When a distant relative bequeaths a Scottish castle to Christina Murray, the beautiful college professor is off to a distant land to claim her inheritance. It is there that she meets Ian Douglas, a breathtakingly handsome man who may hold the key to the secrets of Traquair House...and to her heart. As Christina enters the elusive passageway to love, her all-too-lifelike dreams reveal that she is tied to three ghostly ancestors: Katrine, a spirited Jacobite in love with an Englishman...Jeanne, a Renaissance wife accused of witchcraft...and Mairi, the medieval maid who shares a forbidden passion with England's king.I would never have chosen to pick up this book but when Jeanette Baker was chosen as Author of the Month over at Historical Romance Chat for May. When I say I would have have chosen to pick it up, it is not for any other reason than I had never ever heard of her before. When I checked the library catalogue under either name that she wrote under (Jeanette Baker and Jeanette Ramirez) this was the only one they had, so this is the book I chose to read.
Destined to become the curse's next victim, Christina travels through time to unveil the mystery of her family. But she soon discovers that her assumptions about Ian and their newly found love, as well as her own life, may have put her in grave danger...
The book opens with Christina Murray arriving at Traquair House in Scotland. She has no idea why she is there, and so she is totally surprised when it turns out that the historic house has been bequeathed to her by a complete stranger. Christina has just gone through a divorce from her husband of 15 years where one of the bigger issues is that she doesn't seem to be able to have children. So when the handsome neighbour, Ian Douglas, starts paying attention she is somewhat surprised, and very flattered by the attention.
Not long after arriving at Traquair, Christina starts to suffer strange headaches, and very strange dream where she finds herself in the past. At first she thinks that it might be something to do with her diabetes, but gradually it becomes that there is something more to it than that. Where first it feels like they are dreams gradually the intensity of the experiences increases until Christina is actually there feeling what the other three women who are her ancestors are feeling, seeing what they are seeing and hearing what they are hearing and with whom she shares several characteristics, including their looks and the fact that they all suffer from diabetes.
The first story to be told is that of Katrine Murray who lives in the mid 1700's. She is a spirited young lass (as are all of the ancestors). When she meets a handsome English soldier and fall in love it is impossible for her to know what the consequences will be. With the Jacobite rebellion gaining momentum, Katrine finds herself on the wrong side of the conflict. She is a Scottish woman living in England but when she returns to Scotland her heart is with her husband who is fighting for the English.
The second story is of Jeanne, who despite a rocky start, falls desperately in love with John Douglas. John has spent time in the English court, but he has now returned to the court of King James, known to his friend as Jamie. With a confrontation looming against the English, Jeanne has a vision of what is to come and tries to stop it with tragic consequences for her and her family.
The third story, and the one where the curse against the Douglas women started, goes back to the late 1200s when Mairi of Shields falls passionately in love with a man who turns up asking for hospitality at her home, and who she ends up nursing back to health. The man does not reveal his true identity, but when she goes to the English court, the truth is revealed. Her love is none other than King Edward I. As yet another conflict looms with the English, Mairi does what needs to be done and removes the Stone of Scone, used for centuries in the coronation ceremonies of Scottish kings and queens. When she marries against his wishes, their feelings change to hostility, once again with tragic consequences.
In effect there are four different love stories in this book. The fact three of them are doomed adds a level of poignancy. This is a really clever book in many ways. The only problem I had was with the contemporary sections. For the most part it is good, but just at the end, the resolution didn't quite work for me, both in terms of how Christina was going to get a happily ever after and break the curse, and also in how that HEA came about. Having said that, this is one of the more unusual books that I have read and I really did enjoy it.
I can't remember the last time I read a time travel book. It's been a while, but this one certainly has renewed my interest in the subgenre.
Coincidentally this morning I stumbled over a link to the Traquair House website over at Classical Bookworm, where you can read the history of the house, and see some pictures. It was really interesting to look at since I only finished this book in the early hours of this morning.