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Friday, January 09, 2009:
"Born In Sin" by Kinley MacGregor - review (2003)

Though few can equal her skill with the sword, Caledonia MacNeely fights an unfamiliar shiver when she is offered in marriage to the infamous "Lord Sin." Though Callie fears this mysterious, unreachable stranger -- less for the dark whispers that damn him than for the heat of his touch -- she is under the order of the English king. And with the fate of her troubled clan hanging in the balance, she has little recourse.

Banished as a child, "Sin" MacAllister learned to despise his Scottish heritage. Yet now, to unmask King Henry's foes, he must return to the hated Highlands -- wedded to a bewitching lass whose flaming red hair matches the fire of her spirit. A cold, hard heart has always been the key to Sin's survival, but this beauty awakens in him a perilous need he's never known.

This is one of the books I chose to read after RNTV's "Virgin Hero" week. Buffie wrote this wonderful post about Kinley MacGregor's "Born In Sin", and it was so eloquent and moving that I just knew I had to read this book.

At first, it reminded me a little bit of some of the medievals I'd read in the '90s; interesting and fiesty but not overly emotional. It wasn't really until Sin is bringing his new bride Callie home to Scotland, and he's facing the memories he has of growing up in the Highlands that we begin to understand just exactly what kind of cold, harsh, loveless life Sin lived from the moment of his birth.

First off, when Sin is little more than a few hours old, his own mother rejects him, despite the fact that she was the one who was seduced by a charming Scot and now her chances for a happy marriage are destroyed when her father marries her to a much older man. Sin is immediately sent to live with his Scottish father, who denies his son because the child is a living reminder that he had cheated on his wife while away from home. Because of the actions of his parents, Sin grows up surrounded by brothers who are given love, comfort and gifts while he is an outcast in his own home. He's constantly made to feel unwanted. Then one day when he's twelve, the King of England has requested that one boy from each Scottish home be sent to England in order to keep the peace between the two countries, and Sin's father chooses him to go and be an English knight's squire, where he is continually abused. Later the knight sells him to a Saracen master, and Sin spends many years being beaten and starved. He must also kill in order to survive. His life is a painful, hopeless existence.

Then one day when Sin is eighteen, is is ordered to kill Henry, the current King of England. At this point, he figures he has nothing to lose, but perhaps something to gain. If Henry will set him free and take him away from the Saracens, Sin will not kill him. The King agrees, and Sin becomes his most loyal advisor, yet again sacrifices happiness as everyone around hates and fears him. Now he's a grown man, and Henry is once asking him to do something for him: Sin must wed a Scotswoman and go to live with her to once again maintain peace between these two proud, warring countries. This is one time he's not sure he can do as the King asks, but reluctantly he does, believing it will only cause more pain and hatred.

Only Caledonia surprises Sin. She is nothing like he expected: fierce, proud, fearless, Callie does not hate Sin, nor is she afraid of him, which is astonishing. In fact once she resolves herself to the fact that they are to be married, Callie sets out to get to know the man who will be her husband. She takes her vows seriously and hopes one day to have a happy home with many children. Her behavior confuses Sin, and he cannot trust in the softer feelings he has for Callie. He has no intention of bringing a child into the world to suffer as he has, so he must resist his beautiful wife. He only plans to return her to Scotland, not live there with her in wedded bliss.

But Sin underestimates his wife, and soon he begins to open up to this lively, fetching woman who touches him with tenderness and passion. She has healed his wounds and opens up a world of possibilities to this lonely tortured soul who's only known pain and rejection of every kind, and he begins to believe that maybe he does have a chance at happiness. Just as things are going exceptionally well with his marriage, fate takes a turn once again and he's faced with the order of killing one of Callie's own kin. How can he destroy the one person that has come to mean everything to him?

My thoughts:

First of all, I want to thank Buffie for writing such a touching, thoughtful commentary on Sin and his story. Her telling of his story moved me very much, and convinced me I just had to read the book. It didn't take long before my heart went out completely to this sad, unloved man. He was gruff and abrupt and cold, but never malicious or cruel. I think what got to me most was how confused he was whenever Callie offered him any affection. He truly didn't understand what she saw in him that was good and decent when so many others had not. It broke my heart that he was so convinced of his unworthiness, and didn't trust in the finer feelings his wife felt for him. He just couldn't believe they could be real.

