My review contains spoilers and they're mostly my thoughts as I went with the book...
The Virgin of Clain Sinclair, book 3 and the final installment of Karen Ranney’s Clan Sinclair series was more of a letdown for me. Even though I liked reading this as a part of the series and revisiting the other couples and secondary characters, the dynamics of the main characters, h Ellice and H Ross left much to be desired. I’ll just get down to my review to try to explain why I felt that way.
Ellice is the daughter and sister of the deceased Earls of Barrett. She’s the youngest of her siblings. Sadly, in the course of the first book, The Devil of Clan Sinclair, she loses her elder sister Eudora to an epidemic of smallpox. Her brother, Lawrence had already died by then, leaving her the then SIL, Virginia in a dilemma. I never liked Virginia, so will not go into the details but she goes to find happiness with a man she’d loved before marrying Lawrence; Macrath Sinclair, a handsome Scottish inventor. The dilemma of begetting an heir to the earldom left Virginia with a lot of trouble with Macrath, yet there was no apparent solution. Ellice and Enid would’ve been poor and dependent on the mercy of relatives had Virginia have not taken them in. Though Macrath started out very humbly, his brilliance, determination and skills, together with his invention of the ice-machine made him very rich. His family already consisted of his two sisters, Mairi and Ceana and an orphaned cousin, Fenella. Taking in two more very distant relatives wouldn’t have been that big of a deal for him. And he would’ve done anything for his Virginia... which is how Ellice comes to find a home at Drumvagen.
We meet both Mairi and Ceana in book 1. Ceana marries and moves away with her husband. The last I heard of her, she was pregnant. She was mentioned in book 2, The Witch of Clan Sinclair, a few times and was said to have had a girl? Apart from that I never felt that she was a part of the whole series. Not sure why she never made an appearance ever again. Fenella was more of a strong recurring character in both book 1 and 2. In book 2, hers was the secondary romance with Mairi’s pressman, Allan. She has since gotten married to him, still living in Edinburgh and now expecting their first child. Mairi’s life revolved around her press and the newspaper, The Edinburgh Gazette for as long as she can remember. Her father was a pressman too. When Macrath got busy with his own ideas, he gladly left the responsibility of the press and its broadsides to Mairi. She, the strong and stubborn h of book 2, thought she’d be happy this way, being a spinster, printing broadsides, hiding behind mask of stoicism, which was also fashioned to forget her own heartbreak of a failed relationship. But that was until she meets the Lord Provost of Edinburgh, the big and sexy Logan Harrison. And the rest is rather (I’d say with flourish); a crazy, messy, yet glorious history! You gotta read their story because Mairi and Logan’s relationship was so entertaining!
This one starts out some years after book 1 and 2. Ellice is still living in Drumvagen with her mother. She has always been portrayed as an introvert who doesn’t really speak until spoken to. Even though Macrath and Virginia have been kind to them, Ellice still feels lonely to the core. Then there’s her ever critical mother’s pinching comments about how she’s not what a Lady should be or how she’s too impetuous; one of the reasons why she gives the air of a vacuous nature because she had been scolded for her curiosity since she was little. The best one has to be the comparison between ‘beautiful and elegant’ Eudora and her poor ‘plain’ self. This kinda verbal assault takes toll on one’s psyche and self-esteem. Ellice believes in every single negative thing that has been repeated throughout her life. To drive away the misery, Ellice drowns herself in an imaginary world. She loves writing stories. And in that body beats a passionate heart that seeks to be free. She sees Macrath-Virginia or Mairi-Logan, feels envious of their loving and passionate relationship. Ellice craves it for herself but somehow she knows she’d never really win a Prince Charming of her own. So she gives all her passion to her erotic writings, the main character being Lady Pamela, someone who is nothing like her. Lady Pamela is tall, elegant, red haired and green-eyed. She’s very beautiful and sophisticated, and decidedly a non-virgin! Then there’s this Scotsman called Donald who’s her ardent admirer, someone who seeks to win her heart. Donald is tall and handsome with dark hair and stormy gray eyes.
One day, while she was sneaking out to a cottage away from Drumvagen to have a bit of her own time and do some writing, Ellice comes across this stranger talking to Macrath. Though she couldn’t see his face because his back was turned, she’s is enchanted by his voice. But then, a plan forms. She notes that the stranger is leaving for Edinburgh. Just now, Enid had made it clear that Ellice should marry and soon, all because of her insane and petty competition with Brianag, the housekeeper, who boasted that her own granddaughter just got engaged to be married! Ellice has no intention to be forced into it. She wants to reach Mairi somehow. I’d like to mention here that Ellice is a fan of Mairi’s strong personality and her accomplishments as a voice for women’s rights. Ellice wants Mairi to read her manuscript, publish it so that she has some means of her own. A very farfetched plan, but that’s what she intends to do to escape her mother.
