Ballantine, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-345-51949-8
Historical Romance, 2011
Seduction of a Highland Lass can be read as a standalone despite being the second book in a trilogy revolving around the three McCabe brothers. This one has a self-contained plot and the small cast of secondary characters makes it easy for readers who have not read the previous book to catch up on what has happened so far.
In this one, Alaric McCabe, the second brother, is going to marry Rionna McDonald, the daughter of a neighboring clan, to cement an alliance that will bring together other lairds in Scotland to help King defeat those upstarts who want to bring him down. As he is traveling to meet Rionna, however, he is ambushed by villains. He would have died were not for his horse bringing his unconscious self to the door of Keeley McDonald, an outcast of her clan who is also a healer. Keeley is Rionna’s cousin, mind you, so things get complicated when Alaric comes to and realizes that he’s falling in love with the cousin of the woman he’s meant to marry. So what it will be? Will he choose to wed for the greater good of Scotland or to follow his heart?
There isn’t anything new or groundbreaking here, but what Seduction of a Highland Lass does very well is to tell a story. There are plenty of dramatic tension and emotional scenes that work very well here. Both Alaric and Keeley are larger than life sorts that are generally likable sorts. Keeley plays the damsel in distress in this story, but it’s not like she lacks a spine or anything. It’s just that the author keeps having Keeley experience near-death encounters in Alaric’s home that the poor dear ends up needing plenty of TLC. In fact, a part of me is amused that Keeley actually wants to stay with Clan McCabe because it does seem like she nearly dies every other day while she’s with them. But it makes a poetic bookend of sorts, as this story sees her first caring for Alaric only to have him stay by her side as she nearly dies in the later parts of the story. The whole melodrama of desperately not wanting the other person to die effectively lends a touch of poignancy to the story.
The pacing is fine, the sexual tension is great (then again, this is a book by Maya Banks), and the secondary characters complement the main characters nicely instead of getting too intrusive. This and the likable characters’ romance come together to make this story a most entertaining one despite the familiar plot and the presence of some predictable plot twists.
The only thing that leaves me feeling a bit befuddled is the abrupt change in tone from misogyny to gallantry where some secondary characters, including the hero of the next book, Caelen, are concerned. Caelen in the early parts of the story is actively encouraging the hero to ditch Keeley, and even late in the story, he recommends that the hero lets Keeley die at the hands of the enemy. Why? Because, I guess, someone needs to create some tension to the romance, I guess, since there is really no reason for Caelen’s attitude unless it’s plain misogyny at action. Then, all of a sudden very late in the story, he’s supporting Keeley and being an expert on how a man should treat a woman. Even more bizarre is how the other lairds rally together against the villain because, according to them, mistreating a woman is a sign of cowardice. So, in the early parts of the book, only the hero and, to some extent, his eldest brother are the males who care for the heroine’s well being, but by the last page, it seems like everyone has magically cared for the heroine. This won’t be so bad if the shift in reception is due to the heroine winning them over with her loyalty, but the shift is presented as something that there is always there all along, that being gallant to women is the way of good Scottish men. Of course, this is not true, as the entire first two-thirds or so of the book can attest.
All things considered, though, Seduction of a Highland Lass is a pretty entertaining read. It is not the most memorable read to come my way, but it can still deliver the goods well enough to keep me satisfied.