Actually more like a 3.5, I think. I'm not even settled on that, but I figured I'd get the review out of the way and get on with my life.
This is a very angsty read. The hero is the son of an awful Englishman who managed to take over the holdings of a Scottish clan after the slaughter at Culloden. The elder Merrick is an extremely nasty piece of work.
Ash Merrick has cultivated an image of urbane ruthlessness, but we know there's more to him than that. He has a younger brother and sister who are featured in the following books in this trilogy and their whole back story is rich with pathos.
Rhiannon Russell, the heroine, is a beauty who was spirited away from the Highlands to save her from Cumberland's men. She still has nightmares from the slaughter that orphaned her, but she's been cared for by a foster mother in the tiny hamlet of Fair Badden all the years since.
I won't go into any more of the plot because it's too complex, but what this book reminds me of is one long prologue. I think the three books together might form the entire story and so each single book might feel lacking.
There were a lot of hints of what may come in the next books, Raine's situation in France and Fia's evolution from dissolute teen to potentially rebellious adult. Very intriguing. More intriguing, unfortunately than a good 60% of this book.
Things didn't really start getting interesting until Ash and Rhiannon made it up to the Highlands. The time in Fair Badden wasn't wasted but it often felt tedious. I was able to put the book down fairly easily. And, at one point I thought I might find something else to read instead, but I powered through the bogged-down middle and made it to the good stuff near the end.
Unfortunately, one of the main action-drivers for the hero is simply 'taken care of' at the end and I don't think he was sufficiently interested in pursuing that course. For someone called "the passionate one" he certainly lacked fervor in continuing his quest once things weren't quite as he'd thought they were, so that was a bit disappointing.
However, I've already ordered a used copy of the second book. As I say, I think the trilogy forms a whole and I'm very interested in what happens with Ash's siblings.
I can see why people would give this a low rating. I give it 3.5 because Brockway did entertain me and I have hopes that the trilogy over all will form a cohesive and satisfying story.