When I went to my favorite bookstore today, I got into a conversation with my bookseller about True Heart. Like me, she was a tremendous fan of The Highland Rogue, the first in this series written by Arnette Lamb. Like me, she was disappointed in this book. We disagreed, however on how disappointed. She was just glad she enjoyed it more than she had enjoyed Betrayed. “But didn’t the premise annoy you,” I asked? She said, “Yes, it did,” but she could get past that. Unfortunately, I couldn’t.
True Heart tells the tale of Virginia MacKenzie and her betrothed Cameron Cunningham. When the story begins, we are treated to a lusty scene between Lachlan and Juliet, Virginia’s parents, in a hay loft. I was psyched – this could be good!
Virginia is ten and Cameron is in his teens. They are wonderful friends and are looking forward to their marriage once Virginia matures. An impetuous sort, she can’t bear the thought of Cameron traveling to France and leaving her behind, so she plans to stow away on his ship and surprise him.
The best laid plans of mice and men tend to go awry in romance novels, as does this one. Cameron goes on a different ship than Virginia is stowed away on, and she ends up in America an indentured servant. Ten years later, after enduring a life of incredible hardship, she manages to get word of her existence to her beloved family and Cameron, who had all but given her up for dead after years of searching.
By now I was absolutely riveted, waiting for the scene where she and Cameron come face to face for the first time in a decade, both adults whose lives had taken very different paths. But instead of their finding one another and dealing with the consequences of the past decade, the author decided that Virginia should feign amnesia to “protect” her family from the horrors she had been through.
Sorry, readers, this is not a credible premise as far as this reviewer is concerned. And, this premise didn’t serve the lead characters well. Virginia, who as an adult blames herself that, at ten, “she’d been mature enough to make the decision that had cost her a decade of her life,” seems to blame Cameron for getting on with his life at all.
Would any of us want to read a romance where the hero devoted himself to celibacy from the age of roughly 16 to 26 when he’s spent a good part of that time searching for a young girl who was 10 when she disappeared? All of us who loved the lusty Lachlan could not respect such a lustless hero for his daughter!
And so there is a rather petty give-and-take between the two. They have feelings for each other. She is livid that he has a mistress. He is angry and hurt that she isn’t telling him the truth about the missing decade. And then there is the subplot involving treason. I could go on and tell you more, but it’s not important.
What is important is that the book this could have been never was. I felt cheated of what might have been a marvelous love story of two friends who found each other after a decade apart. Of the healing that could have been offered instead of the typical jealousy/mistress story-line that Arnette Lamb could have written in her sleep. She could have and should have done better for Lachlan and Juliet’s daughter.