My review contains spoilers and they're mostly my thoughts as I went with the book...
It was rather on impulse that I started reading The Devil of Clan Sinclair by Karen Ranney, book 1 of Clan Sinclair series. Never read anything by her before, but I dig anything that says ‘Highlander and Scottish’, so... um no surprise that I caved. I loved the author’s writing style, even with the narratives going back and forth into the past and the present. However, can’t say the same about the heroine of the story. I was engrossed enough to finish it but boy she tried my patience!
The story starts when Virginia, our h, has just been widowed. She’s been married to the invalid Earl of Barrett for about a year when he passed away due to weak health. Virginia never liked Lawrence and though it was consummated, she has never been with him after that night. She detested him as much as he did, hence no heir. Now, this poses a threat. Virginia originally hails from America. She was the only daughter of a wealthy businessman. Upon her marriage, Lawrence inherited everything, and in exchange, she got the title of a countess. Apparently, her husband went through it all, leaving her, her two SILs Eudora and Ellice and MIL, Enid, destitute. Since there is no male heir, everything that is left will go to a distant cousin through entailment. It was also apparent that the man will not take any responsibility of them. This leaves Virginia’s rather self-seeking MIL to use (yes, that was completely using her) her in a different way. Find a man, get pregnant, pass it off as Lawrence’s heir and keep the inheritance. After all, she and her two daughters never lived in poverty, so Virginia will have to help. She saved them once, she’d do it again.
This Virginia certainly will do. She apparently ‘loves’ her in laws enough and feels responsible for them. Acceding to Enid’s wishes, Virginia begins planning a ‘trip’ to Scotland where lives Macrath Sinclair, the man she once thought to be in love.
And so we’re told of their whirlwind relationship that was completely thwarted by Virginia’s autocratic and title-hungry father. Macrath and she met some times before her marriage. Virginia was a passive girl who was used to taking orders (as she remains for the most part of the story). She was also reserved, considered herself rather plain to look at, as a result, never felt confident enough to enter into this New World with style— the society of England and its thousand pesky rules. She lived a better life in America, though her father made it miserable from time to time by ignoring her completely, when not that, with his dictates. So the handsome Scot inventor Macrath Sinclair with his brilliant blue eyes and bright smile was the breath of fresh air she hungered for. It was also apparent that she could actually talk to him. He is nice to her, always encouraging her interests. Soon enough, love was blossoming. Macrath’s declaration surprises Virginia but exhilarates her no less. But that was not to be when her father suddenly announces her betrothal. Virginia chooses to bow down to his demand and marries Lawrence, leaving Macrath completely heartbroken.
Now, after a year later, she’s going back to him to get herself pregnant by deceiving him in the process. Can you tell that I already was having a bad feeling about this story?
Gotta talk about Macrath’s life now. Son of a poor pressman, he started out as a humble broadside seller with a family mired in poverty, yet Macrath did everything in his power to win the dreaded poverty out. He has invented an ice-machine (story taken from a real life inventor, as the Author’s Note will explain to you), which in turn made him rather dirty rich. Poverty is a word Macrath will never want to hear again so he’s still building his empire to keep his sisters Mairi and Ceana and a cousin named Finella, happy and provided for. Finella came to live with them when she became an orphan, much like Macrath and his sisters. Even then he took her in. And now, she has become an integral part of the family.
A self-made man, Macrath, some years ago, bought a big mansion in the Highlands, called Drumvagen. He had always dreamed of his own place, a clan and a legacy and Drumvagen was just the beginning of it all. The big castle-like structure was abandoned half-built when Macrath took over and made it a home. He has an assorted bunch of staff but most important of them all is his ‘scary and manly’-looking housekeeper Brianag. Though she has a temper and is not scared of anyone or anything, Brianag’s grumpy demeanor hides a soft heart and a hand for healing. Since Mairi took over their father’s printing press and lives in Edinburgh, Macrath has bought her and Finella a house of their own. Finella takes care of it as the publication of the broadsides and other press related duties take up most of Mairi’s time.
Macrath visited London to give his younger sister, Ceana, a season that Mairi never had. And in that visit, he met the alluring American, Virginia Anderson. Macrath, the fool, fell for her on spot. From her features to her interest in the broadsides, politics and any other un-ladylike things immediately caught his attention. He knew that being a Scot and without a title, it’d be hard to get her father’s blessings. Though he didn’t like the man, Macrath was ready to beg to him for Virginia’s hand, thinking she returns his affections. She even became good friends with Ceana, a bonus for him. Macrath fashioned the adjoining room to his suits with everything that Virginia might love. Actually he remembered everything, including the fact that Virginia loves roses. Yet his dreams came crashing down when Virginia meekly went out of his life.
