Nicholas Neville is a knight recently returned from the Crusades. In appreciation for his loyal service, King Edward has gifted Nicholas with a new holding, and he is now known as the Lord of Middleham. But before he can go to his new home, he first has the unenviable task of traveling to the Scottish Highlands to visit a certain lady. Sadly, Nicholas must inform the young woman that her father and brothers, all men he considered to be friends, were either killed or went missing during the Crusade and that she is now his legal ward. King Edward has charged him with finding her a suitable husband, so she will have to leave her home and come with Nicholas to Middleham. However, wanting nothing to do with a hated Englishman, the young lady in question impetuously shoots him in the leg with an arrow.
Maggie Durwood is a headstrong, spirited lass who has spent these past years, while her father and brothers were away, defending her father's holding from English attacks. When Nicholas and his men ride up to her gates, she assumes they are there for dishonorable purposes, which is why she chose to shoot him. When she discovers the true reason for his visit, her heart is heavy with grief, but she still holds out hope that her missing brother might yet come home. For that reason, and because there is no love lost between her and the English, Maggie resists the idea of accompanying Nicholas to his castle. However, the irritating lord's spankings can be quite persuasive, and soon she finds herself ensconced in her new home at Middleham. The stubborn Maggie constantly butts heads with her new guardian, but his firm hand always brings her back into line. Soon she finds herself falling for the handsome Englishman, despite her best efforts not to, so when King Edward sends word they should be married, she finds little hardship in carrying out his decree. But there are forces at work within Middleham's walls who will stop at nothing, including attempting murder, to tear them apart.
I found Maggie Mine to be a rather unusual book that was difficult for me categorize. I went into reading it thinking it was an erotic romance, because the first couple of pages inside mention that the publisher, Blushing Books, specializes in spanking romance. However, I didn't find the story to be all that erotic, mainly due to the fact that the spanking element is presented as domestic discipline. Because of this, I perceived a huge disconnect between the discipline aspect and any sexual desire. For that reason, the story held less appeal for me. In fact, I discovered, while doing a bit of research on the topic, that the mere thought of domestic discipline tied my stomach up in knots. For readers who are really into domestic discipline, this will probably be their perfect cup of tea, and may explain the high ratings this book has on GoodReads and other book-related sites.
For me, Maggie Mine was just an OK read for a number of reasons, first and foremost of which was that the characterizations were pretty one-dimensional. I suppose Nicholas and Maggie were likable enough for as well as I got to know them, but unfortunately, that wasn't very well. Nicholas is a knight recently returned from the Crusades, who was given a new holding by King Edward for his loyalty. The cover blurb indicates that he is sad and battle-wearied, but he never really comes off that way. He just kind of continues on with life in a matter-of-fact way, and doesn't seem to have any deep feelings about the experience one way or the other. Nicholas seemed to be an honorable man, and I will admit that, aside from the discipline aspect, which he thankfully never undertook in anger, he was pretty nice to Maggie and believed in her innocence when the worst happened. Maggie is a spirited, headstrong Scottish lass, who hates the English, because they've been attacking her family's castle while her father and brothers were away fighting in the Crusades. This leads her to impetuously shoot Nicholas with an arrow when he shows up at her gates with the bad news of her relatives' deaths and that he is now her guardian. Maggie is so stubborn, she has many TSTL moments in which she does outrageous things that any person who takes the time to think would realize were bad ideas. I guess the author had to have her do these things to give Nicholas a reason to spank her, but to me, it made her seem like an immature, impulsive, featherbrained girl who never learned her lesson.
Unfortunately, Nicholas and Maggie's relationship was equally as lacking in depth as their individual characterizations. I really didn't understand their initial reluctance to give in to their attraction. They were well-suited to one another insofar as they came from similar stations. Although they irritate one another, they also intrigue each other. In addition, they are both physically pleasing to the other, so why Nicholas never considered Maggie a good choice to fill the role of a wife in his life, I couldn't really figure out. For her part, Maggie is initially reluctant because of her hatred of the English, which was somewhat understandable, considering that they were attacking her castle, but she seems to get over that pretty quickly and with little fanfare. This part just wasn't given the weight that it deserved. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, she begins holding a grudge against Nicholas for leaving her brother, Brodie, behind on the battlefield, although given the circumstances, I don't know what more Nicholas could have done. By the end, when Nicholas' life is on the line, Maggie completely misunderstands his actions and thinks the worst of him when he was only looking out for her well-being. I thought this made her seem ungrateful and shrewish. In general, I simply didn't feel much of an emotional connection between Nicholas and Maggie. Any feelings they may have developed for one another seemed forced, because there was way too much telling and not enough showing. I honestly can't say that I know why, or exactly when, these two supposedly fell in love, because the emotions were so stunted.
