by Jen Holling, historical (2008)
Pocket, $6.99, ISBN 978-1-4165-2585-1
There are some paranormal elements in My Immortal Protector, but on the whole it is still a pretty down-to-earth romance for a tale where the heroine is a blood witch and the hero is supposed to have magic woo-woo as well. If you are led by the cover into thinking that this story has a vampire with a perplexing habit of wearing a cape over his bare torso, I'm sorry but you're so out of luck, though.
Set in early 17th-century Scotland, this story sees our heroine Dedra MacKay deciding that her witch abilities, chiefly her ability to communicate with animals, are more akin to gifts from the devil than anything else, so she'd love to find a way to get rid of her abilities and become an ordinary person. This is especially when she is targeted by a witch hunter who is tenacious because he is also creepily obsessed with her. When she learns that her old childhood acquaintance Stephen Ross may be a baobhan sith, she decides to drop by his place and ask him to remove her "curse". You see, it seems that the MacKays are the way they are due to a pact made by an ancestor with a baobhan sith, so now Dedra believes that it takes a baobhan sith to break the "curse".
I am still not sure what she expects Stephen to do or what she actually wants to do, mind you, although I suspect that she's probably going to knock on the door and say sweetly, "Excuse me, Mr Babboon Sith, can you spare a second and remove my curse? Thanks!" At any rate, whatever plan she has is not going to work because (a) Stephen suffers from a back injury that causes him to be in pain every time he does some vigorous He-Man action figure motions, although from the looks of things the pain doesn't stop him from doing the pumpy often, and (b) he's now doing his "emo dude with cape billowing the wind as he growls at people to go away because he's so hot and sexy in that tortured way" thing.
Fortunately for Dedra, who has no Plan B apart from going alone into the remote and isolated home of a man she hasn't seen in a while but whose dissolute reputation she has heard of, she doesn't end up dead like she could easily have been once Stephen mistakes her for a whore. Instead, Stephen is charmed by her caustic scolding that he decides to humor her and escort her in whatever it is that she wants to do to become normal again. Of course, Dedra's ardent admirer is hot on her tail and that fellow isn't giving up anytime soon.
I like Stephen. He could have easily been a whiny sucker but instead, he becomes an utterly charming half-gentleman half-rascal type once he is roused from his self-pity to accompany Dedra on her quest. The story is actually quite entertaining and well-paced. However, I find Dedra a rather problematic character because she can be quite an inconsistent one. Her behavior can veer erratically from one extreme to another. Sometimes she comes off like a very simple and dangerously naïve child, at other times she's sensible and very well-aware. I don't know what to make of her. Dedra can also be too much of a damsel in distress, especially towards the end when her grand gesture upon being captured by the bad guy is her decision to die because that is what she feels is the best solution for everyone in the story. I suppose it is a good thing that Stephen has more tenacity than Dedra to seize life with both hands, and mind you, he's the one who's supposed to be the cripple in this story.
The pretty inconsistent heroine aside, I don't have any significant issue with My Immortal Protector, although I have a feeling that some readers will find the contemporary-sounding dialogs in this medieval romance problematic. I've read better books by this author just as I've read worse, so this one is somewhere in the middle where Ms Holling is concerned.
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