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?
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 *****