Lord of the Isles
by Amanda Scott
(Warner Books, 6.50, PG-13) ISBN 0-446-61461-0
I'm torn over this review. Amanda Scott's Lord of the Isles is a very competently written book, picturesque and easily read. Some of the characters are great, the history seems accurate, and the heroine is lovable. But I didn't like the hero very much, and there is a terribly over-used plot device of a delusional but stunning-looking relative as the antagonist.

I find it completely annoying that the families of these beautiful and often charming delusional relatives always, always make excuses for the relative's bad behavior. The deluded ones are always described by their families as "spoiled and willful" or "emotional." In the case of Scott's antagonist in this book, Mariota Macleod of Glenelg, sister to the heroine, the excuse is "she doesn't think like everyone else."

The book begins with the hero, Hector "the ferocious" Reaganach, riding a horse into a treacherous storm in the attempt to complete a mission for his brother. Fearing the lightning Hector stops at the home of the heroine, Lady Christina Macleod, daughter of the Macleod chieftain. Hector takes one look at the second-eldest daughter, the aforementioned Mariota, and decides he has to have her for his wife. But old Murdoch Macleod is a superstitious man and won't allow his second daughter to wed before her elder sister does, because to do so would bring terrible luck to his clan. After much discussion, Murdoch Macleod finally agrees that Hector may marry Murdochís daughter. Hector returns to his family home unknowing that Murdoch plans for Hector to marry Christina in Mariotaís place.

The deed is accomplished with a drugged Hector speaking his vows with a heavily veiled and reluctant Christina. He does not realize he has been tricked until the following morning, when he wakes up with Christina in bed with him instead of Mariota. Christina persuades Hector to pretend that all is well in front of her clan so they can leave her home without drama and obtain a quiet annulment later.

For a book that begins very well, the story degenerates quickly. Hector keeps fussing about the trick the Macleods played on him, insisting he wants Mariota for her beauty, even though it quickly becomes obvious to Hector that Christina is the better person. Christina is lovely in her own right, capable and kind, but Hector still insists he will have the marriage annulled. And Christina, for some reason that is beyond this reader, upon becoming mistress of Hectorís household, invites Mariota to come stay with her. Hector and Mariota spend their time flirting with each other, Mariota puts her own life and the life of her younger sister, Isobel, in danger and Hector defends Mariotaís actions.

Though Christina becomes more and more angry, she does nothing about the situation. Mariota even tries to drown a kitten in a bucket of water in Christinaís bedchamber and Christina forgets to mention it to her. Itís all very frustrating for the reader.

Speaking of frustration, I have to mention that Hector and Christinaís relationship does finally settle into something resembling a real marriage, but when they make love, Hector leaves Christina unsatisfied more often than not.

One of the bright spots in this book is Christinaís young sister Isobel. Sheís very wise for her age and sees right through Mariota. Though she is repeatedly told to hush, Isobel tries to alert the adults in her life to Mariotaís true character. Thus some of the best dialogue in the book is Isobelís. Since I like Isobel so much Iíll probably read her story, Ladyís Choice, which comes out in November.

Iím giving this book three stars because, even though I didnít really enjoy the story, the writing is skillful. And because Iím assuming Lord of the Isles is a pre-requisite read for the next book, which I hope to enjoy more.

--Wendy Livingston

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