The Border Lord by Sophia James
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I couldn't stay away from this book any longer. It sat on my bed, calling my name, and I dived in. This is a good book for those who like the English-Scottish conflict romances. It's got a healthy dose of the politics of that situation, but not so much that it's boring. The focus stays on the growing romance between Grace and Lachlan. Their relationship doesn't start out ideal, either.
First of all, Grace has a skin condition (I think it was probably eczema), that she was self-conscious about. She also stutters, has really bright red hair, and limps. She's 26 yrs old, and firmly on the shelf. A big fan of Plain Jane stories, I was wondering where things would lead as I read this story. Would this be a 'makeover' story or the kind of plain jane tales I prefer where the hero sees the heroine as she is and loves her for the person she is. Luckily this fell into the second category. Grace's lack of looks wasn't really an issue for Lachlan. His issue was his weariness at all the fighting and intrigues, his distrust for his bride who may or may not have been his deceased brother's lover and murder. He is attracted to her voluptuous curves, her brown eyes, and her bright shiny hair. He also finds himself attracted to the courage she shows, despite the fear that she has.
Lachlan is one of those hard heroes that you have to warm up to. He fully intends to keep his mistress, although he will take full advantage of having a comely wife to get with child many times over. There is an almost adultery scene, but I was gratified that he couldn't do it in the end, because all he could think about was how it felt to be with his wife instead. Yay! But I was pretty annoyed when he was allowing his mistress to fondle him at the table with his wife. Grace was a cool customer about it. I probably would have brained him with a tankard. But all ended up well with that situation. Lachlan soon comes to realize that he doesn't want any other woman but his wife.
Grace is considered an outsider initially, but she slowly wins over her husband's people, first by saving a boy from a severe burning, and then by saving the son of a neighboring clan, who could be an enemy of the Kerr clan. However, there is sabotage trying to make it seem like Grace is trying to bring down the clan. I liked that Grace remained steadfast and true to herself the whole time. She didn't jump off the handle or do anything stupid. She showed the maturity of a woman of her age, and trusted that her integrity would shine through.
This book might not be to the taste of those romance readers who don't like a lot of history and politics in their romance. But I felt it was well intregrated into the story. Lachlan is in a dicey situation. He has loyalties to some of the English rulers but also the Scottish rulers. This book is set during the time when King David has returned, but also there is Robert the Bruce with his agendas, and some of the Scottish leaders want Scotland to be free of English rule, and some want Scotland under England. And right in the middle is Lachlan. He had been fighting his whole life according to pre-decided loyalties because of his French grandmother and his Scottish father who turned into a womanizing drunkard. Plus his brother wasn't the best man either, being a womanizer himself, and also very self-serving, going off and making politial alliances he shouldn't have. All Lochlan wants is a home and a family. Although he is not happy at the edict from King David to marry Grace, she turns out to be the key to having the home he always longed for.
At times I was frustrated at Lochlan's lack of faith in Grace, in the face of clear evidence that she had proven her loyalty. I tried to tell myself that it was reasonable for a man who had buried a faithless wife and was cuckolded by his brother, and who spent most of his life involved in court intrigues, to be distrustful. Thankfully, Grace shows her solidarity to Lochlan and her new home not by going through any changes, but by being herself and being steadfast in her loyalties to the husband she quickly falls in love with.
This was a beautiful story, and the writing is fairly artistic in some passages. I think that Ms. James really poured her heart into writing a story that would touch the reader and give them entertainment that engaged the mind and the senses. Highly recommended for fans of Scottish-English conflict romances, arranged marriage, and plain jane themes in romance.
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