My review contains spoilers and they're mostly my thoughts as I went with the book...
It must be my unlucky timing with medieval romances. I’ve read 3 of those in the past 3/4 months and all ended up being such downers. They had a good story going, with a great hero but it seemed to be the heroine of the story who killed all the fun for me. Tarah Scott’s Claimed is one of those cases. It started out well, but in a few chapters I was ready to kill the heroine, Rhoslyn and felt no remorse about it either!
I’d admit unashamedly that I picked up Claimed solely because of the cover as I’ve never read anything by the author before. It’s so damn hot! ;) I’d go as far as to say that she wove an interesting story but failed in characterization. A sexy and adorable hero, interesting storyline but an insufferable heroine = no enjoyment at all. I became frustrated because this could’ve been a great enemy to lover themed stoyline, except for the fact that Rhoslyn hated Talbot way too much that she was blind to his every good deed for the most part. Rhoslyn’s trust issue was so palpable, so thick that I thought the relationship to be doomed right from the start. There was almost no romance, but then, when all the heroine does is to throw barbs and jibes at the hero for the most part of it, how can you imagine anything resembling ‘love’ budding between them?
Initially I had no intentions of doing a review but the following bugged me way too much that I had to get it out. In about 70% in the story, I became so annoyed that I HAD to put this one down. Didn’t pick up for the next 3 months. I recently did simply because I don’t give DNF ratings and so, wanted to finish.
Now onto the review...
Rhoslyn is a Scottish lady and an heiress to her grandfather’s legacy. She was married off to this older man at a very young age, who was more of a guardian/protector rather than a husband. It was no love match but she did her duty well and thought she had come to love and respect Alec. They had a good marriage and after a long wait of 7 yrs., she also bore him a son, Dougal. Unfortunately, both father and son, who was still an infant, died in the space of a few weeks due to some fever. Needless to say, Rhoslyn was devastated. To deal with her grief, she retired to a nunnery, with every intentions of severing her ties with the outside world for the rest of her life. It’s been a year and a half and her grandfather, Seward, had other plans. He wanted to her to marry a much younger son of a neighboring family and move on with her life. This might also because of the fact that King Edward of England has a plan to grab their home, Castle Glenbarr, which stands at the Scottish border. For that, he’s sending his most accomplished knight, Sir Talbot St. Claire with an order to marry Rhoslyn and take control of that castle.
Rhoslyn wasn’t aware of any of it when, in the middle of the night, she was forced to leave the abbey by her grandfather’s men. When at last, she became aware, she would’ve married that young man, even if she wasn’t attracted to him. He was barely a man but it would’ve served their purpose. Moreover, it was duty, plain and simple. With her married, Edward would have no chance of grabbing Glenbarr. Besides, though Talbot is half Scot (father English, mother Scottish), he has sworn his fealty to Edward, so there was no way Rhoslyn was going to marry an English stranger as it’d make them beholden to Edward’s whims. Talbot being a bastard was another reason for Rhoslyn to turn her nose up on him. So all in all, she’d decided she won’t marry him. But Talbot was made aware of this from a secret source, who is revealed later on as someone close to Rhoslyn, about Seward’s plan to marry his granddaughter off. He rides in and accosts the troupe. There is a small fight and he’s able to grab Rhoslyn before the plan came to fruition.
Rhoslyn is angry and the dislike she might’ve had for Talbot manifolds into a deep seated hatred and distrust. And from there starts her verbal abuse of Talbot at the drop of a hat, at each sentence spoken between them. Honestly, at first I was very sympathetic to her plight. I even understood her hatred about marrying an essentially English knight; she would’ve preferred nunnery to that marriage and becoming a pawn to the English King. All understood. But well into the story, when Talbot, after doing everything possible for the betterment of not only Rhoslyn and her people but also for themselves, fails to garner her regard, it began to grate seriously.
I don’t agree with the blurb because Talbot was a good and honest man. There was nothing villainous about him. He saw Rhoslyn once and fell pretty hard for her. He wanted Glenbarr, that was true but it was not because of greed. He’d earned it well. But most importantly, Talbot wanted a family of his own. Talbot doesn’t remember her mother. He had a sister too, whose tattoo can be seen on one of his arms, done after she also passed away quite young leaving Talbot without a family. No matter how his relationship was with his father, he was still a bastard. He has a half-brother, his father’s legit heir, Dayton, who has always been resentful towards Talbot’s accomplishments, among other things. Dayton is no knight but he’s shrewd enough to be a splendid strategist; something Talbot knew well. He also knew that his brother’s hatred for him would bring trouble sooner or later, now that he’s about to possess his own castle and become a Lord on his own.