I thought the whole plan of hiding in a stranger’s carriage was plain idiotic (which it was cause she gets stuck there for a long time). The man in question, Ross Forster, the Earl of Gadsden, was just passing by. He stopped at Drumvagen to take a look. This was supposed to be his home one day, as his father, the deceased Earl was building it. After he left it incomplete, Macrath bought it and made it his home. Ross has no ties to this big house, yet he felt compelled to stay. He finds no fault in Macrath’s hospitality, though unfortunately, he lets Ross know that Virginia is very near her third pregnancy and can’t meet him at the moment. When the volatile Scottish weather strikes, Ross finds himself without any option. At nightfall, he decides not to bother his groom and goes to his carriage to fetch his bag from his carriage… and that is how he meets this beautiful girl with brown hair and beguiling dark eyes. She doesn’t tell him her name but at length, Ross figures out that she’s one of Macrath’s relatives.
Ross’s life has been nothing like a privileged Earl’s only heir should have had. Ross’s father was a notorious womanizer, so much so, the tales of his debauchery and wild escapades have put the whole family’s good name in utter shambles. Ross is ashamed of the man but there’s another big reason why he’s hates him. Ross is also very, very determined to return that reputation, hence, apart from a few discreet liaisons, he’d lived the life of a monk. Then there was the time when he got married to a sweet and innocent girl, a suitable wife by all means. The thought brings back a very painful memory laden with hurt and betrayal. Though Ross thought he was in love with his now-deceased wife and her goodness and beauty, nowadays, a more mature man, he knows it wasn’t really ‘love’. Besides she did run away with his father! Ross’s father never really cared for his mother, a fact that needles him still. Of course, he never bothered with fidelity. Janet is still an elegant lady with regal bearing. She’s also a gentlewoman who was in love with her husband. The bitter memories of what were done and how they both died in an accident sometimes after their elopement has done nothing to improve Ross’s life. He doesn’t really believe in love anymore and definitely wouldn’t trust anyone with it if the question ever arises in future.
As they return to the house, news comes that Virginia has gone into a very difficult labor. You can imagine the state of Macrath’s mind. Everyone is scared for Virginia’s life and a dark shadow falls over the entire house. The weather doesn’t improve, and because of the incessant rain, flash flood threatens the village. Ross is still stuck here and none too happy about it either. Without anything to do, Ross turns to the manuscript he has found in his carriage, that obviously the girl left in a hurry to evade him. And what he finds in it, oh boy! It starts giving him all sorts of feelings, most of it in his nether region. :p He can’t believe that that innocent looking girl wrote these vivid, descriptive erotic scenes! But what strikes Ross the most is that the hero looks exactly like him, and that the house described sounds like his own home, Huntly. Ross decides that he needs to confront her about it.
As the flood threatens, the villagers are in immediate need of help. Since Macrath is unable to concentrate on anything but Virginia’s state (it’s been 2/3 days at that point), Ellice becomes concerned. When she’s pondering what to do, Ross steps in to help. And why won’t he? Ross has been managing his thousands affairs related to the Earldom, including Huntly, all by himself and very efficiently if I might add, unlike his father ever had. Together they work to build a makeshift dam. One thing leads to another, and before you know it, they find themselves alone and kissing like the two crazies. :p Though Macrath finds them together in a faraway gazebo, he doesn’t say anything. But Ellice is hurt to know that Ross knows about her little secret, and suspects she’s no virgin. She leaves with a promise to avoid Ross but unfortunately, when you’re so attracted to a man, who, it seems, has been conjured up from your deepest desires, how can you ignore him when he’s around? Worst of all, when, now you know how his kisses taste like? Ellice didn’t think she can really stay away, yet she knows heartbreak is written all over it.
Avoiding Ellice would’ve suited Ross just fine but sadly, for him too it’s impossible. He still needs an heir, so he knows he’ll have to marry sometimes in the future, but Ross doesn’t want to think of it at this moment. Yet now, this charming girl seems to be threatening his sanity and peaceful existence with her innocent stares and curious questions. And even though he still believes she’s no virgin, Ross can’t deny the strong pull between them. The hurt of past betrayal just won’t let him be. When he later confronts Ellice about her book, she stubbornly tells him that she’s going to publish it no matter what. But to Ross, it’s a recipe for his downfall! When the public get hold of these tales, they’d easily identify him in it! Together with his father’s reputation, Ross can kiss his ambition for pursuing politics goodbye. The election is near and Ross can’t risk it. Well, wasn’t that odd. Even though I understood Ross’s overly cautious state of mind about such things, I still thought it was a bit over the top for him to think that people would readily identify him in Donald. Even Ellice mentions that point, though fails to convince Ross.
Gradually, others get to know about Ellice’s book as she seeks out help from Virginia, who has been recuperating from that hellish birthing (though, I’m sure, the face of her little Carlton made it all worthwhile). Ross and Ellice are in a standstill about the publication of this erotic novel. Both are stubborn but Ellice is just desperate to escape here and live her own life. Yes, she wants Ross for herself but hasn’t the point already been proved moot, that she can never have him in her life the way she dreams of at night?
