Flowers Under Ice
Watching Dominic Wyndom, ex-spy and younger brother to an Earl, cling perilously to a church steeple makes the perfect opening for Flowers Under Ice. Few rakes, disillusioned or not, are as willing to court death. Soon Dominic learns that his estranged wife Harriet is dead. Her companion, Catriona Sinclair, wants him to travel to Scotland and claim his wife’s baby. Though he knows that the baby is not his, Dominic finds himself fascinated by the seeming spinsterish Catriona. He agrees to go on the condition that she travel with him, as though she were his mistress. Promising to seduce her before the trip is over, Dominic tells Catriona that he will seduce her and “break her heart.” “This is a game that women lose,” he tells her coldly, and we know just what he means.
What is good about this book is superb. Few “I will seduce you, my dear,” type plots work so effectively. In many such books the heroine responds to the threat with something like “When Hell freezes over sirah!” and when the love scene comes we can’t figure out why these two enemies are kissing. This is not the case in Flowers Under Ice. Once he has made his statement Dominic’s behavior is charming and intriguing. Jean Ross Ewing milks the smallest interactions for each bit of sensuality. In a carriage scene early in the story, Dominic takes down Catriona’s hair as she sleeps. That simple act and the confrontation afterwards contains as much sexual tension as some writers get out of a lengthy bout of lovemaking.
Jaded from a painful marriage and a loveless affair, Dominic thinks that only Catriona’s heart is at risk. He taunts her, saying that on each day of the journey they will explore one of the seven deadly sins. But Dominic is more vulnerable than he realizes and part of the fun of this book is watching Catriona turn the tables on him as he becomes more and more committed and besotted with her.
Catriona starts out the journey appearing to be a dowdy woman, desperate to get Dominic to help an abandoned child. Certainly that is what Dominic believes. But by the time the journey is half over the tables have turned. Catriona is a strong and independent person with a mission that makes love secondary to her life. Despite her affection for Dominic, she is by far, the least vulnerable of the two.
The problems in Flowers Under Ice reside with the external plot. There is an extremely confusing explanation of why the missing baby could save Catriona’s clan. The Highland setting and the history are well done but the plot is not believable. Nor is the resolution to the tale entirely convincing, though it is the one we wish for as it brings the hero and heroine together.
Flowers Under Ice is the sequel to Jean Ross Ewing’s Illusion. It is a much better book. Readers who like romances steeped in history and don’t mind a bit of convolution in the plot are bound to enjoy it.