RITA Reader Challenge Review

RITA Reader Challenge: The Recruit by Monica McCarty

C

Title: The Recruit
Author: Monica McCarty
Publication Info: Random House 2012
ISBN: 9780345528414
Genre: Historical: European

Book The Recruit This RITA® Reader Challenge 2013 review was written by GhengisMom. This story was nominated for the RITA® in the Best Historical Romance category.

The summary:     

Scotland’s King Robert the Bruce is retaking his kingdom from the invading English. To win, he’ll need all the grit and courage of his elite band of warriors, the Highland Guard, men who fight without fear and love without limits.  

Fiery, aggressive, and bold, Kenneth Sutherland is a true champion—skilled with any weapon and driven to win. Now Kenneth is ready for his greatest challenge: joining Robert the Bruce’s secret army to fight among the elite. Kenneth’s best chance to attain that honor is by winning the Highland Games. Focused and prepared for victory, he is caught off guard by a lovely wisp of a woman—and a stolen moment of wicked seduction. Her innocent arousal and her shameless hunger fire his blood. He will win his place in the guard—and in Mary of Mar’s bed.   T

he ruggedly handsome hero-in-the-making stirs a heart that should know better. Mary vows that her surrender will be sport only—no promises, no heartbreak, just one night of incredible passion. Nothing, she swears, will persuade her to give up her hard-wrought independence and put her fate in the hands of another powerful man. But with every gentle touch and heart-pounding kiss, Kenneth makes her want more.

Now Mary wants his heart. But is this determined champion willing to surrender everything for love?

And here is GhengisMom's review:

In order for a book to get an A, in my mind, it has to be one of those books that makes me keep the Nook App open on my phone so I can sneak in paragraphs while waiting at red lights. This usually means that I am in love with the characters. They’re like making a new friend that you absolutely hit it off with and for the first few weeks you’re kind of a glutton for their company.

This book was not like that for me. At about page 120, I looked at the top of my Nook and groaned. Holy hell I still had over 200 pages to go. I headed over to Amazon and Barnes and Noble to see the reviews, and they were overwhelmingly praising this book. So, what in the world was I missing?! I chalk it up to three issues.

Number 1: This was book number six in the Highland Guard series.  I have not read any of the others, and so this one felt anchorless. The back story that was given was told like an inside joke that I didn’t get. (This must be a ridiculously fine line to walk as an author because if I had read the whole series, I would be extremely annoyed to have to read the entire set up in every single new book.) And because there are obviously books to follow in the series, there was not a satisfying end to the book. Major plot points were left as cliffhangers. Does she find her twin sister? Is she dead? What becomes of her relationship with her son? What is up with Sir Adam? So, this just didn’t work as a stand alone for me.

Number 2: I’m not a huge stickler for historical accuracies in historical romance. I kind of see it in some ways as fantasy, in the sense that the author is world building. I mean, yes there is a time period backdrop, but I’m not going to freak out about the dress being the wrong style/color/name. I’m reading a love story; I suspend disbelief.

I’m a big fan of the “Historical” Romance where by “historical” I mean “wardrobe and carriage settings for the fairly modern thinking/acting characters.” When Kate Noble’s characters employ modern slang while strolling in Vauxhall Gardens, I don’t bat an eye. I know what to expect. I like modern sensibilities to my “historical” H&Hs.

However, if you set up your story with full-on historical context, framing out the politics and such of the day while using real historical figures as your characters, then I think, “Ok. This author wants me to focus on the historical part of historical romance and take the history seriously.”

But, you can’t have it both ways. You can’t submerse me in history and then yank me back out with contemporary ideas and phrases. For example, you can’t set up the history and ambience of Robert the Bruce’s Scottish Highlands with the dangers and political pitfalls of the Scottish rebellion, and then have the brutish hero be attributed with thinking an obscure-ish French expression that doesn’t even get coined for several hundred more years.

