passion rating: hot
Alex MacDonald, the Scots hero of Margaret Mallory’s The Sinner, has every attribute one could dream up for the perfect alpha male hero. He’s a “blindingly handsome” golden haired sex god with a killer wit and a deadly claymore. He can easily defeat, singlehandedly, groups of ferocious warriors and, still dripping his enemies’ blood, kiss a chieftain’s gorgeous daughter witless. He’s intensely loyal, skilled with children, and has a perfect “arse.” His only blemish: a profound resistance to matrimony born from years of watching his parents’ carriage-wreck of a marriage.
This aversion to matrimony is shared by the novel’s heroine, Glynnis MacNeil. Glynnis has already been married once to a slopsucker of a man whom she stabbed in the thigh — she missed — then deserted. (Under Highland law, a spouse has the right to leave within the first year of the marriage for any reason.) Unfortunately for Glynnis, neither her father, the Chieftain of the MacNeil clan, nor her ex-husband is pleased with her response to her first round of nuptial non-bliss. Her derelict husband Magnus would like to kill her — or just settle for letting his men rape her repeatedly — and her father adamantly insists she marry again.
The Sinner is the second book in Ms. Mallory’s series Return of the Highlanders and, like the first, The Guardian, much of the plot revolves around the MacDonald Clan and its efforts to preserve itself amidst the political turmoil of early 1500’s Highlands Scotland. Alex and his friends Duncan and Ian (the hero of The Guardian) all are sworn to serve their cousin Connor, the head of the MacDonald clan. Alex would do anything for Connor except wed a lass from another clan in order to form a political alliance. Given that Alex won’t do the one thing Connor really needs him to do, Connor consigns Alex another charge. Alex is to travel to Edinburgh to meet with Sabine, a French noblewoman who was once Alex’s lover. Sabine has written Alex with the message that she has a special gift for him. Alex and Connor believe the mysterious gift may have something to do with the rebellion fomented by many clans from the Western Isles against the Scottish Crown. The MacDonald Clan is walking a fine line by supporting neither the rebellion nor the Crown. Connor and Alex wonder if Sabine — or their mutual French friend D’Arcy - has information for them regarding the views of the current regent, the Duke of Albany, on the stance the MacDonald Clan has taken.
Alex and Duncan head to Edinburgh by way of Duart Castle on the island of Mull, the seat of the Maclean clan, where many of the leaders of the rebellious clans are meeting. (I remain in the dark about why the two went there — Alex asks Duncan why they’re making this detour and Duncan just whistles a sad song.) Glynnis is there with her father whom she is trying to convince not to join the rebellion or force her to marry one of the chieftains there. Magnus is there too and, when he attacks Glynnis, Alex fights him almost to the death — Alex of course wins — while Glynnis watches and tries not to faint with desire. Later that day, after accidentally seeing Alex in all his astonishingly splendid naked male glory, Glynnis asks Alex to meet her behind the kitchens at midnight where she asks if he’ll take her to Edinburgh. She’s decided to run away from her match-making father and move in with her dead mother’s family whom she’s never met. (I’m sure this has nothing to do with wishing to see more of Alex’s perfect arse.) When Alex tells her no, she threatens to tell Shaggy Maclean, the chieftain of Duart, she saw Alex swiving Catherine, Shaggy’s routinely unfaithful wife. Alex, who this time had turned down Catherine’s offer of afternoon delight, reluctantly agrees to take Glynnis with him.
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