The Highlander's Bride Trouble
There are some books that you finish and you just have to wait for a moment to let things sink in, or even just to decide whether or not you liked it. With a very predictable plot stemming from a very unpredictable circumstance for our heroine, I had to wait a few days to gather my thoughts before writing this review. While I can’t say The Highlander’s Bride Trouble is my favorite book of the year, there was one line near the beginning that made me reconsider my original grading: “What I want to know is what sort of woman do ye plan to be? One who lives her life squeezing her eyes shut, or one who dances in the shadows simply because they are there.” (p 67)
Whatever faults the story and the hero and heroine might have, I now want to dance in the shadows. Because I can.
After a harrowing experience living with her cousin, Nareen Grant has managed to run away and find a place to earn her own living. The daughter of an entitled laird, she may have grown up with servants and beautiful dresses, but now she is the lady’s maid and companion to the daughter of a Scottish earl. The girl is spoiled, but Nareen is just glad to be away from her cousin’s attempts to sell her and her virginity to the highest bidder. Enter Saer MacLeod, newly named laird and friend of Nareen’s brother. Saer last asked for Nareen’s attentions when they were at court – he has decided she is the one for him, and combines seduction with the thrill of the hunt to woo her.
Nareen’s recent experiences at the hands of her cousin, however, taint the relationship before it can even begin. Locked in a cell-like room, shown off to potential buyers like farm stock, she has completely understandable reactions to the thoughts of getting married or being alone with a man. She blames her brother (who didn’t know about what the cousin was doing), and feels like she can’t trust him anymore, can’t even go home. While the blame may be a bit misplaced, seeing as her brother was the one who didn’t care about her gender and taught her, among other things, to fight well and dirty, it is understandable. There was a bit of back and forth with Nareen (“I don’t want to get married, I want him, I don’t want him, I don’t want to want him, I love him” – you know, the usual), but again, it makes sense with her past experiences.
I have to admit, though, I had mixed feelings about the whole courtship process as Saer sees it. It’s disturbingly close to kidnapping – anything that takes away someone’s choice or consent is a trope I’m not a fan of – but at the same time, everything he is doing is (in his mind at least) to prove that he is a strong leader and provider, and that he cares about her. I’m not convinced tying someone to you (literally – he ties her to him using a piece of his kilt) is the best way to show love and devotion, but I was willing to give him a second chance for one reason only – not once did Saer change his mind about what he wanted from Nareen. At no point did he go “oh, you don’t want to get married and I do, but I suppose I’m willing to take you as my mistress instead.” There was no “I want you/I don’t want you” crap going on, just his courtship plan, and he sticks to it. He may have trouble declaring love, but he has no trouble expressing it through his actions.
And Saer definitely has issues with love – his parents never married, and he grew up with the stigma of being a bastard, but his father was trapped in a loveless marriage, and Saer wants nothing to do with that. After his father died, there was literally no one else to take over as laird, so Saer was the last option. Now he’s determined to make his clan and lands the best, and prove everyone who thought he was worthless wrong. It’s a noble goal, but there were some things that didn’t make much sense (an Italian terrazzino in a Highlands castle?) but I just don’t know enough about that time period to make an educated guess about their validity.
There is a whole subplot about the earl and his daughter from the beginning, and the neighbors they are feuding with, that never really got off the ground. We get a bit of it in the beginning to throw our couple together and then a bit at the end to basically force them to declare their love, but it didn’t really feel like part of the story, more like a plot device than actual plot.
And I do wish that authors would stop writing dialogue with an accent. You’ve already told me we are in Scotland, so there’s no need for all the “ye’s’ and “nae’s” and “me heart”s. Really. It’s more distracting than anything else.