Christiane MacDhiubh is half English, half Scottish, and since the battle of Falkirk, that is a dangerous thing to be in the tiny town of St. Oln. Hated for being half-English, the Scottish people of St. Oln no longer care that her father was once Lord of St. Oln and instead spend their time picking on her and driving her away from the town. Christiane spends her time with the beasts that love her and the books that are her only friends now that her mother is passed on.
Adam Sutton, Lord of the Island of Bitterlee, is an English Lord in search of a new wife. Well, not really. His former wife committed suicide rather than remain on the island, leaving their daughter behind to be raised by her mother's former nurse. Adam's once-lively daughter Margaret has become a silent wraith who spends all too much time praying and does not speak. Adam knows he must find a better nursemaid for his daughter but would not consign a woman to this island his first wife hated. When his advisor recommends Christiane as a new wife, Adam travels to St. Oln to see her for himself, and to bring her home to her English relatives.
At first, he finds Christiane too Scottish to be his wife, and attributes several mistaken ideas to her, such as ignorant, unwashed and unlettered, only to slowly learn that each of those ideas is wrong. And even before he learns these things, he finds himself wanting her in a way he never did his first wife, which both shames and embarrasses him. Only when he brings her to the Isle of Bitterlee does he see how she turns his entire life around and brings out the child he once knew from his unspeaking, taciturn daughter.
But there is resistance to Christiane from his people, whose husbands and sons were at the battle of Falkirk, and most of whom never returned to the Isle from that battle. Especially embittered against her is Adam's uncle, Gerard Sutton, who nearly destroyed the Isle with his rule while Adam was off at war with the Scots. He takes the opportunity to savage Christiane with his tongue, and fill her ears with his subtle lies and insinuations. Christiane soon comes to believe that Adam would prefer to marry the village healer, Sara, who she does not know is Adam's half-sister. Even as Christiane struggles with her own fears for the man she loves and the possibility of a future for the two of them, Adam must learn to work through his own fears for Christiane's safety and sanity on the Isle of Bitterlee if they are to be able to marry and live together in peace.
This was a book I had a hard time putting down. Although the story is really nothing that I haven't read before in romance novels, the writing is compelling and pulls you in with a fierceness that left me with several bruises on my legs as I walked into things while reading it! Though this is a well-written book, the villain of the piece is made of cardboard, as we are never given a reason for his dislike of Christiane or even of the Scots. Gerard Sutton merely comes off as a bitter, nasty man who apparently picks on Christiane for no reason other than bigotry. But we are given no compelling reason for the bigotry in the first place, which makes him just boringly evil.
The rest of the story is well done, and this is one you will enjoy reading at the beach... just remember to turn over and watch out for sunburn, as you will forget everything else when reading.