When a Laird Takes a Lady
I’ve said elsewhere that novels set in the Medieval Highlands aren’t really my cup of tea, given the fact that they all seem to utilise the same plot: Hero and heroine from opposing clans are thrown together and swear eternal hatred while trying not to screw each other stupid at every opportunity.
For some reason, I just can’t seem to get on with that particular trope, whereas in other historicals I’m quite content to read a marriage-of-convenience/ duke-marries-governess/ second-chance romance or other well-used plotline. Maybe it’s the proliferation of feisty heroines who insist on disobeying the very alpha hero, thereby placing themselves in dangerous situations of their own making.
This is the second book in Ms Keats’ Claimed by a Highlander series, and almost immediately, I felt at a disadvantage in not having read the first book (Taming a Wild Scot). There is a plotline concerning a stolen necklace which I’ve discovered runs through both books (and presumably any subsequent ones, as the mystery is not solved in this one), which appears out of nowhere, and the significance of which continues to elude me.
Lady Isabail Macintosh is on her way to Edinburgh in order to attempt to obtain justice for her brother’s murder when she is captured by Aiden MacCurran, the very man she suspects is responsible for her brother’s death. MacCurran is the laird of a small clan and is now outlawed and under suspicion of theft and murder. If his clan is to survive, he must clear his name and be restored to his rightful place and property, and he kidnaps Isabail and takes her to his camp in the belief that she has information that can help him to do so.
She tries – and fails – to escape. She challenges him. He scares her. She tries not to notice his muscular warmth. He tries not to think about getting under her skirt.
In the couple of days or so that they have known each other, she starts to doubt her conviction that Aiden is guilty of her brother’s murder and is giving credence to his story that there was a mysterious man in black at the castle on the same day that the necklace was stolen and the murder took place. Aiden suddenly decides Isabail is intelligent, loyal, and just plain incredible – although as they’re mid-snog up against a wall at the time, it’s possible his judgement might be slightly impaired. And she hasn’t had a shag in the four years since her husband died, so she might not be thinking straight, either.
Shortly after this, her brother’s most loyal servant, Daniel, is found near the camp, having been seriously wounded in a badger attack.
Yes, you read that right.
He was attacked by badgers. I know they can be vicious little bastards, but I really couldn’t help laughing my head off at that part!
Daniel makes Isabail start to doubt Aiden and he convinces her to search the tunnels at the edge of the camp for the necklace – but she manages to get herself locked into a secret room and would have died, but for the efforts of Ana Bisset (heroine of the first book) who has magical healing powers.
I’m really struggling to remember much more about this mess of a book. The characters are two-dimensional at best and the romance – if one can call it that – is under-developed and unconvincing. There is no chemistry whatsoever between the leads and the one very lacklustre sex scene is completely pointless. The heroine has the brilliant idea, following a battle, of moving the bodies of the opposing warriors before burying them, so the clan chief won’t blame the MacCurrans for their deaths. Aiden is so delighted with this amazingly clever thought that he promises Isabail a proper thank you, which, it turns out, takes the form of “playing the instrument of her desire with his tongue.”
Obviously, in the days before chocolates and flowers, men needed to be a bit more creative.
But when the couple does the actual deed – or I should say, “if”, because it’s not all that clear – it happens off screen. Huh? Ms. Keats, you can (tamely) write cunnilingus but not actual sex?
I feel cheated of double-entendres about sizeable sporrans, descriptions of throbbing members, and dewy, unfolding petals.
Even after a night of passion – possibly – Isabail still can’t bring herself to completely trust Aiden and helps Daniel to escape. But that goes horribly wrong, Daniel betrays her and – wait for it – runs her through with his sword. (That’s not a euphemism, I mean an actual sword!) This happens on page 238, but the book is 332 pages, so it’s obvious she doesn’t die. Cue Ana’s magical healing powers again, I suspect, although that also happens off-screen.
Just a couple of days after suffering a near-fatal stomach wound, Isabail is heaving herself up out of bed, walking, and mounting a horse, when I couldn’t even vacuum the house or drive a car for at least six weeks after a caesarean. She is intent on helping Aiden to track down Daniel and retrieve the stolen necklace, because a seriously injured woman is just what he needs to “help” him when he’s got to face a dangerous foe.
I lost patience with both Isabail and the book before that point and probably wouldn’t have finished it had I not been reviewing it. There are large chunks of the story where nothing really happens; because of the overarching plot, it doesn’t work as a standalone and the ending is rather anticlimactic. I wasn’t engaged by the writing, which was workmanlike, but nothing special, and don’t care enough about the characters to want to find out what happens next. Needless to say, I won’t be picking up the next book in the series. I have plenty of books I know I’ll enjoy on my TBR pile to want to waste time on another uninspiring effort.