When it comes to stereotypical romance heroes, brawny Scotsmen are right up there with Regency rakes and billionaire bachelor tycoons. Many a romance heroine has lost her heart to a man in a kilt. Lady Catriona Mackintosh, heroine of Amanda Scott’s latest Scottish romance, is about to lose hers to Finlagh Cameron, known to his fellow warriors as Fin of the Battles.
After a vicious and bloody clan battle, Fin narrowly escapes with his life. Before he escapes, however, he makes a promise to his dying father: Vengeance against the chieftain of Clan Mackintosh. All of the warriors on the battlefield swore an oath before the battle began that they would not harm any warrior on the opposing side. Fin is a man of honor, and he doesn’t break a promise, but he can’t reconcile that he swore to do two things that contradict each other. This internal conflict drives Fin’s actions through the novel.
Following his escape, Fin embarks on a quest to meet with the powerful chief of Clan Chattan on behalf of the heir to the Scottish throne. He almost reaches his goal, only to be felled by an unknown assailant. Catriona Mackintosh finds Fin unconscious, and she rushes to his aid. The first exchange between Fin and Cat is a sign of things to come—rapid-fire dialogue between a headstrong woman with a tart tongue and a born warrior who needs to show everyone exactly how strong he is, even when he’s not.
Fin is conveyed to the Mackintosh home to recuperate, and he quickly realizes that Catriona’s father is the man he swore an oath to kill. To further confuse matters, Cat’s grandfather is the chief of Clan Chattan—the very man Fin was sent to meet. This should make things easy for Fin, right? He can organize the meeting he was sent to organize, take his vengeance on the Mackintosh, and return to his everyday life. But Catriona has made her way under his skin, maddening woman that she is, and Fin doubts that murdering her father is going to help him court her.
Cat is your standard plucky romance heroine, self-sufficient and independent, despite the fact that she lives in an era where women of noble birth were married off in order to cement alliances. She’s managed to avoid that fate, possibly because she is so willing to speak her mind and own her opinions. Fin isn’t as gloomy as he could be, which is a good thing—I could hardly imagine a woman with Cat’s spirit falling in love with a doom-and-gloom warrior. The exchanges between Cat and Fin are often entertaining, since both characters are not accustomed to keeping their opinions to themselves. There’s plenty of action and adventure at the end of the book, plus an encounter with a nasty villain who is furious that he isn’t Catriona’s new husband.
This is no wallpaper Scottish romance. Fin is not just a man who wears tartan and says “bairn” and “ken.” Amanda Scott has an excellent command of the history of medieval Scotland—she knows her clan battles and border wars, and she’s not afraid to use detail to add realism to her story. That said, if you don’t have a grip on the ins and outs of Scottish history, you may have some trouble with the book. It did take me a while to figure out all of the intricate political machinations that were going on. The author’s note, which appears at the end of the book, is a good (and spoiler-free) primer to the true story behind the novel, and it may help straighten out confused readers.