Macrath may not have known the whole story and how Virginia was intimidated to marry the guy (though I would’ve loved to see her fight a little), his love for her turned into something of a mixture of love and hate. Is that even possible to hate someone you love? And you can’t seem to stop loving even when a part of you hates them? When we meet Macrath, secretly, he’s still searching for the answer.
In between, Ceana marries and Macrath moves into Drumvagen permanently. He lives here, working on his new innovative ideas, trying to bury his heartache within himself. I must mention that Macrath has never been a womanizer. He was celibate when suddenly, one day, the widowed Countess of Barrett returns in his life. Macrath is instantly suspicious, not having a clue to what she wants.
When she was leaving for Scotland, thanks to her MIL’s help, Virginia had to face a dirty fact about her marriage. Lawrence’s personal assistant, a guy named Paul, has been giving her eyes. It was apparent that he had some kinda weird obsession over her. When Lawrence died, Paul, who is nothing but efficient, comes by the information about the entailment and the need of a male heir. He begins pursuing Virginia. It was more like coming onto her, though she never did anything to garner his attention. He makes innuendoes about giving her the male heir she needs. He eavesdrops one day, also gaining the knowledge about her trip to Scotland that’s supposed to be a total secret. With it, he later starts blackmailing Enid too. But before she was leaving Paul gives Virginia the shock of her life; that it was him, and not Lawrence, in her bed on her wedding night! I was totally surprised myself that how can she not differentiate between the two men? If the light was off and she didn’t see who it was, Lawrence was said to have been frail and weak, while Paul completely opposite of him; stocky-built and handsome in a cold, aloof way. I couldn’t believe that she couldn’t tell! WOW. But this realization makes her run even faster towards Scotland.
Virginia, with her ever faithful maid, Hannah, finally arrives in Drumvagen. The first 2 days go by rather swiftly and she’s successful in seducing Macrath with sweet words of longing (sorry, I didn’t believe a word she said). Macrath, the poor fool, was starving; both for sex and for her. The two factors were combustible enough and they end up having sex. Virginia makes sure of 'more than once' so that... you know. *SMH* Macrath pretty much begs her to stay with him, now that she’s a widow. But of course, Virginia has a ‘family’ to look after in London. She can’t be here, and marry Macrath! I didn’t even know how to react about her callous observations, and that everything she did was for a selfish reason. But what struck me the most was that, throughout the story, she NEVER ONCE gave a sh!t about Macrath’s feelings. Well, maybe she did in her own musings but always her other family won out and she’d callously dismiss Macrath as if he doesn’t matter, even KNOWING he loves her that much!
After Macrath realizes that Virginia has no true intention of being with him, he commands her to live. And she does, without any fight. Then, to escape the memory of their nights together, Macrath takes up on a new challenge concerning his ice-machine that leads him to Australia. Though Mairi and Finella aren’t happy, nothing can keep Macrath here... not for the next few months. In the meantime, back at London, Virginia finds herself pregnant. Her MIL is positively rubbing her hands with glee! At least that’s how I felt about her over-enthusiasm and super awkward questions. *eyeroll* Virginia has no intentions of telling Macrath. Though guilt rears its head for a while, Virginia stamps it down. After all, she has a family to rescue! I was so mad at her cause it was just NOT done. Again, she didn’t bother considering Marcrath’s side in all these and the fact that he has a right to know about his baby.
Ceana stops by and gives a heavily pregnant Virginia the news of Macrath’s departure and Virginia is sighing a breath of relief. So glad she doesn’t have to face Macrath, at least not now! When the baby is born, Enid, with her unhealthy obsession with the word ‘E’, names the boy Elliot. Of course it was a boy and anyone who saw him would’ve known that he’s Macrath’s, not the weak and pale Lawrence’s.
A couple of months pass by and Macrath decides to return to England. He contemplated marrying and settling down in Australia but his yearning for Virginia never died down. Not once. He kept thinking of her, loving and hating her with the same breathe. But things were about to go very, very wrong soon!
A few months into Elliot’s birth, small pox strikes London and its surrounding areas. The epidemic takes a lot of lives, including that of Eudora’s. When Virginia finally catches the disease, Elliot is forced to be secluded from her. THIS is when things begin to become much more dramatic and engrossing. While Virginia is very ill, Hannah, bless the girl, becomes the only person taking care of her. At that time, Macrath returns. Not only that, the poor darling immediate decides to see Virginia with a proposal of marriage. He’s determined to do anything to win her but unfortunately, the day he visits the Traylor House, his world comes crashing down again by the betrayal of the only woman he has ever loved. In a whirlwind, he hears of Virginia’s illness and then, the baby. When he bursts into the nursery and takes one look at the boy, Macrath had no remaining doubt. Elliot is his boy and Virginia never even bothered to tell him that he has become a father! That scene was probably one of the most prominent scenes of the story. Angry, hurt, feeling betrayed, Macrath makes fast decisions. He takes Elliot with him to Drumvagen. I, for one, didn’t blame Macrath.
