by Hope Tarr

May 2002
ISBN: 0-51513339-6
Reviewer Graphic Button Jove Books
Mass Market Paperback

On the surface, it would not appear that an exiled French courtesan would have much of anything in common with a Scottish village hangman! That is, of course, unless the French courtesan is accused of thievery and sentenced to death! When a well-meaning magistrate commutes her sentence, Claudia Valemont cannot believe her ears – she is to spend six months in service to Jack Campbell, her erstwhile executioner.

Of course, the plot and the romance take many twists and turns in the complex tale of love, passion, betrayal, hatred, greed and tragedy! Hope Tarr has thrown a little bit of everything into this Scottish broth, and surprisingly the result is a thoughtful and challenging story about a time when life could be ended over a loaf of bread, and women were used as commodities in the eternal quest for property and power.

Instead of silken ruffles and elegant laces, this heroine has to contend with milking cows, feeding livestock, and working fourteen hour days at an inn; the hero, dour and uncommunicative, does his job as hangman efficiently, yet nurses several wounded animals in the privacy of his small hut, and refuses to eat meat!! It doesn’t take long before the reader realizes, along with Jack and Claudia, that they are striking sensual sparks off each other, and their final surrender also is one of surprising tenderness and passion.

This is quite definitely a no-holds-barred look at eighteenth century Scotland. Don’t expect a charming kilted hero, or a redheaded lass with a soft brogue – this book strips away much of the superficial romance and offers two very real people! Jack carries his burdens quietly on his broad, strong shoulders, and Claudia admits to what she has been with an admirable honesty. How these two love, part, and come together again provides a perilous trip through a savage time in Scotland’s past – yet the promise of a happy ending keeps the reader turning the pages with anxious fingers, hurrying to reach the quiet waters that finally welcome Jack and Claudia. Different, intense and gripping, this is a very good read – if you’re a lover of the Highlands, don’t miss it!

Reviewed in July 2002 by Celia.

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