Yet soon, it isn't just his wife who begins to value the man that Sin is; others begin to see him as loyal, and trustworthy, and someone worthy of friendship and admiration. So for the first time in his life, he knows what it is to be loved, and he has no choice but to let Callie into his heart, because really, she's fought a courageous and brave fight for it, so what else could he do?

And Callie, well she was truly a heroine worth winning. I loved her gentleness with Sin, her brave spirit, and the fact that no matter what, she was going to stay loyal to her husband, even when she's faced with losing a loved one on account of his loyalty to King Henry. She still stands by Sin, and proves to him that he is a good man, a hero in her eyes. I don't think that it was until that moment, when Callie stood tall and proud with her clan behind her in agreement, that Sin saw what they saw. Gosh, it brings tears to my eyes just thinking about it.

Out of all the books I've read, Sin is probably in the top 10, maybe even in the top 5 of the most tortured heroes. There's just something about these kind of men that gets to me more than anything else. Maybe because underneath their harsh exterior they truly are sensitive, vulnerable heroes who have to hide away their feelings in order to merely survive. Letting emotion in only makes others hurt them even more, so they cut themselves off from any kind of feeling at all that isn't brutal and violent. So when they fall, they fall hard and completely, and maybe because of all they've suffered, their love stories are more memorable to me. God knows, they deserve to be happy.

Basically what I'm trying to say is that I would highly recommend "Born In Sin", my first ever by Kinley MacGregor which means yes, gasp!, I read it out of order in the MacAllister series, but I cannot find it in myself to regret that, because the joy of reading such a wonderful, unforgettable story trumps my code big-time. (Sorry Julie!) Sometimes you have to make exceptions if you want to have a pleasurable reading experience, and that's exactly what I got. If I did have any regrets, it's that I didn't read this one sooner.
Rating: ***** out of *****

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  1. OK. I've seriously got to pull this one out of some box somewhere and re-read it. Great review, Stacy!

  2. GREAT REVIEW. It makes me want to stop reading my book and pick this on up. Anyone out there, how big of a deal is it to read out of order?

  3. I've never read a Kinley MacGregor either. This sounds really good! Thanks, Stacy!

  4. I loved this one too. I am going to add this one to my rereads this year.

    I love all her historicals.

    Awesome review :).

  5. Cindy, you could read them out of order I suppose. If you wanted to read Sin first and then go back and read the rest in order.

  6. Ahem, just think of how much *richer* the read would've been if done in order. ;o)

  7. Your first Kinley MacGregor, Stacy? Just think of all the delicious reading you have ahead of you! I've loved every book I've read by MacGregor.

    Great review!

  8. This is one of my faves too. :o) And the best of that series so it's okay if you read out of order, in this case.

  9. Wow Stacy what a great review!! You’ll have to remind me of this book when I get on a historical kick again :o)

  10. I really, really enjoyed this book. I loved Sin!

    But - I got quite angry at the very end - don't want to give spoilers away - so I'll just say his reaction to one particular character I thought didn't deserve said reaction. Other than that though - loved it!!
    And to be honest - I don't think it matters if you read this out of order. I think it works fine as a stand-alone.

  11. Hi - me again. And don't you see kind of a similarity between Sin and Gabriel? Both heroes with tragic, heartbreaking pasts who are confronted in a loving way by women who confuse the heck out of them.

  12. Sin is one of my favourite tortured heroes ever!

  13. It sounds REALLY good. Forced marriage plots are always good.
    I love a tortured hero, but I hate it when they act like babies about their past. Is he like that? Does he dwell and do woe is me?

  14. Let me clarify. You say he had to kill to survive. That's not uncommon for this genre-it's expected, really.
    But did he act all regretful and stuff that he had to kill?
    If so, that would bug the shit out of me.

    I know he isn't a Laird, but imagine a Laird acting all sissy about having to kill someone?
    No way-it isn't happening.

    The reason I love medieval books so much is because the heros are manly men. They kill, they are fierce and they make no excuses for it.
    I love that.

  15. I'll have to pick this one up. I've not read any books by Kinley MacGregor, but think I have a few on my tbr shelf.

  16. Really great and well thought out review Stacy. Glad you discovered Kinley's books. This is ine of my favorite stories by her too.

  17. Amy C had highly recommended this book and I ended up absolutely loving it. I still have to get my hands on other historicals by her.

  18. ahhh--looks like a good one :)

  19. I need to read this one again!

    *runs off to check library and make sure I didn't give it away!*

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