Desert Isle Keeper
A Runaway Bride for the Highlander
Sometimes there’s nothing better for the soul than a good, sweet romance about two people asserting their right to be in love and battling back the demons that threaten to keep them from being so. Elisabeth Hobbes’ A Runaway Bride for the Highlander is the third book in the multi-author, cross-century Lochmore Legacy series, which takes us from the Victorian era all the way to the medieval world to explain a centuries-long feud between the Lochmore and McCrieff clans.
Second son of the Earl of Glenarris, Ewan Lochmore, traveling to Stirling Castle for a Parliamentary meeting, has a heavy and guilty heart. His father and older brother died at the Battle of Flodden while Ewan was studying law at the University of Glasgow, and now he is the sole heir to the title. Thus, Ewan has arrived at Stirling to formally declare himself the third Earl, seek alms for his suffering people, and attend the coronation of the infant James V. Ewan feels woefully underprepared for his new role, and fears he’ll not do justice to his father’s legacy. How can a scholar who has no expertise in swordplay become a true leader? He soon learns that there’s a betrayer in the ranks of the Scottish army and tries to ferret the person out. His mind is so troubled by the issue that when he spies a pale, beautiful brunette dressed in mourning garb from across a crowded courtyard he’s enchanted – and believes she’s a ghost.
Ewan’s apparition is made of French flesh and bones and she is stuck in a situation just as unhappy as his. Still in mourning for her mother, Marguerite Vallon was forced onto a ship and sent to Scotland by her father in order to become the second wife of the odious Duncan McCrieff. Marguerite is adapting poorly to Scottish customs, and to her prideful, violent wrathful husband-to-be’s bluster, but she’s not about to go down without a fight. In fact, she’s been scouting out possible methods of escape from her upcoming wedding ever since she arrived at Stirling Castle.
Ewan is awarded a parcel of land that Duncan craved, and Duncan becomes murderously vengeful. The incident is another piece of kindling thrown onto the ever-smoldering fire of the feud between the McCrieffs and Lochmores, a battle so old even Ewan can’t remember where or how it began. Duncan’s anger is also enough to tip Marguerite over the line and make her decide to sneak as far away from him as she can get, intending to use her jewels as currency to sail back to France and hopefully take the veil when she arrives. The only thing she needs is transportation to the ship, and Marguerite spies her chance when Ewan tells her his party is to leave early the next morning. She climbs from her chamber window and jumps into Ewan’s cart, planning to leave before she can be discovered. Unfortunately, Lochmore Castle is north of Leith, and Ewan’s party is going straight through the Highlands to his home, and when he eventually discovers Marguerite, he is outraged. When she pleads for help, Ewan agrees to figure out a way to do so, but will not give her passage to France or take her back to Stirling because he must be back at Lochmore. Soon Duncan is on their tails, pitting Ewan’s brains and Marguerite’s toughness against Duncan’s brawn. Marguerite begins to fall in love with the gentlemanly, courtly Ewan – and Ewan comes to realize that one doesn’t need to be a barbarian to woo a comely creature like Marguerite. But will they find themselves united in the end?
A Runaway Bride for the Highlander is so good. So incredibly good. Like sinking into a hot bath on a cold winter’s day, it surrounds and comforts. As I’ve said before, you have to be talented to take those old girl-discovers-herself-among-the-Scots/clan-feud plotlines and make them sing, and oh, does Hobbes do it. Marguerite is a wonderful heroine, and Ewan is a delightful hero – together they make appealing music.
Ewan is smart, scholarly and nervous in his new position as head of his household and family. But he’s also filled with admiration and enjoyment and lust for Marguerite, most of which he has to suppress because she’s made his life very difficult. They may push and pull, but their common middle grounds is what draws them together – a sense of likeness.
Marguerite, too, has been through a lot in her short life. She has a good reason not to want to be a wife and has seen awful things, yet is determinedly kind and hopeful, a self-rescuer who still needs aid, a smart woman who does thoughtful and thoughtless things.
What a delightful little romantic couple they made, and how wonderfully their union relies upon their friendship before it turns to lust and romance. Their road trip love story has a lot of well-told tropes – bed sharing! Huddling to get warm! Getting to know one another on a journey! – but they manage to define themselves as unique people with unique skills and a unique romance.
There are a lot of great secondary characters. I liked the gross wickedness of Duncan a lot, and enjoyed Ewan’s relationship with his two cousins. I love that the message of the book is that ultimately brains are as important as steel, and that a woman’s toughness is as important as a man’s. I love the way Marguerite and Ewan evolved as people and I loved the lushly-described passages filled with carefully described Scottish landscapes.
A Runaway Bride for the Highlander is a beautiful, gladdening story about two people coming together and making a greater whole. It’s not to be missed.