A Time for Dreams

Captured by Your Kiss
by Jen Holling
(Sonnet Books, $6.99, R) ISBN 0-7434-3804-3
This title completes the trilogy Brides of the Bloodstone, as Mona Musgrave sees the ends of her stepchildren’s stories, and goes on her own quest for happiness as well. But her road is even less straightforward than those traveled in the two previous volumes, because she has become the Keeper of the Clachan Fala, the Bloodstone of the trilogy’s title, and her primary responsibility is to it, rather than to her own happiness.

Eleven years before, as Mona was about to be hanged as a witch, Arlana, who was the Keeper at that time, took her on as her apprentice, and the next Keeper. She was destined to live her life alone, without husband or children, guarding the most powerful talisman of Scotland. The Bloodstone is rumored to have many magical powers, including visions of the future, healing, and mind reading. Mona could only give it up if a Graham and a Maxwell made a love match. And since the families had been bitter enemies for centuries, that was unlikely.

After Arlana’s death, Lord Hugh Graham had discovered that Mona was the Keeper of the Clachan Fala, the Bloodstone, and forced her to marry him in order to gain control of it. But while Hugh possessed her body, he couldn’t touch her soul, and never gained possession of the stone.

After Hugh’s death, his elder son Ridley, who had been obsessed by Mona for years, becomes increasingly unbalanced and forces his sister Caroline to marry Robert Maxwell to try and gain possession of the stone. He tries to force his other sister, Fayth, into an equally loveless union. He also tosses Sir Patrick Maxwell, brother to Robert and Alex, into the dungeon.

When it becomes obvious that Caroline and Robert’s marriage has changed into a love match, and Mona must retrieve the stone from its hiding place and give it to their firstborn son and train him to use it wisely, Ridley knows it’s his chance to get his own hands on it. Mona realizes that she has to flee, to escape Ridley and his spies who might follow her on her journey, but that it will be impossible to do it alone. She remembers Patrick, and when the iuchair, the magical necklace that will help guide her to the stone, tells her that Patrick is the one to help her, she persuades him to join her on her journey as her protector.

Patrick is a warrior knight and he doesn’t like taking orders from a woman, especially a woman to whom he is as attracted to as he is to Mona. Things between them are contentious to say the least, especially during the first part of their journey. When the mutual attraction between Mona and Patrick bursts into flame, Ridley finds out about it and it sends him over the edge. He goes in pursuit of them himself, determined to kill Patrick and have both Mona and the Clachan Fala for himself.

The interaction between Patrick and Mona is intense, partially because of their sexual chemistry, and partly because Patrick bears psychological scars from his years of battles and the horrors that he has seen, and partly from his deep-seated guilt about his bastard daughter who lives in France, not far from his own property. His scarred body has been battered, and he has the aches and pains to prove it. Mona has become a healer during her years as the Keeper, and understands that while he has healed physically as much as he can, he has not yet begun to heal his mind and his heart. Much of their relationship revolves around her gentle attempts to make him accept her ability to bring him peace and healing and love.

But this is only one of the threads of this complex and dense story. Fayth and Alex, Robert and Caroline, Wesley (brother to Fayth, Caroline and Ridley) and Anne all have their roles to play, and their stories to share. While their stories are told more fully in the first two titles in this trilogy (Tempted by Your Touch and Tamed by Your Desire), Holling provides enough details about them to make this title stand on its own. And of course, in contrast to these loving, honorable characters who are determined to live their lives according to what is right, is Ridley, their opposite. He is a villain the reader loves to hate from his first appearance, when he is already so obsessed with Mona that he has turned to evil to get whatever he wants.

The setting for this passionate, engrossing historical romance is the English-Scottish borderlands of the 1500s, and the author makes it seem to come alive with a myriad of details of all kinds. However, the Scottish accents seem to come and go, with Patrick’s the strongest, although he has spent years tending his property in France.

And the reader must pay attention to the storylines in order to keep everything straight, so this is not a light read. The action never seems to stop, and nothing is resolved easily or quickly, the suspense lasting until the final page. Captured by Your Kiss is a book to lose yourself in, falling into the intense emotions of the characters, and the harshness of the setting and time period, and letting the complex threads of the plot hold your attention until the last page. It is a satisfying, but not in any way a light, easy or quick read. It requires as much of the reader as it gives back.

--Joni Richards Bodart

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