January 6, 2016
The Laird is the final book in Grace Burrowes' Captive Hearts trilogy. I have to say, I really liked The Laird, although the dark subject matter does not lend itself to "liking."
The Laird brings back to us Michael Brodie, who was a secondary character in The Captive and The Traitor. If you have read either of those two books, you will know that Michael Brodie is one of the most loyal friends/compatriots ever. He served his country faithfully during the Napoleonic Wars and then some. He stayed long after the war had ended to protect Sebastian St. Clair. Now he is no longer needed and it is time for him to go home to Scotland and the bride he left behind nine years ago, Brenna. Brenna, on the other hand isn't all that eager for the return of her husband - thank you very much. He did leave her rather precipitously, he didn't communicate with her during those years. He left her to fend for herself and at the same time keep the family estate in order. To say she's a tad bit miffed is putting it mildly. So, Michael has a lot of groveling to do.
One of the good things about this book is that Michael and Brenna already have established a relationship. Brenna has been living at the Brodie castle/estate/whatever since she was eight years old. She came as the intended bride of Michael and the two of them develop a friendship, which eventually turns into a crush. She was married to Michael when she was sixteen - so, she's pretty young and her understanding of how life works is just being developed. She is devastated when he leaves her to go off to fight in the war. And, now he has returned and she resents him. She resents so many things; his leaving, his return, his silence, his expectations. Brenna also has a secret, a dark secret and the main plot of the story revolves around that secret. Spoilers ahead. Brenna's secret is that as a child she was sexually abused by someone at the Brodie castle. Brenna's abuse has left her scarred. She is like most victims of child abuse - silent and guilt ridden. This part of the story was portrayed pretty realistically. All the feelings that victims have were spelled out for us to read. Ms. Burrowes did a wonderful job of showing us just what abused children go through and how it affects some of them as adults. It was all done with a pretty sensitive touch.
The villain of the piece, (who everyone should spot right away) was also written with quite a lot of insight. Because of how charming this man is, he has been allowed to prey on a plethora of innocents. He knows how to approach a child, he knows how to shift the blame for his actions from himself to them. When he is finally caught, I had a bit of an issue with trying to make him a little bit more sympathetic. But hey, that's me. I was glad when he bit the dust and jumped up and down with joy at his demise.
Brenna and Michael both have some dark issued to overcome, Brenna more than Michael. Their second chance at love is beautifully written. Michael catches on quite quickly as to what Brenna's problem might be, he just doesn’t know who caused the problem.This was a tender, touching, delicately written romance and I would have given it a "blow-me-away" rating if not for one thing.
Michael has a young sister, Maeve; a stubborn young sister. She has been shuttled here and there throughout her young life. Now, she has been sent to the wilds of Scotland to be with a brother she doesn't know. She is ignored, she is friendless and she is resentful of being where she is. She is alone. She needs a friend. Enter our villain. She is just the type of child our villain can manipulate - he excels at it. She does fall under his spell. Here is the thing. Brenna knew just what kind of danger this man did, she experienced it at his hands when she was young. She tries to protect Michael's sister by putting all of these restrictive perimeters on her. As we all know, putting perimeters on a head-strong, rebellious, lonely child does not work. Never once does Brenna tell anyone what the villain was capable of and that is what I have an issue with. I don't care if this was a romance and there needed to be some kind of tension. Brenna waited tooooo long to tell Michael and in so doing she put Maeve in danger.
Overall, this was an absorbing story with a great cast of characters. The story line was a tough tale to tell, but I think the author did a brilliant job of bringing it off. My one qualm - the heroine should have spoken up sooner.
Time/Place: 1800s after Napoleon/Scotland