I read this for the Man in a Kilt square for Romance Bingo.
She was afraid of him, disgusted by him, attracted to him.
Without the sweeping epic saga war components, this reminded me of Pride of Lions by Marsha Canham. As with the heroine in that one, Margot grew up extremely spoiled, sheltered, and is incredibly naïve. I personally am not the biggest fan of reading about perfect people, I love growth and journey. When Margot first meets Arran she is only 16 and after only two more meetings they are married after she turns 18. She is then immediately taken out of her home in England and brought to Arran's home in Scotland. Margot is an extreme fish out of water and her elitist ways and attitude definitely don't jive with the clan structure. She tries to help in her known English ways, but it only works to distance her more from Arran's people. Now, Arran may be completely different from the fops she grew up around and liked but we still she her attracted to him but she doesn't quite know what to do with it because she doesn't know him. I liked the fact that Margot wasn't blinded by insta-lust and just because she found Arran attractive she didn’t instantly trust him and it didn’t solve all their problems. Margot's just too young, too scared, and too bitter about not being able to marry someone remotely of her choosing and she ends up leaving Arran after only a couple months of marriage.
"I remember that your list of complaints was quite long."
She could feel the skin of her chest heating beneath his study of her. She had to look away or be devoured by that penetrating gaze. "Were they complaints? I always rather thought them pleas to help me reconcile to my new surroundings."
"Ah, is that what they were, then?" he mused.
Arran is more instantly likeable but while he has about 9 years on Margot, he was almost as clueless to marriage. He's the one who is struck by first sight and he knows as soon as he sees Margot he wants to marry her. He doesn't think about anything else except having her as wife, and doesn't think about how truly different they are. He's extremely caring to her in the bedroom, the one place they do connect, but baffled by her in every other measure. When he brings her to his home he doesn't help or explain to her how she can connect with his people and disappears for most the day doing work or traveling; he lives his life exactly the same way he did before marrying. Later on in the story there is a great conversation between the two where we learn that his parent's both died when he was young and Margot's mother died young also. We see that these two weren't modeled or taught how marriages work in a basic sense. In the beginning, Arran does do more little things to try and make it work but Margot's youth, fear, loneliness, and other issues I talked about cloud and create misunderstandings with their communication. These two simply married too soon and too young.
I'm usually a linear person but the switching chapters from past to present so worked for me. I loved how it set the tone and gave a clear understanding of how and why Arran and Margot felt the way they did, while also adding some drama. This was mostly a character driven story and our couple had the major chops to carry it; I devoured the first half of this absorbed into their story. I think it was around the 56% mark that the Reason I Read Romance conversation between the two happened. A couple lines, I refuse to spoil by putting them here, are spoken by Arran and let's just say I made sounds that probably only happen at the Cheesecake Factory when they bring me my red velvet cheesecake. They're crosses between gasps, sobs, happiness, and heart palpitations.
The second half and ending involving family and Jacobite drama didn't fully work for me, it wasn't flushed out enough. Especially, the quick and off screen way it was wrapped up, ended up feeling unneeded to me because of its lack of substance. Some secondary characters could have been fleshed out more like Arran's friend Jock and Margot's brother Knox. I guess I'm saying I wanted this book to be 200 pages of more because I loved the story so much.
I also felt the ending bringing together between Arran and Margot felt a little off. Arran had a quick to anger moment over something Margot did and then was just as quick to forgiveness, making it feel angst for angst sake. Then at the end when they have time to really have it out and come together, there was this kind of awkward lingering distrustfulness from Arran and unsure from Margot that felt overdone. At this point in the story and after certain things had been done, they should have had a united front.
Still, I gobbled this story up. Margot's growth was evident and I enjoyed how she went from a spoiled, scared, and naïve girl to a woman finding and testing her own strength and mind. Arran matured into a man who learned to open his clueless eyes and pay attention to his wife, while not trying to mold her into what he thought she should be instead of who she truly was. I'd read about this couple all day.
Arran loves dogs and my crazy dog lady feelings couldn't handle it.
She was suddenly reminded of a young dog here at Balhaire who'd been badly injured by a trap that had been set illegaly. When the gamekeeper determined the poor dog could not be saved and, futhermore, would suffer in his last hours, she had watched Arran scoop the dog up in his arms and carry him from this very hall with tears on his face. He'd taken the dog into the woods and mercifully put it out of its misery. She shivered at the painful recollection of how he'd grieved for the dog.
Not going to lie, reading this and then how three gray muzzled dogs sleep on the bed, the only thought running through my head was Shut it Down, Shut it all Down. Any Romanices Hero of 2017 talk is over.