Friday, February 8, 2008

Jaclyn Reding: The Pretender

The Pretender: B-
Elizabeth Drayton & Douglas MacKinnon

Back cover: Angered by his daughter’s secret writings on female equality, and in need of an heir, the Duke of Sudeleigh has hit upon the perfect scheme. He’ll marry the feisty lass off to the man of his choosing. But Lady Elizabeth abhors arranged marriages, and she’ll do anything to avoid one – even wed a Scottish farmer.

Elizabeth does not realize, however, that the man she assumes is a poor crofter is an aristocrat every bit as prominent as the duke. Now her father and her chosen groom-to-be have hatched a plan to catch Elizabeth at her own game. But with one deception following another, heartbreak is inevitable…unless true love can save the day.

I feel that the back of the book is slightly misleading.

So, Lady Elizabeth is outgoing and feminist. She writes for a feminist publication which her father reads and is infuriated by the woman’s gall to write such nonsense. He soon finds out it’s her. He’s pissed off – major. So he chooses an old, almost-his-own-age husband for her, one whose lands borders theirs.

She finds out while she is making the trip to marry her husband and is pissed off- major. Their (her and her younger sister, Isabella) carriage breaks down as a Scottish farmer, Douglas MacKinnon, is walking on by. He offers to help. They accept.

Then Elizabeth is intrigued and thinks of a great plan – why not pretend to marry Douglas and watch her father blow up one of his main arteries?

They go to an inn. She gets drunk off of strong whiskey (while experimenting) and Douglas carries her into her room. She invites him to stay (she’s drunk!) and he turns her tempting offer down. But she reveals to him that she is afraid of the dark and he stays with her – intending to stay only until she falls asleep. Unfortunately, the fatigue of the physical exercise that day and the tipsiness from the whiskey combines and lulls into a sleep.

They are found the next morning in that inevitable “compromising situation” and ended up getting married – for real!

Return home. Everyone freaks out. Dad and Douglas talk. Dad finds out Douglas is the laird for his clan and he is fighting with the British King in order to get back the lands that the previous King confiscated.

Dad and Douglas plot together. Elizabeth and Douglas are to stay married for two more months – since Elizabeth is headstrong and spoiled. She got herself into this situation so she has to stick it out. BUT she isn’t to know that Douglas is a laird – she is to believe that he is a farmer. If after two months, they still are at odds with each other and they haven’t done the hanky panky, then the father will go and ask for an annulment.

So Elizabeth and Douglas return to Douglas’s home and she learns, first hand, what it feels like to be a farmer’s wife. Seeing that her father is a very highly regarded English gentleman, milking a cow and doing the laundry are new experiences for her.

Along with this humorous budding romance is the fact that Douglas’ clan, the MacKinnons, are fighting to protect their Scottish King – someone the English calls “The Pretender” since he isn’t the British king.

Good premise, but just not enough development. The book is a short paperback, a skimpy 305 pages and this story could have been developed so much more. The romance (falling-in-love part) was a little rushed in the end (she totally could have added an extra 100 pages…) and the whole “adventure” with the Pretend King wasn’t too interesting. I was tempted to skim over those parts.

However, Isabella’s story sounds, The Adventurer, sounds like a whole lot of fun from the excerpt. I’ll have to check it out!

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