The Thorn and the Thistle
The Thorn and the Thistle is wonderful entertainment. If you like romances that are well-written, exciting, and set in the Highlands, I’d like to recommend this book to you. It may not be filled with hidden levels and deep meaning, but it’s a heck of a good story and I’m about to glom Julie Moffett.
Megan MacLeod is the daughter of the laird of her clan, known to the English as the infamous Black Wolf, whose castle was taken away after he refused to swear allegiance to the English monarch. When her father is killed in a raid by the same butcher who killed her brother, Megan assumes her father’s responsibilities, albeit in secrecy, to hold her clan, and neighboring clans together, in alliance against the English.
King George II wants to secure the peace and sends Rolf St. James to do it, and to bring him the head of The Wolf. A dedicated soldier, with one hand deformed in battle at Culloden, and rumored to have murdered his first wife, Rolf captures Megan and is convinced he has captured the mistress of the man he seeks. He plans to reel in the powerful Black Wolf with what he sees as some great bait.
There is a powerful connection between these two strong leaders. While Megan sees Rolf as the enemy, Rolf sees in Megan a woman to admire. Though dead set against it, Megan begins to see that Rolf is not the same as the vicious Englishman who has been killing her clansmen for years.
Of course, for each step forward, there is a step, or nearly so, backward. First Rolf discovers Megan is not the mistress of The Wolf, but is instead his daughter. Then there is the interference of Megan’s cousin, who is a bit of a hot-head, and is in love with his Meggie. And let’s not forget the butchering Englishman.
This is not a novel plot line, but Julie Moffett makes it fresh by bringing Megan as captive into the castle where she grew up. Her scenes of remembrance are lovely and quite bittersweet. The identity of The Wolf, which Megan must keep secret until the peace can be reached, is a strong double-whammy. You see, Megan plans on securing the peace, then revealing herself as The Wolf, which will, if things go according to her plan, result in the loss of her head.
Of course, things don’t go according to her plan, but she must deal with the results of her deceit anyway, and since her motives were so honorable, I was willing to keep her secret. I keenly anticipated the unveiling of The Wolf.
The author’s use of brogue, which can be tiresome, did not seem so in this story – I could hear Megan speak in my head as though I were watching a movie. In fact, I think this book would make a good movie. There’s lots of excitement, Rolf and Megan are great characters, and great looking as well, and Rolf’s injured hand did add a level of nuance, which was another nice touch added by the author. One area where the author went overboard was in her creation of the villain – the brutish nastiness was too stereotypical for an author this talented.
I won’t spoil it by giving away Rolf’s reaction when Megan’s true identity is revealed, except to say it is not typical, another point to the author’s credit. Where this story did fall short was in the arena of love scenes and sexual tension. In this reviewer’s opinion, the author teased too much and provided too little in terms of a pay-off. With so much at stake in such dark times and with such intense feelings involved, I wanted to be more a part of their love-making.
Julie Moffett is an author who jumps between time-travel and historical sub-genres and I can’t wait to read her next offering. If her next book proves even better than this one, we’re looking at DIK territory.