Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Book Review: A Rose in the Storm by: Brenda Joyce

Title: A Rose in the Storm
Author: Brenda Joyce
ISBN: 0373777701
Reading Level: Adult
Genre: Historical Romance
Length: 448 pgs
Binding: Paperback
Published: 25 June 2013; HQN Books


When Rivalry Becomes Passion

With warfare blazing through Scotland, the fate of the Comyn-MacDougall legacy depends on one woman. Recently orphaned, young Margaret Comyn must secure her clan's safety through an arranged marriage. But when an enemy invasion puts her at the mercy of the notorious Wolf of Lochaber, her every loyalty—and secret want—will be challenged.

And A Kingdom Is At Stake

Legendary warrior Alexander "The Wolf" MacDonald rides with Robert Bruce to seize the throne of Scotland. But when he takes the fiery Lady Margaret prisoner, she quickly becomes far more than a valuable hostage. For the passion between them threatens to betray their families, their country . . . and their hearts.

My Rating:

My Review: It's been ages since I've read a historical romance novel and I am almost ashamed to admit it since I owe my love of history, romance, and even reading to this genre. I was recently searching for the perfect book to jump back into my first love when I came across A Rose in the Storm. When I learned that Brenda Joyce, one of my favorite authors back in the 90's, was the one who wrote this historical romance (set in Scotland during the Wars of Scottish Independence against England led by Robert the Bruce) I just couldn't resist. What better way to get back into the genre then to start off with her new novel.

The historical accuracy and writing of the story was beautifully executed. You can tell that Brenda Joyce took the time to do her research and was quite dedicated to intricately weaving history and romance. She also nailed the accents which I am a huge stickler on. Who wants to read a historical romance with the characters sounding like they are from modern times? So I give her major credit for that, especially the Scottish brogue. It definitely gave the story that extra authenticity. All of these things combined made the novel almost feet like a sequel to the Academy Award winning movie BRAVEHEART. After all, the book does take place after the death of William Wallace...

Let me say this now that A Rose in the Storm is a little less conventional than some of your older historical romances. I figured this out when the hero's name was mentioned but he himself didn't actually enter the story until 45 pages in. Usually if the hero hasn't made an appearance within the first 10-15 pages, I get impatient. But somehow Joyce made it work. Actually, I think this was a genius idea because she used this time for character development. The first 45 pages was for her to paint us a very clear picture of our heroine, Lady Margaret. We learn all about her arranged marriage to Sir Guy, an Englishman, her loyalty to her beloved late parents, especially her mother and the Comyn name. Even though she is a Scottish lady, her uncle arranged her marriage to an Englishman to keep the peace and to take her rightful place at Castle Fyne, which meant so much to her mother.  She is barely within Castle Fyne's gates when she is alerted that Alexander MacDonald, also know as the Wolf of Lochaber, and hundreds of his men are outside the castle walls. The Wolf wants her to surrender. She refuses. The battle of wills and passion begins. This was all great build up to the scene where Margaret finally lays eyes on Alexander MacDonald and it is quite explosive. I kept thinking to myself, if Brenda Joyce is this good at building the suspense up to their first meeting, I could only imagine how amazing the sexual tension would be between the two.

While the story is written in third person, it is solely in Margaret's point-of-view which also doesn't quite fit the traditional historical romance formula. I'm not going to lie, I was a little bummed at first because I've always been the kind of reader that likes to see things through the eyes of both the heroine and hero. But again, Brenda Joyce made it work and here's why. The Wolf of Lochaber is dark, dangerous, and mysterious and not being able to see things in his perspective actually added to his allure. Seeing him only through Margaret's eyes added a sense of excitement and anxiety, emotions she herself probably felt, wondering when she would see him again, what he would say, and what his next move may be.

Since we are on the topic of our mysterious hero, I really love how the author realistically portrays him. On the one hand he is quite noble. Alexander accepted Margaret for who she was and  found her  to be courageous for standing her ground and not surrendering to him. Unlike most men of that time period, he liked that she spoke her mind. He also believed her intended husband, Sir Guy, was unworthy of her and feared if she went through with the marriage he would eventually crush her spirit. On the other hand, Alexander is just as fierce as his name suggests. He does kill people. And he does sleep with 2 of Margaret's handmaidens (not necessarily while they were together). The latter did bother me at first but I had to face the facts: Alexander is a warrior and it was quite common in those times.

Although it was sometimes hard for me to stomach, I commend Brenda Joyce for painting such vivid images of women's roles during that time period. It was truly a man's world, where a woman's worth depended solely on her dowry, and was expected to bear children and obey her husband. Margaret was a brave woman that risked many things in order to stay loyal to her family name. She tried to obey her uncle and not question her upcoming marriage to Sir Guy. I can only imagine how hard it must have been for her to be Scottish yet accept an English King and marry an Englishman when deep in her bones she couldn't help but admire Robert the Bruce. But for anyone that allied themselves with Robert the Bruce and got caught ended with devastating consequences. What truly gave me chills was when Margaret learns of King Edward's royal proclamation: all women who sided with Bruce were considered traitors, therefore any man may rob, rape, and murder them. Absolutely terrifying!

So here is what kept me from giving A Rose in the Storm a perfect 5 star rating. Let me start with the minor problem which is more of an uncharacteristic response then an issue. It's during the scene where Margaret is about to meet Sir Guy for the first time. Her intended husband and Alexander are speaking heatedly within earshot. When Sir Guy starts coming towards her, she suddenly, "...dropped her hood and released her braid, finger combing her hair into a mane..."  What?? Is she primping??? Right in front her intended and Alexander??? This was not only an uncharacteristic response (I could maybe see someone from modern times do this) but it just didn't work for the scene at all.

Now to my major issue. As I predicted, Brenda Joyce builds amazing sexual tension between Margaret and Alexander, just like she did in the beginning when they first meet. But when they finally decide to give into their desires, the scene is a PARAGRAPH! He picks her up, puts her against the wall, thrusts into her, and then...Margaret wakes up the next morning in his bed. WTF!!!! All the love scenes were like this! They were not the hot, steamy scenes I remember Brenda Joyce writing years ago. Maybe she didn't want to get completely explicit which I can respect, but there are ways she could have done that and still given us fulfilling love scenes. Maybe it would have helped if this novel had been written by an author I was unfamiliar with. But since I've read Joyce's novels in the past, I had certain expectations.

Despite being disgruntled over the diluted love scenes, A Rose in the Storm was well written and came together on so many other levels that I still give this book a 4 star rating.


  1. Hi Mia,
    how are you girl??? Thank you so much for always visiting my blog. And thanks for the congrats on my job :) I'm so happy, I'm teaching English in two school and the kids have been amazing.

    Now about the book :) Girl, I love historical romance. My mom has a huge collection of it, because she loves the genre so I've read tons of those books. It sounds like something I would read, however as you I expect my sex scenes to be great (I don't need explicit sex) I just want to believe them as real.

    Hope everything is ok in your life :)

  2. Hi Mia, thanks for the comment back at my blog <a href=">Bookshelf Confessions</a>
    ..I'm glad you liked this book, and I love reading highland romances too :D
    Once again, thanks for visiting my blog and I'm following you back too :)