As I mentioned earlier, going into reading this book, I thought it was an erotic romance, which I also thought would contain some nice, steamy love scenes. Sadly, that was not the case. There are only two relatively short love scenes in the entire book. With the very first of these, the reader is literally dropped right into the middle of the action. This left me feeling kind of ripped off, because there was no sexual tension or buildup to the moment. One minute they're at their wedding feast, and the next--poof!--they're in bed in the middle of love-making. Overall, the two love scenes were way too short to be satisfying or to consider erotic, as well as being mostly uninspired and lacking emotion.
I enjoy a good BDSM story with a little spanking from time to time, but the spanking theme here was, in my opinion, given a very heavy-handed treatment (no pun intended:-)). Like with love scenes, I felt that this theme should have been incorporated into the story in such a way that it advanced the plot and flowed seamlessly with the other elements, but I pretty much felt like I was being hit over the head with it right out of the gate. All of the characters who have any significant role in the story very obviously have spanking on the brain almost constantly, whether it be giving or receiving. I was starting to get bored with it, because it was so frequent and there was so little variety except in the chosen spanking implement. Because this wasn't like any BDSM story I'd read before, I had to do a little research, and that's when I discovered that the spanking element is being portrayed as domestic discipline. After understanding this lifestyle better, I'd also go so far as to say that this technically isn't a BDSM-themed book. It felt like Nicholas was simply discipling Maggie like an errant child for every infraction, and there was only one time in which the spanking was immediately followed by sex. Nicholas did get a bit hot and bothered once or twice while spanking Maggie, but in my mind, there was always a clear differentiation between the spanking and any sexual desire. This is probably because the spankings weren't being administered to cause sexual arousal, but rather to punish, which gives the story a much different feel than any BDSM book I've ever read.
In addition to the lack of character and relationship development, the other thing that garnered Maggie Mine only three stars was the writing itself. I initially struggled a bit, because there was something about the way it was written that prevented it from flowing smoothly. I had to concentrate a little harder than usual to keep up with what was happening. This eventually got better, but I still think it could have used more descriptive details, as well as better transitions between character actions. This would have made it so much easier to envision the scenes clearly. As written, this felt like a wallpaper historical, because there is so little historical detail and some of the details present seemed anachronistic to me. I've also read much better renderings of the Scottish brogue in dialogue. I had a much harder time hearing it in my head than I typically do, and that certainly wasn't helped by the author using "dinna," "doona," and "dunna" all interchangeably to represent "do not." The book definitely needed much better editing too. I found lots of grammatical errors, clunky wording, anachronistic wording, times when too many unnecessary words were used and other times when too few were used, causing a lack of clarity. There are times when a POV character assumes something about another character that he/she couldn't possibly know, which should have been stated much differently. I mentioned earlier about the dreaded "telling not showing" of which there were many examples. One of the most frustrating of these is when the author tells about an event after the fact, when showing it as it was happening would have given the narrative much more immediacy and also given more weight to how the event shaped character and plot development. In short, it felt like the book either wasn't edited at all or was done so very poorly.
Overall, despite my many criticisms, Maggie Mine wasn't a terrible story. I may have gotten frustrated with the writing and certain character actions, particularly Maggie's, at times, but I wasn't honestly bored while reading it. I also liked Nicholas for as well as I got to know him. The book had a certain entertainment value to it and some decent ingredients, which if nurtured a lot more could have been polished into a truly great story. The headstrong heroine and the alpha hero with a heart of gold reminded me a bit of Julie Garwood's medievals, so if you enjoy her books and wish they had some spanking in them, then this may be the book for you.;-) Maggie Mine is the first in an untitled duet of Scottish medieval stories. The follow-up book is The Great Scottish Devil, which features Maggie's brother, Brodie, as the hero. Even though this book was just OK for me, I think Brodie has potential, and since I already have his story on my TBR pile, I'm sure I'll read it eventually.
Note: Due to the spanking element which transitions into sex, or at least sexual desire, a couple of times, I ended up feeling compelled to categorize this book as erotic, even though to me it was more of a standard historical romance with a lot of spanking in it. However, the spanking is presented as domestic discipline, which differs from the discipline aspect of BDSM in that it isn't intended to titillate but to punish bad behavior and maintain control of the household. The love scenes are only semi-steamy with language that is typical of mainstream romances rather than erotic romances.
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