Without pretense or undue artifice, The Promise of Rain takes the reader
on one young woman's compelling, though often dour journey from despair to
happiness. Heavy on revenge, remorse, guilt, grief, and ultimately, forgiveness,
The Promise of Rain nonetheless captures the reader's attention through
its straightforward presentation, its bland but industrious young heroine, and a hero
who can truly be termed a nice guy.
As we meet Lady Kyla Warwick, she is holding a knife to the throat of her former
fiancé, Lord Roland Strathmore. In the weeks leading up to this rather desperate
act, Kyla has tragically suffered the loss of both her parents and her beloved
younger brother. The murder of Kyla's mother and subsequent death-by-heartbreak
of her father forces the young woman to grow up fast. But when her twelve-year-old brother is killed on the battlefield in defense of the Scottish keep where they had
sought refuge, Kyla's thoughts turn to vengeance.
Kyla believes it was Strathmore who gave the order to destroy her Uncle's castle,
but the truth goes far beyond what appears on the surface. Charged by the King to
bring his former fiancée to London to face questioning, Strathmore is loathe to make
Kyla's life any more difficult than it has already been. But he is not known as the
King's "Hound of Hell" for nothing – Strathmore's legendary determination ensures
that Kyla will, indeed, reach London.
Fearing banishment to the Tower of London for her father's "crime" (one both she
and Strathmore are convinced her father did not commit), Kyla is resigned to her
fate. But Strathmore has formed a strong attachment to the girl and can't bear to
see her suffer. He spontaneously announces before King Henry that he and Kyla
have married. Before it can be disputed, Kyla agrees and the two are handfasted –
legally married by simple declaration.
It is after the "wedding" that The Promise of Rain lightens up a bit, moving
the action to Roland's island home of Lorlreau. An almost mystical paradise
full of happy peasants and tame forest creatures, Lorlreau enchants Kyla, as does
its Lord. Fate, as foreshadowed through the premonitions of a "sited" blind girl,
take a hand in ensuring that all of the mysteries will be resolved and that peace and
love will reign supreme.
Author Shana Abé effectively illustrates Kyla's journey from despair to happiness
through the settings that mirror her emotional state. The dark days following the
death of her family are spent in highland forests, and dark alleyways. Then, quite
literally, she comes out of the fog and encounters the beauty and brightness of
Lorlreau. Perhaps a tad too Brigadoon-ish to form a believable counterpoint to the
bleak settings that proceeded it, Lorleau is nonetheless a welcome burst of
sunshine amidst darkness, although the heavy handed tone of the piece is in
keeping with the destruction, murder and intrigue that surround the main characters.
For all that Abé creates an effective mood, her characterizations are somewhat flat
and reserved. The relationship between Kyla and Roland builds to an inevitable conclusion with very little work on the lady's part. She seems more interested in
exploring Lorlreau's hidden passages than she does in establishing a relationship
with the people around her, a fact that leaves the reader craving more of an
The Promise of Rain, though it's not destined for the keeper shelf, isn't a
bad read. It places the reader in vivid surroundings and gives them a story with a
little more bite than some of the dreck that passes for a plot line these day.