The Bride of Black Douglas
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The Bride of Black Douglas is an excellent romance novel. It is well written, romantic, and fairly historically accurate. The characters are, for the most part, well rounded and the plot is—while slightly fantastical—solid. The book follows almost every one of my “cardinal rules for trashy romance novels,” and I was disappointed to see I had finished it so soon. I fell in love with the characters and their story; I didn’t want it to end. It’s been a long time since I’ve read a book that made me feel like that.

The year is 1785, and Meleri Weatherby, the novel’s heroine and an English noblewoman, finds herself betrothed to a most despicable man, one Phillip Waverly. Unable to resign herself to a lifetime of marriage to such a cruel person, she runs away, vowing to marry the first man she meets.

At the same time, Robert Douglas, a Scottish Earl, finds himself in a predicament of his own. The King has ordered him to marry an English born woman (knowing of Douglas’s intense, long-abiding hatred of all things English) within the next three months, or he will lose his title, castle, and lands. The Douglas family’s history is one of woe and more recently of poverty, as they have lost (literally, as in misplaced) the family’s treasure. This is where the “fantastical” part comes in. Family legend has it that William, the first Earl of Douglas, haunts the Douglas ancestral home, Beloyn Castle. William was murdered, and a century after his death his figure disappeared from a portrait in the castle, along with the family’s treasure trove of wealth. The legend attests that William will return to the portrait and no longer haunt the castle only once “one who has the heart of truest Scot returns to Beloyn.”

Meleri and the present day Earl, Robert, literally run into each other in the woods one day and decide to marry (a marriage of convenience, as they both “need” to be married and quickly). True to trashy romance novel formula, they dislike each other at first; although they both feel the stirrings of desire beneath the surface. Over the course of the novel they fall in love, but their love is tested when Meleri is abducted (again, true to formula) by her jilted fiancé, Phillip. The first Earl’s ghost comes into play again and helps save Meleri, who in turn helps retrieve the Douglas wealth. Everything is neatly tied up in the end, and they all live (well, except maybe the ghost) happily ever after.

As I said before, this was a very well written novel. The characters’ speech and vocabulary were believable, and I found no discernable plot holes. The sex scenes were rather avant-garde and not very steamy, but they were so well put together that I didn’t mind the lack of naughtiness. I suspect the author may have studied literature or classics because she peppered the text with quotes from the Bible, Shakespeare, Hippocrates, Horace, and several figures from Greek mythology. She also did her homework regarding Scottish history—while no expert, I know enough of Scottish and English history to see that she knew what she was talking about. Coffman covered everything from the Knights Templar to the Tudors to Culloden and beyond. It was a breath of fresh air to see a romance author take pains to ensure her novel was historically accurate and competently put together.

All in all The Bride of Black Douglas turned out to be one of my favorite romance novels of all time. Its romance, ghost story, and historical aspects all make me think it would make a wonderful movie—perhaps starring Dougray Scott and Kiera Knightly (any Hollywood producers reading this?). I would most definitely recommend The Bride of Black Douglas to anyone except those looking for the trashiest of trashy romance novels.

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