Sunday, August 04, 2013
England and Scotland, sometime in the Middle Ages
Lord and Lady Withram of Waverly Castle in England would never win a good parents prize. They have two daughters, the elder and favorite was betrothed to the son of a Scottish laird who came down nicely with the marriage settlements. Annabel, the chubby and less favored second daughter was gotten rid of at age seven by being sent to Elstow Abbey to become a nun. (An abbey required much less dowry than would a husband, and she'd be fed and clothed there at no expense to her parents.) That was fourteen years ago, and it's a wonder Annabel's spirit isn't completely broken. She's not a nun yet; the abbess has not deemed her worthy at this time. But Annabel wears scars from the self flagellation she was ordered to perform every time she stepped out of line. It's not as though Annabel didn't try; she would even wear a hair shirt to remind her to be more dignified in her behavior. She did have one friend among the sisters who taught her many things about caring for animals and even how to ride the horses, which she would do at night without a saddle. But she was never taught how to run a house, manage a staff, or any other thing that would make her fit to become a good wife.
In all her years at the abbey, Annabel never heard from her parents until one day her mother just shows up and drags her away without giving her time to pack her meager belongings or even to say goodbye. It seems her sister has run off with the stable master's son just as her husband-to-be was on his way down from Scotland. The family has to make him accept ‘second best' or they would lose the much needed funds.
It took this long for Ross MacKay to come for his bride. Some of his relations thought they would make a better clan chief after Ross's father died, and that took time to settle. He's on his way down with two of his warriors who aren't above teasing him about his spinster bride. He'd never met Kate, but the shy armful he meets pleases him mightily. He doesn't care for his new in-laws and hurries the ceremony and their departure.
AN ENGLISH BRIDE IN SCOTLAND is a mix of suspense and good humored romance. The wedding night is memorable, and so is the fact that the men believe Annabel to be a terrible rider. She'd only ever rode bareback and never imagined anything more senseless than a side-saddle that gave one no chance to grip a horse with one's thighs. The serious side comes in when Annabel suffers several attempted attacks on the way to her new home. It's as though someone doesn't want her to get there.
Annabel is a delight; she soon wins over Ross's people as she tries very hard to learn and earn her place. She still has her spirit, though her confidence in herself is low. Ross has no idea that she spent years in a convent, but he's a kind and thoughtful man who also thinks she's a delight.
For a thoroughly enjoyable read, I highly recommend AN ENGLISH BRIDE IN SCOTLAND.