Wednesday, May 27, 2009
In the breathtaking tradition of The Last of the Mohicans...MacKinnon's Rangers
They were a band of brothers, their loyalty to one another forged by hardship and battle, the bond between these Highland warriors, rugged colonials, and fierce Native Americans stronger than even blood ties.
Though forced to fight for the hated British, Morgan MacKinnon would no more betray the men he leads than slit his own throat--not even when he was captured by the French and threatened with an agonizing death by fire at the hands of their Abenaki allies. Only the look of innocent longing in the eyes of a convent-bred French lass could make him question his vow to escape and return to the Rangers. And soon the sweet passion he awoke in Amalie had him cursing the war that forced him to choose between upholding his honor and pledging his love.
Second in the MacKinnon Rangers books, this is the story of Morgan, brother to Iain from the last book, Surrender - which I loved. This was a good story, but I was not as enthralled with the adventure and love story as much. The story picks up where Surrender left off. Iain's brother, Morgan is now the leader of the cracker jack outfit known as MacKinnon's Rangers who are fighting against the French in the French and Indian War in upstate New York. Morgan is captured outside Fort Ticonderoga by the French. He is injured, and a beautiful young - and very naive - French Amalie Chauvenet nurses him back to health. Predictably, she grows to love the handsome Morgan MacKinnon - who wouldn't? He's a transplanted Scottish Highlander, with a Scottish burr, an amazing body that has unusual warrior tattoos on his chest and arms and courtly manners to go with it. Growing up in a convent, Amalie has never seen anything like him!
I wasn't crazy about Amalie, I just never warmed up to her like I did with Annie in the last book. Amalie had led such a sheltered life and it was hard for me to like her - a French girl, who is part Abenaki as well. To suddenly change gears after reading the last book with the French and Abenaki as the enemies took some getting used to. Plus, I found her throwing herself at Morgan all the time annoying - though she kept doing it unconsciously - which was even more bothersome! She was a virgin, yet, she could not understand this feeling she had for him. I hate these kinds of heroines who are so innocent, yet boom - as soon as they're near a real man they become wanton hussies who don't think twice about creeping around dark hallways in their nightgowns and searching out single men in their bedrooms! Yet, by the second part of the book, once Amalie toughens up a bit from the frontier life and is used to Morgan and their sex life is underway she's not as insipid. Eventually she meets Annie MacKinnon (Iain's wife) who helps to train her as a frontier wife and I grew to appreciate her more once she smartened up, but she's a great deal more helpless than Annie ever was in the last book. But, I get ahead of myself...
Morgan is enticed by Amalie's natural beauty and sensuality and the two of them can't keep their hands off each other once he makes a deal with the commander of the fort to turn traitor and fight for the French. Of course, this is all a ruse, and he merely intends to spy on the French and eventually get back to the Rangers and the British fort where they are quartered. But, his love for Amalie complicates everything. I can understand what drove them to be in lust with each other, but I didn't see much chemistry between the two that was worthy of love. To me, their story fell a little flat, especially since he had to deceive her through most of their courtship. Eventually they are caught by her guardian, almost in the act, so they must marry, but Morgan knows he must leave her eventually to go to his men. He hates to do it, but he must, so they do everything except actually consummate their marriage by the marriage act itself - if you get my drift. This way if she needs to get an annulment sometime later, she can. Poor Amelie, she's kept in the dark of most of what he has in mind for her and his leaving. Blah, blah, blah. He almost succeeds in leaving her the day after their wedding night, but he's then captured by the Abenaki who want to burn him alive as revenge and more blah, blah, blah, much hand wringing on Amalie's part, "How could you leave me and deceive me?" "But, I still love you no matter what" "I can't live without you" blah, blah, blah - I plodded through it all until finally they wind up at the MacKinnon farm where Iain and Annie are with their baby. Iain is overjoyed to see Morgan (since the commander at Fort Ticonderoga made them all believe Morgan had died of his wounds when he was captured) and they take Amalie under their wing while Morgan goes back to the British to try and clear his name and explain all that happened. I liked seeing Annie and Amalie interact, as brief as it was, before Amalie is then captured by Wentworth (the commander of the British garrison from the last book) and taken back to Fort Elizabeth to testify in a court marshall of Morgan - it was endless! More hand wringing, mean British officers, a clever escape, etc. until finally all is well again in the Epilogue.
Frankly, the whole thing exhausted me and it didn't help that I was reading most of this with no break while in the emergency room at the hospital after bringing my teenage son there for emergency surgery two nights ago and then sitting with him all day yesterday at the hospital in recovery. He's all right and home now, but I kept wishing I'd had a better book to read for all those hours! Maybe I would have liked this one better if I had been reading it under better conditions. It wasn't bad, the writing itself was great and the research and setting were tops, and the sex scenes were written beautifully with lots of passion - hot! But, I was let down compared to the last book, this just seemed like a watered down version. Maybe it was just me, maybe it was because I didn't warm up to Amalie, who knows?
Still, I plan on reading all of Ms. Clare's books, this isn't stopping me, and I am eager to read anything and all she writes in the future regarding this series since I really do love it. The setting is close to my heart since it reminds me a lot of the later Outlander Series books. I just wasn't wowed by this one like I was with the last. Oh well.