Lady with the Devil’s Scar

When the shipwrecked Marc de Courtenay washes up on the shores of French-occupied Scotland, he is picked up by the badly-scarred Lady Isobel Dalceann. Since her late father had been one of the few Scottish lords to refuse to bend to French rule, her castle has been under siege for ages. Nevertheless, something draws Isobel to Marc. She allows him into her keep, where she nurses him back to health. They also fall in love–but can their love survive when Marc returns, the head of the army that has been sent to crush Dalceann once and for all?

Note: This book deserves a TRIGGER WARNING, not just in the rating, but also above the fold.

Little does Isobel suspect that Marc is, in fact, her enemy. As their sexual chemistry grows, the discontent of her Clan also increases. She must protect her patient against those who believe that he will betray them to King David. And she does: finally, after years of loneliness after her widowhood and self-loathing instilled in her by her father, she feels desire and, perhaps desirable. Instead of killing the handsome Frenchman, she lets him go.

Marc is none too happy when he is ordered by King David to lead an army to destroy Dalceann once and for all. Nor does he wish to bring back proof that he has captured the “witch” Isobel. However, he has little choice. At the head of an overwhelming force and surrounded by treacherous comrades, Marc lays siege to Isobel’s castle.

I’ll say it right out: I hated The Lady with the Devil’s Scar. It was a severe disappointment after Sophia James’s One Unashamed Night, one of my top ten books of 2012. Two things turned me irrevocably against the novel: First, the ending is utterly implausible (though I won’t go into it). Indeed, it is one of the worst authorial interventions that I have ever encountered.

But second, and far worse, is James’s horrific treatment of rape. Sure, it is realistic that–if a keep is breached during a war–soldiers are likely to violate the defeated women. But the way that Marc’s villainous comrades salivate over the chance to rape Isobel, their assumption that Marc has her locked away to “enjoy” her for himself, and their subsequent attempt to gang-rape her made me absolutely sick. Sometimes, there can be too much verisimilitude for a contemporary reader, and James far exceeded what I could stomach.

Although I have (thankfully) never been raped, the way that Isobel immediately follows her assault by aggressively seducing Marc (as if to wash the bad taste out of her mouth) both struck me as highly unrealistic and distasteful. It ruins the consummation of their relationship.

What Lady with the Devil’s Scar has going for it are interesting characters: Isobel (for whom I rooted, and whose backstory is compelling) and Marc, whose inner conflict between duty and love was compelling, could have carried the novel. Also, the way Isobel nurses Marc gives them time to develop feelings for each other, which I always appreciate. However (another caveat), I doubt that Isobel would ever get over Marc’s betrayal of her trust and the tragic deaths of her dearest friends and supporters.

Between the convoluted ending and the disgusting sexual violence, I cannot recommend Sophia James’s Medieval effort. Interesting premise, execrable execution.

My ratings:

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