book review, historical fiction, history

Review: The Storm Breaks by Julia Brannan

The Storm Breaks, book 4 of the Jacobite Chronicles series, follows Alex and Beth MacGregor during the 1745 Jacobite Rebellion and the events leading up to and including the fateful Battle of Culloden. While book 4 is largely on par with the rest of the series, there are large portions that feel more general, big-picture historical context rather than experiencing it through the eyes of our characters in a personal way. While I wholeheartedly support weaving historical context and facts into the story through the character POV, these almost disembodied portions made my mind drift a bit because I was so used to being close to Alex and Beth.

A component that almost made me put the book down and quit the series altogether is the author slightly crossing that line of aggressive, overly-protective alpha male trope. Beth’s big secret regarding a sexual assault is finally revealed to Alex and while he does not hit her, Beth fully expects it of him…which didn’t sit well with me for many reasons. What’s more, he leaves bruises on her upper arms from gripping her so hard out of anger. He later threatens her with presumed violence if she keeps secrets from him again. I know we have to view historical fiction through the lense of common behavior of a time period, but given Alex’s love and devotion for Beth–this action seemed out of character. And getting into the tropey area was a turn off for me. But, I decided to read ahead because I am still invested in the story as a whole.

I’m glad I continued reading because Julia Brannan’s description of the Battle of Culloden through the eyes of Angus MacGregor (Alex’s younger brother) was both haunting and disturbing. I definitely felt that battle scene in my gut. And that stone laid there until I finished the book. If you aren’t okay with violence being depicted, then this book may not be for you. However, I believe I will continue the series and hope Alex MacGregor doesn’t fall into the trope-trap again.