Wild Roses opens brutally, after a young Irish girl has been raped by Norman soldiers in the 13th century. Juxtaposed against the cruel and wild setting is Duncan, Lord FitzWilliam, the Norman warrior who is hero in this tale. We learn shortly after he orders and watches the hanging of the soldiers that he is actually a gentle and thinking man.
After that brutal scene, we encounter Maire O’Byrne, the raven-haired, partially lame heroine in this book. She and one of her brothers are en route to another clan when they are brutally attacked for sport by the entourage of Duncan’s vicious half-sister Adele. When the blond and beautiful Adele captures Maire, drugs her, and settles her in Duncan’s bed to wean him from his mistress/leman the fun begins.
Well, it should have and could have, only it . . . didn’t. For all the violence, blood and guts, and intrigue the author has written for Maire to encounter, the author doesn’t follow through with enough intensity in her lead characters.
When a malicious half-sister evokes emotion more intensely than a love between a Norman and a clansman, the author has erred. When the author’s references to the love story in the previous book in this series, Wild Angel, sound more interesting than the love story in this book, something is wrong. And that error, that something that is wrong, is the tonality of this story.
While Duncan and Maire are surely heroic and special people, I just couldn’t garner enough enthusiasm about them to care. Duncan is a great warrior, a sound leader, and a fair man. He is dead inside and has been so since his beloved died six years hence. That is, until he met Maire.
Maire suffers from a lack of self-esteem and fears for her family; her brothers have prices on their heads as rebel leaders that Duncan has sworn to quash. Duncan seems like a good guy, even for a Norman. What’s a girl to do? Feign amnesia and try to escape, with the help of Duncan’s last leman.
I am not a strong fan of the amnesia plot-line. But I could have lived with it had I cared more for Duncan and Maire. While I am a fan of conflicts outside the hero/heroine relationship, in this case it didn’t work. Duncan and Maire, while obviously emotionally and sexually drawn toward each other, didn’t draw this reviewer into their chemistry. While there was a lot of pre-coitus-interruptus going on, there wasn’t enough foreplay to generate serious sexual tension.
So while the violence and evil worked well, the lust and sexuality didn’t. To the author’s credit, the choice Maire is eventually confronted with – her family or her love – is gut-wrenching. It would have been much more effective, and tear-wrenching as well, if the reader cared more about Maire and Duncan, both as individuals and as a couple. And, the decision Maire makes at the end of the book, is just about the only one Maire actually makes at all.
Which was also problematical. Maire spends far too much time in this book simpering to herself about her situation and that of her brothers. Everything she does to extricate herself fails. She rather reminded me of the Eeyore, the donkey from the Winnie the Pooh stories who has a rain cloud over him while it is sunny elsewhere.
And Duncan, he’s just not strong enough to compete with the evil that surrounds him. Some stories cannot balance the darkness and the light, others cannot balance love and hate. This story cannot balance strength and weakness, both in plot and in character.
It’s fairly obvious a third story in this series will be written. Perhaps the author can achieve in that story the kind of excitement she alludes to in Wild Roses – about Wild Angel. I’m willing to give her another chance, but she’d better get me next time around.