Jill Barnett almost deserves an A for effort in Carried Away. Unfortunately, the execution of this unique melding of two complete love stories and varying points of view doesn’t quite merit a five. Too bad, because this author is one of the best in the genre, writing books that are all at once funny, sexy, and touching.
That’s not to say Carried Away isn’t funny, sexy, and touching – it is. But there isn’t enough of it to give each of the two love stories the treatment they deserved. And, sometimes all that varying point of view stuff made reading a bit choppy and difficult.
Carried Away is the story of two brothers of Scottish descent who live on a small island off the coast of Maine. The eldest, Calum, is a very sexy Felix Unger-type of man who would have been laird of his clan had there been a clan left to be laird of in Scotland. He has no time for love in his tidy, ordered, buttoned-down life, devoted to helping Scots immigrants. His brother, Eachann, is a very sexy Oscar Madison-type of man, a widow with two small children who have been kicked out of boarding school. Eachann, who doesn’t know how to be a father and allows his “house-broken” horses reign of the house, decides he can solve all their problems the old-fashioned way – he kidnaps two women and brings them home to be wives.
One woman is Amelia Emerson, who has oodles of money but no parents. She learns a hard lesson in love when she discovers her blue-blooded fiancé making fun of her nouveaux riche-ness. The other heroine is Georgina Bayard, the surviving member of an old-money family which, unfortunately, is now a no-money family due to her dissolute dead brother. While Amy is a sweet young thing with stars in her eyes and no sense of the real world, Georgina is cynical and embittered after a life without love – she is determined to marry for money, and it is as she prepares to get herself engaged that Eachann comes along.
Well, you can imagine what hits the fan when Calum finds out what Eachann has done and as Georgina and Amy realize why they have been carried away. There is plenty of excitement and shenanigans for this foursome, and Eachann’s children (one of whom, Kirsty, provides, with Georgina, the POV for the Eachann/Georgina pairing).
The POV provided for the Calum/Amy pairing is more difficult to discern, but the focus is on Calum. The author lets us in each of their minds, hearts, and souls, but only briefly, and this is very problematic. While the other pair is the more flashy and dramatic of the two, I really wanted to know more about Calum – why had he never been in love, what made him so tender and caring, and at the same time, such a loner? As for Amy, it is good that she turned out not to be as big a ninny as I thought through most of the book, but Calum is what makes her at all readable because he gives her the chance to do something.
The author’s focus on Kirsty was interesting, especially since Eachann himself was rather a pig/hunk. (While I’m sure the term MacOaf was not historically correct, I found Georgina’s appellation for Eachann amusing.) Watching him grow into a better father as the non-maternal Georgina guides him was quite interesting. As for Georgina, she was probably the most-fleshed out character in the book, and certainly was quite the hellion, scheming her way off the island and then trying to make the best of a fairly sour batch of lemons.
Each of the characters in Carried Away had little quirks that were wonderfully interesting. Calum’s neatness was hilarious at times; watching the characters react to Eachann’s horse wandering around the house was also quite funny. Georgina’s incredible determination was an interesting juxtaposition with Eachann’s.
As alluded to above, my problem with this book is that Calum did not receive the attention he deserved. He is just the sort of “different” hero that appeals to me these days. I cherished his chapters, and about his growing feelings for Amy – there just weren’t enough of them. And while I think the idea of a dual romance in one book is an interesting venture, the book is too short to carry this off. The author should have either written two books, lengthened this book, or reduced one couple to a truly secondary role.
Finally, there is occasionally a continuity problem in Carried Away. While the author did a fairly good job at choosing when to switch POV, sometimes she would switch to the other couple in the middle of something good or I would get confused about whose inner voice was speaking just then.
Even with these flaws, the author’s talent shines through – there are some very funny scenes, some very sexy scenes, and even a couple of scenes that caused a few tears. With an author this good it is easy to get greedy and want more and more and more, just because it is too good to let it end. In this case, however, I wanted more because there truly wasn’t enough to fully satisfy. The overall rating for this book, then, is difficult. Jill Barnett is truly a maverick stretching the boundaries of traditions in the romance genre. I cannot imagine another author even trying to write such an ambitious book, and I cannot think of too many who could have succeeded beyond the level she achieves. With an A for effort and a C+ for execution, this rounds out to roughly a B- (this is how we do it sometimes). You’ll let me know otherwise, I’m sure.