To Tame A Wild Heart
Tracy Fobes’ latest novel, To Tame A Wild Heart, contains an interesting story, likable characters, and an intriguing plot. It’s not bad at all, yet somehow these factors never completely mesh into a truly great romance story.
Sarah is an independent young woman who nurses farm animals and lives in her own croft in the Highlands. Found as a young child wandering in the fog, she was taken in by the Murphys, who treated her more as help than family. Thanks to her curious way with animals, she has gained a reputation as being both fey and kind, and has come to be semi-accepted and even respected by her village. However, when she walks into the Murphy home to find the Duke of Argyll waiting for her, claiming to be her father, there is no reason to stay in the village, and she soon finds herself – not entirely voluntarily – cleaned up and learning to be a Lady. Even more disturbing is the Duke’s relative, Colin, an earl in his own right, who has his sights set on Inveraray Castle – and on Sarah.
Colin Murray, Earl of Cawdor, is a man of society. He enjoys the lush pleasures of gambling and available women, but it has not always been so. He was abandoned by his parents at the tender age of ten and left with a distant relative (the Duke of Argyll) to be raised. Under his friend and mentor’s tutelage, he grew to be a man of honor, despite his parents’ influences. He took great pride in Inveraray Castle and its tenants, having worked alongside them to restore the lands to their former glory. As the closest relative of the aging Duke, it was his own inheritance that he was restoring, and he loved it dearly. But the day came when the Duke ordered him to London to learn the ways of society, and Colin was easily seduced away from his quiet country existence. Now Colin has been called back, and his task, of all things, is to help refine and teach the newly-rediscovered Lady Sarah, the very person who has unknowingly robbed him of his inheritance.
Despite a generally engaging plot and likable characters, clichés undeniably harm the story. Colin is the hero who can’t feel love, and his former mistress-to-be Lady Helmsgate is the vengeful woman scorned, determined to destroy his chances with Sarah. A scene in which Colin pretends a contempt for Sarah to Lady Helmsgate, in hopes of protecting Sarah from the other woman’s wrath, only to find that Sarah has overheard the whole thing is so painful in its obviousness. While clichés of this sort can be used – carefully – without ruining the story, they weren’t handled very well here.
The paranormal element in the book was also hard to swallow. Bad enough that Sarah can talk to the animals – we never know why, or if it was something she could do when she was little (before being lost), but the appearance of a unicorn makes for many unanswered questions. How did it get there? Why does it exist at all, and if it does, why doesn’t anyone else know about it? Why can’t Sarah talk to it in the same manner that she talks to other beasts? Why does Colin accept so easily that he’s looking at a mythical beast in real life? I’ve read some excellent paranormal romances this year, but this book doesn’t quite measure up to them.
On the other hand, Sarah is a very likable and sympathetic character, and Colin is also quite enjoyable, if a little under-characterized. Also, the plot kept me guessing, in a pleasant manner, and while the ending wasn’t a shock, I also didn’t see it coming from the very start. I have heard that Ms. Fobes generally does well with paranormals, so I will hope that this is an exception, rather than the rule, as this was by far the weakest part of the story for me.
This book is passable as a paranormal, but would have benefited from better explanation and character development. If a truly good paranormal is what you’re looking for, I recommend picking up Jayel Wylie’s A Falcon’s Heart, and leaving this one on the shelf.