All Through The Night

As You Desire

A Dangerous Man

McClairen's Isle:
The Passionate One

My Dearest Enemy

McClairen’s Isle: The Reckless One
by Connie Brockway
(Dell, $6.50, PG-13) ISBN 0-440-22607-X
I did not recommend the first book in Connie Brockway’s McClairen’s Isle trilogy, but I admitted that I was intrigued enough by the tale of the eldest of the three children of Ronald Merrick, Earl of Carr to want to read the stories of his brother and sister. Thus, I was pleased when my editor asked me to review The Reckless One. Obviously, I enjoyed the second installment more than the first, perhaps because Brockway was able to spend more time developing her hero and heroine and describing their romance.

Let me begin by remarking that the saga of McClairen’s Isle is a complex one. Ronald Merrick is one of the most unremittingly evil villains I have come across. Fleeing his London creditors, he met and married Janet, the lovely niece of the laird of McClairen clan. He then betrayed the clan during the ‘45’ and was granted their property as a reward. He murdered Janet and proceeded to murder two more rich wives, which led to his banishment from London. He turned McClairen’s Isle into a place of debauchery where the bored denizens of English society came to gamble and whore. He dislikes his two sons, Ashton and Raine, and when they were kidnapped by the McClairens and sent to a French prison, he let them rot there for years. He ransomed Ashton, but left Raine to his jailers’ mercy. He raised his daughter Fia in his own perverted image, only to see her turn on him when she came to realize that he was responsible for her mother’s demise. In short, Lord Carr is a very nasty piece of work.

The Reckless One is Raine’s story. It begins with him in prison in France where he has languished for five years. His jailer informs him that the notorious “Madame Noir,” who has a thing for prisoners, is coming to the jail to select her next morsel. The black-draped woman selects Raine, but he soon discovers that his rescuer is no old beldame but rather a lovely young woman who spins him a wild story. Actually, she intends to use him as a decoy for her own purposes. But Raine, warned by the woman at the last moment, escapes.

The woman is Favor McClairen who has spent years in a French convent, while her mentor, Muira McClairen, has prepared to use her to gain revenge against Carr. Muira has convinced Favor that she was personally responsible for the massacre of her clansman by Carr and the English because she tried to prevent the McClairens from hanging Carr’s son for raping a nun. Yes, said son was Raine.

Muira has, in the guise of a gypsy fortune teller, worked her way into Carr’s confidence. Now, she has convinced Carr that the spirit of his wife Janet has come to inhabit the body of another woman. She has prepared Favor to play the role in the expectation that Carr will marry her and she will restore McClairen’s Isle to its rightful owners.

Raine has returned to McClairen’s Isle to search for his mother’s treasure. So Favor and Raine meet again.

My attempt to provide a synopsis of the plot of The Reckless One should give you some idea of the richness and complexity of the story. But what really matters is the romance. And the romance of Raine and Favor is engrossing and compelling. Raine recognizes Favor as the girl who saved his life. He is attracted to the woman and might well conclude that her presence at his father’s estate suggests her availability for seduction. But he feels that he must protect her, and from this protectiveness grows love. Favor does not know Raine’s true identity. She believes that Raine Merrick is an evil rapist. But Rafe, as she calls the man she met in France, is someone who seems worthy of her love. Yet she is committed to marry the evil Earl of Carr for the sake of her clan.

When I reviewed the first installment of the trilogy, I concluded that part of my problem with The Passionate One might well have been the result of the author’s need to spend so much time setting up the backdrop. My response to The Reckless One seems to demonstrate the accuracy of my conclusion. Despite the author’s need to provide background information for readers who are new to the story, she develops the characters much more fully.

Raine is a man who has been honed by prison, who has matured from the thoughtless, wild youth, and who learns to love. Favor is a woman torn between her love and her duty to her clan. Both are fully realized characters as are the evil earl, his daughter Fia, the obsessed Muira, the nurse Gunna, and the unappealing visitors to Wanton’s Blush, as Carr calls his castle.

Thus, I can recommend The Reckless One. Will those who have not read the first book enjoy the second as much as I did? I really can’t say. And I must remark that those who do not like depictions of utter corruption might well not enjoy the book. The Reckless One kept me turning the pages well into the night after a busy Christmas day. I guess that’s a good enough recommendation.

--Jean Mason

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