“He didn’t usually shy from a fight, he amended his earlier thought. Until now. Sangfroid, he told himself.”

Sangfroid?! He told himself “Sangfroid?!” I might have gone with it if the narrator said it, but not the supposed historical character. He goes on to repeat this to himself five or so more times throughout the book, each time yanking me out of the story.

Or how about,

“God save him from a modern ‘independent’ woman! Sweet and biddable suited him just fine.”

What exactly is “modern” and “independent” in 14th century Scotland?

Another historical pet peeve: if you write about real historical figures, I get quite put out to read an afterward that basically says that most of what you wrote about these real people isn’t even true. Just make up the characters names then. Don’t smudge the line between fiction and nonfiction.

Number 3: I really liked and respected the heroine, Mary of Mar. I thought she was well-written and extremely sympathetic. What she went through when she lost her son and barely escaped prison and death after her husband was jailed and executed a traitor, was very compelling. You could feel the very real danger and anxiety that she lived with. I understood her reluctance to enter a relationship with the hero, who, on paper, looked an awful lot like her first husband who ended up with his head on a pike.  I understood her desire to make herself homely and fly under the radar to avoid trouble with the king while being forced to live in England.

If anyone deserved a HEA, it was Mary of Mar! But Kenneth, the hero, was not a person I wanted the heroine to overthrow everything (her safety, her peace, her new relationship with her son) in order to pursue. He gave red, hot orgasms, but that was about all I could see he had going for him.  I didn’t feel like the heroine was making rash judgments. I thought she was making sound judgments. (Judgments that turned out to be dead on accurate.)

Plus, I can never root for a hero who at any point in the book sets out to “punish” the heroine or “make her pay.” Which this hero does.

Are my historical issues nit picky? Perhaps. They clearly didn’t get in the way of many others’ enjoyment of this book. I give this book a C because I did get emotionally connected to the heroine, which is why I wanted her to steer clear of the hero. Plus, some pretty steamy encounters between the H&H.  But, if this hadn’t been a book I was reading to review, I probably would not have finished it.


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Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Vasha says:

    Excellent review!

  2. 2
    kathy cole says:

    cracked me up with reading a paragraph at a red light – great review!

  3. 3
    Ejaygirl says:

    I take issue with a review of a book that’s sixth in a series and the reviewer hasn’t read the first five. Yes, your “historical accuracy” complaint is nitpicky in the context of a series that is steeply entrenched in the chronicles of Robert the Bruce’s quest to free Scotland from English rule.

    I’ve read the entire series and it’s quite extraordinary. The”history” part of the story is what keeps me hooked.  If you read the preface of each story and the author’s notes at the end of each book, you’ll better understand the characters and what was fact versus fiction. It’s not clear from your review that you read either.

    I would really appreciate the perspective of someone who has read the entire series.  I loved this book and there is no way you could become emotionally connected to the other characters without understanding how the Highland Guards were formed (in the first book, The Chief) and what it really meant to become a member.

    The book immediately preceding this one might have given this reviewer a better understanding of Willliam. He had some major maturing to do and if the ending didn’t have you get his commitment to Mary, nothing would.

    My advice to anyone reading this review…at least reading try the first book before relegating this book to a mediocre category. As the reviewer said, there were many reviews that “overwhelmingly praised” this book. I am one of them.

  4. 4
    Vicki says:

    While I understand Ejaygirl’s point, that this book works well within the context of a series, I also agree with the reviewer. With many of the series I read, I do not start with the first book. I pick up a book, like it, find it’s part of series and look for the rest. I feel that each book in a series should be able to stand being read out of order. Yes, it is good to read them in order but we don’t always do that. In addition, if you are waiting six months to a year between books, the memory may fade a bit. It’s nice not to have to search for your copy of the previous book in order to fully enjoy the one you are currently reading.

