Saturday, June 28, 2014

Review: Bound to the Highlander by Kate Robbins


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The basic premise of Bound to the Highlander is this: Lady Aileana's uncle, the Laird of Clan Chattan has died under mysterious circumstances, leaving Aileana alone to fend for herself. Aileana believes that she is expected to marry her distant cousin, Gawain, but it seems her uncle had other plans for Aileana.

James MacIntosh is laird of a neighboring clan and promised Aileana's uncle to marry his niece, but now James isn't certain he wants to bind himself to a stranger.

When Aileana discovers her uncle's plan for her, she initially resists -- believing James, a stranger, to usurp what should rightfully belong to her cousin, Gawain.

Their relationship begins on a reluctant tone and becomes complicated by misunderstandings and suspicion between Aileana and James ... But there is also a spark of attraction between them, that pulls them towards each other despite their protestations. And beyond their own personal challenges, James and Aileana must deal with a brewing war between clans.

This has the makings of a truly great story, filled with politics, subterfuge, and secrets ... And I was really looking forward to seeing all these elements come together in a cohesive vision ... But Bound to the Highlander never seems to hit the right stride. There are abrupt shifts and twists and developments that made it difficult for me to get immersed in the lives and difficulties of James and Aileana.

I could relate the Aileana and her bewilderment at her situation. I felt a bit sad for Aileana that her uncle never told her of his plans for her. And sadder still that Aileana didn't seem to realize that she was capable of making decisions. She seemed to rely heavily on the the guidance of others -- never on herself.

James annoyed me with his suspicions of Aileana, and, especially his poor treatment of her when he discovers her innocence. He seemed too arrogant and incapable of admitting wrong. I guess his guardedness could be justified by the suddenness of what is happening. His one redeeming factor is how much he cared for his clan, how he respected his brother, and how loyal he was to the King.

"How have I abused you?"

"You ask me that after accusing me of being faithless and impure? Even after you discover that I -- when we --"

"That you didn't share your body with Gawain?"

Put like that, his words were much less cutting than when he first accused her.

"Aileana, I am sorry I accused you of lying with him."

"And?"

"And what?"

"And the rest of it! I didn't run away with him either, yet you treat me like I did."

"What's past cannot be undone. I am willing to forgive you."

"Forgive me? For what?"

He sighed. "For deceiving myself and countless others. Aileana, I don't know why you continue this pretence. I said I am willing to forgive the past. Doesn't that please you?"
- loc 2588

I had wished that the author focused on the development of James's and Aileana's relationship because the premise offered such a wealth of possibility: James and Aileana are strangers who are betrothed, and who must make a decision whether they will proceed with marriage.

MacIntosh. They supported the king. It wasn't well known, but Uncle had speculated to those he trusted. Anyone who supported a man who pawned his people like cattle for his personal gain was no friend of hers.
- loc 404

My attention was divided between Aileana and James's story and the problems growing between the Highland clans. Then the author adds a villain who complicates things for Aileana and James. There was, especially, a lot of vagueness about this development, and, while the author does plant the seeds of suspicions early enough, I really didn't understand the full implication until it was eventually explained in the latter part of the story (Chapter 11).

She broke free from Andrews's embrace and moved to Gawain's side, her fingers itching to touch his. She hoped he would comfort her, as Andrews had, but Gawain never would.
- loc 89

* * *

... "I shall marry Sir Gawain and he will be our new chief. I am certain 'tis what Uncle intended."

Gwen's grip on Aileana's hand tightened.

"Gwen, what is it? You realise that while he and I are not yet betrothed, the ceremony would no doubt have occurred after my birthday."

"But Gawain --"

"Must I always remind you? He is a knight and deserves our respect." Aileana retrieved her hand from Gwen's grasp. "We do so by addressing him as he is due. I'm uncertain why you find that impossible to remember." Why did Gwen react so? She trusted the woman's judgment under normal circumstances. On the subject of Gawain, their opinions differed.
- loc 133

On one hand, I felt that there was too much going on, but, of the other hand, I understand the author's attempt at broadening the scope of her story, considering that Scottish historical romances come "pre-programed" with a lot of interesting elements that makes it unique: clan wars, Scotland vs England, etc.

Bound to the Highlander is the first book in Kate Robbins's Into the Highland Mist series. To find out more about Kate Robbins and her books, click below:
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Disclosure: I received this review copy from the author. Thank you to Kate Robbins for the opportunity. Yes, this is an honest review.

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