For poor Ellice, a sweeping love-affair doesn’t happen. When they, again, are caught kissing each-other’s face off (oh, the irony!), this time by none other than Enid, a marriage is imminent. Ellice never wanted things this way, yet she gives in; one, because of her mother’s commands and two, of course, any kind of bond with Ross is good enough for her. That girl was just starving for love and acceptance, and as I said, Ross was like her dream-lover come true. What annoyed the hell outta me was that Ross goes into this marriage still believing Ellice is not a virgin. I don’t know how he could be such a douche. He seemed very adamant to believe the worse about his union with her. Ross keeps thinking that the healthy dose of lust he feels for her would be enough get that heir, right? *SMH*
After they marry, with Ellice’s thoughts all scattered, they journey to Ross’s estate with Enid. Both mother and daughter are dumbfounded to find how huge Huntly is, something none of them ever seen, or even expected. It gave Ellice some idea of how rich her new husband is. Truth be told, instead of rubbing her hands with glee, Ellice finds herself flabbergasted, afraid that she’d never be a Countess worthy of the Forster name, that low was her self-esteem. Unfortunately, Ross wasn’t doing much to help her either. His first plan was to see if she’s pregnant(????) before he consummates the marriage. I was like WTF dude? Stop being so obtuse! But he doesn’t tell Ellice anything, instead ignores the wedding night, again hurting her. Ellice though, makes it her mission to confront Ross, telling him that what she thinks of her is wrong. She’s a definite hussy for him, and quite gladly, but no other man has ever fueled her imagination the way he does. And that, Ross finds most unexpected! Then I begin to realize that though he’s touted for his good-looks, Ross also has some self-esteem issues, reasons you can only guess. He just can’t seem to come to terms with the fact that this girl is so head over heels for him! This does egg on their consummation process *wink*... in Ross’s huge library no less.
For a while, they go at it like the bunnies, making Ellice the happiest hussy in the whole planet (no kidding! :p). But then, Ross begins feeling the familiar twinges on the left side of his chest. He identifies it too! Love. He’s falling in love with his wife! And that doesn’t sit well with the man. He wouldn’t trust his heart with anyone, not even Ellice, no matter how much she tempts him. One day, after discovering Ellice’s writing about their time together, with the same vivid descriptions and her emotions all over the page, Ross decides it’s time to regroup. He stomps away to discourage that sort of affinity, vowing to ignore his wife ‘for the best’... whatever the hell that means. *eyeroll*
Darn, I was SO annoyed at him. It was overly frustrating the way he’d just start ignoring Ellice when he thought she’s somehow ‘threatening’ his peace of mind. Worse is, it wasn’t even her fault. That girl was already in love with her husband. So when Ross begins ignoring her, again, Ellice’s world quite comes crashing down on her. She doesn’t know why he’s doing this, hell she can’t even find him anywhere in this behemoth-like house to confront. The coward has run off to London to attend ‘business matters’. Yah, right!
Another thing I found increasingly wearisome was Ellice daydreaming, as if she’s still living in her imaginary world, especially when it came to her relationship with Ross. What Lady Pamela would’ve done in this situation or said to Donald? She’d imagine lines and scenes too! I wasn’t sure what to think of it but TBH, I didn’t like it. All their frustrating encounters also, at times, made me think that they don’t really belong to each-other.
The third annoying thing would be the author’s vain attempts of trying to make Virginia look like a saint throughout the story. Am I suppose to forget how she betrayed Macrath in book 1 and hurt him over and over again to help Ellice and Enid? And after he took them in is when she agreed to marry him, not once before that? I don’t think I can, sorry.
Fortunately for Ellice, she found a true friend in her MIL Janet from the moment she stepped inside Huntly. Janet seemed truly happy to see Ross remarry and in acquiring a daughter. I really liked this woman and felt so sad the way she was mistreated by her abominable husband. There is a scene between her and Ellice where, after Ross’s abandonment, they sat together at her own house (a wing of the mansion), contemplating on her own marriage. Janet imparts some words of wisdom born of experience, though Ellice doesn’t understand how she can forgive her husband after a betrayal of that kind. But right now, the most important thing for her is to do something about this situation she’s in. Ellice means to win her husband back and for that, she goes to Drumvagen to talk to Virginia about this plan that began forming all of a sudden.
When Ross returns, to find an empty house without Ellice, he just runs to Drumvagen. I believe he had the scare of his life, believing she left him. OMG, I LOVED it cause the idiot needed that jolting to see the truth and face his fears, because for the better or the worse, he’s in love with her and there’s no turning back. It was quite entertaining when they profess their love to one-another, Lady Pamela and Donald not shadowing Ellice’s mind for once, for this time, she has won her straying Prince Charming back. :D
The epilogue was about a family get-together and some updates on Virginia-Macrath and Mairi-Logan (still the best!). I absolutely loved these last few chapters. Wish I could say the same for the rest. 3.5 stars.