Let’s get back to our heroine, shall we?
Rhoslyn hated Talbot, a stranger, whom she didn’t want to marry. After making sure she won’t be marrying anyone else, he leaves her for a day to deal with something. Her hatred was so deep that to escape him, she goes with Dayton who met her in disguise of a well-wisher, another STRANGER if I might add, in the MIDDLE of the night, ALONE and lets herself be kidnapped. When she finally figures out what a stupid mistake she’d made, it was too late. Her maid and her guard were already dead, thanks to Dayton. He not only kidnaps her but also rapes her to stake his claim on Glenbarr. In his twisted thinking, by doing this he’d not only trump Talbot but also take what should be his as the legit son of Lord St. Claire! Dayton even apologizes to Rhoslyn after binding her to bed and proceeding to the ‘task’, telling her he’d marry her once they have the opportunity. Well, that ‘opportunity’ never arrived as he runs away at the first sight of trouble, leaving Rhoslyn where she was. Talbot rides hard to save her. He was late, but he saves her nonetheless.
As I see it, it definitely wasn’t Talbot’s fault that she was a dumb b!tch. Nope, wasn’t feeling very sympathetic towards her since the rape was HER fault. She shouldn’t have left with Dayton when she had known him for all of 15 mins.! Yet she kept yapping on about it and blaming Talbot for everything, in every step of the way. For the first 2 weeks she was insufferable but Talbot was understanding. He even took it all onto himself because he felt he’d failed to protect her and should’ve been more cautious about Dayton. Talbot marries her too and doesn’t even wait to find out if Rhoslyn became pregnant from that encounter or not, then consummating the marriage. So when finally she finds out she’s pregnant, Rhoslyn had no idea whose baby it was. But Talbot had no second thoughts and claimed the baby as his own the moment he hears of the news. He also promises to catch Dayton and punish him for what he’d done; a promise he keeps in the end. I failed to see how Rhoslyn could be so nasty to a man like Talbot at all! Her distrust, disrespect and contempt of him was so blatant that at one point I felt disgusted.
Talbot had already started doing some good work around the keep, his every intension to take care of Rhoslyn, the baby and the rest of them. Even her grandfather, after a while, saw that Talbot was a keeper, even if his fealty still lay with Edward. But Rhoslyn fails to notice any of it. Oh that doesn’t mean she’s not attracted to his hot bod and fair good looks! She definitely is and had no qualms about having sex at night, every night... or daytime, whenever he wanted it. However, the moment sex was over, she’d be back to her shrewish self. I wondered how could Talbot stand her at all and touch her after the appalling lack of faith she’d showed. Instead, throughout the story, there was this attempt of trying to show that her ill-tempered manners, rash, idiotic moves and horrible treatment of Talbot as something strong and admirable. Huh?! Everyone seemed to encourage Rhoslyn’s bad behavior, including Talbot. Were these people blind and deaf?
Personally, if I could kick her out of the story and take Talbot for myself, I would, especially if he looked anything like the guy on the cover. I mean, seriously! ;P
As her pregnancy starts showing, very late in the story though Rhoslyn begins to show a change of heart. Talbot was utterly devoted to keep her and the baby safe and sound, which showed in everything he did. I guess she thought this was for the best seeing she can’t even tell whose baby she was carrying! Besides, apart from his most hated English heritage, Talbot was a stud. So yah, Rhoslyn was definitely having a change of heart, so much so that when she spies him with an older woman once, she gets jealous and immediately decides he has a mistress. I mean if he does, why do YOU care? It’s not like you gave him a chance to breathe thru all your barbs! Then there was that young widow, some Lady, who had attended their marriage and showed her appreciation of Talbot’s fine figure very openly, which almost threw our Rhoslyn to a bitter rage, mentally calling the woman anything equaling a slut. Well, again, why do YOU care? It’s not like your love for Talbot is overflowing to the brim!
Now, the fun part came when Rhoslyn was quite heavily pregnant. The same Lady drops by one day, unwanted of course as she still had no liking for the woman. At night, the lady finds Talbot alone and proposes a discreet affair while Rhoslyn’s pregnant. Talbot had no interest in an affair or her and was about to decline when Rhoslyn, who was fuming and instantly suspicious of these two, comes rushing in. When she finds the Lady trying to kiss Talbot (which he didn’t initiate and was fending off), she instantly translates it as him cheating on her. Oh if you could only see her then, as mad as a hatter, telling Talbot to never to touch her again! Poor Talbot, again trying to allay her suspicions by coming out with the complete truth— that he had no intentions of cheating on her ever because it’s her he had always wanted. *sigh* This though, mollifies our Rhoslyn a little and she goes back to Talbot’s bed. That, IMO, was the only smart move she’d made in a long while!
