Pocket Books, May 2004
Reviewed by Barbara Fielding
MY SEDUCTION is the first title in a the new Rose Hunter Trilogy featuring four young men: Christian "Kit" MacNeill, Douglas Stewart, Ramsey Munro and Andrew Ross. The abbot of St. Bride's monastery in Scotland has gathered together the orphaned offspring of the old Highland Chiefs killed in the Battle of Culloden. The young men are groomed as warrior knights, skilled as assassins and spies working under the guise of gardeners who tend the exotic species of roses grown at St. Brides.
On a spying mission to France to deliver roses to Josephine Boneparte the men are betrayed and arrested. They are condemned to death and Douglas Stewart is executed. Colonel Nash, an English officer, negotiates a prisoner exchange for three of the young men. The Colonel trades himself, believing his rank will save him from execution and he will be ransomed. But Colonel Nash is executed and the survivors decide to repay the debt to Nash's family with a vow of honor.
Colonel Nash is survived by a fragile wife, and three daughters, Charlotte, Helena and Katherine Nash Blackburn. The eldest, Kate, is a young widow whose husband died en route to India barely one year after her marriage. Due to her mother's delicate health Kate is forced to take charge of the family. Kit MacNeill, Ramsey Munro and Andrew Ross present themselves to the Nash family to swear an oath of service. They give the women a rose bush with the instructions to send a rose from the plant to St. Brides if they should ever have need of their services.
Three years later, the family's dire financial situation forces Kate to go to Clyth to seek help from the Marquis Parnell, a distant relation. Kate is determined to secure the future for her sisters and she sets out on a dangerous journey across the Highlands. When her maid and her driver abandon her, Kit MacNeill mysteriously comes to her aid. Kate is forced to rely on the rough and ruthless Celtic warrior to get her to Clyth. The journey throws them together in very intimate circumstances and despite their wildly different stations in life, they develop a growing attraction for each other. Can Kate find the security and stability she craves with a poor solider her father died to save?
I love Scottish historical romances and the premise of the Rose Hunter Trilogy really appealed to me. I found the characters were well drawn and their conflict written with a fresh and genuine twist. Kate Blackburn is a heroine who lives in constant fear of poverty after the loss of her husband followed by her father. The responsibility for the entire family is forced on her shoulders. She goes from a carefree debutante to a wife, then widow, to head of the family in one year's time. Kate craves the return of security to the point of obsession. Kit is an illegitimate son of a Highland Chief brought up in the roughest possible way. He is educated, noble and gallant but has no wealth and few prospects. His greatest strength is that he knows how to survive. Both characters must come to a new understanding for their love to bloom.
I enjoyed these characters, however the book suffers from a few problems. First, there is a vagueness in the details of this story that left me dissatisfied and sometimes confused. Within the tale is an ongoing mystery, the identity of the person who betrayed their mission and caused Douglas Stewart's death. It's likely this mystery will carry over into the entire trilogy but there isn't enough information given to make this mystery element work, in my opinion. Another problem I had with this book was towards the end the story becomes heavily melodramatic and the resolution feels contrived.
MY PLEASURE, the second title in this trilogy, is due out in October 2004 and will feature another Rose Hunter, Ramsey Munro and Helena Nash.
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