Thank-you to NetGalley and Kensington Books for my e-galley reissue of this novel in exchange for an honest review.
This novel is set in the early fourteenth century during the Scottish Wars of Independence. It is based upon two fictional characters, Brendan and Eleanor, however the historical figure of William Wallace is also a central character of the novel.
Eleanor is an English countess, holding land in her own right (not likely) and Brendan is a Scottish rebel who fights alongside Wallace. They make an unlikely couple and yet from the very beginning it is obvious to the reader that their fiery interactions cover up a deep attraction to one another. They must each put aside their reservations about the other’s nationality before they can truly begin to trust each other and it is this that makes up the majority of the novel.
Therefore I would consider this novel an historical romance; the theme is most definitely the developing love between Brendan and Eleanor, but within the context of Wallace and his fight against Edward I of England.
The only qualm I have about the storyline us that some parts seemed a little too convenient and not true to life. I understand that the author strove to create a gripping and intriguing plot by peppering the novel with damsel-in-distress-saving heroics, a “whodunit” style murder mystery, pirates (yes that’s right, pirates) and various other clichés, but in my opinion it was overdone at times.
Nonetheless I enjoyed the relationship between Eleanor and Brendan and found it in itself to be intriguing enough to grasp my attention and keep it throughout. I also enjoyed the author’s portrayal of Wallace, who came across as a normal man with a resolute ideal for his country.
After Wallace’s defeat at Falkirk he flees to France and is received by the French king, who is shown as duplicitous by encouraging the Scottish rebels and then signing a peace treaty with Edward I. The author used this relative time of peace to focus her attention more upon her characters and less upon the fighting. Most of the portrayals of fighting are small skirmishes and not battles. Again, this is another reason that this novel fits nicely within the historical romance genre: nowhere within these pages will you find Bernard Cornwell style battle depictions.
Overall this was an interesting novel with a storyline that was a little too hyperbolic for my taste but that had vivid and complex characters that I enjoyed reading about. The characters themselves were not exaggerated, just the plot, which thankfully meant that I never became alienated from them and instead formed a connection to their plight. I was glad to find that the character of William Wallace wasn’t as embellished as he has previously been in a certain well-known film of the 90’s…