Young Robbie is a Reiver by birth and now an enemy of the King James by circumstance. The king has decided to eradicate the Reivers that plague his borders and that means a mass hanging. Robbie barely escapes with his life, but he ends up in the clutches of a witch, who places a terrible curse upon him. Bound to the sea with only a harp for companionship, Robbie’s doomed to drift alone until he finds true love.
More than a hundred years later, Ian MacDonald has been tasked with a job that could change the fate of his beleaguered country. He’s sent to the Isle of Skye to protect a horde of jewels intended to help the Jacobite rising under the Bonnie Prince. He must pretend be an outcast among his own people and lives alone, trying to protect the treasure from dangerous enemies. He doesn’t expect to run across the beguiling and bewildering Robbie. Now Ian has two treasures to protect and he’s running out of time to save both.
The Harp and the Sea is mostly fantasy, with a few bacon bits of history sprinkled on top and, while Robbie and Ian are endearing, the book struggles to really find its sense of self.
The book offers some vague references to the Scottish Rising of 1745 and Charles Stuart, but it never really goes into much detail about the event itself. It’s almost as if the political and military ramifications of the ‘45 are happening in the ether somewhere. Which is fine and the authors remind us this is a fantasy, except it then almost seems pointless to have The Harp and the Sea set during such a critical moment in Scottish history. Why bother with it if you don’t do anything with it? I would have preferred that the story integrate this better or had readers at least been given more of an overview of the historical situation.
Robbie and Ian are a sweet couple and, while theirs is basically a case of instalove, they work as a couple. Ian’s desperation to protect Robbie even from himself makes their devotion all the more believable. Robbie is a tad dreamier and he’s been bound to the harp for so long, he dares not imagine he might be free of it. But his determination to stay with Ian, to fight for their future, is at the heart of the book.
The Harp and the Sea has some pacing issues. These stem from the somewhat repetitive nature of the story. So much of the book feels like an island chase, with the characters moving or traveling across islands to hiding places and then moving on to other hiding places. Not much actually happens and, as a result, it starts to feel sluggish. If the story had been tightened up in some places or had been given a bit more depth overall, I think some of this would have resolved itself.
The Harp and the Sea was basically just a sweet romance with some vague Scottish flair and a dash of the fantastical. The romance was solid, but the plot struggled to find a decent balance between boggy action scenes and the need for a more fleshed out story. I think if you like historical fantasy there’s enough here to enjoy, but I really hoped for more.