In this medieval romance, a young knight and a sheltered teen join in holy arranged matrimony while feudal unrest ripples around them during the rule of James I, King of Scotland.
Scott (Devil’s Moon, 2015, etc.) immerses us in a tale of the conflict between Highlanders and royalist Borderers as it impinges on a young couple. The night that Sir Àdham MacFinlagh first meets lady-in-waiting Fiona Ormiston, she has snuck away to swim in the river. This is the first indication of her unusual skills and spirit. Àdham finds himself drawn to Fiona even as political maneuverings take up his time. Noticing his interest, the king proposes an alliance between the warrior and this daughter of one of his loyal nobleman from the borderlands. Àdham and Fiona are sketched with individualized personalities, but her insistence on wandering by herself in the Highlands she has recently termed frightening is frustratingly illogical. Scott sets up this tendency in order to justify the final act of the story (and Fiona is only 18), but the behavior feels inane. Characters from Scott’s previous books make cameo appearances, and their presence creates the sense of a historical narrative composed of minor episodes. There is considerable focus on the minutiae of the period, including dress, geography, political factions, social etiquette, and historic battles. The result is a detailed medieval world picture, but the romance takes a secondary role, feeling like a minor panel in a large tapestry. Though the book is billed as a love story, it's not clear why the two leads are in love with each other, nor indeed what the “reluctant” in the title is referring to.
Historical fiction with a touch of romance and a list of sources for readers interested in following up on the bloody clashes of 15th-century Scottish clans.