Heather and Velvet
By Teresa Medeiros, 1991, European Historical Romance (18th century Scotland)
Bantam, $5.99, ISBN #0-553-29407-5
For some people, a memorable weekend may mean partying all night and sleeping until noon, or making a nice trip into the countryside. For me, a perfect weekend means cuddling into an easy chair, with a cup of tea in one hand and a book in the other, and enough time on my hands to continue reading for hours, especially if the story turns out to be so compelling that I simply cannot stop. I have just spent one of those lovely weekends, and the book that made my day, not for the first time, by the way, was Heather and Velvet by Teresa Medeiros. What can I say – for me this is romance at its best. You get it all: rich and graceful prose, an engaging plot, a whimsical sense of humor, multi-faceted characters and ultimately an unforgettable tale of healing and redemption.
Right from the first page, when I read about a boy burying his father without shedding a tear, I was drawn into the story and became emotionally involved with the characters. The thin and grubby boy alone in a Highland castle is Sebastian Kirkpatrick, the illegitimate son of the Scottish laird Brendan Kerr. His mother, a Frenchwoman, had been the bride of Killian MacKay, the chieftain of the rival clan, but his father had abducted her before she could get married and made her his mistress. She never recovered from her shame and, unable to stand Brendan Kerr’s cruel treatment, committed suicide when Sebastian was still a child. Sebastian, who was severely mistreated by his father all his life, is glad to finally escape his yoke and flees the scene of his suffering, swearing to return one day as a rich man.
Eighteen years later on a dark and stormy night, Sebastian, now a notorious highwayman, is about to rob a coach when he suddenly hears a woman cry out his name in panic. Startled, he loses his concentration for a moment and is overpowered by his victims. They leave him lying in a ditch with a broken ankle, and this is where Prudence finds him. It turns out that she has been looking for her cat Sebastian, but her compassion is instantly moved when she sees the wounded warrior in distress.
Prudence is no simpering miss; instead of swooning in fear, she is thrilled to meet the Dreadful Scot Bandit Kirkpatrick, the scourge of the Scottish border and reputedly the ravisher of women. She is actually disappointed when he does not show the least inclination to abduct her. Since Sebastion is immediately fascinated by this outlandish female, he decides to indulge her and asks her at gunpoint to help him. They stumble into a deserted crofter’s hut to spend the night. Prudence is actually enjoying her situation. She immediately sets to sweeping the cabin, washing Sebastian’s pistol – much to his dismay – and making herself at home. Quite naturally, she takes care of Sebastian’s wounds and falls asleep in his arms.
Now maybe there is something about a cabin, ramshackle as they it be, that touched a chord with me. Or maybe it was the instantaneous connection between the two characters, who start bickering, laughing, talking and kissing right away. In any case, I found myself turning the pages faster and faster, eager to follow the adventures of those fascinating, lovable protagonists. And yes, there are plenty of adventures and unexpected twists to this narrative.
Although Sebastian and Prudence are sure never to see each other again, fate has something else in store: Prudence’s aunt Tricia, with whom she has lived since her father’s death, is about to marry her eighth husband and her fiancé turns out to be none other than Sebastian. Meeting Prudence again makes him doubt his carefully hatched plans of achieving respectability and wealth by marrying a member of the nobility. A time ensues when he tries to fight his growing feelings for Prudence and fails every time he sees her. Slowly but surely, the self-conscious, spinsterish woman slips into his soul and steals his heart, while he manages to free her from her Cinderella existence and brings a new light into her life. Yet it is not only the physical attraction between them that makes the sparks fly; they are also perfectly matched on an intellectual level. The repartee between them, interspersed with tender moments and some hot love-making, is a joy to read. I was alternately laughing and sobbing into my hanky.
This is only the first half of the book, and the rest is just as enjoyable. You get a tempestuous reunion after a forced separation, some highway robbery, a shotgun wedding, a suspenseful subplot with Sebastian’s villainous grandfather D’Artan, some truly unexpected revelations in the end and an absolutely delightful last chapter.
This expertly crafted tale held my attention from the first to the last page. When all is said and done, though, it’s the characters that make this book so extraordinary for me. Sebastian is my kind of hero: I loved his freckles, his broken nose, his tawny hair and his big Scot bandit body. He is funny, smart, adorably stubborn and, despite his painful childhood and the demons he still has to face, full of kindness. I must admit, I fell for him hard and fast. When he tells Prudence, the bookish, short-sighted spinster, that she is like poetry to him and then kisses her for the first time, I was a goner. Prudence fits in no convetional mold, either. With her mixture of courage and diffidence, sensuality and innocence, she was incredibly endearing. And how could I forget the indispensable sidekicks Tiny and Jamie…?
What more can I say? This book is easily one of the best romances I have ever read, and it has a firm place in my personal top ten. I think it is Teresa Medeiros’ masterpiece, and if you ever consider reading her, Heather and Velvet might be just the place to start.
DIK Editor Ellen Micheletti: This was my first Medeiros, and it’s one of my favorite romances as well!
Link to our interview with Teresa and her reviews after this DIK review of Once an Angel Link to all of Vivien’s reviews and articles following her DIK Review of Kathryn Lynn Davis’ Too Deep for TearsTo comment about any of these reviews on our message boardIf you are interested in writing a review of your all-time favorite romance