Lori McD's Reviews > The Highlander's Forbidden Bride

The Highlander's Forbidden Bride by Donna Fletcher
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's review
Mar 22, 2012

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bookshelves: 16th-century, 2012_read, adventure, chick-lit, guilty-pleasure, highlander, kindle-book, own, pseudo-mystery, romance, series, some-steam
Read in March, 2012

3-3.5 stars

While better than book 3 about Lachlan, this book is supposed to be the penultimate of the series. This is the book where we learn what happened to Ronan... and discover the meaning to Behthane's riddle to the Sinclares about "find Carissa, daughter of the barbarian and you'll find Ronan". Except that, for the most part, the story is predictable from the 1st page. Instead of building up to the mysterious reasons why Ronan wouldn't return home, it practically bludgeons us from the first chapter.

The Sinclare brothers (Cavan, Artair, and Lachlan) are traveling to the village Black, home of Bethane, to try to find out more about Ronan. Ronan had been in village Black and his numerous wounds attended to by Bethane and Zia (Artair's wife); but Ronan left mysteriously, and only Bethane knows why. But as usual, Bethane talks in riddles. So Cavan is determined to go to village Black and get to the bottom of this. It's been over 2 years since Ronan's capture by the barbarians, and Cavan still feels some guilt and responsibility for not being able to free his youngest brother.

Upon nearing village Black, they encounter a hooded stranger... gee, wonder who this is? The stranger's purpose seems to be in getting to village Black before the Sinclares, and he does what he can to put obstacles in their way. When the Sinclares finally do arrive, they see him claiming the right to deal with Carissa, daughter of Mordrec the Barbarian - the man responsible for Cavan's and Ronan's capture and torture and the death of their father, Tavis Sinclare.

The stranger is, of course, Ronan. He, too, is a man changed by his capture and brutal imprisonment and torture. Ronan did manage to escape with the help of a slave named Hope - a woman he fell in love with. When Ronan was first taken to the barbarian stronghold, his eyes and face were so badly battered that he couldn't see; Hope helped him to heal and kept his hope for escape and life alive. That's why he named the slave Hope - she told him she had no name, so he gave her a name. But Hope was Carissa's slave, and when Ronan escaped, he vowed to return and save his love. Except that after Carissa sold him to the band of mercenaries (yes, the one that Alyce and Lachlan encountered in the previous book with Septimus and the mysterious leader), he was told that Carissa had killed Hope. So Ronan then determined not to return home until he'd killed Carissa.

Carissa is under the protection and care of Bethane and the village Black. When the winter skies threaten a major snowstorm that would cut off their chance for returning home, Cavan tells Ronan that he has the right to deal with Carissa, and he and the rest of the Sinclares return home to their children and mother. Bethane helps Carissa escape by telling her of a nearby secluded cottage that has plenty of supplies, despite the weather. Carissa sees the storm as her way to escape Ronan. Except that when he discovers her missing, Bethane tells him of the same cottage... hmmmmm. Wonder what could be going on here?

Because, of course, Ronan and Carissa discover that neither is quite what the other expected. And Ronan learns that the secret to Hope lies with Carissa... is it possible that Carissa and Hope are the same woman? If so, did Carissa use Hope to torment Ronan - to learn more about his family and his secrets? Or is it possible that Carissa is more Hope than barbarian?

Then there's the mercenary band nearby, where we learn that one of the members is the very one who brought the injured, escaped Ronan to village Black before. And he's a long-time friend of Carissa's. Carissa learns that Creagan is nearby and says that he has a marriage contract to consummate with Carissa. Creagan is a wanna-be barbarian... cruel, but not nearly as good as Carissa's father, Mordrec. Except that Creagan believes a union with Carissa will cement his taking over Mordrec's legacy and wants nothing more than an heir made from his line and Carissa's.

When Ronan takes Carissa back to Sinclare lands to face Cavan's judgement, he's torn; Ronan's come to almost love Carissa, and he's already slept with her. (Yes, again! You'd think that men and women couldn't possibly keep their hands off one another, especially when quartered in the same cottage!) When he learns of Creagan's coming to claim Carissa, will he let her go?
I can't help but roll my eyes... again, what could and should have been a lovely little romance with a touch of steam devolves into a modern tale told in the context of the 16th century. The story might be compelling enough to keep me reading, but I have *not* suspended my disbelief. And why I kept reading is probably more due to my compulsion to finish a book or a series that I've started more than due to my enjoyment of said book or series. These characters and this overall story could have been rich and full and satisfying. Instead, the author chose to go the easy route and appeal to modern day women's sensibilities and ideas of freedom, justice, independence, and sex.

And it's such a shame...

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