Monday, August 3, 2015

#35 [2015/CBR7] "Surrender" by Pamela Clare

I chose the least embarrassing cover I could find to use for this review of Surrender (2006) by Pamela Clare. The plain, bare chest seemed a little less ridiculous than my other options.

NPR's list of 100 Swoon-Worthy romances reminded me that I hadn't read a good romance in quite some time. Pamela Clare's I-Team series made the list under the romantic suspense category, but Surrender was the only Pamela Clare book I could get immediately from the library. So I found myself reading an old-school romance of the French and Indian War instead of the contemporary suspense I had gone looking for.

My knack for last minute cramming during high school did nothing for my long-term retention of American history. Fortunately, between Outlander and The Last of the Mohicans (the movie, of course), I had more than enough historical background to understand the characters, where they came from and their current setting.

Iain MacKinnon was the son of the Laird MacKinnon back in Scotland, whose clan was decimated and survivors transported to the American colonies after Culloden. Iain and his two younger brothers grew up in America, eventually being half-adopted into an Indian tribe. Thus, they are an interesting combination of stereotypical Scottish warriors with stereotypical American Indian skills. When Colonel William Wentworth of the British Army is impressed by the brothers, he presses them into service as Rangers by framing them for murder and blackmailing them.

Lady Anne Burness Campbell's family were Scottish loyalists. Her father and brothers were all killed in the fighting before Culloden and she and her mother went to live with her uncle. Unfortunately for Lady Anne, her uncle is something of a sadist who likes to strangle his lovers during sex. After Anne sees her uncle kill her mother, she tries to run away. Her uncle catches her and has her branded as a thief and transported to the colonies. Anne finds herself as an indentured servant on a farm in the middle of nowhere, New York.

When Indians attack the farm and kill her masters, Anne runs for her life and is saved by Iain MacKinnon who is out and about on a spying mission with his Rangers. He defies his orders, requiring him not to engage in fighting unless attacked, and leaves his men in order to save Lady Anne. Anne, realizing that she has the chance to escape her unjust indentured servitude calls herself Annie Burns and lets him believe the people killed at the farm were her family. They make an exhausting and harrowing trek back to the safety of Fort Henry, where they have to deal with their hidden stories, their families' histories as enemies, Colonel Wentworth, the ongoing war, and Anne's evil uncle.

My main problem with this book was that it had the old-school feel of being written in the 1980's when heroes were aggressive alpha males who acted like assholes if you stopped to think about their actions. Now, there have certainly been heroes much, much worse than Iain, but the first time he kisses Annie, she's asleep, and the first time he sleeps with her he's pissed at her because he thought she'd hooked up with Colonel Wentworth--or something. The whole first half of the book, there is a lot of bickering about nothing much important. Also, Annie is frustratingly innocent and there is way too much discussion about her virginity.

I've learned that even though I'm a sucker for a good rescue, I much prefer my couples to work together than to fight. When Iain and Annie finally get together (spoiler! not really), I liked their dynamic and relationship much better. I also thought that Clare did well with the feeling of the dread and pointlessness of war. Even with the parts of this book that bothered me, I found myself wanting to read more after I'd finished. I also had to immediately watch The Last of the Mohicans to see another version of this story on the big screen. I'm not sure I liked Surrender enough to read about the other brothers. However, I will try Clare's contemporary books to see if the women are a little more independent and the men a little less rapey. Sure, Annie was always willing in the end, but it's a turn off when her primary emotion when Iain is about to "make love" to her is fear.

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