Say Yes to the Scot: A Highland Wedding Box Set
I’ve been on a Highlander kick recently (I’ll blame it on Outlander withdrawal). Four authors put their spin on this classic romantic character type in the new collection Say Yes to the Scot: A Highland Wedding Box Set. Each story showcases all the stubborn, proud and slightly possessive qualities we all find so incredibly swoon-worthy.
How a Lass Wed a Highlander by Lecia Cornwall
Grade: B- Sensuality: Warm
Lecia Cornwall starts things off on a whimsical note by adapting The Princess and the Pea into her story, How a Lass Wed a Highlander. Laird Alex Munro has to marry before Midsummer’s Eve or else his clan could see an end to their prosperity because of an ancient fairy bargain made hundreds of years before. As far as Alex is concerned, the tale is a silly story passed down the generations but his people believe in it. They think that a recent string of raids by the Sutherland clan is a sign that the Fae are unhappy with their laird dragging his feet over finding a wife, so Alex’s aunt arranges for several eligible maidens to stay at castle Culmore so that he can choose a bride from among them. The castle is also playing host to Cait MacLeod – who may or may not be in league with the Sutherlands – to whom Alex’s thoughts keep straying.
Cute is probably the best way to describe this story. Cait is the perfect Highland/Disney princess who charms each and every member of the Munro clan while making friends the women there to meet Alex. It would be so easy to imagine her breaking out into song to express her dreams of marrying for love and having to sleep on a tall pile of mattresses! The Sutherland’s laird is a cartoonish villain, what with his plans to scare the Munro people enough that they lose confidence in Alex. Fortunately I’m a sucker for Disneyesque romances, so the almost magical connection between Cait and Alex made this a happy ever after worth reading.
A Match Made in Heather by Anna Harrington
Grade: C Sensuality: Warm
I had trouble getting into A Match Made in Heather, probably because I didn’t much care for the hero, Garrick McGuiness. In 1809, Garrick and Arabel Rowland, favored niece of the Rowland laird, were madly in love and planned to elope. On the night of their escape, Arabel arrives with the unhappy news that she cannot go through with their plans, and her unwillingness explain further leads Garrick to believe that she lied about her affection for him. That belief is literally beaten home by the family’s land steward who forces Garrick off the land and tells him never to seek out Arabel again. Ten years later Arabel and Garrick are summoned by Rowland’s solicitor and learn they’ve both been named as heirs to Highburn Castle. Arabel is angry and upset at being reunited with Garrick since she’s always believed he abandoned her when she needed him the most. Her family has been brought low by scandal, so Arabel’s last chance to save their tarnished name and fortune is her imminent marriage to a stuffy banker from Edinburgh. Having Garrick back in her life is a complication she cannot afford.
The misunderstandings in this story are of the big and messy variety. Garrick is sure that Arabel played a role in how he was run out of town and he’s blamed her for the hardships he faced until his fortunes improved during the war. Arabel believes that Garrick only ever wanted her money and never truly cared for her. The bitterness and resentments flow from both characters; however Garrick takes it to the extreme by holding tight to his plot of revenge. His treatment of Arabel is manipulative and cruel as he fans her desire for him while still planning to destroy the last of the Rowland legacy. Thankfully he receives some words of wisdom about the price of revenge but it comes too late to save the romance.
A Midsummer Wedding by May McGoldrick
Grade: A Sensuality: Warm
May McGoldrick takes readers to the Late Middle Ages and the court of King James III of Scotland in A Midsummer Wedding. Elizabeth Hay has been betrothed since birth to Alexander Macpherson but in the ensuing twenty-two years she’s never met her intended. Without a face to go with the name Elizabeth has built an image of her husband-to-be as uncouth, wild and believes they can’t possibly suit. When Alexander sends word that he wants to meet Elizabeth, she and Queen Margaret concoct a plan whereby she’ll pretend to be another noblewoman and convince Alexander to break off the betrothal. What Elizabeth can’t know is that Alexander has requested the audience for exactly the same reason. He’s certain that Elizabeth must be a pampered, spoiled woman who’d never survive in the Highlands. Their meeting gets off to an awkward start as Elizabeth’s ruse falls apart; however as events suddenly escalate, the pair start depending on each other and the idea of breaking the betrothal is the farthest thing from their minds.
Ms. McGoldrick’s story stands apart from the others in this collection for all the right reasons. The plot elements are tightly written to keep the reader engaged from the first sentence right through to the last. We first see Elizabeth and Alexander meeting on the day of their wedding where he seems quite surprised to see her and then things flash back to the very beginning of their relationship. There are schemes, court politics and some brutal weather at play to bring this pair together to discover that their preconceptions were far from reality. A small twist towards the end brings Alexander’s shock at the ceremony into focus and his solution to the problem makes for quite the finish.
The Scot Says I Do by Sabrina York
Grade: B+ Sensuality: Warm
Sabrina York’s contribution to the anthology also has misunderstandings separating the main couple for years but she doesn’t let her characters get too mired in the mistakes of the past. Catherine Ross was twelve when she fell in love with Duncan McKay. When she nearly drowned while visiting her family’s home in Scotland, he pulled her out of the water and inadvertently gave Catherine her first kiss. Duncan never seemed to mind her mooning after him – until the one day he broke her heart. Catching him kissing one of the village girls was too much for Catherine’s calf-love, and when her family returned to England she put him out of her mind. Years later Catherine is half-heartedly participating in the Season because her wastrel brother is pushing her to get married. Arriving home after dealing with the spittle and backhanded compliments spewed at her by her latest suitor Catherine is surprised to see a stranger making himself at home in their library. It takes all but a moment for her to realize that the man is Duncan McKay, all grown up and claiming that her family’s wealth and property now belongs to him. When her brother confirms the news, Catherine is further startled when Duncan offers to forgive the debts if she will marry him.
It doesn’t take long for a reader to figure out Duncan’s true motives for reuniting with Catherine but he’s reluctant to reveal his feelings to her. Instead of forcing Catherine into the betrothal he lets her have space enough to come to the decision on her own. It helps Duncan’s suit that the other man hoping to marry her is a foppish peer who doesn’t seem to understand the word “no.” Catherine does question why Duncan wants her after so many years apart; however she lets go of her long-held teenage angst to appreciate the successful man he’s become over time. When these two finally say “I Love You” it’s heartfelt and the beginning of a great future for them both.
Say Yes to the Scot offers a variety of Highland heroes for readers to enjoy. While some stories work better than others, overall the collection is a great mix of braw, passionate men who love their lasses and serve their land honorably.