This is the 5th in Small's Border Chronicles series. I would rank it not as good as the first, second and fourth but better than the third (see list below). I have found all of them worthy reads but for reasons stated in my review, I did not recommend the Captive Heart. Since the books are stand alones, you can read some and not all but I do recommend beginning with the first two. Small has a very different style and tells very complex historical stories, which I don't have to tell you if you are already a fan, but if you are not, you should be prepared for a very different historical romance.
This series, while not connected in time or people in all cases, is tied to a place. It tells the stories of men and women living in Scotland in the 15th and 16th centuries along the border with England, a fascinating place. Each tale includes a deep historical background of the times, including the Scottish royalty. There are long narratives, detailed descriptions of the meals served, repeated scenes told through different characters' eyes, "head hopping" from one character's perspective to another in rapid succession, and a well woven tapestry of events, all of which lead to captivating stories in my opinion. You have to adjust your expectations, however, as the happy ending may not be with the hero you expected. While I find Small's stories realistic for the time and quite absorbing, there are disturbing elements in some you might not like: death of a much loved character, even the hero, twisted characters, perversions and violence against women as well as men, including rape. The world has always included these and the border of Scotland at the time no doubt did, but if you prefer light romance this likely isn't the author for you.
In this installment, we are introduced to a 17 year old girl who is the last of her line of Kerrs who rule the Scottish side of the great toll road, Aisir nam Breug (which in English means "the false passage"). Raised like a boy she can run, ride and fight better than any man (they call her Mad Maggie Kerr). Since she was 14, Maggie has governed the passage with expert hands and all her people respect her. When her grandsire decides she must marry to produce an heir, she agrees but sets as a test that the man must be able to out run, out ride and out fight her so she can respect him. Only one man tries, Ewan Hay, and he fails miserably to become a bitter, twisted man. When he goes to King James to complain, the King, who takes an instant dislike to him, send his cousin, Fingal Stewart to wed the lass. Fingal is a noble man of great depth of character who recognizes Maggie for the prize she is. They are wed by contract but before Maggie will allow him in her bed he must pass the test. Like any Small romance, that is merely the beginning. Maggie, who would prefer to be free and to lead her people, must come to terms with being a wife and mother and the limitations those roles impose upon her. Fingal must meet the competing responsibilities of serving his king and being lord of the manor and ruler of the road. And much happens to block their happiness at finding love. The book spans several years in the lives of Maggie and Fingal and they are separated for a time that challenges them both. I do recommend this one.
So you have the whole Border Chronicles series, here it is in order:
-A Dangerous Love
-The Border Lord's Bride
-The Captive Heart
-The Border Lord and the Lady
-The Border Vixen
-Bond of Passion (Oct 2011)