Lady Anne Ellyson recently lost her mother, brother, and younger siblings to the fever. Now it looks like she will lose her father as well. With his dying breath, her father orders her to stay with her aunt at Mute Hill House. He knows that the English are nearby and even though he has left Ellyson Towers to Anne, he doesnít want her living there unprotected. Anne loves her home and doesnít want to leave, but she does.
Life is not especially pleasant at Mute Hill House. Her aunt Olivia is not the most pleasant person in the world. She wants the world to revolve around her and is constantly whining about being ďin mourningĒ for the husband that past away quite some time ago. She invited her uncle, Toby Bell, to stay with her. Her cousin, Fiona, is near Anneís age. She is also very beautiful. Right now, they are preparing for Fionaís upcoming marriage to Sir Eustace Chisholm. Fiona was engaged to Sir Christopher Chisholm, or Kit, but Eustace had him declared dead after his disappearance and Olivia was more than happy to marry her daughter off to Eustace in Kitís place. She wants the alliance with the Chisholm name. Fiona doesnít want to marry Eustace, and Anne canít blame her. Eustace is not a nice man. He pursues anything in skirts and she just doesnít trust him.
In an attempt to have some peace, Anne often rides to Ellyson Towers. On this particular day, she has stayed longer than normal. On the way home, her horse steps into a rabbit hole and becomes lame. Now she will have to walk the horse home and it will take her much longer to get there. On the way, she is set upon by Reivers. One of them actually sounds like a gentleman, which really isnít unusual. He introduces himself as Christopher Chisholm. He is the very man that Fiona was supposed to marry! Anne canít believe her luck. Now Fiona wonít be forced to marry Eustace. Kit escorts Anne home, stealing a kiss when he gets her there. Anne slaps him for his trouble, but is shaken by the kiss.
Kit has decided to attend the wedding, but hasnít decided what he will do when he gets there. Plans continue and the day of the wedding is here. As the wedding is proceeding, Kit speaks up and the wedding is halted until the Bishop can decide which man Fiona will marry. Fiona faints. Olivia insists that all parties stay at Mute Hill House until the Bishop makes his decision. Kit knows that Eustace is not happy that he is still alive. Eustace wants Kitís inheritance and wonít give it up easily. Fiona really doesnít want to marry Eustace or Kit. Anne is attracted to Kit and would give anything to marry him. Add to this the addition of the Secret Clan and their interference in the lives of the mortals, and you have a rollicking adventure.
Kit really didnít disappear. He was sent to the Highlands by his father. While there, two of his Highland relatives were murdered. Kit was framed for the murders. He was kidnapped by the Sheriff and thrown on a prison ship. He managed to escape, along with two others. He cleared his name and came back home only to find that his uncle had usurped his inheritance! One of his two friends introduced him to the Reivers as a way of getting information. The Reivers know everything thatís happening, which is how he ended up riding with them. He knows that Eustace was behind this somehow, but canít do anything without proof. He really doesnít want to marry Fiona, even though she is beautiful and an heiress. Anne lost her entire family within a very short time period. She doesnít allow herself to grieve. Her disposition has always been serene and calm and she doesnít allow much to ruffle her feathers. She finds herself very attracted to Kit, but wonít allow herself to do anything about it. She knows that heís Fionaís intended husband, which creates quite a conflict within her. Olivia is the least loved character in this story. She is selfish, vain and only thinks of herself and her own grief. She is always expecting everyone to wait on her and expects that everything will go her own way. My favorite character in this story is Lord Berridge, who is really one of Kitís friends from the prison ship. But heís not exactly who you might think he is.
This is a great story! I really loved it, especially the end. The characters are all very real and believable. This story shows an honest look into the life of the people that lived along the Scottish and English border. Since I adore Scottish medievals, this is a book that I looked forward to reading. This one is definitely going on my keeper shelf. I canít recommend this book enough to all lovers of Scottish medievals.
Chere Gruver, September 2003
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