When Darnley is conned into promising his daughter to wed into a rival clan, he keeps his word–just not the way they intended. Instead of sending his spoiled, beautiful daughter Maude, he sends an illegitimate daughter the Kirallens have never heard of. The deception can’t last forever, but he doesn’t intend to let it go that long, just long enough to attack and put their feud to a final end. But Alyson finds the Kirallens to be not the monsters she’s been told about, but rather more of a family than her father ever was. And while she knows she can’t save her heart, she’s got to find a way to protect them all.
Judging Covers: Not a fan. I’m not sure what it is about this cover that’s so unappealing to me, but I almost skipped past the book entirely. It doesn’t seem to fit the genre, and in some ways it looks like it was hastily thrown together. Where’s the scenery, the kilt, the anything else that would tell me this couple didn’t just get back from dinner and a movie?
The Verdict: Alyson’s situation has always been awful, but her father is now making it worse. Her mother was kidnapped and given to Darnley as a prize, and when he was done with her, he married her off to an unkind man who never provided them with much. Darnley’s never acknowledged her or shown any remorse for his crime against her mother, but now that the legitimate daughter he favors is threatened, he quickly moves to send Alyson to the wolves instead.
Alyson is used to being a rather humble, submissive servant, but she’s content with that. Given a choice, she’d never agree to marry a stranger, much less the clan’s enemy. But Darnley’s taken her little brother as insurance, and she has no choice but to follow through. She can only hope that when it all comes to a head, she can escape, find him, and make her way somewhere they’ll both be safe. In the meantime, she’s terrified and doing her best to act like the spoiled brat she’s impersonating. I really liked Alyson’s character. She’s in a pretty awful situation, but she’s still got strength. And with the way she’s been forced into this mess, it’s easy to understand why she’s going through with it.
Jemmy’s hand is being forced as well, the decision that he would wed Alyson being made for him by his father while he was out of the country. But he understands that a marriage between the long-warring clans might finally bring them all peace, so he’s willing to go through with it. He also immediately sees how scared Alyson is, and while he’s a little gruff at times, he’s also considerate. And of course, since it’s an arranged marriage, and she’s shaking with fear when he’s around, he’s not about to press the issue of consummation. However, as they begin to know each other a little better, and trust begins to take root, their feelings grow very strong very quickly.
There’s much more to the story that explains Alyson’s background, but I’d rather not give that away in a review. I will say, however, that it adds a sad and interesting twist that makes her father even more deplorable. Of course, the truth is eventually revealed, and it happens at the worst possible time, as one might expect. What I took issue with, though, was how she was perceived afterward. She went from being the wife and favored daughter-in-law to being looked down upon, and while I figured there would be some of that, I really didn’t think it wouldn’t be resolved. However, it seems that she was too low-born to be accepted by anyone but Jemmy, and even he was of the opinion that she was beneath him, no matter how much he loved her. I do, of course, realize that this is a more realistic turn of events than many rags to riches stories set in historical times portray, but just as Jemmy was willing to stay married to the servant that she was, it would have been nice if he’d had more faith that others would begin to see her for the good person she was, not her lack of a respectable bloodline.