The Border Lord
by Sophie James
(Harl. Hist., $5.99, PG)  ISBN 0373-29546-4
***
The Border Lord is a title that may seem familiar and the storyline may seem like one that has been written before.  James has written a middle of the road tale that is readable but didn’t break any new ground.

The story is set in Scotland when the kings didn’t know who was really in charge, when the clans weren’t sure who they wanted as King and when the English and Scottish fighters switched sides all the time depending on who seemed to have the upper  hand.  Lachlan Kerr was on the side of David, the Scottish King. Grace Stanton was to be a prize for him and their alliance would keep her border lands on the Scottish side of the war. But Grace isn’t sure she wants to marry and Lachlan isn’t sure he wants her for a wife.

Grace is said to be a bit of a problem. In actuality, she was hurt in the fire that killed her parents and she has skin rashes at times and has a limp. She is also beautiful, but doesn’t know it. She can be shrewish and her reputation for this has Lachlan leery of her. She was also promised to his brother Malcolm, who died until mysterious circumstances while awaiting their marriage.  Lachlan on the other hand, has his own reputation. He lived in France much of his life and inherited the clan lordship upon his brother’s death. His clan is split in their loyalty and with the unrest of the kings, no one knows who can be trusted and who cannot.

Grace and Lachlan’s relationship mirrors the clan – divided and uncertain of the trustworthiness of the other. They misinterpret actions, cementing some of those feelings. Yet they are completely compatible in bed, even if they don’t want to admit it. There they begin to trust.  There they begin to forge a friendship. But there is much between them. 

Some say Grace had a hand in Malcolm’s death, and yet Grace knows that while she did not kill him, one of her friends was involved in it. Lachlan knows Grace is hiding something, but not quite what. He has suspicions though. When things start happening, he wonders if Grace is behind them. Rumors start that Malcolm may actually be alive since his body was never found.  When Lachlan discovers love letters he assumes are from Grace, his suspicions become more intense. Yet he finds himself drawn to her as to no other woman. 

This is a story that could be set in any time of unrest and the political issues are rather muddy.  There is a lot left unexplained and a lot that seemed to be thrown in at random times just to keep the story moving. For example, all of the sudden, there is another clan that turns up and wants to start a fight. But when Lachlan slays one of their soldiers, they withdraw. This is totally out of the blue. Once the fighting is done, they just go about their way.

Grace is generally a good heroine, although a bit stubborn and at times, she is too outspoken for the times. Yet, she is a strong force and not one to be walked over.  Lachlan is your basic Scottish hero – manly and in charge. Yet he can be tender at times. Then he resents it when he is and Grace throws something in his face to make him angry. There were times when their fighting grew tedious.

Overall however, I did enjoy the story and was happy they figured things out. This book is not all good, but definitely not all bad.  This is what the reader can expect from The Border Lord. 

--Shirley Lyons


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