Rating: 4 Stars
Length: 352 Pages
Formats: Mass Market Paperback, Kindle
Disclosure: An ARC of this book was provided to me by Sourcebooks Casablanca publisher Sourcebooks via NetGalley. This rating, review, and all included thoughts and comments are my own.
A Braw Highland Adventure
It was a marriage arranged by her father, one that would benefit both the clan of her family, the Stewarts, and that of her bridegroom, Drummond. That fact did little to ease the mind of Elspeth Stewart, who wouldn't know Laird Lachlan Drummond on sight had she seen him at the Queen's court prior to their impending vows. Elspeth is a dutiful daughter, however, and she has faith in both her father's love for her, and in his judgement about her groom. She has to. That faith is the only thing getting her through her marriage ceremony.
That is to say it was...before the doors of the nave are breached with a rumble of destruction and a huge man on horseback rides down aisle towards her. Watchers cry out in stunned, even horrified surprise, and the name of the interloper is gasped in fear-laden utterances. Mere moments pass between his entrance, in itself a blatant disregard for sacred ground, and the drawing of his broadsword. Less time than that elapses before Mad Rob, the Laird MacLaren, has her betrothed's throat at sword's edge. Before she realizes what's happening, Espeth is pulled up onto the stallion's back, then he is racing out of the kirk, a challenge and a threat left in the wake of his wild abduction.
Gifted with foresight she may be, but Elspeth certainly hadn't seen this coming.
Driven by the demons of grief and hatred, MacLaren makes off with the hell-spawned Drummond's bride-to-be. For too long the murderous Laird has refused to meet him in a one-on-one battle, and Rob, considered mad since his wife's death at Drumond's hand, is not letting such an opportunity as this pass him by. His plan is simple. Steal Elspeth Stewart before her vows to Drummond are complete and force the coward to come after him. He knows his adversary well. He knows exactly what to expect from the vile snake. The only thing Rob hadn't counted on was his unwanted reaction to the fiery hellcat he'd stolen.
For the first time since losing his wife, he is stirred by feelings that seem a betrayal to the woman he had loved - still loves - with all his heart. He's not sure he can live with those feelings, nor with the effects the unconquerable Elspeth has on him as they travel, alone and unchaperoned, towards his lands.
Of course, that all may end up being a moot point considering Drummond's lack of honor. A lack that demands Rob gets Elspeth back to his holding as soon as possible, for the bastard who killed his wife isn't following the simplest of commands or being considerate of his betrothed's life in the slightest. He is racing after them with Elpeth's father and a contingent of warriors from both clans. It doesn't take much to figure out that if Lachlan Drummond finds them before they reach safety, there is no doubt that neither he, nor Elspeth for that matter, will reach any destination besides heaven itself...ever again.
I have a weakness for Highlanders. Ever since the first time I heard, "I am Duncan McLeod of the clan McLeod," I've been a complete sucker for them. And yes, all Highlander heroes do look like Adrian Paul in my head, regardless of book description (can you blame me?). Heck, even when I was turned off other kinds of historical romance for a few years, I'd still grab a Highland adventure or romance to enjoy now and then. And Sins of the Highlander is right up my alley with both its wild adventure and swoon-worthy romance. Yummy, strong, sexy man in kilt swoops in and snatches feisty, stubborn, smart woman about to marry, then spends the next good while together, mixing it up for my reading enjoyment. Oh, happy day!
Rob and Elspeth were a lot of fun together. Rob, tortured to the point of madness by the love he lost in a most heinous fashion, and Elspeth, stalwart and true and generous with her heart, but also canny and independent of thought and deed. Their initial battles of wit and will were fabulous, and their chemistry made the pages smoke.
Lachlan was a right vile bastard as the antagonist of the piece, too. A true blackguard in every sense, he was perfectly abhorrent when viewed against the good men around him. I have always favored complex villains, ones with some good in them to make their evil deeds interesting, but I admit, a true bastard with no redeeming characteristics whatsoever is sometimes just the thing. Lachlan fit the bill nicely.
He provided a very nice counterpoint to the romance of Rob and Elspeth, and I was happy that Elspeth found out about Lachlan's true nature early enough in the book for her allegiance to sway. It provided for a solid and genuine romantic connection between Rob and Elspeth that felt very organic to their characters and their situation. I was totally enchanted with their journey from the wedding to Rob's castle. But then things went just a little awry for me.
The external conflict of the book, which up to then had been exclusive to the threat of Lachlan and the results of Rob's kidnapping, got a little mired down by the inclusion of a secondary threat. I'm all for complex plotlines and depth of conflict, but I felt the plot started to overreach a bit at that point, to the detriment of the threads of both conflicts and to the romance arc. The story as a whole lost some momentum for me.
I didn't feel there was enough page time given to the additional conflict elements to fully flesh them out or weave them seamlessly into the whole. They took me off guard and seemed a bit forced and awkward because of it. Then, when a satisfying resolution could have saved the day for me, the elements lacked definition and felt rushed instead. The end of the book struck me as being almost perfunctory, and I felt the bad guys didn't get nearly the full measure of comeuppance they deserved after all the trouble they caused.
It's a shame, really, because no matter how fabulous every preceding element in a book may be, it is the end that sticks with me as both a reader and reviewer. Rightly or wrongly, I simply remember the end most clearly, so if the last part of a book doesn't quite match what came before it, the overall impression of the book can suffer. Not enough in this case to detract all that much - don't get me wrong I liked this book very much - but I was loving it completely and without reservation throughout the first three quarters of the narrative. It ended as a slightly more than four star read for me.
"Dinna fear what ye dinna understand. Decide to understand it."