First, let me say that Seymour can write well. Her dialog is interesting and her characters (especially the men) are multi-faceted and worth knowing. But this story disappointed me from the beginning because she included elements that were so contrived and so boring she lost me. I hung in there and about page 100 the story picked up once she introduced the rebel Shane O'Neill, a real person who was an Irish king of the O'Neill dynasty of Ulster in the mid 16th century. From then on the plot held my interest. But the romance never persuaded me and the heroine was a little too perfect.
Set in Ireland in 1562, this first in her Irish trilogy (ROSE IN THE MIST and IRISH GYPSY are the two others). To settle a blood feud between the Riordans and the O'Donnells, a marriage was proposed between the oldest Riordan son and the eldest O'Donnell daughter when the girl was only 10. Now 19, Claire O'Donnell is married to Cormac Riordan, the oldest of the three Riordan brothers, but no one told her of the Riordan curse that claims their brides, often in childbed, within the first year of marriage. Cormac, thinking to defeat the curse, weds her but refuses to bed her. Her family is so appalled by his deserting her on their wedding night that her brother, a hot head, stabs and kills Cormac's father. (Seemed a bit over the top to me, too.)
There were several improbable events that made the story seem contrived: (1) A girl of 19 would not be allowed to speak for her family/clan in the 16th century when the head of the clan, her father, was alive. Just wouldn't happen. (2) Claire's moving into the Riordan castle would not make acceptable the unworthy blood price of 100 gold crowns for the senior Riordan's life. (3) Cormac tries to avoid being alone with Claire so he goes to her bedchamber to thank her for saving his colt--? Please. He could have thanked her anywhere. (4) She is little miss perfect wife and castle hostess and Cormac's brothers, who until then hated all O'Donnells for killing their father, suddenly love her. Don't think so. And there were more unrealistic things so that before I got to page 100, I was bored. It was all so predictable. I began to skip passages, which is never a good sign. Then about page 100 the story began to include the historical elements and became interesting. I'm giving it 3 stars for that.