The Devil of Kilmartin
by Laurin Wittig
(Jove, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-515-13421-X
After the death of her father, Elena Lamont flees her home to escape the brutal Dougal of Dunmore. Dougal demands that Elena marry him, so he can assume power of the clan through her position as heir and he is not afraid to use his fists or a dagger to convince her.

Elena escapes to a circle of stones and there she meets Symon MacLachlan, also know as the Devil of Kilmartin. Symon suffers from bouts of madness that have weakened not only himself, but also his clan. In the process of protecting Elena from her pursuers, Symon realizes that her touch soothes his madness and he suspects she is the fabled Lamont healer.

Elena does have the gift of healing, but she does not want to reveal that to Symon, for she has been used badly in the past because of it. Despite her fear of this "devil" she sees him as the lesser of two evils for the time being and goes with him to his castle planning to leave as soon as she's able.

Symon is not anxious to let the one person who relieves his madness get away that easily. At first he tries to convince Elena to stay to help his people, then he decides to woo her and convince her to marry him. Although at first it's just for convenience, Symon soon finds himself truly falling in love with Elena.

Laurin Wittig writes a compelling story with just the right balance of mystery and character interaction. Right from the beginning the reader is intrigued by Symon's madness, wondering what it truly is (my guess was migraines) and what is causing them. This carries over into interest in Elena's healing power and why she is so reluctant to use it.

Wittig doesn't give everything away all at once, but at the same time never drags out the questions until they become tedious. The glimpses she gives are just enough to let the reader form an idea, only to be surprised later. So the reader is hooked by the story alone.

Even if this wasn't the case, the characters would have kept me turning pages. Both Symon and Elena are well-developed characters that change and grow with their experiences. At first Symon seems a bit gruff, but it's easily understood given his pain. When he does develop feelings for Elena, he is not ashamed to express them.

Elena is also a very likeable heroine. As the bits of her past are exposed, one can see her reasons for withholding her gift and her mistrust of people in general. Rather than remain this way, for sake of conflict, however, Elena takes heed of the actions of others, particularly Symon, and learns to trust them based on those merits. The combination makes for a relationship that evolves naturally and realistically.

The only real problem I had with this book was the character of Dougal. He was too much a cookie cutter villain. When his secret comes out in the end, it's rather obvious and makes one wonder why Symon didn't figure it out earlier.

Still, The Devil of Kilmartin was an enjoyable read that grabbed me from the beginning and held my interest throughout.

--Anne Bulin

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