Forever, My Lady
The story of Forever, My Lady opens with a border raid in Scotland’s East March and the murder of the warden while his wife is giving birth upstairs. Jump ahead a few years: a new warden, Sir Bryan Hepburn, has come to the East March to look into the mysterious disappearance of yet another warden, Leod Hume. Things do not go well. Bryan is attacked and robbed of everything except his cowardly dog. He arrives at the fort only to find it in disrepair and the men working it lazy and unkempt. He quickly learns most people distrust him because he is not from the March, and he has to hire a bodyguard because most wardens end up having a short life expectancy.
With the help of one of his deputies he is able to retrieve most of his belongings, except his horse, which had been sold to Megan, the notorious Widow Dixon. As soon as they meet, Bryan and Megan Dixon are attracted to one another, but Megan, who has already lost one warden husband (the man murdered at the beginning of the tale), is not too keen on getting involved with another one. The fact that Bryan suspects her of murdering the missing warden Hume doesn’t exactly endear him to Megan, either. Yet she takes it upon herself to teach him about the East March and its customs. If Bryan can keep from being killed by raiding English, other clans, bring order to the march and find out what became of Hume, he and Megan can have happily ever after.
Bryan is a typical romance hero. He is honorable, kind, good with children and small animals, and of course has had the obligatory betrayal by another woman in the past to make him wary of the heroine and her motives. For the most part I liked Bryan. He keeps to his own moral code and makes others see his way of thinking instead of giving in. He just was never very exciting or interesting.
Megan, on the other hand, was a more problematic character. She was annoying because she kept getting herself into trouble. She knows Bryan suspects her of murdering Hume, so of course she lies to Bryan about why she disliked Hume. And when a body is found she must rush off to search the area for clues to the murder, only to be caught by Bryan who thinks she’s trying to hide evidence . After Bryan has told her about his past experiences with a duplicitous woman, Megan sleeps with him. Then she asks him if he still thinks her guilty, making him think she offered her body so he’d find her innocent of murder. Every time Bryan asks her to stay home and out of danger, she thinks he’s belittling her as a woman and subsequently follows him, only to get beaten, shot, or knocked unconscious. She did not come across as strong, intelligent woman; instead, I felt Bryan should lock her up just to save her from herself.
Both villains in the book are repeatedly raping or trying to rape women. Even though we’re told neither man is the mastermind of all the evil in the story, we’re never really told who is. There is an interesting subplot with Bryan’s cousin Francis where it is implied he’s a warlock able to bewitch women, but it is never really explored. Other story details are dropped, such as the state of the marriages of both of Bryan’s remaining deputies and why Bryan’s sister tries to undermine him at ever turn. There was some anachronistic language that bothered me, too.
I was not overly impressed with Forever, My Lady. It was a quick and easy read, but it was inconsistent and featured an irritating heroine. It was not something that will stick with me beyond the last page.