Author: Monica McCarty
Links: Bookshop (affiliate link) |Goodreads
Summary: I was dubious about this book, but it completely won me over, with the best plot, best sex scenes, and best love interest of any of the romances I picked up this month.
Kenneth Sutherland wants nothing as much as he wants earn his place in Robert the Bruce’s elite highland guard. A surprisingly seductive encounter with Mary of Mar makes him equally determined to win her over, but Mary’s past relationships make her reluctant to give up her independence. Although both Kenneth and Mary feel an undeniable connection, it may be impossible for them to come to trust each other’s feelings as they’re moved by the tides of war.
A Bad Beginning
In further proof that I don’t know how to pick a romance book, this book that turned out to be my favorite read of the month was also the book I was most dubious about. The back-of-cover description was melodramatic and revealed nothing about the plot, making it impossible for me to guess whether I’d like to the plot or not. The way the book started off didn’t do anything to make me less nervous. The love interest seemed like an even more arrogant, womanizing version of the jerk in A Kiss at Midnight. I felt as though I was reading a particularly misogynistic male fantasy about being so impressive that women will overlook you being an ass and throw themselves at you anyway. In a single chapter, he thought about how if his wife wasn’t attractive, at least he could think about other women he’d slept with; he wished his sister was more biddable and wouldn’t marry someone he didn’t like; and he decided to sleep with a random woman because he was upset. I was beginning to think he would be unredeemable, but things got better from there – thank goodness!
Awesome, Meaningful Sex Scenes
Things started to look up with the first sex scene with Mary. The guy got a verbal yes – way too rare in the romances I’ve read so far – and the woman actually wanted to have sex. She didn’t want to fall in love, but she wasn’t having mixed feelings about having sex. The sex scene was longer and more detailed than those in some of the other books I’ve read. This was possible in part because the book was longer, enabling a more detailed plot as well. The more detailed plot was a good thing, especially since it appealed to my love of historical fiction about women.The longer sex scene was also a really good thing because it allowed the author to write at least four distinct sex scenes into the book. Without the detail provided about each sex scene, they’d probably have all seemed the same, as with the two sex scenes in And Then She Fell. And being able to write in multiple sex scenes also meant the author didn’t have to resort to some contrived reason there wouldn’t be any sex until the end of the book, as in both Fantasy Lover and A Kiss at Midnight.
Great Character Growth
The main characters also turned out to be completely fantastic, despite Kenneth’s bad start. Kenneth’s concern for Mary’s pleasure and immediate sense of connection to her were very sexy. His attitude towards women in general and Mary in particular gradually improved throughout the book. I thought his character growth was believable and turned him into a truly desirable love interest. It also made sense, given the historical setting, that he might start with some pretty archaic beliefs. This made his initial unlikeable nature more forgivable for me. Mary was amazing throughout. Unlike the women in all the other romances I’ve read so far, when she says no, she means it. When Kenneth isn’t able to convince her that he’d be loving and faithful, she truly walks away. She doesn’t just put up a token protest and then let the hero kiss her into compliance. She also has some great character growth, learning to trust Kenneth.
Would Read Again
This book has made me think that historical romances might be my thing. I thought this read like any other historical fiction story I’d love with the added bonus of great sex scenes. The plot and character growth weren’t just window dressing leading up to a single sex scene. I’ll definitely be reading more books by this author in hopes they’re not too formulaic, but are equally lovable.