Avon, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-06-226798-6
Historical Romance, 2015
The Wrong Bride is the first book in the Highland Wedding series, and marks Gayle Callen’s debut foray into the realm of kilts and Scottish clans. What the author has done though, is to gather all the more common tropes of such romances for this story. Fortunately, she picks the more tolerable tropes.
You can probably guess the plot from the title of the book as well as the name of the series. Hugh McCallum, the laird, is betrothed to Catriona Duff, of their enemy clan, since they were children in order to maintain a semblance of peace between the two clans. While the McCallums have fulfilled their part of the arrangement – which includes offering a significant chunk of their resources and potential income – Hugh has yet to marry his bride-to-be. He decides to right the injustice by kidnapping the woman in question back to his place for some good old fashioned handfasting. Unfortunately, he kidnaps the wrong Catriona.
Riona and her cousin Cat are both named Catriona, thanks to their fathers who stubbornly insisted on having that name for their daughters and none of them refused to back down. Riona has no idea at all about this betrothal, and she reasonably deduces that Hugh is looking for Cat, not her. Hugh refuses to listen to her when she tells him that he has the wrong bride, and she soon decides that she can’t inflict this brute on Cat anyway. So what can she do? Hmm. Of course, these two would fall in love along the way, just as Riona would win over his people.
The Wrong Bride is exactly what anyone who has read a few such romances will expect it to be. The clan has all the usual archetypes lolling around the place, from the kindly old woman to the mistrustful male buddy of the hero. Fortunately, the evil skank who wants the hero for herself and the evil traitor who wants to be laird are MIA, and the only character named Hamish here is a dog, so things aren’t that familiar. But there are enough same-old stuff here to make this one a predictable read.
Riona won’t be able to escape the hero during the trip back to Scotland, of course, but the author manages to make it seem like Riona is out of her depths rather than an imbecile in making. After the obligatory, “I’m an alpha dude, so i’ll loom over and kiss you into submission” antics are out of the way, Hugh turns out to be a pretty decent hero who is determined to do things right with Riona. While he is not sure whether they can be in love, he is willing to build an amicable relationship based on trust and respect with his bride. When he realizes that he’s indeed hauled the wrong Catronia back to his people, he’s surprisingly reasonable and even admits that it is his fault for not listening to the heroine when she first pointed this out to him. These two seem smart and mature enough, so they will most likely be alright in the future.
It is pretty pleasant to read The Wrong Bride at the end of the day, but it’s unfortunately not the most memorable read due to the presence of many familiar and overused tropes that render it too predictable for its own good. This isn’t always a bad thing, though. If you miss those old kilts-and-castles historical romances by Julie Garwood, for example, you may enjoy reliving the nostalgia with this one.