The Stone Maiden
by Susan King, historical (2000)
Signet, $6.99, ISBN 0-451-19970-7


The Stone Maiden is a richly-detailed historical romance of 1170 Scotland (feud, feud, feud!). It's clear the author has painstakingly done tons of research and she weaved them skilfully. Too bad I fell asleep around page 200. Sorry, but the middle of this book really drags.

Let me try to get the plot straight. Let's see, our heroine, Alainna McLaren, has seen her family decimated in the Laren-Nechtan feud. She is the only one left standing to rally her Clan together after the death of the men in her family, and the laird of Clan Nechtan, Cormac, wants to end the feud by marrying her. Eeuw.

Lucky for Alainna, she is protected by the local legend that says that whomever dare harm a Laren woman, bad things - ugly things - would happen to that nasty scumbag. This curse is borned by the Stone Maiden, a large pillar of rock around Alainna's home. However, legend also says that the Stone Maiden has an expiry date - six months from now. Cormac would be content to wait until that curse is lifted before he nabs Alainna.

Ever the intrepid lady, she goes off to see the King and petitions for a husband. The King, of course, takes this opportunity to put a Norman knight into the Laren hold. The lucky man is Sebastien le Brent. There's a catch however - marriage to the McLarens mean that the husband and his children would have to bear the McLaren name.

Sebastien and Alainna go koochie-coo after a tentative courtship. How could they not? Sebastien is sensitive, kind, patient, intelligent, a skilled strategist, and he is also skilled in bed. Alainna is his worthy mate, an intelligent, spirited, patient, resourceful woman. But the superlatives grow weary, the pace comes to a standstill, and my eyes start to feel heavier and heavier with each turn of the pages. Life seems idyllic, Cormac broods, and the two lovebirds have fun testing their acrobatic versatility in the bedroom and out.

I woke up three hours later at 4 am, and realize somehow I'd fallen asleep around page 205. Luckily after that the pace increases as the whole feud thing starts to get somewhat ugly.

TSM isn't bad, really. It has great characters and rich details, it's like a nice trip to medieval Scotland. It's also uneventful after the tumultous start and before the tumultous ending, so uneventful that it becomes quite... well, dull.

Rating: 77


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