Sunday, October 9, 2011

McClairen's Isle: The Passionate One by Connie Brockway

Book Description:
They are the Merricks, two brothers and a sister, restless, daring, proud. English by birth, they came to Scotland with their father to occupy McClairen lands. And there each would find a love as wild and glorious as the Highland isle they claimed as their own.  Fia, the only daughter, is the ravishing one. Raine, the second son, is the reckless one. Ashton is the eldest son. This is his story. . . . The Passionate One.

He was a notorious rogue with a reputation for hell-raising and heartbreaking. But family secrets forced Ashton Merrick to do his ruthless father's bidding - and escort Rhiannon Russell back to McClairen's Isle. Ash suspected that his father intended to make the innocent beauty his fourth wife. But he didn't expect the passions she would ignite in his own wary heart.

I had a hard time getting into this complicated Georgian romance that has two distinct parts to it: before the hero abducts the heroine on his father's behalf and after the abduction.  By the second part he's fallen in love with her and decides he must protect her from his dastardly father, but if he does, he might not get the money his father promised him that he can use to pay the ransom to free his brother Raine from a French prison. I told you it was complicated.

The first two books I read by Connie Brockway (As You Desire and My Dearest Enemy) were great, I simply loved them.  But this one was a miss and I'm starting to see a pattern, for the last book I read of hers, My Seduction, didn't wow me either.  The humor and clever dialogue that goes on between the hero and heroine from the first two books was missing.  Where were the exotic locations and smart and talented heroines against type?

McClairen's Island is a small island in northern Scotland that is occupied by an Englishman, Merrick, who doesn't really own it, but through marriage he's taken it over and converted the original castle into a showplace.  It's complicated, but the gist of it is, we don't like Merrick.  He has a notorious reputation which has exiled him at the king's request from London.  Did he or did he not kill his former wives to gain their fortunes and land?  He is greedy and ruthless, not even paying the ransom to free his grown sons from a French  prison.

Due to a series of events the father has sent his son Ashton to this little village in Scotland to bring back the young woman who is his "ward."  Ashton is under the thumb of his father who makes Ashton do his bidding by promising him the money to release Raine from the French prison.  Ashton travels to the village and finds Rhiannon and he is immediately smitten by her.  Orphaned as a child, Rhiannon has lived a quiet life in the village after escaping and overcoming a horrific childhood in the Scottish Highlands during the aftermath of Culloden.  When the handsome and debonair Ash shows up she is taken by surprise.  Long ago as a child, she had sought his father's help, but he had turned her away at his door.  By remarkable chance she was taken in by some kind and caring people who raised her as if she were their daughter.  Now engaged to be married to the local "most eligible bachelor" Rhiannon doesn't want to go north to McClairen's Isle, despite the fact she is drawn to Ash, and the feeling is mutual.  As Ash gets to know her better he avoids carrying out his father's wishes, for he knows his father must have some ulterior motive and Ash doesn't want to see anything bad happen to Rhiannon.  But, as it turns out, there have already been a few "accidents" that have happened to her and Ash is convinced someone is trying to kill her.  Who is behind these near misses and accidents and how can he keep her safe?

Feelings between Rhiannon and Ash are building, the sexual tension is rising.  Finally, just before Rhiannon's wedding day she and Ash have this mystical sexual encounter on Beltane Eve when everyone throws cares to the wind and sneaks off into the woods.  The next day Rhiannon, full of righteous guilt, feels she must admit the truth to her fiance.  But, Ash prevents her from spilling the beans, a whole lot happens, and Ash believes her fiance is the one trying to kill her.  So what does he do?  He kidnaps her (for her own safety) and takes her to his father!

They travel together on horseback.  She is furious with him and is an unwilling captive.  The road to McClairen's Isle is a long one and they have an arduous journey but eventually they get there.  Their trek together did not endear him to her.  Yet, he's the only life line she has.  As soon as they arrive, Rhiannon is uncomfortable amidst the garish splendor of the house Merrick has converted into a pleasure palace full of iniquity and vice.   Ash's father is up to something in regard to Rhiannon and Ash is busy trying to figure it out without giving himself away to his father.  If his father gets any inkling of Ash's true feelings towards Rhiannon he'll use it against him so Ash must treat Rhiannon as if she means nothing to him. He is torn.  He wants to leave McClairen's Isle to free his brother in France, but he doesn't want to leave Rhiannon behind at the mercy of his despicable father.

The crux of it is, Ash must choose.  Rhiannon who wants nothing to do with him - and who he has fallen in love with?  Or his brother, Rhiannon, who is far away and may be dying in a French jail?

Overall this wasn't bad, but it just did not live up to the high standard I expected from a Connie Brockway story.  I didn't care a whole lot about either the hero or heroine.  I felt she was too naive most of the time and I couldn't decide whether I liked Ash or not, I didn't feel much sympathy for him for some reason.   The two characters that were the most interesting in the book where side characters who will bear great significance in the future.  One is the true heir to McClairen's Isle, though no one knows it yet.  I suspect he'll wind up with Ash's teenage sister, Fia, who's much older than her fifteen years and is the other interesting character that shows promise.   I will probably read the rest of this series eventually, just to see what happens to them, but not anytime soon.


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