Yet the joke was on Rhoslyn who, while accusing Talbot of cheating, makes the reference of her first husband never taking a mistress etc. What she didn’t know that Alec HAD cheated on her with that same Lady while she was pregnant with Dougal. It was so discreet (or Rhoslyn was quite obviously dumb) that she never found out. Talbot though, the moment he was propositioned, knew that the lady was used to with it which is why she assumed that he’d also be interested in an affair. After he declines, he requests that the woman keep quiet about it so that Rhoslyn is not hurt by this revelation, to which she complies immediately. I also immediately couldn’t help but respect her as it was obvious that she had no intentions of breaking up the marriage out of contempt or anything. The moment she understood that Talbot was committed to Rhoslyn, she backed off. She also made a statement that if Rhoslyn didn’t get what she had in Talbot, she’s a fool. Well yah, she was, no doubt about it. Personally, I would’ve loved her to find out about Alec’s indiscretion only to enjoy her reaction of it. Unfortunately, the author decided it was best to keep her in the dark. I say it was an equally dumb move. She NEEDED to find out that her first husband wasn’t the saint, the paragon of virtue that she liked to dish out on Talbot every chance she got! *SMH*
Rumor had it that Talbot just might be the heir to an Earldom. That older woman Rhoslyn saw him with one day, and accused him of cheating on with, turns out to be Lady Teresa Baliman. This lady claimed that her deceased daughter, Peigi, was Talbot’s mother. Teresa is of Spanish descent, left her country with Talbot’s Scottish grandfather and remained happily married until his death. It was a love match. Peigi’s was also a love match for that matter, the only problem being the man she was in love with was English and already married. She left everyone and everything behind to become his mistress and bore him two children before her death. Talbot didn’t put much credit on any of it but I don’t know why he never asked his father about his mother’s identity. When, on Lady Teresa’s demand, he shows her of that tattoo of his sister, she confirms that the girl looks so much like Peigi that there was no denying their relationship.
Initially, Talbot had no interest in the Earldom, even if it’d make him very influential, not to mention filthy rich. He thought he already had what he craved for; a family. But Rhoslyn was quite keen on it. When his tentative but proper relationship with Lady Teresa is revealed, I couldn’t help noticing that she becomes much nicer to Talbot. Yep, she’d still poke at him for this and that, but overall, she seemed different. It also maybe the fact that had I had no liking for Rhoslyn, which may have tainted my POV where she was concerned, but previously if Rhoslyn showed any positive emotions towards Talbot at all, they were all encouraged by the fact that she either had something to gain from it or she was able to manipulate him into doing something her way. So if this latest change was brought on by Talbot’s new-found status, I wouldn’t be surprised at all.
In the end, as promised, Edward sends trouble Talbot’s way because by that time, he’d not only decided to accept the Earldom and embrace his Scottish heritage but also, to swear his fealty to the Scottish King. Without a doubt it made Rhoslyn immensely happy. After all, this is what she wanted all along; her castle remaining under Scottish territory, her children growing up as Scots, not English. She had made no efforts to hide her utter dislike for both all through the story, resulting in her insufferable behavior and treatment of Talbot. If she wasn’t pregnant, I’m sure she would’ve danced a jig! *snorts*
When Dayton is ‘taken care of’ at last and Talbot deflates Edward’s attack by flashing his new status as the powerful Earl of Baliman, Rhoslyn has her baby too. I won’t reveal if they had any idea whose child it was but Talbot was a happy daddy without one ounce of remorse or contempt. Though they declare their feelings for each-other, I wasn’t convinced of any of it. Talbot’s, yes but Rhoslyn? Nope. As I mentioned before, romance was sorely lacking. I couldn’t bring myself to believe that Rhoslyn actually loved Talbot, at least not unconditionally; not beyond the possibility of what he can give her. I still stand by my opinion that Talbot deserved better.
Even though I thought the ending was quite abrupt, I have to admit that I was interested in knowing some of the secondary characters better and would love to see if they get their own books or not— most especially Sir Derek, who was Lady Teresa’s bodyguard (among other things I imagine). He deserves his HEA.
I wouldn’t recommend this book, unless you think being shrewish is a sign of being strong and is an admirable trait in a person! Of course you can disagree with my review, but then, it’s my opinion so go ahead and give it a try for yourself. Who knows, you may end up liking it much more than I did. 2 stars.