Betrayed was both a hard book for me to read and a hard one for me to grade. With leads who tend toward feistiness and a mind-numbing overusage of Scots dialect, I found it difficult to read at times. And, since I loved the time period and found the history here fascinating, I have to admit that it hurt just a bit to have to give this one the grade I did. Still, when an engaging backdrop frames a lackluster story, the results are bound to be less than average -and they certainly are here.
Amber (gotta love the Medieval lite h/h names in this one!) is a curl-tossing, feisty young maiden who lives with an evil uncle prone to using more bad Scots dialect than your average evil uncle. Upon wading through all those “ye”s and “yer”s and “willna”s, one can discern that Uncle Dearest has it in for the neighboring Johnstones. However, Amber has engaged in a flirtation of sorts with their young Stivin and when Stiven goes raiding with the family one night, Amber’s world goes awry.
Amber ends up being captured by Krayne, the Johnstone laird. Though Krayne knows of Stivin’s infatuation with Amber, he can’t help being attracted to her himself. Or, at least his manly bits are attracted. We get to hear a lot about Krayne’s crotch and its reactions to Amber at various times and from the descriptions, it seems apparent that Krayne-above-the-waist and Krayne-below-the-waist have different ways of thinking. When it comes to Amber, Krayne-below-the-waist pretty much takes over. This is about as fun for the reader as you’d think. In addition to frequently swelling members, we get even more Scots dialect. At this point, I was thinking that a love scene in which someone cries out their passion in full-on Scots dialect would have been a real hoot, but, sadly, it was not to be.
About that Scots dialect, I can take a touch it of in a story. However, it’s used so heavily in this story that I couldn’t help imaging the audio version of Betrayed being read by Scotty from Star Trek. Not that the phrase, “Cap’n, I’m givin’ it all she’s got!” would be entirely out of place in a love scene, but still…
In addition to the dialect, we get some pretty rough characterization. On the one hand, the author does a good job of showing people who lead a fairly spartan life in a rigid society where their choices are somewhat limited. However, we then get to see them react to their choices by behaving like spoiled brats. Amber tosses her curls, manipulates Krayne and his men, and engages in some pretty low, deceitful behavior. Some of it I could excuse by remembering she was only about 17 and trying to survive in a world that didn’t treat women well. However, that only goes so far.
Krayne wasn’t much better. In his time and place, being a super-alpha certainly helped stack the deck in his favor when it came to survival and he seemed a believable leader in some ways. However, his behavior with Amber made no sense. First he’s suspicious of her (often with reason), then he’s lusting for her, then he distrusts her, and then he wants her again. I liked him more than Amber, but he still had his issues.
It’s not all bad news, though. The history in this story certainly held my attention. In many historicals, you only know the setting because Chapter One opens with, “England, 1804” or “London, 1816”, and so on. This book contains no such opening, but enough history is worked into the text that I could figure out when the action of the story was occurring. The author also works in some interesting bits about Border feuding and King James I working to establish his rule in Scotland.
In addition, while I was often annoyed with the bickering of the lead characters and the ever-present Scots dialect, I did enjoy parts of this story. Whenever the hero and heroine let down their guard enough to actually communicate with one another, the reader is able to sense an actual connection building between these two. At the best points of this book, one gets to see the characters start to consider how right some of their perceptions about things really are. However, there were entirely too few of these promising scenes, making this book a less than average read for me.