|This must be the season for that genre-bending novel, the time-travel-cum-fantasy-cum-historical romance. In my review stack this month, I have not one, not two, but three books built around the premise of a world-and-time-traveling warrior and the woman he finds along the way. I guess that's how historical romance writers are repackaging themselves. If only Margo Maguire had tried as hard on the book as she did with the idea, because A Warrior's Taking is an object lesson on how a promising premise can be ruined with insipid characters and bad plotting.
After his father is killed and the royal scepter stolen, Druzai warrior Brogan Maclochlainn decides to look for a powerful, magical stone that will defeat all evil. He travels outside his world and forward some 900 years, landing in 1813 on the English coast. There, Sarah Granger rescues him from almost drowning.
A governess, Sarah is taking care of two children. Their father has recently died at sea, and they are waiting for the new heir to take charge. Although Sarah doesn't believe Brogan's quickly concocted story, she offers him boarding and lodging. He seizes the opportunity to hunt for the stones - and of course to lust after his host.
Sarah is one of those long-suffering heroines with a martyr complex that would put patient Griselda to shame. She is taunted by the village boys, teased by the women and bullied by just about everyone else. Being the sickeningly good-hearted sort, Sarah not only makes sure the girls get their lessons; she also acquires calloused hands selling cockles and home-made jam to pay the bills.
Brogan wants to be the prince who will ride to her rescue. Luckily, he has magic at his disposal because he doesn't have the smarts to manage otherwise. His repeated explorations of nearby ruins aren't thorough; they're boring. What's more, he can't seem to get his priorities straight: taking care of Sarah or completing his mission. That doesn't make him a complex character; it makes him one with a much too predictable conflict.
The pacing is excruciatingly slow for something that is billed as an adventure. It is also incredibly repetitive. Chapter after chapter, I kept waiting for something to happen only to sleep through re-runs of the same four or five scenes. When things finally began to roll, they were all related second-hand.
World-building in this novel is reduced to reciting jargon (adapted, I believe, from Celtic). Time-travel aficionados are bound to be frustrated because there is a lot about the century-hopping that just doesn't make sense. Apparently, Brogan can leap into the future, take what he wants and return to the past without a thought for existing timelines. One would have to be smarter than Einstein to understand how these laws of physics work.
More simple-minded readers like myself won't find much more satisfaction in the romance. Sure, Sarah and Brogan lust after each other and vow eternal love, but that's not enough for my jaded tastes, especially when what it really amounts to is the author forcing everything into a convenient little box. My advice: hit the forward button and travel on to a better book.