Harlequin Historical, $6.50, ISBN 978-0-373-29785-6
Historical Romance, 2014
Terri Brisbin’s Yield to the Highlander is the conclusion of her The MacLerie Clan series. I haven’t read any of the previous nine books in the series, but I can follow things just fine here, so I think this one serves as a standalone story well. This one is an interesting read, because it is not only a medieval romance – quite the rarity today – but also a story with a “difficult” plot. I mean, just take a look at the hero Aidan MacLerie alone. The author doesn’t make it easy for herself here, and I can respect that.
Aidan is the heir to the MacLerie clan. He’s also a spoiled brat with a huge sense of entitlement. When he sees Catriona MacKenzie, he wants what he sees. Even the fact that she’s married is not a deterrence to him. He stalks her everywhere, pushing his attention on her in a manner that is disturbing due to the huge power imbalance between them, and gets his father to send her husband Gowan to somewhere else so that he can pursue her without any distraction in the way. As a result, everyone else, including her stepson Munro, starts to view Catriona as Aidan’s leman. As a newcomer to the clan, she has no allies and, therefore, is easily ostracized by the people around her due to Aidan’s relentless pursuit. And then Gowan dies, leaving her completely alone and helpless.
To his credit, Aidan finally realizes how he has ruined Cat’s life completely in his thoughtless attempt to bed her, and tries to make amends by making her his mistress and, thus, putting her under his protection. He also has his father give her some property and money. They fall in love along the way, naturally, but will the whole thing endure once Cat discovers the true extent of how Aidan messed up her life?
Yield to a Highlander is a pretty tough book to review, because, often, the author does something amazing only to follow that up with something that makes me want to bury my face in my hands. She doesn’t let Aidan off the hook, and I like the fact that Aidan undergoes a pretty credible transformation from asshole to someone more mature and less self absorbed as a result of his remorse and guilt. But at by the end of the book, she also shifts a bulk of Aidan’s guilt onto his father’s shoulders, as if the author is afraid that having the hero own up to his sins would make him less manly or heroic. This development feels like a cop out.
I like that Cat is pragmatic enough to not martyr herself once she is all alone in the world, and that she is capable of being furious at Aidan once she realizes his role in her husband’s death. I also enjoy how Cat is willing to start her own life on her own, once life with Aidan seems impossible, instead of pining away like a fragile flower in a desert. However, I roll up my eyes at how Cat never really loved Gowan and how she never felt the dramatic explosions in her loins the way she had with Aidan. This aspect of her character arc is clichéd and unnecessary.
Still, the author puts in plenty of pathos and drama to make the whole story a roller-coaster ride with churning emotions ramped up to the wazoo. This is nice. Unfortunately – one step forward, one step back – I never get this impression that Aidan and Cat are so much into one another to warrant all their melodramatic brooding and fist-waving. Perhaps this is due to the limitations of the word count in the Harlequin Historical line, perhaps the romance could have been more sweeping and believable if the author had more pages to play with. As it is, I feel like I’m told, rather than shown, that these characters are in love. The author spends more time and is more successful at creating the conflicts that keep our two darlings apart, which is a shame because the emotional core of the story is lacking.
Anyway, I still like what I read here. Perhaps I am being more generous than I should be when giving Yield to a Highlander its final score, but I appreciate what the author is trying to do here. The execution isn’t perfect and things don’t come together as well as I’d have liked them to, but what I have here is good enough for me to have an enjoyable time turning the pages.