Beloved Impostor

Grade : C+
Reviewed by Blythe Smith
Grade : C+
Book type : Renaissance Romance
Sensuality : Warm
Review Date : September 11, 2004
Published On : 2004

I have long considered Patricia Potter to be a buried treasure. I’ve seldom seen her books discussed at any length, but she’s been out there for years, dependably writing thoughtful, entertaining books. While none that I’ve read have been DIKs for me, nearly all have been B level reads. That said, her latest book, Beloved Impostor is something of a disappointment. The writing is as good as usual, and the characterization is thoughtful – but the conflict is less than compelling, and it’s crippled by the proverbial sagging middle.

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When Felicia Campbell finds out that her uncle has betrothed her to a noted lecher who’s old enough to be her grandfather, she is determined to avoid her fate. She switches places with her more timid friend Janet, who is betrothed to Felecia’s cousin Jamie. The escort appointed to take Janet home unknowingly escorts Felicia, who plans to make her escape and head to London, where she will apply to her cousin Jamie for help.

Felicia’s fate takes a different turn when she is captured by the Maclean clansmen. They are desperate to find a wife for their chief, Rory, so he will stay at the keep instead of returning to sea. Rory’s had two wives already, and both died under tragic circumstances. Since his father suffered a similar fate, many believe that the clan is cursed. At any rate, Rory has no desire to marry again, so his men take matter into their own hands and kidnap a woman they believe to be Janet Cameron.

Felicia submits to her fate with relative calm, since she had no desire to be home in the first place. However, she allows everyone at the keep to believe she is Janet Cameron; the Campbells and Macleans have a bitter history between them and are sworn enemies. Felicia has been taught from birth that Macleans are conscienceless monsters, so she is afraid to reveal her true identity. When Rory discovers what his men have done, he is furious. He still has no desire to marry, and he wants to send Felicia home. But circumstances prevent him from doing so, and they both get a chance to get to know each other. Felecia is surprised to discover that Macleans are not brutal, and that Rory is a kind and thoughtful chieftain (and a better leader than her uncle). She starts developing feelings for Rory, but knows this can go nowhere – especially when Rory believes her to be someone else. Rory admires Felicia’s determination and her kindness, and is very attracted to her, but even if he could overcome his feelings about marriage, he can’t see a way that a relationship could work out (especially when he discovers who she really is).

The star-crossed lovers conflict is at least as old as Romeo and Juliet, and it certainly has some enduring appeal; there’s nothing quite so appealing as forbidden fruit. In this case, I found the plot to be both a strength and a weakness. In some ways it really works because Potter approaches it in a thoughtful way. The characters may be stuck in a familiar situation, but their reactions aren’t knee-jerk; they really think about their feelings and try to sort through their problems. Their conflicting feelings are intricate, and the solution to the feud is not immediately apparent. The characters fully explore their feelings about trust and prejudice, and they do it in an interesting way. They are aided in this by important secondary characters who are equally intriguing. It’s difficult to get into particulars without wandering into spoiler territory, but Felicia’s cousin Jamie and Rory’s brother Lachlan end up on a cooperative venture of sorts. Their roles are integral to the plot, and both characters are well-drawn.

The main problem with the book also stems from the plot. During the beginning and the end, the book really moves. I particularly liked the ending, with all its fast-paced intrigue. Unfortunately, too much of the middle is devoted to Felecia and Rory pining about their love that can never be. It’s short on action, and indeed, short on interaction as well; Felecia and Rory get plenty of screen time, but most of it is solo. Had they been together more instead of just thinking about being together, the story might have worked better. They simply needed more to do. When the plot slowed down this way, the secondary characters had more of the spotlight. While that worked to a certain extent, it certainly weakened the main storyline.

As much as I liked parts of this book, the sagging middle was enough to make it a just above average read. If you’ve never read Potter, I’d encourage you to try her – but I wouldn’t start here. Try The Heart Queen or The Black Knave instead.

Blythe Smith

I've been at AAR since dinosaurs roamed the Internet. I've been a Reviewer, Reviews Editor, Managing Editor, Publisher, and Blogger. Oh, and Advertising Corodinator. Right now I'm taking a step back to concentrate on kids, new husband, and new job in law...but I'll still keep my toe in the romance waters.
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