This book so was not what I was expecting, and I can't say I loved it - however, I couldn't put it down! Like some other reviewers have mentioned, this book feels much more like historical fiction than it does romance. Yes, there is a romance; however it is not the main conflict in the book. Also, the hero is, unequivocally, the main character of this book and the central plot is about how he, a Scottish Laird, gets unintentionally embroiled in the religious and civil strife of the Renaissance period in France.
Robert Mack is disfigured as an infant. He is apparently so repellant to the opposite sex that he believes he will be unable to find a wife unless he can cure his disfigurement. So, he goes to France (against the advice of his trusted uncle, who is a Benedictine monk) to seek out the services of the well-known healer, Michele Nostradamus.
After his arrival in France, Robert sees a beautiful, blind flower vendor get attacked by some drunken gendarmes. He defends her, and winds up injuring a gendarme. This sets off a chain reaction in which Robert Mack finds himself smack dab in the middle of a civil war between the Catholics and the Huguenots. Several real-life historical figures are primary characters in this novel, including Nostradamus, Michel de Montaigne (these two are prominently featured throughout the book), Catherine de Medici and her son, King Charles IX, Admiral de Coligny, and the Duke and Cardinal DeGuise brothers. No, I'm not a French history scholar, and I did need to look a lot of information up to enhance the experience of this book. The history was interesting, however, especially from the perspective of this Scotsman who was just sort of plunked down in the midst of it all.
The romance itself, as I said, felt secondary to the rest of the plot. Since Violette is blind, she cannot see Robert's disfigurement, and much is made of Violette's uncanny ability to 'see people with her mind' since she has never been able to see with her eyes. This was rather endearing, as she traces Robert's face and calls him beautiful, which brings tears to Robert's eyes since so many others have recoiled in horror at his disfigurement. I really loved this aspect of the story. Robert Mack's ultimate goal was to get out of France safely with Violette so he could take her back to Scotland and marry her. And much of the rest of the action were featured as obstacles to this goal. Violette as a character was kind of silly and childish.
The story was worth it, though.