Margaret Andrews is a confirmed spinster. After being jilted by her fiancé, she has placed herself firmly on the shelf, and clings fiercely to her notions of propriety. When her sister is forced into an elopement, Margaret is determined to rescue her. But she’s well aware that she cannot travel to Scotland on her own; she must trust an old family friend, Cain Sinclair, a man far below her station.
Cain Sinclair has always carried a torch for Margaret, even proposing to her when they were younger. Of course, Margaret rebuffed him in hopes of finding a better match. While Cain doesn’t exactly blame her for making that choice all those years ago, those feelings have not gone away, and spending time together traveling is a bittersweet torture for him. However, Cain can’t ignore her plea, so the pair set off in pursuit only to have their plan derailed almost from the start.
Unlaced by the Outlaw started off strong. I liked the fact that these two had History. Throw in a one-the-road romance, what could go wrong? Unfortunately, this romance did not live up to expectations. It started and ended slowly. The narrative seemed to go on excessively, adding in complications that seemed unnecessary and dragged out the resolution to the overarching plot.
What bothered me the most was the title and the use of the word outlaw. I went into this one expecting there to be an outlaw when in fact Cain was not an outlaw. Yes, he gets into some trouble with the law at the very end of the novel, BUT the unlacing has already happened by that point. This title seriously did not fit this book. I know this really shouldn’t impact my overall enjoyment of the story, but it really did. The title didn’t match what I was reading, just as plot didn’t seem to jive together.
I understand that this is a book in a series, a series that I have not read, and this may account for some of the confusion that I felt when reading this. That said, there were several instances where character’s actions and behaviour’s just didn’t seem to match up. For example, Margaret was so determined to find her younger sister Amelia, nothing was going to stand in her way. It seems that this was not the case for Amelia who married and went on with her life, seemingly untroubled by Margaret subsequent disappearance. This didn’t seem to make sense to me. The sisters all seemed to be close, but when Margaret disappears no one but her mother seems worried. Even her father implies that her mother is acting too upset about it and should simply put on a happy face for Amelia’s wedding. So much for family…
The above example is not the only example of inconsistent and unlikely behaviour and it is why I did not enjoy this book. The explanations and motivations for such actions were weak and jarred me from the narrative.
While Unlaced by the Outlaw was not a perfectly written romance, it did have some nice elements. I did like the journey Margaret went through in deciding that she could and should take a risk on Cain. Margaret’s continued persistent in resisting Cain actually made sense and I liked that she had to work through that process. I also really liked the side story featuring Margaret’s parents. Margaret’s father’s strange lack of worry over her disappearance aside, I really enjoyed the interludes where readers were treated to Henry and Beatrice’s back story. They had once been in love, but Henry’s years away during the war have made them strangers. It was rather nice seeing these two find their way back to one another, and it is quite possible that I would have liked these two to get more page time.
Ultimately, Unlaced by the Outlaw was not a great read for me. I found the narrative too long and some of the actions of characters to be much to convoluted. Perhaps it is because this is part of a series, but as this book focused on a specific couple, I do feel that it should have been able to stand on it’s on, and unfortunately, for me, it did not.
*Review copy provided by the publisher via NetGalley.
If you were also disappointed by the lack of an outlaw character, I highly recommend checking out Darcy Burke’s Scoundrel Ever After. Ethan, our hero, is on the run because of his very real criminal past. There are no pretend outlaws here!
For one of my favourite on-the-road romances, I also highly recommend Sabrina Jeffries’ A Notorious Love. The hero is a reformed criminal and the heroine is just as prissy as Margaret. For me, the plot in A Notorious Love flows in a much more logical manner but still has all the elements that drew me to Unlaced by the Outlaw in the first place.
Lastly, since criminal heroes seem to be the theme today, I recommend Alissa Johnson’s An Unexpected Gentleman. This one is a lighter read than the previous two recommendations, but it’s adorable and funny. Who doesn’t love a criminal who’s really a gentleman?