The Highland Renegade is the perfectly okay story of two feuding clan members who fall in hate-lust-love, but its real problem is the thing that lands it its low rating – being massively typical of its genre without doing very much to distinguish itself from all the other highlander romances out there – and bearing one irritating quirk in the form of the heroine.
Janet Cameron, young and looking for love, still keeps the Old Ways, even though Scotland now lies under the iron fist of English rule. At the stables outside of an inn at a Samhain festival in Inverlochy, Janet and her brother Kennan tangle with the notorious Laird Robert Grant. The Grants and Camerons have been enemies for centuries, yet Robert cannot forget Janet’s face once he’s seen it.
Janet thinks Robert is handsome, too, but she resists the idea of being with him even when her best friend Mairi tries to pair them up – mostly because Robert believes the Camerons have poached their cattle, and the Camerons believe the same of him. Fate intervenes when Robert and Kennan agree to a duel to the death on the field of honor.
Flying off to stop her foolish brother from getting himself killed, Janet will do anything to keep Kennan’s neck from falling under expert swordsman Robert’s blade – even scream loudly enough to distract Robert and give Kennan time to pull a dagger, making Kennan the winner of the duel and settling the fight between their clans. Feeling guilty for allowing such a dirty trick to tip the favor in her family’s direction, Janet tends to Robert’s wounds, and she convinces Kennan to write a letter that will exonerate the Grant family name of their clan’s long held accusations of thievery to expiate his sins.
Grant allows Janet to sew his cheek shut, and they dance together at the Samhain celebration. Unfortunately, someone else also wants to dance with her – the drunken Lieutenant Winfred Cummins, officer of the crown, who calls her a slut when she refuses him. This results in a slap from Janet, which results in a charge of assault from Cummins, and brings her under the penalty set by the crown to keep the unruly Scots from rioting during the celebration – a trial by magistrate at Fort Williams. Janet tries to run with Kennan, but the officer beats her brother down, and then tries to drag her off for trial. Fortunately Grant had been trailing them both, and he rescues her, leaving the British officers to give them chase. While running away from the soldiers, she breaks her arm, and the couple bond and spar, eventually hiding among the safety of his people in Glenmoriston until everything blows over. But as their romance intensifies, the truth behind the disappearing cattle is revealed. When the dust settles, will Janet’s father allow her to marry the son of his enemies? With Grant allow himself to love the daughter of his foe? And will Janet’s slap land her neck in a noose?
The trouble with reading lots of Scottish romances is that after a while, the plots become noticeable repetitive. Again, there’s nothing really wrong with The Highland Renegade beyond some writing bobbles. It’s just samey.
That irritating quirk I mentioned is the sadly ineffectual heroine. Don’t believe the synopsis; Janet, after a few spirited moments at the beginning and aside from a demanding attitude, does not bother to escape from Robert once she’s injured and in his care. Their romance is inoffensive and nice enough, but doesn’t carry a special, interest-creating spark. Janet is a feisty highland miss who’s tough and smart until the hero is required to rescue her; then she faints or breaks a bone so he can nursemaid her back to health. Robert is yet another wench-loving dude who dumps all that carousing when he sees Our Fair Heroine. And then there are the blasted English, who are are thinly written, uncomplicated devils.
All of the usual things that happen in Highland romances happen here. The cattle-stealing, the ancient feud, the couple from warring clans who end up falling in love, a sojourn in a cave during a rainstorm where one or both of the parties are injured and bonding – emotional or physical – happens, and time spent by the heroine with the opposing clan, who turns out to be Not Like Her Da Said They Were. There’s a wise elderly healer who uses herbs and a younger sibling for the hero or heroine to bond with. Sudden snatches of Scotch Gaelic pop up to prove the author did some research… Ad nausem. The most interesting character is our lead villain, mostly because he’s so incredibly over the top, watching him causes the reader a certain car crash style fascination.
There are several bobbles in writing quality, including one that particularly irritated me over the way the heroine kept switching back and forth on the matter of the hero’s name. The author frequently has Janet call Robert “Mister Grant” in internal monologues and aloud, only to revert to “Laird Grant” repeatedly throughout the text. The names switch repeatedly and are used interchangeably. (And as far as I can tell, ‘Mister’ is never the correct form of address for a Scottish Laird). I have no idea why Janet calls him “Mister” nonstop.
The Highland Renegade is a barely average romance. If you like heavily trope-y love stories, then maybe you’ll like it much more than I did, but in my eyes it more than earns its average grade.