Waking the Princess
Waking the Princess is a book to savor. A story in which exquisite characterization – and decidedly not plot – is the star, the book may not be for everyone, but for those who enjoy a languid, rich, and detailed love story, the second in Susan King’s Scottish Highlands trilogy is one you’ll definitely want to consider.
Christina Blackburn, the widow, daughter, and sister of a family of famous artists, is a specialist in Scottish antiquities sent by her superior to examine a potential site of interest discovered on the estate of Sir Aedan MacBride. Christina’s reluctance to visit the site is understandable given the fact that the laird owns a “scandalous” portrait painted by her late husband in which she posed as a legendary princess from long ago.
Aedan has always been mesmerized by the portrait, a fact that isn’t too surprising since the princess and her Druid husband – said to be ancestors of his family – were also the subject of a famous poem written by his equally famous and now deceased poet father. The tragic story of their love is also the root of a family legend in which Aedan, an engineer currently engaged in building roads that must be completed for a coming visit of Queen Victoria, firmly believes. It is said that if the lairds of his family truly love, the woman will die an early and untimely death.
Not surprisingly, since Aedan is so strongly drawn to the portrait, he is also equally drawn to Christina. Despite her embarrassment over the portrait scandal and the scars left by her brief marriage, it’s a feeling that Christina, despite her better intentions, finds herself returning. And as their feelings deepen, both Aedan and Christina are astounded to discover mystical connections to both the princess and her warrior husband, making their bonds and their growing love impossible to deny.
Christina and Aedan are both wonderful characters. An accomplished and talented woman often at odds with her artistically inclined family, Christina is understandably marked by the scandal regarding the “shocking” painting. Still, to the author’s immense credit, neither the circumstances of her downfall nor her reaction to it are overplayed. Christina is both wounded and cautious, but she is also a woman ready to succumb to a love she can’t deny. Aedan, though burdened with financial, professional, and family challenges, is also a fully developed character whose growth is palpable throughout the course of the story.
Most appealing is the author’s painstaking portrayal of a love that blooms almost quietly. Despite the fact that Aedan and Christina are in direct conflict over her findings on the ancient site (not only will his plans for the road be derailed, a codicil in his father’s will could also mean he’d lose the estate to the government if the find is of historical interest), there are no big plot explosions here and no misunderstandings. This is a love story that builds slowly and realistically and, for me at any rate, it made for a refreshing change.
On the other hand, some readers might find the pace a bit too slow and stately – a reaction I can certainly understand. Frankly, since a family curse, legendary lovers, and reincarnation certainly aren’t a part of my daily life, I’m a bit puzzled as to why the events in the book weren’t more dramatic. I think it has to do with the fact that Christina and Aedan are so three-dimensional and their reactions to the plot developments so, well, mature that it’s the ordinary people, not the extraordinary situation, that take center stage. Still, I have to admit that the author’s deliberate pace did sometimes make it a bit of a challenge to pick the book up again each time after putting it down. On the other hand, however, virtually every time I did, I was soon absorbed once again in Aedan’s and Christina’s story.
I’ve had a fortunate summer this year in discovering several wonderful new-to-me authors and Susan King is definitely one of them. Waking the Princess is a book that requires a bit of an initial investment in both time and patience – an investment that, for me at any rate, was rewarded.