A Year and a Day
I have seldom met a Scottish romance I didn’t like. All good streaks must come to an end though, and I must admit that A Year and a Day was really not my cup of tea. Although I enjoyed Enslaved, an earlier romance by author Henley, the language in this book very nearly intolerable, especially since it served no purpose that I could discern. Although I hear and sometimes say these words, I don’t want to read them in my historicals. And, while the characterizations were interesting, especially the secondaries, at times a secondary romance overshadowed the primary romance – not a good thing.
The book does take place during a fascinating time in history. Think Robert Bruce, William Wallace, and Edward I of England. Or you can just think about the movie Braveheart. To be honest, I found myself doing that a lot during the book. The two, plot wise, are somewhat similar, so I couldn’t help comparing them. In this book, however, there was far too much historical exposition. It overshadowed the plot in a few places, and I got really tired of it, even though I love history.
Lynx De Warenne fights for King Edward. To better secure Edward’s position in Scotland, Lynx is given control of Dumfries Castle. Lynx is a warrior whose sole wish is to have an heir. His mistress does not seem to want to bestow one on him, so Lynx decides it must be time to marry. An opportunity arises when he meets his steward, Jock Leslie. Jock has ten children and a plethora of grandchildren, and luckily, his youngest daughter Jane is not yet spoken for. It’s decided that Lynx and Jane will follow the Scottish custom of handfasting. The custom says that a couple will marry for a year and a day, and if they suit, they will marry formally when the year is up. If not, they will go their separate ways. Any children born from this type of union are considered legitimate. Lynx promises to marry Jane officially if she bears him a child.
Things do not get off to a good start. Jane is young and afraid of men she does not know. She has a gift for healing and for communicating with animals. Due to an experience Jane had with a real lynx and a certain erotic dream, she understands deep down that Lynx is her destiny. Lynx, however, is solely concerned with getting an heir and does not really care about Jane in the beginning. He beds his virgin bride and a couple of days later, he is off again.
I found this situation very unsatisfying. I have never been a fan of books where the hero and heroine don’t have some kind of immediate spark, and that definitely didn’t happen here. Lynx was very attracted to her physically, but since he was not concerned with her as a person, I found it a turnoff. His rapid departure presented another problem. It’s very difficult for a couple to get to know each other when the hero is away a lot, and Lynx was away more often than he was at Dumfries. I realize that Lynx was a soldier and therefore likely to be off serving his king now and then, but in this case the “getting to know you” portions of the book were very rushed.
Lynx and Jane did get to know each other and eventually became devoted to one another. Jane said late in the book that she was thrilled to be part of the De Warenne clan since they accepted her for who she was. While it was nice to see them grow closer, it happened too late in the book for me to care. The love scenes, while torrid, did nothing for me either. As Jane matured, she blossomed, and I do admit that I was glad to see her begin to assert herself. I also really enjoyed Lynx’s sister Jory, but I could have lived without Jory’s romance, which sometimes overpowered that of the main characters. There were a couple of times I got confused about who the hero and heroine were.
There were additional problems with this book. It had a lively cast of secondary characters, but the most promising ones were not used to their full potential. It was very clear early on that Jane’s grandmother had no love for the Normans and only supported Jane in the marriage because she was blackmailed into it. I think she would have made a good sparring partner for Lynx, but she disappeared after the beginning. The book was also action packed – a little too action packed. It seemed to jump from one thing to another, and after a while it got to be tiresome.
I realize that there are many Henley out there, and I do feel truly sorry that this book did absolutely nothing for me. It did have a few good points, but the next time I get a craving for this era in Scottish history, I’ll just pop Braveheart into the VCR.