Laird of the Mist
Forget judging a book by its cover; don’t judge this one by its cheesy title. Elizabeth English’s second release is an enjoyable and fast-paced romance with a strong plot and generally likable characters. Despite a few problems, it kept me turning pages right through to the very end.
Deirdre Maxwell wants to go home to Donegal, Ireland. Donegal, where there is no harsh and unforgiving terrain like that of the Borderlands. Donegal, where there is no cruel and abusive husband to hold her daughter’s life over her head, and keep her at his mercy. Donegal, which she knows she’ll never see again. Yet that doesn’t stop her from dreaming, and in one such dream, or vision (she can hardly tell which), she sees what she has longed to find: her true love. He speaks to her, they share a kiss. And then she wakes.
Alistair Kirallen is a man with a price on his head. Banished from his own clan as a traitor, he seeks refuge with an old friend, a mystic, who sends him off alone in search of a vision of his future. And a vision he has: Deirdre. With nothing to lose, he sets off to find her, offering his sword and skill along the way. But when his new master, the stupidest and cruelest of the Maxwell clan, turns out to be Brodie, the husband and captor of Alistair’s heart’s desire, he knows he’s in trouble. And it’s just beginning.
The characters are great in this story. Deirdre is the descendant of Irish kings, and it comes out in her attitude toward taking control, once she leaves Brodie’s less-than-tender mercies behind. At the same time, she is decidedly scarred by her abuse at the hands of her husband, as is portrayed in a well-written love scene in which she can scarcely bear Alistair’s touch at first, and then, feeling unable to respond, tries to fake her pleasure so that he won’t worry or have to sacrifice his. Her daughter Maeve is a charmer as well, although also marked by Brodie’s abuses. It’s Deirdre’s love for Maeve, and her determination that her daughter will not face the same fate as her mother that really drives Deirdre’s actions. It’s this love that truly defines her as a character.
Alistair is a flawed hero, and a good one. He’s made mistakes, and might make them again, but he also learns from his errors. His motivations are actually hidden for a short period in the thick of the plot (when they are actually called into question by the reader, as well as by the other characters). I wasn’t wholly comfortable with that, yet I think that by the end, it worked well. Alistair is patient and understanding with both Maeve – who idolizes him – and with Deirdre, and his actions toward both of them will endear him to the reader even during the instances in which his motivations are in question.
The secondary characters can present a problem in this book. The author does a lot of setup for later books, and some characters are around only so that they will be in place when it comes time for them to get their own stories – in other words, they serve no purpose at all in this book. At times they actually get in the way, because the cast, especially toward the end, is rather large and unwieldy. Also, the large size of the cast makes it a little difficult to keep track of who’s on which side, which is rather important to know in the later half of the book.
The novel also refers to myth or fairy tale rather extensively without actually telling the story to which it’s referring. Since the book has at times a mythical feel to it – such as when the hero and heroine have visions of each other, or when the title of the book is rather poorly explained – this makes the reader feels as if they’re missing a portion of the experience intended.
Overall, however, Laird of the Mist works quite well, with it’s twisting plot and strong characters. I look forward to the other stories this author has to tell about these characters, and I recommend this one to you. Ms. English debuted to a B- grade last month with Border Bride. With her second book receiving a grade of B, I think this is an author to watch in the future.