Beloved Stranger is a wonderful cabin romance featuring a hero and heroine who are both thoroughly decent, upstanding people. I’m not the biggest fan of Scots romances (with the exception of the Outlander series), but I love books where the characters are good people trying to do the right thing.
Lachlan Maclean is not a warrior by nature. He’s a thoughtful man, more prone to introspection than violence. Lachlan is no pacifict – he can fight and as a man of honor he takes part in the battle of Flodden Field and falls badly wounded by the side of King James IV of Scotland
The Charleton family live on the border of England and Scotland. They are reivers who live by raiding on both sides. After the battle of Flodden, the head of the clan gives the order to go out and scavenge the dead bodies for armor, weapons, jewels or anything else that might be of value. Kimbra Charleton has no stomach for stripping valuables from dead men, but as a widow, she needs the money for herself and her daughter. On the battlefield she finds a man alive and dressed as a noble. Kimbra thinks she might be able to ransom him, so she covers him up and then in the evening she brings him to her cottage.
Kimbra is an herbalist, who despite her skills was unable to cure her husband when a wound he got festered, so she isn’t about to lose this man. She uses all her skills and the man recovers, but has no memory of who he is.
Of course the man is Lachlan. He only has flashes of past memories and is dependent on Kimbra for his life. They grow closer and Kimbra is struck by his gentleness and noble bearing. He teaches her to read, he plays with her little daughter Audra, and he and Kimbra work out an identity for him. The English king has decreed that all Scots who survived the battle are to be killed, so Lachlan is to be Robert Howard, who has been in Europe for years.
Meanwhile, Lachlan’s family is looking for him, and the head of the Charleton clan wonders who he is and where his loyalties lie. Kimbra and Lachlan are falling in love, but they face suspicion from her family and he still doesn’t know who he is.
Kimbra is a warm and giving woman. She grew up a bastard and she and her mother were in danger from her father who never wanted her to be born. Kimbra was grateful to her husband who married her despite her disreputable past, and they had a loving relationship. She is unsure of her place in the clan as the leader is pressing her to marry and the main candidate is a man she finds odious.
Lachlan has a secret in his past which makes him wary of violence. He would prefer to be a scholar, but as he lives in a violent time, he must use his skills as a warrior. He and Kimbra make a most sympathetic couple since both of them are decent and good as can be. It was a pleasure to read a book without silly immature characters. The scenes in Kimbra’s house where she and Lachlan fall in love are tender as can be and very moving to read.
If I had to compare Beloved Stranger to any other book it would be to one of Mary Jo Putney’s early books. Patricia Potter is able to mix character with just enough action to make a fast moving tale, but one that invites the reader to slow down at times to savor the good characters and excellent writing.