passion rating: warm
Dear Ms. McCarty,
The Saint is the first of your books I’ve read and, if they are all like this, it will be the last. This book combined the worst of the two components of historical romance. The history, of which there is a ton, is info-dumped in large swathes into your prose—I began to feel as though I were studying for a test– and the romance is so frustrating, by the novel’s end, it would have suited me just fine had Helen and Magnus (known as Saint), the star-crossed lovers of the tale, ended up apart.
The book takes place in the era of the famed Bruce: Scotland in the early 1300’s. Saint is a MacKay and Helen is a Sutherland and, of course, the two clans share a long and bloody feud. Helen and Saint first meet at the Highland games when she is fourteen and he is nineteen. The two fall in love, despite only seeing each other for a few moments when the Games are held each year, but keep their love a secret. Finally, when Helen is 18 and old enough to wed, Saint, at the 1305 games, finally beats his Sutherland nemesis Munro for the first time. After the match, Saint finds Helen, gives her a long hard kiss–her first–and asks her to marry him. She, unable to choose him over her family, turns him down. Saint, instantly a man ruined for life, immediately accepts a dangerous offer by the Bruce to become one of the Kings’s newly formed secret elite Highland Guard created to defeat the English.
One chapter and three years later, Saint, feeling as though he’d rather be tortured by the English Crown’s vilest knaves, is headed to his best friend’s wedding. William “Templar” Gordon, a member of the Highland Guard and a close friend of Helen’s brother Kenneth, is marrying Helen. Even though Saint and Templar are best friends and are partners in the secretive Highland Guard, Templar has never mentioned his courtship—albeit scant—of Helen to Saint. So William has no idea that his best friend Saint—so called because he never whores around—holds an inviolate tendre for Helen. Nor does he have any idea that Helen, whose brother has pushed her upon William, is still profoundly in love with Saint.
Saint shows up Dunstaffnage Castle, Helen’s home, the night before the wedding is to take place. The two have not seen each for three years, not since she rejected his proposal, and when they lay eyes upon one another, both realize they are still madly in love. Helen, who has known for some time she should have chosen love over family, finds Magnus and asks him for another a chance. He, full of (arrogant) duty and honor, blows her off, telling her he feels nothing for her. Helen then marries William who, as the ceremony is taking place, suddenly gleans the feelings of his bride and best friend. On their wedding night, William, the hero in all this, refuses to take Helen’s maidenhood given that she loves his best friend. In the morning, he, Saint, and the Guard leave for an undercover mission to save the Bruce’s brother Edward from a siege in Galloway. William is essentially killed on the excursion although, since he’s only (to steal a phrase from The Princess Bride) mostly dead, in keeping with Guard code, Saint has to actually finish him off and make him unidentifiable. This latter action leaves him with enough guilt to ruin the rest of the novel.
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