A direct sequel to Prick of the Thistle, this continues the love story of Duncan the laird of Faoltaigh Castle and William the feminine actor.
To be honest, this book should have been a part of the first which was rather slow and ended practically mid-scene, everything up in the air and unresolved. However, your opinion of the first book might change or be tempered if you read this second book right after it. I guarantee that several things will become clearer. In short, this book is better than the first in the series.
One of these things becoming clearer will be Duncan’s wife, Moira. In the first book, she’s pretty much vilified as a conniving, power-hungry woman who blackmails Duncan into marriage. But in this book, she’s transformed. We learn why she behaved the way she did, and the marriage takes a turn toward… an emotional threesome of sorts? In fact, a word that didn’t exist back in her day to describe what she is gives her a layer that breathes life into a relatable, three-dimensional character. I despised her in the first book, liked her in this one.
As for the main characters… Man, at times Duncan really needs to grow a pair. Sometimes he’s strong and confident and decisive. Then at other times, for example with his mother, he’s an indecisive coward. Her reaction was to be expected, given the times and religious influence, but his was not. Duncan has a perplexing inconsistency to his character, sometimes sure, other times weak. That discrepancy shows here a lot. It’s not just about internal conflict with different people, but a definite disparity.
The same disparity appears with William, the second hero. We learn a lot more about him in this book which is good. But he’s a bit of weather vane, if you get my drift. He claims to want to stay at the castle with Duncan—yet at the very next scene he runs away. He does this a couple of times. He vows to stick around, but then doesn’t. After the first few times this aspect got a little aggravating.
In this book, one of the main schisms actually comes from Duncan’s mother who finds out about her son and William. This results in a major plot development, related to my point above. However, the main story revolves around freeing William from his past, namely the abusive monster who’s still hunting him after all this time. The climax was well written and satisfying as a conclusion, if somewhat vague about the motivation of the villain. I didn’t really understand why this beast was so intent on getting William back. But figuring that out was a small matter.
In any case, what I liked about this story the most was William and his transformation. He changes from a cold-hearted man who liked nothing but sex into a man who learns to love after a lifetime of abuse. He goes from an actor lost on the moors to a fine clothier at the castle. He comes to accept that running away isn’t the solution. In the first book, William remained a mystery all the way to the end. Here we discover what makes him tick, what he fears, what he dreams of.
As an historical story, this isn’t perfect. The language is awfully modern at times, but I did appreciate all the different languages, how they gave a window into the Highland culture and way of life. It seemed organic and flowed nicely. In fact, the writing style is quite beautiful, with lovely use of words, if a bit slow at times, but I think that is the author’s unique voice at work. High marks from me.
In short, I recommend this story to everyone who likes their historicals with their heroes facing both sweet and trying times but enjoying a happy ending. And there’s more sex here than in the first book. As for the future, I don’t know if this series will have more books but if so I will be checking them out. As stated already, recommended—read both books, one right after the other, for the best experience.
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