The Highlander's Bride
Although I’m a relatively new reviewer, I understand that “C” reviews are among the toughest to write. I can attest to that. This novel is not the worst thing ever written nor is it absolutely fabulous. No, the work is quite likable, but suffers from a major flaw. A flaw that leaves me ambiguous as to my actual enjoyment of Michele Sinclair’s debut, The Highlander’s Bride.
Conor McTiernay and five of his brothers are returning from the wedding of the sixth. They tease Conor about being the next to marry, which he emphatically denies. Of course, that means the next woman he meets will be the heroine…and it is. Laurel Cordell is discovered lurking outside the McTiernay camp. Conor is taken by her beauty. And then Laurel pleads for his help before collapsing.
Discovering that she had recently been beaten, Conor and his brothers are ready to take on the villains who harmed her. Laurel just wants to leave, quickly, and as she travels with the men back to their Highlands home, she tells Conor that she was kidnapped on her travels from England to her grandfather’s house. Kevin Douglass tried to force her into marriage to circumvent his father’s plans, and when she would not cooperate, she was beaten. Conor’s men found her after she escaped.
During the trip, it becomes obvious to everyone but Laurel and Conor that they are a destined for one another. When the arrive the McTiernay castle, Laurel finds a pigsty. With her take-charge attitude, she quickly takes over the reigns of the castle and cleans up the keep while Conor is away. With order restored, the two wed and Laurel becomes chataleine. Her ideas and those of her husband are sometimes at odds, and they must learn to compromise.
The author commits some some minor flaws – the obvious insertion of research, using current slang on occasion, and having mashed potatoes at a medieval feast – and a larger one by giving each of the seven brothers names that begin with “C”. I had to keep a cheat sheet to remember who was who. But my biggest problem was that it was too reminiscent for me of Julie Garwood’s Saving Grace.
As I read Sinclair’s book, I had flashes of Saving Grace running through my head…such as the time Laurel is upset that the keep is not yet finished by the time Conor returns from a trip. It reminded me of the scene in Garwood’s book during which Johanna is upset that the keep is not yet finished by the time her mother arrives for a visit. But rather than trust my memory, I re-read Saving Grace. What I thought were only a handful of similarities proved to be almost a dozen.
1. The heroines have similar temperaments in both novels.
2. The heroes are giant, warrior, Highland chieftains.
3. Both heroes think that the heroines should “rest” and do needlework.
4. Both heroines must be told that they are pregnant.
5. Both heroines impress the clan with their hunting skills.
6. Both heroines have keeps to improve (but so do most medieval heroines so I am not sure if this one counts).
7. Both heroines have a secret that they are keeping from the hero.
8. Both heroes have figured out the secret.
9. Both heroines face villains from their past.
10. Both heroines spend time locked in a tower.
11. Both villains meet their end at the hands of hero’s clansmen.
While even the tone and phrasing are suggestive of Garwood’s, in no way am I saying that The Highlander’s Bride is a carbon copy of Saving Grace – although this review would have been far easier had it been. That said, the similarities cannot be dismissed, if only for comparing the quality of these two books. Are there dozens of Medievals which share most or all of these similarities? Perhaps, but in this instance, Garwood clearly did it better. So why settle for the pallid version when Garwood’s is filled with vivid color?