There must be something romantic about hopeless endeavors – how else can you explain the popularity of movies like Titanic, where you know going in that the boat’s going to sink? Or the multitude of books set during the Scottish rebellion of 1745-6, where you know before you crack the book open that the English are going to prevail on the battlefield at Culloden? Perhaps it’s the chance to see people perform honorably under difficult conditions, to embody the definition of courage as “grace under pressure.” The characters in this book are all very courageous, by this or any other standard. And the love story’s pretty riveting, to boot.
Anne Farquharson Moy is caught in a real dilemma. Her Scottish patriotism demands that she join with her clansmen in supporting Charles Edward Stuart against the Hanoverian king. Yet her husband Angus, The MacKintosh and chief of Clan Chattan, serves in the British army. To add to the difficulty of her decision, the war chief of the clan is John MacGillivray, the man she would have married if she hadn’t already been betrothed to Angus. There’s still a powerful attraction there, on both sides, but Anne’s married now, and she loves her husband – but does he love her?
For his part, Angus Moy is playing a very deep game. As The MacKintosh, he owes it to his people to see to their well-being; he can sense the chaos and dissension in the Jacobite faction, and logic tells him that from a practical standpoint the Scots don’t stand a chance in the long run. Angus is hardly pleased when he learns of his wife’s actions, but he can’t stop her, since he’s so often gone from her side. He loves Anne deeply, yet has never told her so; moreover, John MacGillivray’s constant presence at her side is not comforting to her husband. In the midst of all the political machinations and battles, Angus and Anne must find a way to come together, or learn to live apart – if they survive this war.
The choices facing Anne and Angus are difficult ones, both personally and politically, and Ms. Canham does a terrific job of showing how they come to their decisions. They are radically different from each other at the beginning of the story, and insecure in their marriage. Anne, an arrested tomboy who runs around in trousers, is convinced that this refined scholar and gentleman married her only for political reasons and that, while they may have an invigorating sexual relationship, he doesn’t truly care for her, or the cause she so fervently believes in. She’ll never be the lady he deserves. Angus has been in love with Anne from the first time he saw her, and what she disparages in herself is exactly what he admires the most; he craves emotional intimacy with her but doesn’t know how to tell her that. He wants to tell her why he’s doing what he’s doing, but he has to learn to trust her. He thinks he’ll never be the kind of brave, upfront kind of man she could love, someone like John MacGillivray.
That’s what threw me off: the way the shadow of MacGillivray kept coming between them. Yet I admit it kept me on my toes as a reader. Knowing that these people were historical figures held out the possibility that they might break the romance mold and – gasp! – actually fall into infidelity sharpened my interest when things got just a bit mired in matters political. If there’s one flaw in this book, it’s that politics plays the tiniest bit too big a role in the story. Given the setting, however, I realize that’s inevitable. Everything else was wonderful: solid writing, well-drawn characters, and clearly defined conflicts on all levels.
Midnight Honor will appeal to readers in search of a story filled with action, history, and sympathetic characters caught up in a situation that serves as much more than mere window dressing or backdrop. Although the shadow of Culloden looms ever closer on the horizon, you’ll find yourself swept up in the intrigue of the moment, and pulling for Angus and Anne to ride this storm out and find each other at the end of it, hoping that their love isn’t just another Lost Cause.