Don’t be misled by the title of this book; it should more accurately have been named “The Day Before Yesterday – An Extensive Recap of the O’Malley Family’s Adventures”. For those readers familiar with the assorted sagas of Bertrice Small, the mere mention of Jasmine Leslie will set the scene... wild Scottish Highlands, bonny lassies, and the bare knees of a kilt-wearing laird!
Actually it’s Jasmine’s son, Patrick Leslie, who is the hero of this novel; the heroine is the rather surprised Scottish lass who becomes his wife within hours of meeting him. Needing to marry, Patrick, Duke of Glenkirk, accepts his distant neighbor’s offer of land and bride, and Flanna Brodie becomes a duchess! Flanna can shoot a bow and arrow, hunt wild boar, and ride like the wind, but has had very little in the way of household management training, let alone Duchess lessons! It is her sense of inadequacy when she measures herself against former Duchesses that drives this story – in her own naive but loyal way, she sets out to prove that she is every bit as good a Duchess as the rest of them!
In fact, this book is really a “Skye O’Malley Retrospective”. If you wondered about any member of the family, then this is the book for you – it is redolent with archival stories about Leslies, Lindleys, Stuarts, and all the other assorted families in this series. Pages are devoted to the retelling of Jasmine’s story, Skye’s life history, how Charlie not-so-Royal came to be born, Autumn, India, and all the other characters who have paraded through an O’Malley novel. Helpful if you are a devotee of this series – but sadly tiring if you’re not! All this history tends to overwhelm the actual story – which isn’t hard. Flanna is a nice, impetuous, heroine; Patrick Leslie is the typical Bertrice Small hero, which is to say he’s good in bed and a bit of an idiot with women!! Theirs, fortunately, is a love story set along simpler lines than many of their forbears – nobody is kidnapped and/or raped by a foreign prince, or abducted, or tortured. All things considered, I might have traded a couple of chapters of historical notes for a bit of abduction or a dash of torture; there is little sparkle here, just a pleasant Scots love story set against the turbulent political backdrop of the Cromwellian period. Even the sensuality seems strangely innocent for this particular writer, who has a well-deserved reputation for erotic love scenes.
I’d urge Ms. Small to write a novel about one of the most fascinating characters in this book – Charles II. His extraordinary appeal and sensuality have been well documented; and his appearance here fits in with what history tells us about him. So let’s leave the Highlands, Bertrice – it’s time to move on to new horizons. This is one for O’Malley fans – the rest of us are ready for a change of scenery!