Small's second Border Chronicles novel (after A Dangerous Love) opens on the disruption of the Scottish highland home-and happiness-of pretty, 16 year-old Ellen MacArthur: cousins want her grandfather, Ewan, to change his marriage and inheritance plans, and marry her to rough young Balgair. ""Grandsire"" Ewan sends Ellen to King James's court to wait out the crisis. Ellen gains the friendship of the king and his aunt, and when word comes that she's to return, she's given border lord Duncan Armstrong, the laird of Duffdour, as an escort home. The two return to find Balgair has murdered her grandfather and fiance, and plans to make her life miserable in marriage. As a vicious border war and an assassination attempt by the Tudor Henry VII on James's life ensue, the pace is slower than most readers will want, and the sex may be more graphic than some will expect. But Small's vivid characters are worthy of her first-rate plot.