The Beauty of the Mist
Beauty of the Mist, I suspect, is a book that many romance readers will enjoy. Unfortunately, I cannot count myself among them, and am fully aware that by writing a negative review of this book, I should probably keep a fire extinguisher handy.
The third in a medieval Scots trilogy, Beauty of the Mist is the story of Maria, sister to King Charles, the Holy Roman Emperor, widow of the King of Hungary, and now betrothed to the King of Scotland. This King, is in name only; the King’s uncle has been in charge since the King was a boy and has no intention of giving up his ill-gotten power.
Beautiful Maria doesn’t want to be a pawn for her brother any more and, rather than be a good girl and do as she’s told, she and her aunt try to escape, only to be stuck out in the middle of the ocean after their ship is attacked.
Maria and her aunt are saved by John MacPherson, who has been sent by his “King” to collect the betrothed. When they are rescued, Maria doesn’t let on who she is because she still harbors hopes of freedom. John determines she is clearly a noble woman, but has no idea his future Queen is on-board.
These two kids are clearly meant for one another, but muddying things up for them is Lady Caroline and her husband. You see, John and Caroline were lovers for seven years. He finally dumped her and she married her decades-older husband out of spite and revenge. But she sees no reason why she cannot continue a liaison with John, who has finally seen her for what she is – a duplicitous bitch.
In order to keep Caroline and her jealous husband at bay, John asks Maria to pretend to be his mistress. In return, he will take her to her preferred destination. She agrees without realizing that the first stop on John’s route is exactly where she doesn’t want to go.
It is some 200 pages later, and the book is nearly over, before the truth about who Maria really is comes out. This was but one of the many things about this book that made it a very difficult read; while mistaken/hidden identities are a common theme in the genre, this reviewer prefers the truth to be revealed sooner rather than later. Had this been my only problem with the book, I might have found a way to enjoy it. However, I found other problems as well, including:
- The fact that John was involved with the nasty Caroline for seven years was too much for me. It doesn’t speak well of a hero to have been intimately involved with such an evil woman for such a long time
- The political machinations were overwhelming – while I have enjoyed romances where Court intrigue and the politics of the day were a strong part of the book, in this case I felt they overwhemed the romance
When I read a romance and find that I cannot appreciate one or both of the lead characters, I tend to look for something else to like. In this case, I could not appreciate John. As for the “something else,” I was unable to find that either. As a result, the book was an extremely slow and tedious read.
If you are already a May McGoldrick fan, this book might please you. I had been looking forward to reading a book by this married couple for some time. After struggling with this book, I’m off to the bookstore to trade in Angel of Skye and Heart of Gold.