Reviewed by Lorraine.
A Woman of Honour
Duncan Campbell is imprisoned by his arch-enemies the MacDougalls. Sharing his black dungeon is Isabel Douglas, who is disguised as a boy. She has been given the task of delivering a letter to King Robert the Bruce, who has disappeared. Her only choice appears to be to pass the letter to the Mother Superior on Iona, after which, feeling she has shamed her family, and for want of any other future, she will join the convent.
Duncan has been captured after leaving his brother’s castle in a temper, caused by the King asking him ‘to do something so repugnant, so hideous, it made Duncan seethe with anger’.
They are set free by their captors – but only so that they can be hunted down. They are tied together at the wrist, to make escape more difficult.
The greater part of the novella is concerned with the chase through the snow and ice of a Highland winter. It’s the story of a journey both literal and figurative, the end of which is not where either protagonist thought it would be.
Isabel is indeed a woman of honour and courage, prepared to sacrifice everything in service of her king. In comparison, Duncan’s cause is flimsy, and his main interest lies in getting Isabel into bed. This is turned into a question of trust and respect.
There are inconsistencies: is what the king has asked Duncan to do as vile as stated, or merely not to his taste? At one moment Isabel realises she has let him touch her naked body; a few lines later, it’s written that ‘She looked down and only then realized she was naked’.
A very quick read, and an interesting heroine, to whom far more happens than to the hero; his constant thoughts of sex quickly become tedious, but that is part of his journey. The twist in the ending is neat enough, but because of the nature of a novella, rather hurried and convenient.
Likeable light summer fare.