Lyon's Gift

The MacKinnon's Bride

On Bended Knee

Perfect in Your Sight

 
Lion Heart by Tanya Anne Crosby
(Avon, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-380-78575-7
**
Tanya Anne Crosby returns to the Scottish Highlands in this latest installment of her long running series. But while fans may find this return trip enjoyable, new readers will find this story less satisfying.

Broc MacEanraig was off playing on the day Englishmen murdered his whole family. Even though he was only 7 at the time, he felt he should have been there to defend them. Shortly thereafter, he is taken in by the MacKinnon clan, and grows up to be a loyal servant to the laird. Because of his guilt, Broc seems to be drawn into perilous situations by damsels in distress. So when he happens across the English Elizabet in trouble, he swears to see her to safety.

Elizabet is the bastard daughter of a courtesan, and her newly married father sends her and her half-brother, John, off to Scotland to live with his cousin, Piers de Montgomerie. Piers has no idea they are coming, and Elizabet fears they will be turned away. Even worse, her father sent her dowry along, and she fears that Piers just may wed her off. Traveling under the watchful eye of her stepmotherís brother, Tomas, Elizabet separates from the group in search of her wayward dog, Harpy.

She finds Harpy, along with Broc, and the two immediate begin bantering. But while Broc is intrigued, heís not so distracted that he doesnít notice a bowman in the woods, aiming right for Elizabet! He immediately takes her captive, determined to find out who would want to kill her. Not wanting to send her back into the path of danger, he decides to keep her hidden in the woods, until he can fully assess the situation.

Elizabetís disappearance stirs up trouble in the highlands. Tomas wants her back, and enlists the help of Piers, his men, and several of Brocís own friends to find her. None of them know Brocís involvement, and Broc fears that once they do find out, the peace among the clans will be disrupted. The only way to keep Elizabet safe is to find out who the mysterious bowman is, and why he would want her dead. But that means hiding away with her in the woods, and their growing attraction is soon too intense for either of them to deny.

The main problem with long running romance series is that future books are soon overrun with characters. This story includes secondary characters that were once romantic leads in previous installments: Piers and Meghan, Colin and Serana, Iain and Page. Meghan and Colin are siblings and they have two brothers, Gavin and Leith. Iain also has children -- Cameron and Constance. Add to this menagerie Tomas and John, and while they donít make appearances -- Elizabetís father and stepmother -- and the list of characters to keep track of is out of control. Many of these characters simply take up space, which could have been better spent on Broc and Elizabet.

Elizabet is immediately problematic due to the ease in which she learns to trust Broc. She doesnít have a very rosy view of men, no doubt due to her motherís profession, and has sworn to never marry or fall prey to a manís charms. Yet she almost immediately believes Brocís story about the bowman, and voluntarily stays in hiding with him. She supposedly doesnít trust men, but she quite willingly and expediently tumbles into Brocís embrace. Some hesitancy would have made her more credible.

Broc is a likeable sort of hero, but I soured on him the minute he begins to compulsively lie to not only Elizabet, but Iain (his own laird) and Colin (his best friend). Broc doesnít tell the little white variety either, his lies are real doosies. And while he has his own reasons, they just arenít good enough excuses to look past the things he chooses to lie about.

Readers who have followed this series from the beginning will probably get more pleasure out of Lion Heart than I did. Too many, unnecessary secondary characters cluttering the plot, Brocís blatant lying, and Elizabetís lack of hesitancy were just too much for me to overcome.

--Wendy Crutcher


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