I read this a few weeks ago and I'm afraid that my recollections have faded slightly, for that I apologize.
this book was a coincidence. I had just finished reading "Never Seduce A
Scot" which is the first in the series. Right around that time I found
out about netgalley.com. I signed up and low and behold managed to get
an e-copy of this ARC. The story picks up right after the first book
with a new couple. The Montgomery Clan had raided the McHugh keep in
order to rescue their laird's wife, but the McHugh's fled. Suddenly the
Montgomery's have an untended keep full of women, children and the
elderly to take care of. In all that mess one woman comes forward to act
as their champion. Genevieve has been held captive there but for some
reason decides to look out for the McHughs at least a bit. Bowen
Montgomery is acting as Laird in his brother's stead and is the hero.
What else, ok. Genevieve was kidnapped by the baddie of the former novel
Ian McHugh. He has held her captive for the past year and has raped her
repeatedly, also when she refused him he cut a huge gash into her face.
Most of the conflict of the story is Bowen learning that Genevieve is a
good woman, and Genevieve learning to trust a man again. Add into that
that the whole McHugh keep calls Genevieve a whore for having (forced!!)
sex with Ian, and that for about 70 pages Bowen things Genevieve was
complicit in kidnapping his sister-in-law. That's basically the
I'm going to go off about feminism and rape for about 5 paragraphs. Just a warning before the jump.
As an ardent feminist I had quite a few conflicted
feelings about this book, and I really don't think it helped that I read
"Never Seduce a Scot" and "Highlander Most Wanted" in succession.
Reading them together really highlighted the problems I had with the
heroines. (By the by those titles are terrible. They really have nothing
to do with the books except that they're Scottish and sexy) Ms. Banks
really puts these two heroines through the ringer. There were some
similarities that became apparent when juxtaposed that I just don't
like. Both women are traumatized by Ian McHugh. The abuse to Genevieve
is far worse than to Eveline we still have this sexual trauma looming in
their lives. In Genevieve's case she has Rape Trauma Syndrome (RTS) bar
none. She's been locked up and raped by Ian. I just dislike the idea
the formative experience for these women is rape. It happens again and
again in romance and in stories aimed at women. I'm not trying to
belittle rape, or rape survivors. It is under reported and happens
entirely too often to women. I speak from a story telling perspective.
It seems that in many stories aimed at women rape is the evilist most
awful thing that can happen to a woman. It's the thing that defines who
she is and how she interacts with others (an important thing in a
romance). Often the rape is what galvanizes her. I find it upsetting
that repeatedly I keep seeing these women where their rape is the
defining moment in their life. Even though the women rise above it, the
rape is still placing the value on her sexuality and sexual history.
It's taking a woman's power to define herself away and making all of her
choices a reaction to the assault. I don't know. Perhaps this is just
illustrating how prevalent rape is that it is such a common topic of
discussion among woman and a common trope in women's literature. But it
still feels belittling to me. I guess it just feels a bit like it's
adding to rape culture. That rape is a woman's problem, it's something
only women have to deal with. It's something that so many women have to
deal with that it can be seen as normal almost. It's kind of adds to the
threat of rape, that no matter what you do your agency can be taken
from you. That your body is not your own and part and parcel of being a
woman is the thread of violence.
Now I'm not saying that Ms.
Banks is encouraging ANY of this. All she did was write a fun romance
novel. I'm extrapolating from her story and this is meant as an
indictment of ALL romance novels. It's just that both of the books in
this series had me thinking of these kinds of issues. (Also there is an
attempted rape at the beginning of the new Sword of Sorcery Amethyst
Princess of Gemworld comic that I've been reading so that is in there
One of the other things that bothered me about this book is
the female on female abuse. Both Genevieve and Eveline have a massive
amount of abuse heaped on them by the women in their respective
communities. Eveline because she is from the Armstrong clan who, until
the marriage, were the sworn enemies of the Montgomerys and Genevieve
because she is seen as whore amongst the McHugh women. Part of the
conflict rises from the two women needing to work out this conflict, but
I still found it jarring. One of the ways the patriarchy can control
women is by turning us against each other. Women internalize sexism and
then use it to against each other. I found it upsetting that these women
who are already suffering from RTS then have to endure all this abuse
from other women. To the point where they both have to take shelter with
the Montgomery brothers. I think the author meant to use this to show
how wonderful the boys are, but it still felt, to me, as if the heroines
could not be with other women. It made the idea that happiness can only
be found in a male/female monogamous partnership. That any other
relationship can not be tolerated. I know this is a romance and there is
supposed to be a HEA and it's about the couple. But I like to read
romance to read about two people falling in love (hopefully boning) and
having a HEA. This just felt like the only sanctuary these women could
have were with their respective partners and that nothing else could
exist outside of that. Even if the outsider relationships are "lesser"
than the romance, it would have been nice to see a positive group of
women. Although Eveline does eventually win over the women of the
Montgomery Keep and Genevieve has a good friend who is a McHugh and, of
course, becomes besties with Eveline when she lives at Montgomery keep.
So I guess that problem was remedied in the end but I still felt like these
women were just tortured by women the bulk of the novel.
final thing I really had a problem with is the sex. Not that it was bad
or anything, but Genevieve had RTS. She has some serious sex problems.
There is even another attempted rape in the middle of the book the hero
has to save her from. It just didn't jive for me that she'd be so
willing to marvelous mind blowing magical romance novel sex with the
hero based on her history. I don't remember exactly but I could have
sworn that after the attempted rape the hero and heroine finally have
sex THAT night! It didn't work for me on two levels. One I found it
incredulous that she'd be able to have such wonderful and positive
sexual experience so quickly after that incident and secondly (and more
importantly as I'm probably projecting) it didn't work for me as a
reader. I just couldn't enjoy a sex scene so soon after a rather
visceral rape scene. I just wasn't in the mood to read it, didn't feel
like it worked in the story and because of that found it unbelievable.
all that being said. I really did like Genevieve. She's pretty badass.
She stands up for the less fortunate, she is smart and she kills like
four people with a bow and arrow. I really did enjoy her and I liked
reading her story. I just didn't care for how she was tortured. Also I
shouldn't read so many Maya Banks stories together, I think if I had
read these 6+ months apart it would have been better.
Overall it gets 2 out of 5 over analyzing feminists.
You can buy the book here or from your friendly neighborhood indie.