by Jen Holling, historical (2003)
Sonnet, $6.99, ISBN 0-7434-3804-3
The final book in the Brides Of The Bloodstone trilogy, the previous books being Tempted By Your Touch and Tamed By Your Desire.
It struck me once I've finished this book that I still have no clear idea what this Bloodstone or Clachan Fala actually does. Sure, it gets the heroines married to their Princes Charming, but surely, with all the mayhem that ensue, there are better or easier ways to get married in 16th century Scotland. Still, I know the Bloodstone is one of the gems from Arthur's Excalibur blade, and that our heroine in this book, Mona the Moaner, is the current Keeper of the gem. In this way, as a trilogy, Jen Holling's Brides Of The Bloodstone isn't particularly successful.
As a standalone novel, well, it's not too bad. But somewhat I find myself rivetted by the psychopath villain more than the main characters. Then the author has my darling yummy psychopath Ridley Graham flies completely off the handle until my poor Ridley is a complete caricature by the end. I don't like anybody in this story anymore. That's not good, is it?
If you have read Tamed By Your Desire, you will get a preview of this story there. Don't worry though. Unlike, say, Lois Greiman, Ms Holling knows to start at the beginning for newcomers to get a grasp on her story. In this case, Ridley wants the Bloodstone as well as Moana Lisa here, Moana Lisa being his stepmother, mind you. Ridley isn't a very good schemer though as we can see that, so far, all his strategies only result in the matchmaking of his despised sisters to their true love. In this book, he inadvertently but directly match-makes his stepmother with her true love Patrick Maxwell. I think Ridley needs to get some personal tutoring from me in the art of war. He's actually quite sexy in his obsessive psychosis.
Ridley has captured Patrick in a long story best left for readers to read for themselves, but Moana Lisa helps Patrick sneak out provided Patrick will accompany and protect her as she delivers the Bloodstone to his brother Robert and her stepdaughter Caroline (Robert's wife). Patrick is reluctant as he has obligations, but in the end he can't help but to tag along anyway. And of course, they fall in love, complicating matters. Ridley, meanwhile, is not giving up both his beloved Stepmother and Stone.
Moana Lisa is the typical noble and virtuous heroine with a very high endurance threshold for pain and suffering, while Patrick is the usual hardened mercenary with the tendency to do the trauma nightmare shivers thingie in the night for Poignant Moments. They are so nice together, willing to help each other and all, that I find them rather bland and vanilla for my liking. Compared to Ridley who does all those dramatically insane single-minded obsession antics, they can be on the dull side. It gets to a point where I wish Moana Lisa and Patrick will just go away and leave me to a 100% Ridley goes Crazy story.
But of course, as the story progresses, Ridley goes more and more whacked until he is a certified whackjob by the time he gets his just desserts. Ridley isn't a smart villain, if his sheer incompetence in three books is anything to go by, but he is the source of violent, turbulent single-minded passion here. It's probably not so odd since I have a strange thing for heroes that come with their personal straight jackets: Moana Lisa and Patrick's very familiar and proper relationship development fail to capture my attention the way bad, mad Ridley does.
Along with Ridley's psychosis, the plot also whirls out of control. The Bloodstone's properties vary according to plot requirements (it can, from this book, do anything from giving Ridley some much-needed strategy skills to restoring Moana's state of fertility), but really, what does it actually do?
In the end, Captured By Your Kiss is a wildly uneven conclusion to a baffling trilogy.
This book at Amazon.com
This book at Amazon UK
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