I have a bit of a stand-off-ish relationship with Janet McNaughton. On the one hand, I usually enjoy reading her books- and on the other, I think I discovered them about two years too late. So I ALMOST buy into the story, but not quite.
I fully admit that this is one of my weirder failings. I can watch or read something that’s totally outside of my demographic and enjoy it (tinkerbell movie anyone?) but if it’s just outside, I’ll twiddle my fingers and glare angrily at the story instead of just enjoying it. Sigh, it’s a hard life I lead.
ANYHOW. The story. Sixteen-year-old Jennie lives in Scotland in the twelfth century. Her older sister has recently disgraced the family in some scandal that isn’t immediately apparent, so Jenny- the younger daughter- is suddenly fresh meat in the marriage market. She’s catch of the day, in fact, and ends up being paraded around in front of Prince William, who is the likely heir to the throne despite being the younger son, since the king has sworn to be celibate. Everyone keeps warning her obliquely about the Prince and his reputation with teh wenches, and then encouraging her to marry him in the next breath. Drama…
However! Jennie has her own secrets, which are primarily centred around the mysterious young man who is camping out in her tocher, Carter Hall. Tam Lin by name, he has a dark past. *dramatic music* A Dark Past Which Will Soon Be Entwined With Her Own Future, and that of their child…
Yes, you read that right. Tam Lin knocks her up. *nods* Basically, their relationship follows this pattern
- Tam Lin finds her in the woods, defenceless, and does not kidnap or rape her. (Point Tam!)
- They meet again and make magic eyes at eachother
poachescatches her a hare and some salmon (on her father’s land,) and cooks it for her.
- He gives her a dress which then turns out to be made of cobwebs and leaves, and is glamourized to make everyone fall in love with her.
- He knocks her up. (To be fair, she kinda jumped him and wouldn’t let go. I had to read that scene three times until I was sure what had just happened. It was weird.)
- He tells her to go enter a convent, he couldn’t ask her to save him from his bondage to the queen of the fairies, who is apparently a cougar with a mean streak. I COULN’T ASK YOU TO SAVE ME FROM THE QUEEN WHO IS JEALOUS THAT I LOVE YOU MORE THAN HER.
Jennie: Wait, you’re the Queen’s Lover?Tam: Look at it from my perspective! I was fourteen! I didn’t know what I was doing! Now I do, if you know what I mean and I think that you do.*wink wink nudge nudge*Jennie: But I thought I was special!Tam: You ARE special, honey! Sex ain’t love, and I didn’t know what love was till we, uh, talked. Talked, that’s right. What about that rescuing me?
And she does rescue him. I’m not going to say HOW she does, because if you’ve read anything Tam Lin related you already know how, and if you haven’t, I wouldn’t want to spoil your lol whut? moment.
In case you haven’t noticed, I’m not really a Tam Lin fan. I mean, he’s okay, he’s just. Weird Romance. Weird Glamourizing. Weird all around. (And then he refuses to marry her until he can provide for her? Which is like, a year after the baby is born? THIS IS THE TWELFTH CENTURY. MAKE A HONEST WOMAN OUT OF THE GIRL WHO SAVED YOUR SOUL . Ahem.) I do like Jenny though. Her trying to fumble through court intrigues and everything spiralling out past her control felt real, and she was a likeable character. I very much liked Jennie’ sister Isobel, who, it turns out, killed the man who was going to kill her, and then married a harper. Go Isobel! I liked most of the minor characters, including her Brother Eudo.
(After Jennie has called off her engagment to William at the alter, because she’s pregnant.)Eudo: “Well, you got out of that Betrothal in the worst way possible, but I’m glad you did.”
As with Dragon Seer, I wouldn’t be too concerned to see my little sisters reading it, and I gave it three stars out of five.