Ever feel like you have entered a conversation half way through and missed some crucial details? Even though this is the first book in a new trilogy, that’s how I felt while reading it. The author’s writing style is such that many characters’ motivations were not revealed until very close to the end of the story, making it difficult to make that connection so necessary in a romance novel. It might have helped had I read either Flame or Heart of Gold, other books by this husband and wife writing team that are peripherally connected to The Dreamer, but based on my experience with this one, I’m not making a mad dash to the bookstore.
Catherine Percy and her sisters (heroines of the next two books) have narrowly escaped capture by the English. Their father has been declared a traitor to the crown and executed, and the sisters have gone their separate ways in order to avoid capture. Their family is rumored to hold a great treasure, which brings bounty hunters out of the woodwork to capture the sisters. Catherine, a “spunky” and intellectual heroine, heads for Balvenie Castle in Scotland, where she wishes to start a school. She travels with a woman who is to be the Earl of Athol’s wife, who is also Catherine’s benefactor.
John Stewart, Earl of Athol, makes a huge mistake, and crawls in bed with Catherine, instead of his fiancé, who was off having her own good time. As John knows her reputation will be ruined, her forces Catherine to marry him. But Catherine has some very modern attitudes for a 16th century girl, and advises him that she will do nothing of the sort. John does not truly wish to marry, but his mother is demanding an heir, and Catherine did inflame his lusts, silly girl. A typical forced marriage ceremony follows.
John has other problems to deal with as well. He has recently discovered he has a half brother, Adam, who is raiding John’s lands. John is determined to uncover the secret mother of his new found sibling, but his own mother refuses to discuss the matter. John spends much of his time running off to deal with Adam’s raids and the pursuit of the mysterious woman who is Adam’s mother.
Catherine is involved in her own subplot concerning her family’s treasure, and those who wish to steal that away from the Percy’s. Many obscure scenes involving evil men frustrated by dead end leads are included. There is also a mystery surrounding Catherine’s mother, Nickola Erskine, who is possibly the most well known woman of the times. The details concerning Nickola are vague and nothing is really revealed about why she is so well known, or who she is. The author promises more details in the next book.
For this reviewer, Catherine was too much to believe. When she started spouting off to a brigand who she truly knew nothing about, in a situation that any sane person would have been frightened of, she ceased to be a believable character and instead became no more than a cardboard cut-out of a character. Matters are not helped by her constant wandering around the countryside, which just as constantly angers John, which just as constantly ensures they will jump into bed. For two people who are supposed to be educated, they spend very little time in conversation.
By the time the motivations of the characters were revealed, I was too annoyed to care. Had the authors focused on one subplot and created a more believable character, this might have been a decent, if not good, read. And while fans of May McGoldrick may enjoy this book, I will pass on her next one.