McClairen's Isle: The Passionate One
Connie Brockway books are like snowflakes. No two are ever the same. Her latest is another original love story, with intriguing characters and a compelling plot, yet shrouded in dark uneasiness. Many of the characters are capable of both great good and astounding evil, and prove it throughout the course of the book. However, The Passionate One is not Brockway’s best, and readers who loved the last three or four of her releases will likely be disappointed to some extent, in her latest release.
Ash Merrick is The Passionate One. The oldest son, he is the least like his mother and therefore the closest thing his father, Carr, has to a favorite child. He is his father’s greatest weapon against the society that exiled him to the Highlands of Scotland. Ash is sent to Fair Badden to collect his father’s previously ignored ward, Rhiannon Russell. Ash assumes his father wishes to make the young woman wife number four, the other three having died under mysterious circumstances. He is unprepared for his own reaction to the mahogany-haired beauty. When he discovers that she is to be married, he does not try to interfere. Better she marry than end up at his father’s mercy.
Rhiannon has tried to forget the horrible murder of her family and clan. She has grown into a lovely woman, and even though she is a favorite among the villagers, she realizes how fortunate she is to be marrying Phillip Watt. She is honored to have such a large, handsome fiance, so why is she so drawn to the compelling Ash Merrick? He is darkness against Phillip’s light, and yet she senses something within him – something that needs and wants her as much as she wants him.
Like a moth, Ash is drawn to Rhiannon’s flame. Tossing his better judgement to the wind, he makes love to her. When he believes her life to be in danger, he kidnaps her and takes her to his father’s estate – Wanton’s Blush. Better to deliver her into the hands of the enemy he knows than the one he doesn’t.
I actually felt guilty for liking this book. Ash hardly seems like hero material. His behavior toward Rhiannon borders on the violent, and his family is so depraved that I wondered how he turned out as good as he did. However, he is an incredible character. Brockway has made him wonderfully human. Sometimes he is a jerk, but he always seems to realize his errors. He even apologizes for behaving badly. It isn’t much wonder that the innocent Rhiannon proves impossible for him to resist. He deserves a little goodness in his life.
Rhiannon enters the book as a naive innocent and ends up a much more confident, worldly woman. Despite her anger at Ash, she sees beyond his jaded exterior and falls in love with the motherless boy she sees beneath. It is for him that she will risk everything – even her life.
Some problems I had with the book was a villain that came out of the blue and there were a couple of dangling threads. Although the villain was suitably explained, he didn’t figure enough in the story to truly make sense. I would have preferred to react to his unveiling with an “Oh!” rather than a “Huh?”. Also, we’re never really told Phillip’s secret. I wonder if it might not be revealed in a later book. I also got the impression that the murder of Rhiannon’s family was somehow tied in with one of Ash’s past deeds, but it was never followed up on and left me wondering if I had imagined things or had perhaps missed something.
One the plus side, The Passionate One lives up to it’s title. Sometimes funny, mostly dark, the story is passionate as it is intriguing. While it may not suit those readers who prefer amusing, less gritty romances, it will appeal to those who love realistic, sometimes damaged characters who triumph despite the obstacles. It’s not as sexually explicit as some of Brockway’s books but the sexual tension between Ash and Rhiannon hangs over the story like a storm cloud. While this won’t end up on my keeper shelf like some of Brockway’s others, there is enough good in this one to make me anticipate the remainder of the trilogy the author plans.