HQN, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-373-78999-3
Historical Romance, 2017
I wouldn’t call Rabbie Mackenzie, the brute that gets to be the hero in this book, a Hard-Hearted Highlander. Head up his arse of a highlander, more like. Okay, so he has a sad story. He lost his girlfriend to some unknown fate, his people are slowly being decimated as the English systematically tax everything they can’t burn down to high levels. And he has to marry some English woman for the sake of his people. How sad, right? So watch and have fun as he spends the rest of the story being a horrible, horrible brute while acting like a self-righteous prig and judging people harshly using the same set of rules that he doesn’t apply to himself.
Our heroine Bernadette Holly’s one mistake in life was to elope… although while she personally wouldn’t call it a mistake, it sure caused our heroine to lose what little standing she has in society. Reduced to being a companion to Avaline, Rabbie’s wife-to-be, she soon finds herself at the receiving end of Rabbie’s brutish, loutish behavior, and because this is a romance novel and she’s the heroine, every threat he issues at her causes her ovaries to explode like fireworks, and every insult he throws her way makes her melt inside. All you ladies out there can only wish to be treated like her by our dream hunk here.
Seriously, Rabbie is the asshole who throws insults first, without any reason other than he is sad and therefore he has the excuse to act like that. He treats Avaline abominably when her only fault is to be forcefully engaged to him; he doesn’t care that his behavior only intensifies the abusive behavior of Avaline’s father towards the poor girl. After all, it’s all about him. He treats Bernadette awfully too when he assumes that she’s only the maid – which only makes him an even bigger asshole than he already is – and, you know, whenever Bernadette weakly sasses him back, he gets angry because how dare she gets off by being high and mighty at him. And then he’d threaten her with all kinds of things because there is nothing more charming than a big brute wanting to crush a woman who is powerless to go up against him.
Okay, so Rabbie is a bully. Is there a big grovel? No. The author seems aware of her hero’s antics, as various secondary characters often scold him for his behavior, but Rabbie brushes them off because, remember, he’s the most hard up person in Scotland. No one else has ever lost anyone or anything, so if you don’t agree with him, you are a privileged asshole who deserves his contempt just because you dare to breathe in his direction. Later on, he decides that he’d love Bernadette, so instead of him calling her all flavors of strumpet and English, he’d now insist that she’d do this and that for him if she loves him. In other words, he remains a selfish, self-absorbed me-me-me bully arse all the way to the finish.
As for Bernadette, she starts out good but she’s grasping desperately at straws to be a martyr as the story progresses. And for what – that guy doesn’t deserve anything but a shove face down into the mud until he stops moving! Avaline turns into a shrewish chit, as if I don’t already detest all of these people in this story. What is the author thinking? Was her mood really that bad when she wrote this thing? Surely it can’t be worse than the mood I’m in by the time I close this book, because my god, these people can all just go fuck off and die.