Forever, My Lady
by Jen Holling, historical (2001)
Harper, $5.99, ISBN 0-06-101437-0


I enjoyed the author's debut, A Time For Dreams, but her follow-up Forever, My Lady, a straightforward Highland feud historical romance, loses me when the heroine Megan Dixon starts doing silly things to further the conflict between her and Bryan Hepburn.

Bryan is sent to be the new local warden of East March, a territory right in the heat of the complicated feuds between various Scottish clans. Bryan and his dog Pellinore are unfamiliar with the lawless protocols these clans seem to follow in their raiding and destroying each other, until Megan takes pity on him and shows him a few raider's tricks or two.

They are attracted to each other, but when Bryan investigates the mystery of the missing Leod Hume, the warden before him, his main suspect turns out to be Megan. Megan has a history of bitterness that follows all the way to the murder of her husband at the hands of a man who is now an outlaw in the area.

I like Bryan, who is torture-free, baggage-free (almost), a refreshing change from the tormented, dark, bitter heroes I've been reading for the last few books. He really wants to believe that Megan is innocent while carrying out his duties fairly. If he seems incompetent, it's because he really has no idea how things are run here in the lawless Highlands. The author creates an interesting scenario in her story, where every clan does their best to rip the other to shreds, abetted by corrupt law officers, until hey-ho, here comes Bryan who just won't be persuaded to accept bribes or anything. Trouble is about to break loose, definitely.

But Megan is really strange. She knows Bryan is investigating her, and a simple telling him that no, she didn't do it, this will solve matters for a while. But no, she has to lie, then runs out to play Nancy Drew on her own. Naturally, Bryan finds her and starts getting suspicious. Likewise, everything she says and does after this just add more and more doubts in Bryan. And I can't blame him. I'd be suspicious too, because some of the things Megan does is just plain irrational.

Still, the prose is clean, the premise is engaging, and Bryan is really a catch. Too bad Megan is around to spoil the party.

Rating: 80


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