Rebellion
by Nora Roberts, historical (1999, 1988 reissue)
Harlequin, $6.99, ISBN 0-373-83428-4


I always believe writing romances set in a period of war is the one of the hardest types of writing. As a reader, I demand that to be satisfied with these stories, I must be convinced, especially if the lovers are allied to different political factions. But in Nora Roberts' Rebellion, I'm just not convinced, and as a result, I can't really enjoy it as much as other readers.

Serena MacGregor witnessed the aftermath of her mother's beating and rape as well as her Scottish village looted by English soldiers in 1735. She was only a young girl and was traumatized, nurturing a life-long hatred for the English since that day.

Tragic indeed but I have a question: In a time of strife, why is this village unprotected by the menfolk? The menfolk, all of them, it seems, went hunting. In a forest nearby. Can't they see the smokes of burning houses? Looting takes a long time, and yet the men still aren't back by the time the English soldiers have pillaged and plundered to their hearts' content.

Then it is 1745, and Scotland is primed for rebellion under Prince Charles. Serena has matured to a lovely, fiery woman with MacGregor temper (the latter I know because it is repeated ad nauseum throughout the first half of the book), and her brother Coll brings back an Englishman, Brigham Langston, his best friend and a supporter of the Cause. Question: Why would a man whose mother was abused by Englishmen and his village destroyed by them have an Englishman for a best friend?

Brigham faces Serena's nasty temper, which consists of hot empty laughable threats like Gruel's what he needs and gruel's what he'll have. Question: Would a Scottish lass who have seen the evil a bunch of Englishmen have wrecked on her world let herself be kissed by one of them and go all a-quivering with desire?

The fact that Serena does makes all her professed hatred and trauma nothing more than some trivial plot convenience for some bickering. It belittles her experience, fears, and insecurities. Ultimately, this makes light of the evils of war. I don't buy that. I was born in post-WW2 period where my country is in the state of emergency. I have experienced fears and anxiety over the possible cruelties both Communist and rogue British soldiers can inflict on me and my family. Women are particularly vulnerable to degradation and rape. And to read about Serena's wishy-washy convictions, seeing her succumb without much protest, it makes her totally immature in my eyes. I would understand it if Brigham has performed some really big heroics like staving off a bunch of rogue soldiers and then her attracted to him. Anything else is Absurd City. It will be lust, a case of girlish infatuation, but not a strong foundation for life-long romance.

Hence the subsequent chapters don't hold my interest, as Brigham and Coll go on some daring adventures in the name of political intrigue and Serena worrying and begging them not to go. My interest perks up a little as I reaches the last few chapters, when Brigham almost lost his life and Serena stays by his side. It's rather touching, and it explains why the descendants of the MacGregors end up in America.

I'm sure Nora Roberts fan will lap up this book. My dear friend Rosaline does, she even has the original copy, and she will crucify me if I say I don't find the relationship in this book convincing or even interesting. Oops. Oh well, I might as well say it too that I think Nora Roberts' forte is not in historical romances, but in contemporary intrigue/suspense.

Rating: 53


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