The Devil of Clan Sinclair
The Devil of Clan Sinclair is poorly named. The hero is, in fact, a very nice guy. Maybe a little too nice. He’s quick to forgive the dishonest and easily manipulated heroine – something I’m not sure I could have done in his place.
Virginia Anderson is an American heiress with an ambitious father – nothing less than a titled husband will do. Virginia realizes how serious her father is when he refuses to let her marry Macrath Sincliar, the wealthy Scot who has caught her eye. Sinclair is a self-made man who took over the modest family broadside business in Edinburgh, but has made his own fortune with ice and refrigeration machines. Macrath and Virginia connect immediately, but since her father won’t hear of the match Virginia ends up marrying an earl who is in poor health. Unfortunately, he’s not a very nice man. He squanders much of Virginia’s fortune and makes sure she can’t get at the rest.
When he dies suddenly, Virginia finds that the estate is entailed away. Since her father has already passed away, she’ll be penniless and on her own. Her mother and sisters in law (whom she likes much more than she ever liked her husband) will be similarly destitute. But her mother in law has an idea: What if she quickly gets herself pregnant and then passes off her (fingers crossed!) son as her husband’s heir? Virginia is desperate enough to try it, and the only unwitting sperm donor candidate she can think of is Macrath.
Virginia toddles on up to Scotland – Drumvagen, to be exact, which is Macrath’s estate. She’s frightened, but just desperate enough to seduce Macrath. Which is exactly what she does, in short order. The two make love repeatedly, and share a romantic interlude inside a grotto reachable from a secret passageway. But when Macrath urges Virginia to stay with him, she refuses – without explanation.
And there, right there, is where she lost me. I was willing to tolerate her wishy-washy caving in to her dad and marrying the earl in the first place, or at least I could tolerate it up to a point. I could even understand her desperation to save her in-laws and initial decision to seduce and hoodwink Macrath. It’s not the most common romance trope out there, but we’ve all seen it before in one form or another, and in the right hands it can work. What I could not tolerate was that Virginia goes through with the whole thing and never comes clean until she has to. And when, you may well ask, does she have to? Over a year later, when Macrath attempts to visit her and stumbles upon a child who is very obviously his son. Up until then she sees no point in informing Macrath of his child’s existence, and has every intention of passing him off as her late husband’s heir.
I had issues with this on several levels. The most obvious is that it is a dishonest and slimy thing to do. No matter how you slice it, Macrath deserved to know about his child. The only thing that could have excused this level of dishonesty in my mind is if Macrath were himself a dishonorable and untrustworthy man. Say, for example, Virginia had gone up to Drumvegan and discovered that unfortunately Macrath was an asshole now, and he raped her.
But here’s the other layer. Macrath is not only a nice guy, he’s a rich guy. And that renders the whole premise illogical. The book would have been over after the first third if they just would have had this conversation:
Macrath: “Why, exactly, can’t you marry me and stay in Drumvagen forever?” Virginia: “Because my ex-husband left me penniless, and I am trying to save my in-laws, who were a whole lot nicer than my jerk ex. So I decided to seduce you and pass off your son as my ex’s heir, even though I am in love with you. Macrath: “Conveniently, I am independently wealthy and can take care of everyone.” Virginia: “Great! I guess the book’s over then.”
Sadly, this conversation only took place in my fantasies. There is also some other icky stuff I haven’t even touched on involving Virginia’s servant Paul. You can tell right away that he’s a creeper, and later on you discover that he’s even creepier than he originally let on. But that plot line is poorly explained.
However, lest you think this book was all bad, it really wasn’t. Sure, Virginia pretty much tanked it for me, but I did find Macrath interesting. There are a lot of details about his inventions and about the history of refrigeration and ice making. While Virginia is busy secretly giving birth, Macrath is in Australia preparing for a race to England – the company that makes it there first with a cargo of frozen Austrailian beef will be awarded a shipping contract. It’s an interesting little historical sidebar.
But an interesting historical sidebar does not a good book make. The best I can say is that in another book, with an honest heroine who had some backbone, Macrath might have been a good hero. Since he’s in this book instead, I’d recommend giving it a pass.