The Devil of Jedburgh

The Devil of Jedburgh is a title granted by superstition to Arran Kerr in Claire Robyns’ historical romance set in the Scottish Lowlands during Mary, Queen of Scots reign. There are no actual devils or demons involved. But if you have a taste for historical romance, this story is wickedly good.

Breghan McAllen’s father has promised Arran Kerr of Ferniehurst that he will give his daughter to him in marriage. The marriage will unite two of the strongest families in the Scottish Lowlands, families that are both loyal to Mary, Queen of Scots.

Bree is 19 years old, and has been indulged by her parents all of her life. She is the youngest of her parents’ 13 children, and the only daughter. She’s a little spoiled and a little wild. And she’s scared to death of marrying Arran Kerr.

Not because she’s afraid of men (she has 12 older brothers, after all). She’s not afraid of marriage itself. Or sex. She’s still a virgin, which is expected in that time for a woman of her class, but again, 12 older brothers, and there are horses and cattle and sheep. Some of her older brothers are married. She’s not stupid. Far from it.

But Arran Kerr is known far and wide as the Black-Hearted Kerr. The Curse of Roxburgh. Or the Devil of Jedburgh.

Breghan does not want to marry the demon-spawn who acquired all those horrible names.

Arran, on the other hand, wants to marry the daughter of Laird McAllen’s wife. Not because he’s ever met the Lady McAllen. Or her daughter. But because Lady McAllen gave her Laird 12 strapping sons and lived. Arran’s met some of the sons, and the Laird himself. Arran assumes the Lady must be a big, buxom woman to survive that much childbearing. And that’s just what he needs. He doesn’t care what her daughter looks like.

All those nicknames? Arran can be the very devil in battle. But that’s not unusual for the Scottish borderlands during the 1500s. His real problem is that he believes there is a curse on the Kerrs. He is the last of the Kerrs of Ferniehurst. Because of the curse. The curse that all of the Kerr women, wives or not, die in childbirth with the baby.

So the rumor that Arran killed his mother? Well, it’s true. After a fashion. His mother died in childbirth. His birth. Not that death in childbirth was uncommon in the 1500s.

But Arran believes in the curse. So he wants to marry McAllen’s daughter, thinking that the McAllen women must be veritable brood mares, not just capable of bearing an entire clan all by themselves, but looking like it, too. Arran figures he’ll just blow the candle out every night.

That’s what he tells Breghan when he meets her. While she’s running away–from marrying him. She tells him that her name is “Bree” and claims to be, well, her own servant. And Arran takes one look at her and falls, well, deeply in lust, at the very least. But decides he can’t have her, even to dally with, because of that curse. Because Bree isn’t big and buxom. She’s feminine enough, but on the slim and athletic side. (We’d call her a tomboy today.)

In the morning Arran arrives at the McAllen home, after Bree has run away from him. Again. Only to discover that 1) Bree is the woman he was supposed to marry and 2) the Lady McAllen is built along the same lines as her daughter, in spite of that fine brood of strapping sons, and 3) he wants Bree anyway, in spite of, or because of, her defiant spirit. At least for a while, and he’ll have his sons with some broodmare of a woman, later.

Arran and Bree are handfast by the priest who was supposed to marry them. A handfast was a trial marriage. A year and a day, unless there was a child. (Handfastings did exist, and were quite legal.)

Arran and Bree go into the marriage with very different expectations. Arran expects to have Bree, just for a while. Then find some other woman, and quite probably have her die in childbirth. He already cares too much for Bree to let her die bearing his child.

Bree has Arran’s word that after the year is over, he will let her go, and let her marry whoever she wishes. Her dream is to live in Edinburgh, to live a relatively civilized life in the city and be near Court.

So Arran brings Bree to Ferniehurst as his handfast Lady. And Bree discovers that the fearsome “devil of Jedburgh” is not quite as black as the rumors have painted him. But the Court in Edinburgh, that, on the other hand, might be worse than any evil she ever imagined.

Escape Rating B+: There’s a lot going on in this love story. It’s complicated and it mixes in some very real history from a period that has always fascinated me. Which is what made me get seriously sucked in to the story.

First there’s the love story between Arran and Bree. These are two really strong-willed people. They both think they can have their trial marriage and walk away unscathed after the “year and a day”. Watching them learn otherwise is a major part of the fun in this story. They both need to learn a few lessons before they’re right for each other. But watching their journey is very much worth reading!

The icing on the cake for me was the events that occur in Edinburgh. This story ties into some of the real history of Mary, Queen of Scots and her second husband Henry, Lord Darnley. This period of Scottish and English history has always been one of my favorites, so visiting again was a special treat for me, even if Arran’s and Bree’s involvement with the Court was somewhat problematic for them.

For more of my thoughts on this book see this post at Book Lovers, Inc.



