It is my firm belief that the reader should be able to enjoy each installment of a series on its own merit, while enjoying references to past characters or situations. The MacGowan Betrothal comes nowhere near it.
Isobel Fraser is the youngest of a set of twin girls born at a time when twins were considered evil and when the second child was often killed. For this reason, Isobel was sent by her mother to a peasant family to be raised and her existence was kept a secret. She is now in her twenties, and has returned to Evermyst, the family home, in the guise of a maidservant to her twin sister Anora, keeping her secret from all but a few family members and some of the older servants. How she comes to be the servant and not an accepted member of the family is either explained in the first book of the series or is left to your imagination.
One of those who knows the truth is Anoraís brother-in-law, Gilmour MacGowan. Gilmour has a reputation as a rogue who charms every woman he meets and if stories can be believed, has bedded all of them. Personally, I never understood what the women ever saw in him. He is shallow and seemingly goes through life with no purpose other than sleeping with women.
For some unknown reason, Isobel leaves Evermyst and travels to a little village where she is employed at an Inn as a cook. She is friendly and jolly to the other servants, and seems to be well-liked. Yet she often acts like either a martyr or a petty child to Gilmour. Gilmour is traveling through this village, sees her and for no reason other than that she is a woman, decides she needs his protection. Yet she does indeed need it as she is kidnapped (by whom is not disclosed until the end of the book) and Gilmour tries to rescue her. In the course of that rescue, he is injured and Isobel saves him.
They end up at the manor of eccentric Lady Madeline, who apparently has been a part of Isobelís past. It is here that their relationship changes as Gilmour is recuperating and Isobel is forced to take care of him. However, they have only a strong attraction between them and their distrust of each other is stronger than the lust. Their distrust seems to be another carry-over from the past that is never truly explained.
Lady Madeline is an enigma that I never did really figure out. She is the widow of several barons, and now she spends her time with a group of young men that can only be likened to a harem. She serves in many ways as Isobelís confidant, yet she is not aware of Isobelís secret. There is one reference to her aiding a troubled twelve-year-old Isobel, but this is brief and does not adequately explain the nature of their relationship.
The sexual aspects in this section of the story are full of innuendo and the references to the male anatomy are on a very juvenile level. One example of this occurs when Madeline offers to send two of her men to Isobel and describes their attributes to her. I think the author was trying to be titillating, but these scenes left me feeling flat.
In the last 100 pages of this 372-page book, Gilmour and Isobel go back to Evermyst in order to see Anora, who they suspect is in danger. Although this seems to be the main plot line in the story, it does not make total sense. There is no explanation of why Anora should be in danger or where the danger is coming from. I feel that I walked in on something half way into it with no way to go back and catch up. The ending, which tries to connect Isobelís kidnapping and the danger to Anora, is so ridiculous as to be insulting.
Greiman shows some strength at writing dialogue. The witty repartee between the two main characters is humorous. Unfortunately, I didnít understand the references to their past enough to fully enjoy it and no explanations were ever given.
If you enjoyed the first in this series, you may want to give The MacGowan Betrothal a try. Otherwise, save your money and reread a Highland classic from your keeper shelves.