The MacLean Groom
by Kathleen Harrington, historical (1999)
Avon, $5.99, ISBN 0-380-80727-0


It's been awhile since I read a book by this author, hence I'm glad to discover that she still hasn't lost her touch. The MacLean Groom, the first story in the Highland Lairds Trilogy doesn't boast a wholly original plot or even characters, but it is still a fine, readable story with some scenes that have me chuckling out loud.

Rory MacLean is a laird who wins the favor of King James by arresting the Macdonald traitors and executing the rebels' leader, the Red Wolf of Glencoe. Two years later, Rory is practically forced by his king to marry Joanna Macdonald in the hope of forging peace between the two clans. Old enmities die hard, however, and Joanna is practically coached by her uncle to make her future bridegroom's life miserable.

She hides herself by disguising herself as a servant boy with the aid of her people. Too bad Rory sees through her disguise and starts making life more difficult for this "servant boy". Then comes marriage, the babies, and the happy ever after.

All in good humor and fun, of course. I won't hesitate in recommending this book to anyone in need of a good read. However, some things make me uneasy while reading this, and part of it is due to bad timing on my part.

You see, I have just finished reading Connie Brockway's The Reckless One, and that book really drives home to horrors of war and the unbearable anguish both victors and losers carry in the aftermath. Here, Rory treats war as if some sort of vacation trip - been there, done that, what's next? Rory's nonchalance makes him a little too bloodthirsty for comfort. Okay, maybe Rory's a man true to his time, especially in a war-torn era. Fair enough. But put him opposite 17-year old Joanna who clearly isn't mature enough to handle the political intrigue she is dragged into, and I get a lion-toying-with-a-mouse scenario. It's a little too creepy to me for comfort.

Joanna is 17 and acts 17. She isn't able to handle her physical infatuation with Rory - understandable for a woman whose hormones are in full bloom. She oscillates between trying to muster up the hatred of Rory (coached onto her by her uncle) and physical desire that after a while I really pity Joanna. The girl doesn't have the luxury to grow up in her own pace, poor thing. Her plans for her castle are laughable, and she is clearly no match for anyone - watch how her uncle, Rory, practically everyone manipulate her for their own gains.

The MacLean Groom is a great story, yes, but the heroine's immaturity also hits some wrong buttons to this reader. Rory is a man, an experienced one - put him in the same bed with Joanna and I get the creeps.

Rating: 67


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