Surrender to the Highlander
Lynsay Sands’ popular Highlanders series about the nine men of the rowdy Buchanan clan continues apace with Edith and Niels’ tale, Surrender to the Highlander.
Niels’ band of brothers is in a quandary. Their only sister Saidh, (heroine of book #3, The Highlander Takes a Bride) is extremely pregnant and her husband, Greer, is very eager to get home from their current trip so he can be there for the birth of his child, but they still have a delivery to make in the north before heading home. They choose to take the much shorter route southward through Drummond territory to do so, which is where Saidh’s dear friend Edith resides. Since Greer knows the Drummonds he’s sure they’ll put them up for a spell, but unfortunately a stop at the castle reveals surprising news – Edith is too weak to leave her bed, having fallen ill three weeks previously, just after the death of her father and the sudden illness of many of the others at the castle. Worse yet, her wicked sister-in-law fears she’s incubating a plague and has abandoned her to the care of the servants. Rory – the brother with healer’s gifts – quickly deduces that Edith isn’t sick at all; she’s been poisioned. The Buchanans promptly set about making sure Edith recovers, with Neils taking immediate charge of watching over the gently-born lady.
Thanks to Rory’s nursing and Niels’ watchdogging, hard-spirited Edith soon awakens from her ‘illness’ and is immediately bemused by the sight of twelve brawny Scotsmen making chaos of her household. While she steps up and takes control of the situation, the Buchanans insist on staying until they’ve figured out the identity of her poisoner, a notion she doesn’t fight because she’s begun to admire Niels for both his kindness as well as his brawn. Soon Niels finds himself training Edith’s dog Laddie, and developing a mentoring relationship with the servant boy, Ronson.
Though Niels and Edith are soon pledging themselves to eternity, bodies continue to mount about them. They’ll have to figure out who wants her dead before they can even hope to reach their happily ever after!
Sometimes the right author and the right plot when married together make literary magic. Surrender to the Highlander is one of those examples; if I had a dollar for every romance I’ve ever read about a rowdy Scot marrying an innocent lady who’s the target of a murder plot, I’d be quite wealthy. But Ms. Sands’ makes it feel fresh, with characters that elevate the entire piece and some plot twists and surprises that succeed in shocking.
The characters are lots of fun. Edith is practical and fanciful at the same time; generally smart and good at keeping her keep together, inexperienced and a bit sheltered, she cares deeply about those around her. The ending of the novel does complicate her character a bit, which is a nice, welcome change.
Niels is a brave, fine, smart hero; his occupation is very interesting (he trains and breeds fine hunting dogs) and he’s honorable, attractive and innocent all at the same time.
Edith and Niels share a love of animals, and a desire for a simple and happy life. Marriages have been built on less, so I easily accepted quickly-moving romance. They manage to act like two inexperienced people would in bed; in fact, kudos to Ms. Sands for having the courage to write what’s probably the most unerotic wedding night I’ve ever read in a romance. Trust me when I say that they recover from that first disastrous encounter.
The background relationships all contribute perfectly to the book as a whole. The repartée between the brothers is amusing and tender, and they all play a major role in both the Edith/Niels romance and the discovery of the murderer; and Edith’s relationship with her experienced maid Moibeal treads familiar ground but is still sweet of heart.
Surrender to the Highlander has just one flaw – its central mystery. Though it’s plotted very well and the final twist is incredibly shocking, the facts are given to us in a piecemeal manner that reads like a procedural monologued out by the characters involved. Perhaps more from the killer’s obscured presence would have made it feel a bit less flat?
Nevertheless, Surrender to the Highlander is a nice romance with a solid mystery and some really memorable characters; a worthy addition to the Highlanders series.