Thursday, February 11, 2016

Review: Highland Spitfire by Mary Wine

From the Back Cover:

Passion flares between enemies

Two hotheaded Highlanders, the offspring of feuding lairds, are tricked by the King's Regent into a desperate choice: marry or die. Bhaic MacPherson is more disposed to lead his clan into battle than stay married to the daughter of his enemy. But perhaps the intensity of his feelings has more to do with desire than hostility.

And the Highlands ignite

Ailis Robertson wanted a husband, not a savage-but when her family was faced with a deadly ultimatum, she had no choice. The union of a MacPherson and a Robertson could end three generations of hostilities between the two families, but can bitter rivals truly become lovers?

My Thoughts:

I'm always down for a good enemies to lovers tale, and who doesn't love the Scottish Highlands? Ailis Robertson, beloved only daughter of Laird Robertson, accompanies her father to an important meeting with the king's regent. Bhaic MacPherson, heir to his clan, accompanies his father to the same meeting. But it's an ambush. The clans have been warring for three generations, and the regent wants to put a stop to it once and for all. Surrounded by the king's soldiers, the regent presents the Robertsons and MacPhersons with a choice: wed their heirs to each other to form an alliance . . . or die. The clans hate each other so much that both Ailis and Bhaic actually consider putting up a fight, but duty wins out. After a hasty ceremony, Ailis says good-bye to her father and rides with Bhaic to his home, where she faces a challenge beyond her imagining. The setup that forces them to wed may feel a bit contrived and dramatic, but these were dramatic times they were living in, and I went along with it to see where the marriage would take them. And I'm glad I did.

This book is hard for me to rate because there were some aspects I absolutely loved, but there were also some I thought could have been handled better. I'll start with what I loved. The fish-out-of-water theme is always rife with material for a good story, and this time even more so because Bhaic's clan is so openly hostile and distrusting of Ailis. I really like the way the author portrayed clan dynamics, both within the MacPherson stronghold and without. And the characters are great. Ailis is strong and smart, and she admirably attempts to make the best of her situation, though the clan goes out of their way to make that hard for her to do. Bhaic is also strong and smart, and surprisingly sympathetic to his new bride. He behaves just the way you'd want a hero to in this situation, and he would fight Ailis's battle with the clan for her if he could, but she wisely stays his hand, knowing she's got to win them over on her own. And the sexual tension between them is smokin' as their in-name-only marriage becomes so much more. And it's also fraught with humor as the couple is interrupted time and again during their attempts to finally consummate their marriage. It's an exciting, emotional story with some plot twists I didn't see coming.

Now for what I didn't love. I really wish this book had had stronger editorial guidance. For example, too much time was spent on two supporting characters, who I'm assuming are getting their own book, so there was no need to give them so much page time and points of view in this one when we already had so much drama and angst to work out with the hero and heroine. It really detracted from their story and made the plot feel a bit like it was meandering. Speaking of POVs, the shifts are handled rather sloppily. This could have easily been corrected to make for a tighter, more focused story. And finally, some real opportunities for dramatic scenes were missed, particularly from Bhaic's POV during some trying times. I wanted a more in-depth exploration of his internal conflict and his feelings for Ailis.

So therein lies my confliction. On the one hand, this book has some technical issues. But on the other, it's still a highly enjoyable read, with some really meaty themes and historical context, and one that I couldn't put down. If you're a fan of Scottish romances, add Highland Spitfire to your list.

My Rating:  4 Stars out of 5

*This review was originally posted to Romantic Historical Reviews

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