Taming the Barbarian
It took the longest time for me to figure out what was going on with this book. The cover sports a shirtless, chain-mailed knight – ouch! – and the back cover blurb reads like a medieval. Inside, there are no dates given, but from the clothing, talk of Almack’s and finally a mention on page 59 of the Prince Regent, it is confirmed that the setting is the Regency. But then, why are our heroine and a flock of friends on holiday in Paris? A Paris which seems unaffected by the ravages of war?
Regardless, Fleurette, the widowed Lady Glendowne, is there and comes upon a statue of The Black Celt in a public garden. She is inexplicably drawn to it and to its story. The statue is reputed to be a knight who was turned to stone by his evil overlord’s curse when the knight’s mistake resulted in his liege’s death.
Back in London, Fleur has been having nightmares which are assuaged when the Black Celt’s statue is suddenly, and anonymously, delivered to her home. She puts him in the garden and visits him regularly, finding a sense of calm and protection in its shadow. She needs protection, for it seems that someone is out to do her harm. As she is accosted after a ball, she is saved by a big, giant, slightly confused Scotsman dressed very oddly (not in chain-mail, thankfully).
Sir Killian of Hiltsglen is very confused. He thought he was in Paris, but now he’s in a strange England. He doesn’t know why or where he is, but he does know that it involves Fleur, for he recognizes her title as being the same as his overlord. He eventually works out that he is there to protect her, but what he mostly does is annoy her (and me). He pops up in the oddest places and says things like, “Trouble is me affair, and I dunna fear the outcome.” and ” [I] vow to keep your borders safe from brigands.” She can clearly see that he doesn’t belong there and she regularly asks him, “Who are you?” to which he always replies, if he replies at all, “I am just a man … I am what you see..” which just annoys her (and me) more.
Killian spoke and acted like a medieval Scot – i.e. lots of dialect and an overbearing manner – but Fleur talked and acted more like a present-day woman than a Regency widow. She swears a blue streak, she operates her own carriage making business, she rides horses astride, she has no companion – there was nothing remotely Regency-feeling about her.
It took a good 150 pages for me to get settled into the time and place and characters – too long. Things did pick up in the second half where Fleur’s marriage and husband’s death are explored in more detail, and Killian helps her to come to grips with it all, but it wasn’t enough to make up for all the confusion and frustrations preceding it.