    As for giving back story for new readers without alienating “old” readers, maybe there should be a short intro titled “for readers just joining us now” that does a brief précis. New readers would be on board, the rest could skip it.

  5. 5
    Ejaygirl says:

    I actually am addressing the issues the reviewer made, which were addressed in the sequence of the series.

    Additionally, the author has an outstanding website that provides the kind of information you suggest.  I’m sure she probably did so to help those readers new to the series who might not necessarily want to start from the beginning.  And, it’s helpful to those of us waiting for the next book to be issued.

  6. 6
    Rebecca says:

    I actually DO care about historical accuracy…quite a bit.  And I agree that a “modern independent woman” is a kind of nebulous concept in the time period.  (What individual “independence” meant before the Enlightenment is kind of unclear for either gender.)  But I think “sangfroid” might be forgivable.  The Scottish aristocracy was already intermarried and culturally linked to their Anglo-Norman neighbors to the south, and they would have been comfortable in Norman French, at least enough to borrow phrases.  Whether “sangfroid” was used in the modern sense is a different question.  Merriam Webster says the earliest recorded usage is 1750, so that’s not promising, but it might be a forgivable anachronism.  After all, it would be hard for a modern romance hero to think “Gall bladder!  Gall bladder!” though in fact the doctrine of humors would have said that “melancholic” black bile would be an antidote to amorous blood….now I kind of want to read a romance where a hero fights his irresistible attraction by thinking “Gall bladder!  Gall bladder!” ;)

  7. 7
    Sandra says:

    @Ejaygirl: But the point Vicki and GhengisMom are making is that you should not have to read the previous books or search out the author’s website if you pick up a book mid-series. That’s what you do when you like what you read and want more. Each book should be able to stand on its own. If what happened previously is important to the plot, then the author needs to figure out some way to work it in, without infodumpery. If it’s not important, such as revisiting previous couples just because, then it doesn’t need to be there. If an author can’t do that, then she’s not doing her job right, IMHO.

     

  8. 8
    Ejaygirl says:

    Sandra, we’ll have to agree to disagree on that point. Nuances matter in a series and to try to replicate that in each book would be redundant for those invested in it. First time readers should be content with a “C” grade.

  9. 9
    GenghisMom says:

    @Ejaygirl I would love to read a review from you about this book. It’s a RITA Reader review, so you could very easily submit one to Sarah. I think a comparison interview by someone who has read the series would be extremely valuable. Your points are exactly the same as what I made in my review. The only piece I disagree with is, like I wrote in the review, I don’t like historical figures being overly fictionalized.

    It’s good to know that the author has a thorough website, I think for fans of the series that would be addictive. But honestly, I rarely visit author websites and have never visited one to prep for a first time author read.

  10. 10
    Ejaygirl says:

    @GenghisMom   The slots to review this book were full at the time I signed up to provide one. If you’re interested, you can find my review on Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/386309902

  11. 11
    GenghisMom says:

    That’s a good perspective, Ejaygirl. Perhaps other reviewers will be familiar with the rest of the series.

  12. 12
    SB Sarah says:

    I think a strong series is one wherein the books can both stand on their own and work as part of a larger story. For example, if you pick up “Heart of Obsidian” by Nalini Singh, you’ll understand the world and the rules within it, but if you haven’t read prior books, you won’t see all the layers at work beneath that storyline. It works for the first timers who hear readers getting excited about the book and want to try it, and it works for those who have read the whole series and followed along.

    If a book is part of a series and doesn’t work as a standalone, well, that happens—but it’ll affect first-time readers’ appreciation of the book. I don’t particularly want to go to a website and study the history of the series before I start a book, though I love a website that offers readers a lot of information, and I appreciate knowing when entering a series in the middle, such as with this one, is a bad idea.

    In a lot of ways, as series with epic backdrops become increasingly popular, there are two types of series: “You can read each one individually or out of order,” or, “You really need to start at the beginning.” This sounds like one of the latter.

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