by Kathy Davie
Sixteenth in the Murray Family historical romance series. This particular story is set in early summer 1478 and the couple focus is on Tormand Murray and Morainn Ross.
This was…um…I was gonna say fun, but the method by which Howell puts the young lovers together is not so much fun as it involves an insane serial killer. Other than that…
Howell seemed to enjoy writing this story as she addressed the fears the idiot…er, the susceptible fool…um…the uneducated masses had about anything they didn’t understand. And Ide had no problem whipping up the hysteria in her efforts to get rid of first her mother, and now she’s working on getting rid of Morainn. Howell states that Ide made a habit of stirring people up with lies. So why don’t they make the connection between Ide and Morainn. What’s with people? They’re comfortable enough seeking her out when they need help, but god forbid anyone should see them being friendly with her??!!
It’s interesting to read a 15th century tale where the investigator is concerned with forensics. It’s only a surface discussion by Howell—the historical mysteries do a much better job of it—but it is unexpected to encounter it in an historical romance. I’m not really sure just what it is that has grabbed my attention…I like the characters. Howell has skimmed the culture and mores of the time with a nod to our own contemporary period without being overt about it. It’s a nice blend with a good dose of tension as she teases out the hidden identity of the real killer. It could have been a wee bit more believable that no one knew who this person was if she had stressed how rarely the lower classes at that time traveled or how short a distance they might travel. Or, maybe I’m projecting from other novels whose characters always seem to know their neighbors for a reasonably wide radius??
I did enjoy Tormand’s relationships with his family…they don’t let him get away with anything! They’re all very tolerant of Morainn’s abilities—it runs in their own family. I liked that Morainn was willing to protect herself. I also liked Morainn’s reasons for leaving Tormand. Very practical and realistic.
I did enjoy Howell’s pushing the questions about Morainn’s banishment. The colloquial dialog I did not enjoy so much. I’ve never read so many “mon”s in one place… It wouldn’t have taken that much research to learn the proper address/names of the various knights and lords running about in this story.
Waking up in an ex-lover’s bed could be disconcerting. Waking up to her body sliced apart, is a whole lot worse. There is someone targeting Tormand’s former lovers and doing their best to make it look like he’s the guilty party. All his hopes rest on Sir Simon Innes and the local witch who has dreamt of Tormand and the murders.
Dreams that Tormand shares. Each night, the dream becomes more vivid, more realistic leaving both dreamers tossing and turning in their respective beds. It’s an attraction Tormand fights for he is not ready to give up his pursuit of the fairer sex. Morainn, too, is reluctant. She has no desire to become another name on his extensive list. His dilemma is observed with amusement by Simon and his family. And it only gets worse when Morainn is forced to move into Tormand’s home.
Mistress Morainn Ross is considered a witch by most of the village. A perspective actively pushed by Ida, the incompetent midwife. The same person who had been threatened by her mother years ago. Morainn’s mother taught her everything she knew about herbs and their uses. She also has visions that see into the future and the past along with psychometry. Walin is the bastard child of someone. Morainn found him on her doorstep one day when he was two-years-old. Most believe he is her own child…although, as Nancy puts it, why Morainn would wait two years before showing him off to the village…? William is their huge, very protective cat. Nora Chisholm is Morainn’s best and oldest friend; her family has been almost the only support Morainn received since she was tossed out of the village and she is betrothed to Sir James Grant.
Sir Tormand Murray is a footloose and very fancy-free Highland laird bedding women left, right, and center. He’s notorious throughout Scotland for his bed-hopping. And he has no intention of settling down —ah, yes, the death knell of every romantic hero. His family bloodline ensures that Gifts pop up regularly. Walter Burns is his old squire. Old because he keeps refusing a knighthood, very content to remain a squire. Walter sent a message which crossed with one of Tormand’s sisters sending four of the family to find out what’s troubling Tormand: cousins Rory and Harcourt and brothers Bennett and Uilliam. Magda is Tormand’s housekeeper and cook.
Sir Simon Innes is a second son and he is the king’s man, investigating trouble and solving problems. Bonegnasher is his dog.
Old Ide Bruce is a midwife who hates Morainn’s mother and her. Always causing trouble for her. Old Geordie is her brother, but there’s no love lost here. It’s odd, but Geordie is supposedly Simon’s father’s former second. You’d think he’d be able to read and write… Sir Adam Kerr of Dubhstane is Morainn’s landlord; the rumors say she’s spreading her legs to pay him her rent. If they only knew…
Lady Clara and Sir Ranald, Lady Isabella and Sir William, Lady Marie Campbell, Edward MacLean, Lady Katherine and Sir John Hay are all victims.
Arghh…it’s that humongous bicep bulging around the leather cuff, veins popping, elbow bent with his sword resting across his shoulder as he watches fire destroy a building. What it has to do with the story…I haven’t a clue.
The title, however, is very accurate, for Tormand Murray is definitely a Highland Sinner.