Hunter MacBeth is a handsome rogue and warrior who had a gypsy mother who disappeared at his birth causing his father to take his own life. For some reason we are not told, Hunter has the "accursed" Carmichael eyes (purple). When he comes upon the beautiful Mary Carmichael, the only daughter of the Lion of Bailekair, Hunter mistakes her for a whore and tries to buy her favors. Mary, insulted, strikes out with her own insults and then knocks him out with a rock. Realizing she is a Carmichael, Hunter vows to have his revenge and finds it when they both end up at King James' court. At first Hunter's only desire in taking Mary is to ruin and shame her, and he does that (it seems all the Highlanders in this book who take women intend rape; perhaps it was historically the done thing); but once Hunter has her, he realizes he loves the proud, courageous beauty. And she loves him. Ah, but you know it won't be that easy. The story goes on as one tragedy after another happens; they are continually separated; and the blood of both clans flows freely.
Brandewyne does a great job of weaving a complex tale and her characters are so real and the villains so evil, you will find your emotions reeling. There was a point, midway through the story when I found their many trials wearying, and both Hunter and Mary got on my nerves, but the ending was sweet—and worth waiting for. I did find it hard to believe she would think Hunter could leave his monogrammed dirk in the back of someone he supposedly murdered. (He was nae a fool, as they say.) And I found it hard to believe Hunter could be as cruel as he was at one point. But perhaps Brandewyne intended we think badly of them.
This romance takes some endurance, as much happens and the main characters travel to Western and Eastern Europe of the day, but like so many of her stories, the end is worth the patience it takes to get there. It is an intricately woven story of first love, betrayal, heartbreak, unrequited love, loss of innocence and childhood dreams, and finally, enduring love.