Few historical romances set in the Scottish Highlands and pairing off main characters from both sides of the border can boast of the emotional depth and stirring human drama of Marsha Canham’s The Pride of Lions and The Blood of Roses.
When I first read these two books more than six years ago, I was deeply affected by the author’s vivid description of the battle at Culloden. Not only was the story well researched, the author has faithfully kept to some of the significant timeline. Despite the horrific and tragic defeat of the Scots, one couldn’t help but admire their grit and fighting spirit, their deep rooted sense of honour and their fierce loyalty to clan and cause.
Re-reading this two-part series last week, I was again drawn to the powerful characterization and the heart-wrenching, yet unerringly hopeful ending that buoys my spirit with the thought that indeed, if all else failed, love will always carry us through the most difficult of circumstances.
The Pride of Lions throws together two strong-willed people, Highlander Alexander Cameron, and English beauty, Catherine Ashbrooke, into a forced marriage while the warrior was rushing back to his ancestral home to join a brewing rebellion to restore the exiled Bonnie Prince Charles to the throne. Before she knew it, Catherine is swept into the turbulence of Scotland’s bid for freedom and her fate, as well as their love, became irrevocably bound to the destiny of an empire.
The Blood of Roses picks up where Pride left off, when Alex, for her safety, has sent Catherine back to her Derby home when war broke out. Again, circumstances conspired against the pair, and Catherine is forced to race after her husband, forsaking her birthright and heritage to be with the one she loves. By now, Alex has a heavy price on his head, and must protect her from the dangers that threatened them both. She’s vowed that nothing would ever separate them again, so as they travel with the army through war-torn Scotland, the sheltered and pampered noblewoman learnt the passions of war and the price of war, even as she grew in courage, wisdom and pride for her adopted family and country.
What drew me into the story and stirs me again and again is the author’s innate talent for portraying the intensity of the feelings, building on the mood of the story development without coming across as clichéd or trite. She is a master story-teller who weaves on history and embellishes it with real human drama, making the conflict between two nations culminating in all-out war come alive for the reader. Some of the most powerful lines in the story drew tears from me. These were my favourite:
“I am truly damned if I know why you love me, Catherine. I seemed to have caused you nothing but pain, show you nothing but ugliness and fear and death where you should only be surrounded by beauty and happiness. If I’d known … if I’d had any idea at the outset that any of this was possible, let alone that it could happen –”
“What would you have done about it? Changed who you are? Changed what you believe in? Or perhaps you would have walked away and left me to Hamilton Garner? I asked you once to run away with me, to take me to France or Italy – anywhere as long as we were safe and together. But I doubt I would have loved you a fraction as much as if you had turned into a parlour dandy – nor you me, for taking you away from your family, your loyalty, your honour. I believe our love is inevitable, my lord, and I give thanks for every moment we are together. You are my love and my life, and I am resigned to accepting whatever that entails. Quite, quite happily so.”
My dear friends, I am quite resigned to the fact that these two books will always remain as two of my favourite historical romance works. The magic of the author’s pen still moves me even after so many years, and that’s what makes these PERMANENT KEEPERS.