More short books! Bride of the Solway by Joanna Maitland is a Mills & Boon (and yes, I still have more of them on book mountain).
Our heroine, Cassie, is the prisoner of her step-brother, the Laird of Langrigg. He has gambling debts and plans to marry his sister to a wealthy but weak husband, just as soon as he can find a suitable mark. Cassie tries to escape and runs into Captain Ross Graham, a man searching for a family. The step-brother captures Cassie, beats up Ross and throws him in gaol.
On getting out of gaol, Ross renews his acquaintance with Colonel Anstruther, whose wife is very sick and is expected to die soon. Cassie’s brother decides that Anstruther will need a new wife soon and that should be Cassie. During visits engineered to endear Cassie to Anstruther, she confides in Ross and they plan an escape to her godfather in England. Once there, Ross discovers that his family are distantly related to Cassie’s godfather. Her brother chased them in their escape and they believe that he died. But he didn’t and snatches Cassie from her godfather’s garden and takes her back to Scotland, where he forces her to marry an old man who paid £5,000 for her.
But Ross comes for her and rescues her at the altar. They are then married and live happily ever after.
This one annoyed me a lot less than the other Mills & Boon have, largely because there was a lot more plot and a not very much mooning about by either protagonist. Having said that, the plot was still pretty thin and really lacked tension. Without the artifical tension created by the mooning about, i.e. the protagonists’ internal monologue about how they love the other but mustn’t, love the other but also hate the other, love the other but don’t want to admit it, love the other but think the other hates them, etc – the tension must derive from the plot. Will Cassie end up in Bedlam or married off for money? Well, no, the possibility is never believable. I suppose if it was, it couldn’t be a Mills & Boon story. I wonder whether my expectations of this genre are so unshakeably set that there is nothing the author could do to make me doubt what the ending will be. The only way would be to tell a different story. And then Mills and Boon wouldn’t have published it.
The other elements were quite thin as well. Characterisation relied on tropes and the dialogue was actually quite bad, especially when it was in dialect. The one exception was the character of Colonel Anstruther, an old man clearly in love with his dying wife – it was sweetly and poignantly drawn.
Mills & Boon have the same plot in every book. Alpha Male and a reticent female. It's how they want them to be written for the audience that buys them via subscription. Not my cup of tea, but it appeals to a large number of people.
You do realise it's your fault I've got all these??