Mass Market Paperback: 480 pages
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca (September 1, 2009)
Amidst the upheaval of Cromwell's Britain, Jamie Sinclair's wit and military prowess have served him well. Leading a troop in Scotland, he impetuously marries a captured maiden, saving her from a grim fate.
A Highlands heiress to title and fortune, Catherine Drummond is not the woman Jamie believes her to be. When her people effect her rescue, and he cannot annul the marriage, Jamie goes to recapture his hellcat of a new wife...
In a world where family and creed cannot be trusted, where faith fuels intolerance and war, Catherine and Jamie test the bounds of loyalty, friendship, and trust...
To live by the temperament of a king is a very delicate dance. In his favor you are bestowed titles and wealth but fallen out of grace you will lose it all, perhaps even burned a traitor or worse, exiled from king and country. No one knows the court and its politics better than Jamie Sinclair and his journey is an unusual one to say the least.
The mind versus the heart. This is my dilemma as I start my review of Highland Rebel. Because my mind recognizes the moving and beautiful prose the author is using and the formidable, well researched historical setting she has created. And yet, I hardly could get a connection with Jamie Sinclair and Catherine Drummond as a romance couple. Friends, yes, partners in crime, most definitely, but the romance didn’t ignite for me until I was approximately ninety pages away from the ending. With a 449 page long story to unfold that is a long way to go.
There is no traditional romance found in Highland Rebel, but then, Jamie and Cat are extraordinary characters all together. While I do believe they genuinely care for each other I could not feel the blossoming of love as Judith James probably intended for me to feel. I felt their camaraderie and curiosity for life itself between them rather than a burning passion. Throughout most of the story Judith James emphasizes on the friendship they feel rather than the emotional connecting of man and woman. As I couldn’t connect with them the distance gradually grew more, even up to a point where I had to use my will to keep on reading. This is never a good thing for me as it diminishes the overall joy in reading the story.
Is it bad characterization? Most definitely not! Once again my mind acknowledged the time Judith James took for setting up both Jamie and Cat’s characters. Their personalities layered and their past is elaborated throughout the overall story, not dumping vast amounts of info on me but when necessary background information is provided or revealed at the right time. Hence, I got time to truly get to know them as certain choices become understandable and I wondered how problems would be solved.
Jamie Sinclair is a courtier, a soldier and a mercenary. Blowing in which way the political wind comes from. As his courtier persona he is slightly jaded and bored but his past made him a jack of all trade’s with many faces. He beds the women at court, he gambles away, trades valuable information and he has a roguish attitude that makes him popular among many women. Underneath all these faces there is another man to be found, another man to get to know and understand.
Catherine Drummond is intelligent, opinionated, independent. She was raised by a father who taught her a strong sense of clan and he hired various teachers to feed her thirst for knowledge. She has many leader qualities, yet she still remains a woman and it is like a brick wall she collides onto when it comes to clan matters. After her father dies she is left with wealth and land, and her brother and uncle try to use her as a pawn to gain powerful allies. Try is the operative word here because Cat is a spitfire who will not be subdued by a man.
Cat and Jamie meet and marry under out of the ordinary circumstances and it signals the beginning of an extraordinary relationship. They are equals in many ways, up to a point where Cat dresses as a man and is taken by Jamie to brothels, clubs and various other meeting places in London. Cat keeps visiting these places, she is in search for independence and seeks opportunity to display her intelligence. What was a let-down for me was the down-to-earth behavior they sometimes displayed to one another. If a divorce contract was discussed it was done amicably, when Jamie talked about actively searching for a new mistress it is initially accepted by Cat. I suddenly questioned the budding feelings Jamie had in his heart for Cat. When passion flares and stopped for numerous reasons they do not discuss their feelings and just leave it be. Their interactions are at times matter-of-fact and distant and at other times display such passion that I instantly hungered for more of those discussions. More of them willing to go for each other, willing to put up a fight and the better part of Highland Rebel I did not receive that.
Jamie, as a courtier, and the tumultuous times he finds himself in, are described with such keen eye for historical detail that it was easy for me to envision the historical settings. Yet I could not find myself agreeable to his courtier ways as realistic and true-to-his-character as they might have been. The flirting he does with the women, the ex-mistresses who try to seduce him, the sometimes not so ethical choices he has to make. It fleshes out his character but it didn’t make him more appealing to me.
Half way the book I took a break from the story wondering if it was perhaps me, was I in some kind of weird mood that prevented me from getting a feel for the characters? Now when I take a break from a book it isn’t a good sign for my level of reading pleasure. Many things I find valuable in a story; like well fleshed out characters, thorough world building and a flowing writing style were undoubtedly there but the characters seemed beyond my reach. It all boils down for me to how I felt about Jamie and Cat. They are the story, would it pertain a secondary character it would not nearly make such an impact as it did with the main couple.
I received a real good dose of how life was back then and the author portrayed it very vividly and realistically. Jamie and Cat’s journey was all about how they would want to live their lives in that world, in that regard Judith James did an incredible job. Still it had me pondering on the fact how much historical detail and reality I can handle in a historical romance. Was it simply because I never encountered a male protagonist who was mainly portrayed as a courtier that kept Jamie from being less then appealing to me? Was it Cat in her tomboy and peculiar ways for independence that made me feel less connected with her as the heroine?
I picked up the book and started reading again and after a few chapters I still wasn’t able to get enamored by the romance. Their individualities created a chemistry that I did not understand, not in a romantic sense of the word. In the adventurous way - for the choice of expressing oneself - leading a life according to your own rules, in that, most definitely, but in matters of the heart there was a gap that could not be bridged. Cat and Jamie were partners in their adventures, not willing to let the other one go when decisions need to be made. So with a plethora of supporting characters and warring countries the setting was quickly picking me up, and the King and his court were up to no good for Cat and Jamie. They had to go to Ireland and that is where I felt romance and passion spring to life, by then I was around page 340. Every shred of emotion and desire between them was devoured by me. A passionate outburst from Cat near the end had my eyes stuck to the pages. A sliver of what Judith James could do to me with her story was sampled and I wanted more. Was this couple finally evolving from friends to actual lovers in every sense of the word? Yes they were, and the ending was very true to their nature and I left them with a hopeful feeling for their future.
From friendship love can be born, that is what I feel Highland Rebel is trying to say. For two very unlikely characters to find a kindred spirit under the most unlikely circumstances. My heart unfortunately did not feel that for the better part of the story as my mind acknowledged the incredible potential Judith James has as an author of fabulous and enthralling stories. For the above mentioned reasons this book will not be easily forgotten and I will keep my eye out what Judith James will concoct next.
I am about to do something I have not done before. To honor the good things in Highland Rebel but also allow my feelings to be regarding this book I have decided not to give a star rating. When I look at my own blog star rating or that of ROOB it does not fit any of the descriptions. The writing of Judith James just holds too much quality and is at odds with my overall feelings for me to give it an adequate star rating.
He loved to see the excitement shinning in her eyes. When he was in her company, many things seemed fresh and new. The world throbbed with color and everything pulsed with life. In three short months, she’s become so much a part of his life it seemed she’s always been there, and it was almost impossible to imagine her gone. He watched as she returned, bearing gifts of chocolate, eyes bright with exhilaration, and felt a stab of sadness that he’d never been that young.