A murder plot in medieval Scotland threatens the wedded bliss of a mute woman and her brutish husband in Saxon’s (Highland Grace, 2012, etc.) latest romance.
A tragedy in Morgana’s youth robbed her of both of her parents as well as her voice. Meek and inexperienced after years of living in a nunnery, she develops a fancy for the handsome knight Robert MacVie not long after arriving at King William’s court. Her scheming cousin Vika, who’s Robert’s occasional lover, decides to help Morgana fulfill her wish; Robert is tricked into taking Morgana away to a remote cabin after she’s disguised to look like Vika. But Robert has a scheme of his own: He plans to get wealthy heiress Vika pregnant, forcing her to marry him and thereby giving him the means to pay off debts that could otherwise spell ruin for his clan. So eager is he to seal the deal, in fact, that he doesn’t notice that Morgana isn’t Vika until after the deed is done. The novel’s prose is often surprisingly beautiful (“As she continued to walk, she enjoyed…the sharp tang that wafted up to her of young fern leaves and other new-grown plant life crushed beneath her feet”). However, if readers make it past the cringe-worthy first encounter between the (supposed) hero and heroine, it will only be due to morbid curiosity, because the story quickly derails after Morgana’s tyrannical uncle orders the pair to wed. Their days together as husband and wife seem like the perfect honeymoon until Morgana’s dark past catches up with her. Morgana, always a breath away from fainting, suffers from a saint complex, while Robert is a male stereotype of razor-thin self-control, regularly grunting and clenching his fists. In the tradition of the genre, the slight plot serves only to thrust the two into rooms together so they can have sexual encounters. Indeed, every time the story seems to be taking an intriguing turn, their explicit romps cause tiresome delays.
A prettily written historical romance that deserves a better story.