Monica McCarty has to be my favorite writer in the genre. Her books take me at least 4-5 hours to read (very engrossed reading too) and I always want to read every word. A great writer with superb storytelling talents. Her probes at the human condition, desires and regrets, I am again and again surprised by the poignancy in her observations of human interactions, romantic or not.
The review below concerns ONLY the story itself. It is not a reflection of the quality of the book. It is a personal reflection on the characters and their decisions.
When I was reading this book, I tried very very hard to understand Elizabeth Douglas. For one reason: I did something very similar to what Elizabeth did and I desperately wanted to make sense of her selfish behaviors.
Elizabeth and Thom went way back. They grew up together, the laird's daughter and the smithy's son. It started innocently enough and I could see it before me: guy met girl. They became friends. Guy liked girl but was waiting for the right moment to tell her. Girl was oblivious to guy's feelings, thinking the entire time that they were friends. And one day hell broke loose and they couldn't hide behind friendship anymore.
Either Monica McCarty is just that good at observing human interactions or she was writing from personal experience, I completely understood Elizabeth's confusion and denial. If a guy likes you, you kind of know, don't you? But you also kind of know whether it is going to work, or rather, how likely the relationship will succeed. So you weigh between giving it a shot and losing a dear friend, you decide: well, I'd rather have the friend.
So that was Elizabeth's decision, too. All happening on the subconscious level, of course.
Now also imagine, a guy likes you. He doesn't want to be your friend (God I wish I knew). It is either he is THE friend or nothing at all. The entire friendship has a chance because he is hoping that one day it would go to the next level. It is never his goal to maintain the status quo.
So now Elizabeth and Thom were at an impasse. What to do........what to do..........
Reading about Thom's reaction to Elizabeth's first rejection was like revisiting a rather ugly place in time for me. Now I understand what I didn't back then: He felt rejected and acted out of pride. He waited so long, biding his time and was served the "you are my friend" card. The way Thom flipped out on Elizabeth was exactly what I had experienced in my own "episode". I was shocked at how real those scenes were to me. In the fictional world, I actually respected Thom for flipping out on Elizabeth. I thought it good that he didn't mope around Elizabeth waiting for her.
But in real life, I was first confused, then I tried to diffuse the situation by joking then I got really pissed off, which incidentally, is exactly what Elizabeth did. It was like reading a page from my own book, if one was ever written. Like Elizabeth receiving an insulting retort from Thom, I was also told that "I don't have to wait on you hand and foot and entertain you whenever you want." (And this is what he said to me, verbatim.) Oh the nerves he had, I thought. Everything was twisted around in his mind. When did I ever expect such a thing from him?
Up until that point, I thought exactly what Elizabeth was thinking: why did you have to go around saying things like this and destroy everything we have?
Now we get the premise of the story. Thom was rejected. Elizabeth was mourning the loss of a dear friend, who never actually wanted to be her friend. And I get that. I really do. I had the exact same thoughts: it was never going to work. I did not want to lose him so I would rather not have him at all. I would wish him well, listen to his girl trouble and attend the wedding, taking comfort in that by giving up a relationship, I saved a friendship. And of course, it blew up in my face as it did Elizabeth.
Before I started reading this book, I mentally prepared myself. I have read reviews from GR friends and thought: oh God I think I would hate Elizabeth with a passion. And it sucks to hate the characters.
After I finished the book last night I started thinking. I love Monica McCarty's writing and storytelling. I did not hate Elizabeth as much as I thought I would. But I cannot say that I love the story. And I think I know why.
It has nothing to do with her turning down Thom, who was nothing but wonderful in the story. Thom was so in love with Elizabeth, but I thank the God that he wasn't pathetically so. He left and turned down the chance to further impress Elizabeth. Guy had backbones and wasn't led by his penis. Thank you Monica McCarty for writing Thom this way. And I didn't think it was so bad that she turned Thom down. As I said, I understand what Elizabeth did, when she believed that there was no chance
I don't dislike her, but I don't like her. While I understand her actions, I do not like the reasons why she felt that it was not to be for Thom and her. She was basically afraid of being poor. I actually commend Monica McCarty for writing a "immature" heroine. I think it was reasonable to not want to be poor, in Elizabeth's position. It was not that surprising and definitely not wrong. But it is just not attractive.
We live in a cynical, cynical world (points for anyone who knows who I am quoting?). I think that is why some of us read fiction. We are looking to identify ourselves with characters who we would like to be, whose adventures and love stories we yearn to experience. Elizabeth is not someone I would like to be, not because of what she did, but because of why she did it. It was immature and not exactly commendable. I cannot fault her though, because what she did was only human. But at the same time, I cannot say that I like her. In short, she did not have me at hello. Hell, she did not even have me at goodbye. (I should think that it is now clear who I am quoting?)
And because of the above reason, I had trouble with Thom and Elizabeth's relationship. I am not convinced that Elizabeth loved Thom. And the chemistry lost its allures because of that. I could see that Elizabeth loved Thom as a person, that she truly believed Thom to be a great human being. Someone with integrity and honor. But I am not convinced that Elizabeth loved Thom as a man. I think her feelings are not explored enough or appropriately for that purpose. Elizabeth spent too much time thinking about marrying a powerful lord and all the merriments of a glamorous political marriage. Her character suffered because of that and seemed really shallow.
Now we are almost at the end of the series. I hope with my poor romantic heart that Sir Alex Seton and Joan Comyn have one hell of a love story to blow me away in [b: The Ghost|25265859|The Ghost (Highland Guard, #12)|Monica McCarty|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1445970861s/25265859.jpg|44989837].