by Pamela Clare
Book 2 of Blakewell/Kenleigh Family trilogy
With those harsh words, the hated Sasanach earl decided Bríghid's fate. Her body and her virginity were to be offered up to a stranger in exchange for her brother's life. Possessing nothing but her innocence and her fierce Irish pride, she had no choice but to comply.
But the handsome man she faced in the darkened bedchamber was not at all the monster she expected. His green eyes seemed to see inside her. His tender touch calmed her fears while he swore he would protect her by only pretending to claim her. And as the long hours of the night passed by, as her senses ignited at the heat of their naked flesh, she made a startling discovery: Sometimes the line between hate and love can be dangerously thin.
Carnal Gift wasn't much different from Sweet Release in terms of angst and content matter, to be honest. While the story was quite different, we didn't stray far from the whole formula of the villain wanting to force the heroine into bed with him, and the hero being the hero and saving the heroine's life over and over again. Meanwhile, we also revisit the whole "hero and heroine are forbidden to be together" device, although this time around, I think that the romance faced more tangible barriers based on law and religion, and other societal and cultural conflicts. In contrast, Sweet Release needed only to prove that Alec Kenleigh was Alec Kenleigh and all was well, and Happily Ever After.
That doesn't mean that I didn't see the similarities in the two story lines, which made it a little hard to enjoy this book as much as I was maybe meant to. It didn't escape my notice that this book (and now that I think about it, even Sweet Release), seemed to be written in an "epic saga romance" type of light. The truth is, I'm not sure if it managed to do that.
On the other hand, it's not like I didn't enjoy this book. Pamela Clare's writing has this way of pulling you right in. Whether it's her writing style or just that sense of righteousness that emanates from her main characters, I always find that I can't put her books down. I DID love the detail given to the Gaelic culture and history. While some of it felt too deliberately placed, I still found some of it interesting.
Unfortunately, the characters didn't really do anything for me. While I found young Jamie in the first book quite charming for a four year old boy, adult Jamie in this book is kind of a jackass. Brighid was a typical standard damsel in distress, and I honestly don't have much to say about her. Brighid's brothers weren't really all that likable, both because they never seemed to understand how much danger and trouble they were in, and put their own pride before everyone else's lives. It was quite frustrating.
I liked Matthew and Elizabeth enough as the parental figures in the story, but they didn't really appear a whole lot.
Then there was the standard Pamela Clare repetitive exposition fairy conversations that I've gotten used to seeing in many of her books. Her characters just can't seem to help but to keep talking about the events that occurred to everyone they come across. These don't really bug me as much, but I found it interesting that this wasn't really a thing in Sweet Release.
Still, I was entertained and found myself finishing the book pretty quickly.