As Virginia regains consciousness, Hannah tells her of Macrath. She, though still ill and weak, decides to travel to Drumvagen. The mama-bear is on the hunt! When she reaches Drumvagen, Macrath doesn’t let her in, but he doesn’t send her away either. He lets her stay in a nearby cottage with a strict command. When she recovers enough strength, she MUST leave. She can see Elliot only if she leaves. Hannah is the one who is allowed to see the boy, who has become the center of Drumvagen and his father’s world in a very short time. Even the grumpy Brianag has softened towards the future heir to Clan Sinclair. The reason behind why the people of Drumvagen and the village nearby called Macrath ‘The Devil’ was a pretty funny story (thanks to Brianag), though the man is nothing but goodness, even if driven by ambition. And now, he has an heir. The name ‘Elliot’ is soon discarded in preference of a more Scottish name; Alistair.
After a while, things begin to settle down a little. Virginia proves to be stubborn enough to stay in that cottage. To her, Elliot is still the heir to the Earldom and she’s determined to leave with her son. And, to my utter annoyance, she kept finding ways to blame Macrath for her plight. She’s angry that he has taken Elliot from her, kept calling Elliot ‘her’ son, as if Macrath had no right. WOW! Not once had I felt any genuine guilty feelings coming from her. It was like she was stuck in her own bubble and refused to acknowledge the facts written in bold letters. Though I didn’t doubt her love for Elliot, her treatment of Macrath was abdominal, a fact made Macrath himself angry. He still doesn’t know how he can keep her here with him. Is it the money? Well, he has plenty of it. Is it the title then? Does she love her title so much that he means nothing to her? TBH, after what she did throughout, Macrath’s belief that Virginia probably doesn’t love him didn’t come to me as a surprise. And it broke my heart. It’s also not surprising that I wanted to slap this girl really hard every time she opened her mouth to put blames on him.
Of course, Macrath softens towards Virginia gradually, letting her inside Drumvagen to see Elliot. Moreover, he’d sit there with her, watching her playing with their son. Virginia was never comfortable with Macrath’s presence and I thought it was the subconscious guilt poking it’s head, though she refused to recognize it. She even begins whining about Macrath preferring Alistair over Elliot for his son’s name. Virginia wouldn’t call the baby anything but Elliot. Again, what Macrath thinks about his OWN SON doesn’t matter to her. And it was somewhere about 70% of the story.
Seeing her again regularly, having her near starts taking its toll on Macrath and the poor fool gives in to trying and convince Virginia, again, that she should marry him and be with him. They also start having sex. While Macrath was contemplating that he’s finally making some kinda progress with her, Virginia was having twinges of doubts... At Last! Yet every time she kept thinking of her London family, she kept backing off. Can she live here? Does she want to leave this beautiful place and rob Elliot off of his father’s affections? But what would happen to Ellice and Enid?
And we’re back to square one... *sigh*
When Paul finally snaps completely out of his mind, he sets out to Scotland, following Virginia’s trail. His plan: to ‘bring her back and show her that she belongs to him’ aka force her to acknowledge something that was never there (aka he’s insane). He’d kill that lowlife Scot this time if he tries to stop him.
Paul lies in wait to grab the chance of kidnapping Virginia, then drug her and carry her off to a ship bound to the America where they can begin life anew (?)... I’m not even going into the ravings of this lunatic but Virginia, in a desperate attempt to save herself, jumps off the ship. And who else but Macrath comes to her rescue? He ran outta Drumvagen the moment he heard of the incident and was able to give chase on one of his ships as soon as possible. What made me roll my eyes again, that it wasn’t the fact that Macrath saved her life or his repeated confessions of love that finally made Virginia agree to marry him. Macrath had to promise to take care of Ellice and Enid, welcoming them to Drumvagen. Poor guy.
After all, he said this to her:
“I would do anything for you, Virginia. Don’t you know?”
But Virginia, I was at that point beyond any comment. She basically ruined the story for me. To my estimation, she didn’t deserve Macrath and she probably deserved every bad thing that happened to her because of the way she hurt Macrath. Some might think I’m being harsh but I don’t care. Macrath was such a keeper, an amazing guy! To be so utterly in love, sticking to that person even when they’re spineless enough to spurn your affection at every turn... Unimaginable! If he was angry at Virginia, to me, it was justifiable. Yet he was the one who took the first step to resolve things with her. How can you not love a guy like this? HOW??? So it was no wonder that I never believed in anything Virginia said about loving Macrath and then act martyr because she was going to have to leave him anyway bla bla. I never thought she ever loved him as much as he did... if she did that is. 3.5 stars.
PS: not sure what happened to Paul cause he was never mentioned again. Was he caught? Was he able to escape to America? Not a clue. Weird!