't pretend she wasn't hurt.
This book caused me to do a bit of research ("a bit" being the key words here). Two things I noticed:
1. They used the F-bomb alot. I didn't think it was in use at the time of this story (early 15th century) and I still don't, but I guess it's possible. I'm not offended by the word; it just didn't "feel" right.
2. The villian threatened Ellen with a wooden ummm..."manly appendage". He even went into detail about how it was made to "his specifications". Okay, I guess that could have happened (see #6) too. I think, what am I saying - I'm SURE this is the first historical romance I've seen one mentioned.
BUT, other than those two small blips, I did like this book. The story flowed well and I enjoyed it. I didn't particularly fall for any of the characters, but it was interesting reading about their adventures.