ARC Review: The Devil of Jedburgh by Claire Robyns

Format read: E-ARC provided courtesy of the author
Release Date: February 6, 2012
Number of Pages: 229 pages
Publisher: Carina Press
Formats Available: ebooks
Purchasing Info: Goodreads, Author’s Website, Amazon, Carina PressBarnes & Noble


Raised on rumours of The Devil of Jedburgh, Breghan McAllen doesn’t want an arranged marriage to the beast. The arrogant border laird is not the romantic, sophisticated husband Breghan dreams of—despite the heat he stirs within her.

In need of an heir, Arran has finally agreed to take a wife, but when he sees Breghan’s fragile beauty, he’s furious. He will not risk the life of another maiden by getting her with child. Lust prompts him to offer a compromise: necessary precautions, and handfasting for a year and a day, after which Breghan will be free. For a chance to control her own future, Breghan makes a deal with the Devil.

Passion quickly turns to love, but Arran still has no intention of keeping the lass, or making her a mother. He loves her too much to lose her. But when a treasonous plot threatens queen and country, Breghan has to prove only she is woman enough to stand by his side.

My Thoughts:

This was originally posted at Book Lovers Inc.

I picked this up expecting a typical historic romance set in the Scottish borderlands. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy historic romances every so often, and Ms. Robyn’s previous book (Second-Guessing Fate)received a lot of great reviews, so “why not”?

Was I ever surprised! There’s a lot packed into this book. Yes, there is a romance. And it’s hot. But the neat thing about the romance is that both parties go in with eyes wide open. It’s an arrangement. A totally stupid arrangement between very bull-headed people, but the reader can see why it happens. They both think they can have a relationship for a year and then walk away. Like that’s going to work.

I did think the whole “Devil” think might be supernatural, but it’s not. It’s about superstition, and belief in curses, and how they might affect someone’s life. Arran believes he’s been cursed and sometimes he uses the fear of that to his advantage, and sometimes it works to his disadvantage. As Bree learns about the “real” Arran, the curse loses its effect on her. Making it lose its effect on him is what makes the story.

If this had just been about the romance, it would have been a darn good story. But what made it special for me was when Arran took Bree to Court with him. Court, in this case, was Edinburgh, to the court of Mary, Queen of Scots in 1565 or 1566. The Queen was pregnant with her heir, James VI, who later became James I of England. But more importantly, Arran brought Bree to Edinburgh just in time for them to be caught up in the plot to murder the Queen’s hated Secretary, David Rizzio. This was a brutal, messy time in Scottish Court politics, and Ms. Robyns wove her fiction beautifully into the historical narrative.

For me, that was the absolute icing on the four bookie cake.

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Wrapping up NetGalley January

NetGalley January is a wrap. Well, the thing is, January is over, and since the little snowman in the picture says it was NetGalley January, there you are. That’s it for the month.

Those of us signed up for the 2012 NetGalley Reading Challenge are just going to have to soldier on, chortling with glee at all the lovely egalleys NetGalley will be sending us through the rest of the year. Every month can be NetGalley Month.

But back to the wrap. And I must use plastic wrap, since everyone needs to be able to see what I read.

Two books came out of my NetGalley TBR pile from September and October:






In addition to The Black Stiletto, which was fascinating, I also read the start of a very neat new mystery series, The Dharma Detective. I can’t wait for The Second Rule of Ten.



I also read a couple of Regency Romances from relatively new authors that were both a little different from the usual. It’s always interesting to see authors take the standard tropes and stretch the boundaries just a little bit. Or in the case of A Lady Awakened a “lotta” bit.

I read one YA/Cyberpunk that received a lot of buzz, and from the other posted wrap-ups, it looks like I’m not the only one who read Cinder. This title was highly anticipated. (I was turned down the first time I requested it, so I replied directly to the publisher outlining my specific review qualifications and was okayed on the second go-around).

Banshee Charmer is the start of a great new urban fantasy/paranormal series from a brand-new author. The author is doing a blog tour and the book is getting a lot of very nice attention.



I liked the first book in the Dark Dynasties series, Dark Awakening,  quite a bit, so when the second book, Midnight Reckoning listed on NetGalley, I grabbed it. Definitely fun for paranormal romance fans.



And, as always, I rounded out my reading month with titles from Carina Press. The icing on my reading cake: more urban fantasy and paranormal romance, and my science fiction romance fix for the month.










I posted thirteen reviews this month on NetGalley. I did finish a fourteenth book from NetGalley, The Devil of Jedburgh by Claire Robyns. But because I reviewed it for Book Lovers Inc., I can’t post the review on my site until after the review on BLI goes live, and that’s scheduled for February 9. I also finished The Night is Mine by M.L. Buchman sometime the night of January 31, but I can’t swear whether it was before or after midnight. I know that night was his, I just didn’t keep track of how much of it! So there you have it. My tally for this NetGalley Month. It’s all good for the 2012 NetGalley Reading Challenge. And it was all good reading!