His Convenient Highland Wedding
Janice Preston gets the Lochmore Legacy series off to a solid start with His Convenient Highland Wedding, even though the title is a bit of a misnomer. While the wedding in question no doubt serves a convenient purpose for the groom, this book starts with the heroine and in many ways, it is her character arc that pulls the story along.
We first meet Flora McCrieff as a twelve-year-old girl. She’s bright, curious, and to her frustration, disregarded by her traditional and domineering father. The idea that a daughter might have an intellect and ideas of her own seems not to matter in this family. Left to her own devices, Flora goes exploring in a forbidden corner of the castle. Among her discoveries is a simple and very old brooch that she keeps as her own. Pay attention – this brooch will keep reappearing and it’s going to be important over the course of the series, I do suspect.
The main story action takes place several years later. Now nineteen, Flora continues to face complete disregard for her wishes from her family, and as the family fortune has declined, she now finds herself fairly well forced into marriage. In fact, she and Lachlan McNeill meet for the very first time at the wedding itself. Flora finds herself somewhat comforted to see that her groom is handsome and shows signs of kindness, but the situation is still quite strained.
Readers will quickly see that (a) Flora tends to be fairly sensible and (b) years of crap from her family have pretty much flattened out any inclinations toward flouncing that she otherwise would have had. At times, particularly in the beginning, Flora comes a little too close to being a doormat heroine. However, readers get just enough glimpses inside her heard to see that she does in fact have a mind of her own. She sees her problems and she feels deeply frustrated with the cold emptiness of her marriage, loneliness in her new home, etc.., but she lacks the experience to know how to fix the problems.
Part of this story is a romance but a large part of it focuses on Flora coming into her own. She’s married by the end of Chapter One, and now she must work on that HEA. As readers, we get to follow the journey as Flora leaves home, meets new people, and through all of this, finds her voice. There are missteps along the way, but she grows stronger and more distinct in her character as the story progresses. I wasn’t sure I’d like Chapter One Flora, but by the end of the book, the quiet and confident Flora quite won me over.
And now to the romance, which starts off well enough. Flora and Lachlan don’t know each other, they need to make a go of it, and they can’t quite figure out how. Their wedding night includes some believably awkward, cringeworthy sex but they don’t seem to know quite how to go about building a relationship. Lachlan comes from a very impoverished background and made his fortune in Australia before returning to Scotland to establish himself, and married Flora in order to gain an entrée into more aristocratic circles. He’s obviously attracted to Flora, but he fears upsetting her, and many of his interactions and choices regarding his wife come from his ideas of what a gently-born lady would like rather than from actually talking to and getting to know Flora herself.
Flora doesn’t judge Lachlan for his background but she’s seething with frustration over what she sees as his dismissive treatment of her. She wants to get to know the man, but she doesn’t know how to take a first step. The author does a good job of showing the tension and frustration building before the relationship finally advances.
Most romances I read do not open with the leads’ wedding, so seeing the relationship build in this book was quite satisfying. I also enjoyed seeing how the economic and social changes of the 1840s wove in and out of the story, making it feel rather grounded in its time and place. The world-building here is definitely a cut above average.
My main quibble with this novel came in the second half of the book. Flora’s family situation, Lachlan’s past secrets and the budding relationship between the newlyweds all lend plenty of tension to the story. I sat back anticipating some satisfying emotional and plot developments and then… things seemed to wrap up too neatly, too quickly. And sometimes Flora was just a little too perfect to handle.
Even so, His Convenient Highland Wedding is very readable, and its few minor missteps came nowhere near undoing all the enjoyable parts of the story. As far as the main story arc for the series goes, this novel sets up what appear to be some of the big clues. I suspect later installments will have even greater revelations – and hopefully romances as satisfying as this one.