Bride of the Beast is a tale of Scotland that tries hard to enchant, but ultimately has too many flaws. It is these flaws I must heed, and hence suggest some may like this but others will find it less than remarkable, as I did.
Caterine Keith is a widow and in need of a champion. Her holding is about to be taken over by a Sir Hugo, who is less than gallant and desirable. Her stepson, James, is recovering from an injury and not ready to take over the manse. Caterine has some demons she is fighting. Her first husband was killed after watching her being gang-raped by a bunch of English soldiers. Her second husband was not able to perform his bedroom duties, and of course, blamed it on her inability to arouse him. She is convinced she will never love, and especially an Englishman. When Sir Hugo threatens to take her, the ghosts of her past scare her.
Although Caterine is hesitant, her friend sends for help from Linnet, Caterine’s sister and wife to a Scottish lord (from the book Devil in a Kilt). Linnet sends good friend Sir Marmaduke Strongbow, a great English knight who has adopted Scotland as his home. He is called the Beast because of a horrible scar across his face that has ruined his eyesight in one eye, marring what was once an incredibly handsome face.
Marmaduke is a good hero - strong, yet vulnerable, with a sense of humor and a ghost that follows him around. The ghost is his dead wife Arabella. (This is one of the flaws. There is apparently a story here, which was covered in the previous book. Since I didn’t read that book, and only hints are given in this book, I have no idea why Arabella is following him and “protecting him”, and wanting him to love again.)
The story basically is this - Marmaduke has arrived to get rid of Sir Hugo. It is determined the only way to do this is to marry Caterine. Caterine doesn’t want to marry him, but ends up doing so anyway. There is an elaborate scheme to draw out Hugo, wrest control of a neighbor’s keep back from Hugo, and convince him Caterine is now out of his reach. This will allow the manse to regain its prosperity, James to grow into his role as the Lord of the Manor, and Marmaduke to convince Caterine to return to his new home with him.
Marmaduke is a patient lover, and spends three-quarters of the middle part of the story wooing Caterine with his lovemaking and convincing her that she loves him. She, meanwhile, is certain she cannot love, and although loving his lovemaking, refuses to fully participate until she can give him her heart. The sex scenes are explicit and frequent, hence the R rating.
This is another flaw - there is little to their relationship except sex. These two rarely have other conversations. Frankly, there is little action that takes place in the book. Most of the narration revolves around how Marmaduke feels, followed by how Caterine feels. There is a cute little dog that changes his attitude about Marmaduke as Caterine changes hers. But this is clearly not the highlight - or is it?
Caterine is a weak heroine. She hems and haws over her past, yet really doesn’t show great angst. She just sort of exists…not a great compliment for a heroine. Her friend, Rhona, who is in love with James, actually shows more spunk than Caterine.
There are some engaging sections of the story that did keep my interest, but they were sparse and interspersed with much that was blasé. For interest, there is a great set-up to a scene where they are going to steal back some cattle Hugo stole and eat them at the wedding celebration in front of him. But the cattle-stealing erupts into a fighting scene and then Hugo never interacts at the wedding. What a let down.
Bride of the Beast shows hints of promise. But the hints disperse into erotic bliss with much less substance than I need to find a romance acceptable.