November 3, 2014
Unanswered question depresses me.
I've been a fan of Mia Marlowe ever since she was Emily Bryan, so she's sort of an auto-buy for me. Some of her books have hit the spot with me and some have left me a little empty.
Let's explore some of the things in Once Upon a Plaid that made me a Grumpy Gus. We have our hero, William, and our heroine, Katherine. I loved the introduction to this couple. The entire first chapter is dedicated to Katherine avoiding the manly-man William. He disturbs her, he makes her nervous, he makes the hair on her arms stand on end. It's not 'til the end of the chapter that we, the reader, learn that they are actually husband and wife and that they have been married for four years. I liked that surprise at the end of the chapter and was rubbing my hands together with glee at the thought of a marriage-in-trouble book.
Here's the problem: Katherine has left William because she has failed to provide him with an heir. She is terribly in love with him and she would sacrifice anything to give him what she thinks he desires - in this case, a child. They have been married for four years and in that time they have lost one child and she has had numerous miscarriages. It seems she is unable to carry a child full term. Now, because this is an historical novel the importance of having an heir of one’s own body is paramount. Katherine has decided that the best solution for William is that their marriage be annulled and William marry another. William on the other hand wants nothing to do with ending his marriage. He has arrived at Katherine's father's castle, through a raging snow storm with the intention of taking his wife back home where she belongs. He is deeply in love with Katherine. The problem with this couple is communication, especially with William. The loss of all of her children has been a heavy burden for Katherine and she seems to have suffered through all of the losses alone because William has been unable to communicate his pain to her. So, we are presented with a Balogh-like, angst-filled, suffering drama through a lot of the book. Also thrown in is a secondary romance, which was very sweet, between a servant, Dorcas, and the fool, Nab. I thought Nab's character was one of the better ones in this book, very well-defined, and I was captivated by his story. There is a third-dary story concerning Katherine's absent brother, Donald, and his pregnant wife. I actually thought this storyline deserved a novella; I would have liked to see Donald grovel a little. There is also a sub-plot with an evil nephew who stole a spear or something and then tried to storm the castle.
My disenchantment with the story was with Katherine and William. After a while I became really annoyed with Katherine vacillating between ending her marriage to William and then the next moment giving him big wet kisses all over his body, even his man nipples. I have to tell you that there were numerous door-slamming moments in this book by William as his wife is hot one moment and cold the next. There was a lot of whankee-roo interruptus. There was also a strong element of faith in this story, and I'm not a big fan of religious overtones in my stories. However, this was a historical and Katherine didn't have too much of anything else to cling to. But my biggest problem with this story was something I keep asking throughout the whole book, and it was left unanswered at the end. We have a woman who is unable to carry a child and this woman happens to live in a time period when medical science would have been unable to help give her the child she so desperately wanted. The solution at the end of the story was that William tells Katherine that he has nephews who can inherit so there isn't any problem and she shouldn't worry. Katherine is happy, William is happy, everyone is happy - we have our happy ending. But wait! Here is where my mind kicked in. I am assuming that Katherine and William are still going to have sex. Just because a woman is unable to carry a child full term doesn't mean she can't get pregnant. So, what does the future hold for Katherine? Years and years of one failed pregnancy after another? This is where the story failed me. There was never any mention of William using something to prevent Katherine's possible pregnancy. And, I would think that her loss of so many children would trigger some kind of warning bells that there was something dangerously wrong with Katherine's health, something that could someday be life-threatening to her. In the end, that was what kept looming in my head. I think I understand that Ms. Marlowe was trying to inspire us with surrogacy parent-hood and maybe that would have worked in a contemporary novel. I would have preferred that the ending show Katherine giving birth to a healthy child, but since that wasn't what the story was about then I would have liked William saying something about protecting his wife from future impregnation. For me, that was the void that should have been filled and that was why I was a Grumpy Gus.
Time/Place: 1529 Scotland