Monday, December 14, 2015

#51 [2015/CBR7] "Defiant" by Pamela Clare

Pamela Clare's "Ranger"series has become something of a guilty pleasure for me. I read the first book, Surrender, almost by accident. Momentum carried me through Untamed, which I enjoyed even more. However, Defiant (2012) wasn't available on Kindle at my library. Or available on Kindle at all, which isn't a great sign. But it was too late. I love romantic adventures with protective (yet modern and understanding) heroes. I also like to finish what I start, and I needed to know the story of the youngest brother.

Connor MacKinnon is the Captain of the Rangers, an elite fighting force that aids the British in the French and Indian War. Five years earlier, Connor and his two elder brothers [now happily married with babies coming apace] were pressed into service by the evil, yet sometimes conflicted, Wentworth. Wentworth is an English officer and Lord, who had no qualms about framing the brothers for murder and holding it over their heads to control them. Personally, if I were Wentworth, I would worry about the MacKinnons' loyalty. As it is, there is a tricky, and sometimes unbelievable, balance of power between the amazing fighting force of the Rangers and their hated commander.

Anyway, Lady Sarah Woodville is Wentworth's niece. She has been ridiculously sheltered and controlled by her mother in England (think of a 1700's Angela, from The Office), but a scandal she barely understands has her far from reasonable parents sending her off to New York in disgrace. On the way to plead to her Uncle Wentworth for help, she is captured by Indians. Katakwa is one of the Indian warriors and he decides to take Sarah as his wife to avenge the death of his wife by British soldiers.

Wentworth hears of the abduction and sends Connor and Joseph (Indian ally and basically a brother to the MacKinnon boys) to save her. Sarah's hands are tied and she is pulled through the forest, trying to mark their trail along the way, while Connor and his Indian brother follow quickly behind them. When they arrive, Connor, Joseph and Katakwa plead their cases to an old woman and leader of the tribe. Like quite a few instances in the first two books, I could not read these passages without flashes of The Last of the Mohicans scrolling through my head. At this point, I think you can generally guess what happens next, but if you don't mind spoilers and want more detail, feel free to read on.

It's pretty clear that the tribe leader is going to side with Katakwa, so Connor challenges Katakwa for Sarah. Connor wins, but everyone's mad at him. The old lady insists that Connor marry Sarah that night, and they must consummate the marriage with her sister/midwife as witness. If a forced marriage between a sexy, Scottish warrior and an English Sassenach sounds familiar, I'm sure you're mistaken because it has never been done before. Given her choices, Sarah rationally agrees to the consummation. But Sarah is no Claire. She's sheltered and desperate to not cause more scandal for her family. Connor is also a virtual stranger to her, and there is a creepy old woman watching everything they do. This scene required some careful balancing, but I was impressed by what the author did with it.

The deed is done, and the plan is to get Sarah back to her uncle and pretend nothing ever happened. Of course, things are never that simple. Katakwa and some of his friends are still pissed and plan to ambush them on their way back. Sarah and Connor might just fall in love, and sometimes unexpected consequences come from sex, making hiding a relationship impossible.

For the most part, I liked this novel. Connor was a good hero, even though his demons were swept aside with very little resolution. There is a part where he is sentenced to 1,000 lashes by Wentworth (I'll let you guess what he's getting in trouble for), which had me scoffing and rolling my eyes, but Pamela Clare specifically states in the afterword that she did not make that up, and that men were occasionally sentenced to 1,000 lashes. It appears she did some significant research for the book.

Once again, I do wish that Joseph played a larger role in the story besides sidekick. Part of me would have loved it if Pamela Clare had changed things up. Originally, Connor feels guilty for taking Sarah's virginity and asks Joseph to stay by her, keeping his distance from her himself. I think it would have been kind of awesome if Sarah had ended up falling for Joseph and they ran away together. Clare and Joseph became pretty close as it was; it wouldn't take much more for them to fall in love. Then Clare could have written a fourth book about Connor.

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