An Improper Proposal

Portrait of My Heart

Where Roses Grow Wild

Lady of Skye by Patricia Cabot
(Pocket Sonnet, $6.50, PG-13) ISBN 0-7434-1027-0
Dr. Reilly Stanton, eighth Marquis of Stillworth, is suffering from a case of badly wounded pride. Miss Christine King, lovely London miss, has broken their engagement, claiming he’s not heroic enough for her tastes. In order to prove her wrong, Reilly has come to the wilds of Skye. He hopes that he’ll be able to win his ladylove’s admiration by saving a few of the Hebridean savages.

Now, before you click off to another review on this website, let me assure you that this rather twittish-sounding premise is delivered in a tongue-in-cheek style with more than a touch of slapstick. Reilly arrives on Skye in the company of several sailors and their dead companion, whom Reilly has pulled from the icy sea. The body is borne to a local tavern, whereupon a tall woman named Brenna arrives and brings the man back to life with a well-placed thump between the shoulder blades. Damn. Reilly’s first shot at heroism and he’s already blown it.

Brenna Donnegal is the island’s “doctor”, a healer with more to her background than she lets on. The local earl, Glendenning, is pestering Brenna to marry him and in order to force her hand, he’s sent for Reilly to be the new doctor. Then, Glendenning reasons, Reilly will have to take over Brenna’s cottage and Brenna will be left with no choice but to move in with Glendenning.

Once the reader meets the slightly oafish (and thickheaded) Glendenning, this won’t seem as ridiculous as it sounds. Brenna, of course, is having none of it. Her resentment at the upstart Reilly’s arrival is mixed with her curiosity and unwilling attraction to him. He’s everything she rejected when she left London with her scientist family and ended up on Skye. On the other hand, he’s amusing and warmhearted and very, very attractive. What’s a girl to do?

As for Reilly, his irritation at being shown up by this Amazon soon gives way to “Christine who?” as he falls under Brenna’s spell. She’s nothing like any London miss he’s ever known, and to his surprise, he finds he likes it that way.

As for the rest of the cast, they border on cheerful lunacy. Local wifeys bring Reilly their chickens to doctor. Flora, the barmaid, lives in hopes that she’ll eventually capture Glendenning’s heart and he’ll marry her - after all, she’s already borne him four children. Glendenning himself creates unbelievably clumsy schemes to try and force Brenna’s hand. The minister and his wife don’t know who to be upset with next. And the thread running through this is Brenna, out collecting names in the graveyard and soil from the cottagers’ doorways all in hopes of finding a key in the recurring cholera epidemics that threaten the island.

There’s nothing new about romances set in the Hebrides, but rarely has a romance been delivered up with this much humor. Reilly fumbles his way onto the island, then is quick to size up the situation. The dialogue between Brenna and Reilly is a standout, full of wit and Highland one-liners. It’s a joy to watch Reilly’s bemusement as he realizes he really doesn’t want what he thought he did, i.e. a London socialite for a wife. It’s like watching him shed an ill-fitting coat. Readers will discover the man lurking underneath just as Brenna does.

Brenna, no slouch in the smarts department, finds her normal guard doesn’t work against Reilly. Here’s a man she can’t intimidate with her brain, and once she gets used to the idea, she revels in it. They’re a delightful pair.

If you’re a fan of light, humorous Scottish romance, you won’t want to miss Lady of Skye.

--Cathy Sova

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