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It was a dark and stormy night when Cullen Duffie noticed a ship off the coast of Islay Isle. Cullen has just been named clan chief, The MacDonald, he doesn’t even know himself if he’s up for the job. Fate decided to further complicate his plans when Cullen happens upon a beautiful young woman stranded on the shore. The woman is unable to speak, due to nasty injuries to her neck; was she destined to hang? Unfortunately, the woman has lost her memory, and she doesn’t even know her own name. Cullen settles for the name of Rose, as the flower was all over her sumptuous gown. But what if Rose is English? Will King Henry be grateful and reward the MacDonald clan, or will it mean problems? Rose starts to remember bits and pieces from her past, what seem like insignificant things, except that she must be wary of men, and that she had been a prisoner, but of whom? Why? Where? When eventually her throat is better, everybody finds out at once that Rose is not English!
Heather McCollum’s obviously thorough research really paid off, because the author made me feel I was experiencing Scotland in the year 1522; her descriptions are crisp and vivid, without being intrusive. Until the fracas at the end, the pace is rather leisurely, which is perfect for the tone of the story. While Cullen and the woman – whom I will refer to as Rose, although it is not her name; you will understand what I mean when you read the book – so although there is an attraction between Rose and Cullen almost from the onset, I appreciated immensely that there was no instalust nor instalove at play: Rose distrusts men, she doesn’t know who she is, and Cullen has to be careful for many reasons. He was once a rogue, he has changed his ways since becoming clan chief, and he is bound to protect his clan; Rose could be a spy.
Ms. McCollum concocted very ingenious ways to explain various events, such as Rose’s injuries – which made me laugh, as well as fear for what I might expect later on, which thankfully was unwarranted. There is the unforgettable moment when Rose remembers her real name; I get goose bumps even while writing this review. I also loved how Rose recovered her memory, which happened naturally and was not provoked by a fantastical event, and I must say that this raised my rating for the book, as her circumstances were something I believed I had never read in a historical romance before, and which I applaud as being realistic. I did not quite like Rose at the beginning, as she seemed rather haughty, distant, and her jealous reactions were not very pleasant, however this changed and made sense as the story unfolded; s had gone through quite an ordeal! Cullen is a perfectly wonderful hero: stalwart, honourable to the very end; gallant and mindful of everyone’s welfare, without being a wimp.
THE ROGUE OF ISLAY ISLE is very romantic while being a somewhat serious book, all this beautifully told by Ms. McCollum, whose prose is both elegant and economical; the sex scenes are a perfect example: they are subdued while still very sensual. There is a quiet sophistication that permeates every sentence, while the dialogues feel like everyday conversations, and I loved the exchanges between Cullen’s cousins, which were quite funny at times. I enjoyed the fact that I never quite knew what to expect, as some characters were very complex and oscillated between good and bad, which led to a tumultuous and action-packed ending. THE ROGUE OF ISLAY ISLE is a historical romance which at times almost feels like historical fiction as the setting is crucial for everything that happens; the historical theme is not incidental to the story. THE ROGUE OF ISLAY ISLE is an excellent read with believable characters, a solid story, plausible and unusual plot twists. Ms. McCollum is a new author to me, and I was very pleasantly surprised by the quality of this book.
I voluntarily reviewed an advanced reader copy of this book. This review is also posted on Buried Under Romance book blog.
I give 4 1/2 stars.