The Bride of Black Douglas

The Fifth Daughter

Let Me Be Your Hero
by Elaine Coffman
(Mira, $6.99, PG) ISBN 0-7783-2092-8
Scottish lochs and brawny heroes are usually my cup of tea. Let Me Be My Hero has some of the best of these – intrigue, clans, a strong woman, a smart and brawny man and a couple able to communicate their love when it occurs. Unfortunately the bulk of the book is taken up by the big misunderstanding, the heretofore brave and courageous heroine acting like the defeated, and then the preposterous notion that she can reconcile with the hero two years later with nary a sense of discontent.

Claire Lennox is the eldest daughter of the Alasdair, the Earl of Errick and Mains. When her two brothers and father are brutally murdered by a scheming aunt and her lover, Claire is left as the eldest. Because no one knows that Aunt Isobel is behind the murders, she is welcomed into their home after being named the ward of Claire, her younger brother Kendrew (the new Earl) and her three younger sisters. Claire loved her father and has always known that if something happened to all the males in her family, by law the title would fall to her. Isobel's plan is to kill young Kendrew and force Claire into marrying her son, Giles. Then Isobel and her lover Walter Ramsey will control Giles and the funds that go with the title.

But Claire meets Fraser Graham just before her father dies and when she discovers that the privilege of choosing her husband is not part of the agreement of being the guardian, Claire and Fraser decide to marry. They are in love and anxious to marry after waiting the full year of mourning. Alas, their life soon turns sour when Claire is called home because Kendrew is ill. Isobel is slowly poisoning him, and by the time Claire and Fraser arrive, Kendrew is on his deathbed. Isobel then brings a widow to visit who makes a play for Fraser when he too falls ill and Claire is led to believe he is betraying her. Claire believes her aunt over her husband and gets a divorce.

The big misunderstanding would be tolerable if they didn't cut things off with such finality. Divorce was not usual then, but no one blinked an eye over this. Claire and Fraser start off sharing their life but at the first sign of trouble, they stop sharing, stop talking and start believing everyone but the other person. Claire goes from a fresh energetic youth to being a down trodden, woe-is-me kind of girl. Even though she has now inherited the title, she is ruled by Isobel and her schemes because Isobel is still in control of the two younger sisters. It is during this part of the tale that Claire loses all of her gumption and becomes a coward and wimp. When she realizes her mistake, she spends two years lamenting her lack of judgment in choosing her aunt over Fraser. And then even when she runs into Fraser and realizes he still has feelings for her, she runs and doesn't ask for his help setting up the final rescue.

“Agonizing” is a word that comes to mind; “insipid” also describes Claire at times. Fraser on the other hand, starts off as a shining hero and then just slinks off with his tail between his legs. I had to ask myself what kind of Scotsman would do that? Not one I want for my hero.

Needless to say, I cannot recommend this story, even though I have enjoyed Coffman's tales in the past. Let Me Be Your Hero is not up to her previous standards and definitely not one I can offer as even an acceptable reading experience.

--Shirley Lyons

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