October 23, 2015
Time to turn on my Scottish Dialect Spectrespecs.
When I looked in my new picks for this month, I noticed I have a preponderance of books set in Scotland. They are not authors who do light Scottish dialect but some who are pretty heavy on the brogue. Let's start with Jennifer Ashley's latest Mackenzie story The Stolen Mackenzie Bride.
We have left the Mackenzie's we are familiar with and traveled back in time to Scotland in the time of the Jacobites and battles leading up to Culloden and the aftermath. Knowing what went on during this time period, I knew that this was not going to be a light fluffy read and it's not. There are five Mackenzie brothers: Duncan, twins Alec and Angus, William, and Malcolm. The fifth brother, Magnus died at the age of eighteen. Also present is the hot-tempered Mackenzie father, who is constantly roaring at his sons (in a most affectionate way). This story is about Malcolm, the youngest of the brothers and lovingly called "runt" by them.
Malcolm and Alec are at a house party in Edinburgh when Malcolm spots an entrancing beauty who looks as if she is doing something she shouldn't be doing. What's a hero to do but follow her to see just what clandestine activity she is up to?
Poor Mary is at that same house party in Edinburgh. She's minding her own business - sort of. Actually, she's minding her sister's business. What she's doing is out of character for her, because Mary seems to be a pretty basic, stoic, level-headed woman who minds her business and does what everyone around her tells her to do. Except when it comes to her sister. Her sister is in love with the younger son of an aristocratic family, Jeremy. Of course, Mary's father doesn't approve of Jeremy. Mary, on the other hand, wants to help her sister and Jeremy, so she is sneaking around the ballroom with a letter from her sister for Jeremy. She has noticed the tall Scottish men across the way, especially the one with the heated amber eyes. But, she has her duty to do, so she tip-toes out.
Of course, Malcolm follows her because he has instantly seen that's her vibrancy is being snuffed out and he's already in luv with her. Malcolm does quite a bit of rakish chasing of Mary in the beginning of this book and I have to admit that he is quite charming. He's has that slight twinkle in his eye, that little lift of an eyebrow, that swoon-worthy lopsided grin - it's easy to fall under his spell. Even though Mary is a very reserved woman, it isn't long before she's dazzled. Malcolm just can't leave Mary alone, so he agrees to help her sister, Audrey, and Jeremy elope. And, they're off.
The beginning of this story is a true romance. Malcolm and Mary are a cute couple. Once Jeremy and Audrey are off to wedded bliss the tone of the story changes; the romance takes a back seat. It is at this time that the horrendous conflict between the Stuarts and the Hanovers comes into play. Ms. Mackenzie provides dates all through the book, so if you are at all familiar with historical timelines or even names you will know exactly what is going to happen next. After Jeremy and Audrey depart, the Mackenzie males take over the book. We are introduced to their father, a bellowing, headstrong man who loves his sons but wants peace. The eldest son is Duncan, who is involved with the Jacobites and following Charles Stuart’s army. There are the twins, Alec, who has a wife in France, and Alec's twin Angus, who is the favorite son. William is a man who is in and out of both armies and whore-houses - always fading in and out in the fog, quiet, listening. Then there is Malcolm - he is doing everything he can do to avoid the coming war. He doesn't want to be on either side and he does all he can do to try to keep his brother Duncan from doing so. That, of course, is impossible.
When I read this book, it was as if I was reading two stories. The first part was a sweet, funny romance, the second part was a story about a family trying to stay together when all around them war is raging. If you know anything about Culloden at all, you will also know that after the main battle there was a "give no quarters" order issued. There were clans turning against each other, slaughters of all kinds; a hectic, devastating gore which serves as the background for Malcolm and Mary. I did find this part of the book very dramatic and stressful - will they make it? Will they find safety? Who will find safety?
Overall, this is a very good beginning to what promises to be a very exciting story of the early Mackenzies - only this time they are living in a time of major trouble. I do recommend this book.
Time/Place: 1745 Scotland