The book is set at an indeterminate time in Scotland's past, and centred on the love story of Kalail and Ronin, a princess living in the forest who can talk to animals, and a young laird whose family has recently been murdered. They meet as he runs from the murderers of his family and takes refuge in her forest, where his pursuers fear to follow. Thinking her a boy, Ronin takes Kalail captive in return for safe passage through the forest, beginning a convoluted tale of adventure as they try to win back their respective lots in life.
Though the story had promise, I found myself continually annoyed by two factors. The first is the sheer inaccuracy of almost every detail of the Scottish landscape. Even when suspending disbelief over talking with animals in a fantasy-romance, it is impossible to ignore some of the slip-ups in this story. Ms. Lord, I can assure you that the waters off the coast of the North-western Scotland are NOT pleasantly warm, having swam in them. There is no such thing as a Scottish jaguar (amusingly referred to as a McCat of all things), perhaps you are thinking of another type of wildcat which does actually exist in Scotland. As I assume America has not been discovered at the time the novel is set, hearing someone refer to a moose is a tad unbelievable (we DO have several species of deer to pick from). At several points, the laws of physics are also thrown into doubt, a curious incident with seaweed and a man swimming through an avalanche to name only two examples. The cover names the author 'a powerful historical voice', and as the story is deliberately set in Scotland and not some fantasy land, the flaws in the basic knowledge of the author are glaringly obvious.
I could forgive these technical flaws if the relationship of the story had been a strong one. Much of Kalail and Ronin’s interactions involve Kalial going out of her way to save Ronin, while he treats her for the majority of the story with scorn, when not subjecting her to outright humiliation. Kalail’s character comes across as strong only when not directly challenged by anything, and she almost always loses the argument, often forgiving Ronin and forgetting about her past hurts quickly thereafter. Ms. Lord is also let down by her occasional forays into trite and overdone romantic subplots, such as the characters ‘finally’ realising they love each other.
The story is not without its redeeming features, but falls far too often into cliché and predictability. When compared to authors such as Diana Gabaldon, it seems juvenile and tacky. I would not recommend this book to someone who enjoys a solid story as well as a good romance, and in fact, found it difficult to finish.