Amongst the MacCurrie clan, there is a legend that three chiefs in a row will die on their birthday. The third chief will have twin sons conceived when lightening splits an oak tree in half and both halves live. The sons will grow up to lead the clan to war and then to fifty years of peace.
The legend seems to have come to pass, as twins James and Neil MacCurrie stand over the grave of their father, the Earl of Torridon and chief of Clan MacCurrie, who died on his birthday like his father and grandfather before him. Neil is now clan leader and must settle into his new role. Unfortunately, his presence is also required at Dunfallandy Castle to discuss whether or not the highland chiefs will support King James II (James VII of Scotland) or the usurper, William of Orange. Neil and James decide that, since no one can tell the two twins apart, James will go to Dunfallandy in Neil’s place.
Meanwhile, Ellen Graham has overheard a plot to kill her cousin John, the Viscount of Dundee, and races to Dunfallandy Castle to warn him. On her way, she and her companions are attacked. They are saved by James and his cousin, Duncan, who agree to escort them the rest of the way to Dunfallandy. James and Ellen start to spend a lot of time together and realize it is not safe for her to return home to Netherby because she can identify who is trying to kill Dundee, so James invites her to Torridon. The two realize they are falling in love, but these are dangerous times as the clans prepare for war to help King James regain his throne. Ellen starts to wonder if it’s really love or just misplaced gratitude and heightened emotion because of the impending battle.
That’s pretty much it. James and Ellen fall in love while everyone prepares for war. They run back and forth across Scotland, and their families make some half-hearted attempts at preventing a marriage. It’s not very exciting, even with a few fights and the political intrigue. To build tension Givens dances around the issue, and it takes over half the book for James and Ellen to declare their feelings to each other. It got old very quickly because the reader and everyone around them seemed to know they were in love right away. I got frustrated and very bored with all the conversations where absolutely nothing got said.
James was a nice enough hero, but offered nothing new to the standard set by previous Scottish heroes. Ellen was a bit more troublesome in that she’d didn’t listen to anyone for practically the entire book. Then when the reader wants her to be independent, she decides to listen to her mother’s bad advice, causing what seemed like a manufactured excuse to keep James and Ellen apart a bit longer.
The Legend takes place some 30 years prior to Givens’ previous books about Kilgannon, and there is a blink-and-you-miss-it mention of the hero to those stories, but since this book precedes those others, it’s not necessary to have read them before this one. That said, there’s not much to recommend your reading it. Oh, The Legend isn’t a bad book – but it’s not a good one either. Although the narrative had its moments, the flaws in the characterizations and the manufactured impediments to James and Ellen’s happiness were definite impediments to my enjoyment of the book.