I say drive-by because I won’t go into depth on any one of these titles or series. The review bug has fled again and I’m not keeping pace with my reads. I can however, muster up an overview of these Highlander stories. And yup, with the exception of one, these are the same Highlanders Anne devoured awhile back. I’m her paperback swap buddy.
The Highlander’s Stolen Bride by Melanie George
Blurb: Lady Rosalyn Carmichael is on the run from her evil stepbrother, who will do anything to gain her inheritance. When Derek Hardwicke rescues her from an attempted kidnapping in London, she gratefully accepts the protection of his remote Scottish castle. And though Derek's devilishly handsome looks inspire scandalous fantasies, a secret from her past means those fantasies must forever remain dreams....
A Highland laird, Derek intends to marry his childhood friend Megan MacPherson, since only a Scottish wife will satisfy his clan. But beautiful Rosalyn awakens feelings he never dreamed he'd have. And while he has promised to keep her safe, the attraction between them burns too hot to deny. Now, with danger inching ever closer, he must choose between his allegiance to his clan and a passion like he's never known....
I saw this title bandied about two years ago, bought it and buried it under my TBR stack. Having read it now, I think it was the blurb/premise and the fact that it was a new release that put it top-of-mind. I’m guessing there was little blogger buzz about it. The writing felt amateur, the story predictable and the characters shallow. I’m pretty sure I finished it though, probably with a lot of skimming—I can’t really remember, it’s been over a month. Irony is that when I called up this blurb for purposes of this review, damned if the story didn’t sound good to me all over again. George simply failed to execute.
To Scotland With Love by Karen Hawkins (2nd in MacLean brothers series)
Blurb: When Lord Gregor MacLean learns his childhood friend, Venetia Oglivie, has been abducted by a fortune hunter, he rides off to Scotland in hot -- and very annoyed -- pursuit. Venetia's soft heart has gotten her in major trouble this time: if he doesn't rescue her swiftly, the scandal will ostracize the provocative wench!
The only sensible member of her family, Venetia is sure she can fix any problem, even this one. So when an irate Gregor catches up with her, arrogantly expecting a hero's welcome, the sparks between them begin to fly. Then an unexpected snowstorm traps them at an inn, and Gregor discovers his feelings for the lovely Venetia are far warmer than he realized -- fiery enough to burn down the inn! Now if he can only convince Venetia that his motive for marriage isn't duty...but desire.
This title was in the lovely box Anne sent. This was lighter fare than I generally prefer. It was well written, but Hawkins’ attempts at hilarity fell flat for me. Venetia’s meddling was genuinely naïve (as was her departure from London with a complete dunce) and it undermined any attempt Hawkins made to make her worthy (read ‘smart enough’) of the somewhat more mature Gregor. I liked the premise as well as the barely-there paranormal element, but the characters grated on my nerves. If you like light-hearted, you might enjoy this one—finding more in the players’ antics than I did.
The MacLeods of Skye trilogy: Highlander Untamed, Highlander Unmasked, Highlander Unchained by Monica McCarty
From McCarty’s release announcements:
Highlander Untamed is the story of Rory MacLeod, a fierce Highland chief who vows revenge on the hated MacDonald clan for the great wrong they’ve done his sister. When duty demands that Rory handfast with Isabel Macdonald, he has no intention of keeping his bride—but treachery is afoot and unexpected passion is in the air.
Highlander Unmasked is the story of Alex MacLeod, a battle-hardened outlaw fighting against injustice and the demons of the past. But his mission is put in jeopardy when he crosses paths with Meg Mackinnon, a determined woman intent on uncovering his secrets.
Highlander Unchained is the story of Flora MacLeod, Rory and Alex’s half-sister, a headstrong heiress who vows to be a prize for no man. But she doesn’t count on Lachlan MacLean, the rugged Highland chief who kidnaps her intent on winning her heart.
This trilogy was also in the lovely box Anne sent. It had exactly what I like in Scottish historical romance: Giant Highlander heroes determined to let no harm come to their women, no more brogue than the occasional “Aye” or “Lass”, and heroines with enough steel in their spines to withstand harsh Highland life. Yes, Garwood is my benchmark. Unfortunately, this set of stories also included way, way too much narrative—redundant narrative at that. Both hero and heroine, in all three stories, spend entirely too much time lamenting the fact that their love is forbidden. I grew tired of it and began skimming as many pages as I actually read. Without the unnecessary narrative, each would have been a tight, well-constructed story with sufficient characterization. Admittedly, I liked enough of the good stuff to read all three from McCarty. I may also read McCarty’s next Highlander trilogy, the Clan Campbell, when it releases in 2009.
MacCarrick Brothers Trilogy: If You Dare, If You Desire, If You Deceive by Kresley Cole
From Cole’s website:
Three Scottish brothers, cursed to walk with death, become what they were fated to be: dark warriors—a spy, a mercenary, and an assassin—without homes, families, or futures. Inhabiting a shadow realm on the periphery of society, these men are damned by their fates, their actions and, in some cases, by the very people they protect. They are fiercely possessive and will do whatever it takes to defend what’s theirs.
Another trilogy in the lovely box Anne sent. This set had my faved giant Highlanders matched with spitfire heroines. However, these heroes hurt their heroines (emotionally) nearly as much as they protected them and their brogue was thick enough to slow me down through some passages. I loved every one.
Cole’s characterization was fabulous. I was immediately drawn in and remained riveted to every word. Each of Cole’s heroes required a bit of redemption and they came by it through equal parts solemnity and humor. Great, great stories. Tightly written and character-driven. Loved them and now look forward to the Cole book I originally had on my TBR list—A Hunger Like No Other.