Set in 1375, mostly in Scotland, this is the story of Alyson Bowden, bastard half-sister to Lady Maude Darnley of the English Darleys. Alyson, a maid in the Darnley household, is forced by her father, to take her half-sister’s identity in order to satisfy a promise he made. The promise was to their enemies, the Kirallens—to give “his daughter” to them in marriage to end their long cross-border feud. He would never give them Maude, the daughter he values, but he will give them Alyson, who agrees only to save her young brother whose life Darnley has threatened.
I liked this story from the beginning, not only the concept, but the way the author drew me into Alyson’s predicament. The man she was forced to wed, Jemmy Kirallen, the disfavored son of his father, now the heir, believed her to be the haughty Maude, but he wondered at times when “Maude” would become more intelligent, inquisitive and passionate in his arms.
Alyson holds Jemmy at bay, believing she will soon be free and can return to her brother. And Jemmy believes he will soon be free of her. But he wants to leave her with child before he returns to his life at sea.
Alyson quickly comes to love her new husband (and given what a great guy he is, one can see why!) However, she fears telling him the truth—that Darnley plans an attack on the Kirallens—knowing Darnley has threatened the life of her young brother.
There isn’t much history in this story but there is certainly enough story to hold your interest, with many twists and turns, including a foster brother, the Kirallen ghost who haunts the keep and who was stabbed in the back by Darnley, and some endearing children.
It’s a picture of life in the Borderlands, of English and Scots warring for many years. And it’s the story of love that can heal many hurts. Lovers of Scottish historical romance will find depth here and enough story to keep them turning pages.