Highland Promise by Alyson McLayne
Series:The Sons of Gregor MacLeod, #1
Released: October 3, 2017
Reviewed by Sheena
Darach MacKenzie vowed never again to let a woman near his heart after his betrothed betrayed him. It sparked an intense feud between his clan and the Frasers. With all-out war on the wind, Darach can’t be distracted—not even by a sweet and charming lass who desperately needs his help.
When Darach rescued Caitlin MacInnes from the clutches of vile Laird Fraser, she vowed to never let men or misery rule her life again. With Darach and the MacKenzie clan, Caitlin finally feels safe. But when Laird Fraser shows up to claim what’s rightfully his, or go to war, Darach will have to use all his brawn and brains to protect Caitlin—even if it means losing his heart.
Favorite Quote: “You’re a daft man. No wonder God made women.
Highland Promise is author, Alyson McLayne’s debut historical romance novel and a foray that takes her into the lush Highlands that I so love to enjoy. Highlander historical romance is one of my favorite niche genres. The imagery and culture are so rich that the land itself becomes its own integral part in the tales. The laird’s are brawny and the lasses are bonny and it all just works to create a world like no other.
Laird Darach MacKenzie is through with love. He is content protecting his clan and warming his bed as he see fits. After a disastrously deadly betrayal, he’s vowed never to take a wife and with war on the brink with a neighboring enemy, who has the time to take on a wife anyway? Darach’s got better things to do- until he see’s a woman bruised, unconscious, slung over a horse and in the clutches of his very enemy the Laird of clan Fraser. Darach and his brethren attach Fraser’s band and the abused woman, Caitlin is rescued.
Instant attraction and a sense of responsibility and something else he isn’t ready to look too closely at, spurs Darach on to take in Caitlin and they travel to his lands. My favorite partr of this novel was meeting the McKenzie clan. Each supporting character was well crafted and his clan’s solidarity, love and goodness was noteworthy. I so wanted to be a McKenzie! Danger lurks still as Caitlin harbors a secret that threatens the safety of the entire clan, but besotted as he is, Darach will nay give her up and their relationship grows steadily, both doing their part to nurture and damage their newly growing bond. It was practically a foregone conclusion to everyone (except Caitlin and Darach) that the two would wed. They never really had a relationship just mutual attraction with jealous posturing (Darach) and deference with emotional manipulation (Caitlin- more on her later); then rumors and clan scuttlebutt about what the laird should do and then bam- they were slapped together like a PB&J. As a romance novel afficiando, I am used to rolling with the “insta” punches, but it nagged that everyone talked about Caitlin and Darach wedding- except Darach and Caitlin and then when they finally did talk about it- they were under duress. The HEA was solid, though it would have definitely benefitted from an epilogue.
What I liked: The primary plot was simple and interesting and was very couple centric. There was a beautiful tear jerky subplot that gave Highland Promise a definite substance boost. I’ve always been a sucker for the weak and abused flowering from their trauma and becoming whole. I really appreciated the clear picture of each character the author created. No one felt immaterial, this is the first in its series and I’ve already got my eye on the other lairds and what their stories could entail. I also enjoyed the obvious work that went into crafting the series back story and world building. As most book one’s there were times where my eyes glazed at some of the details, but it wasn’t overwrought or boring.
What I didn’t like: Caitlin.
She is abso lovely of course- But she comes across as empty-headed and harebrained. She is flighty, immature and (too) eager to please. There is no spitfire, toughness. Her moments of cleverness are so deeply shrouded in innocence and happenstance that you doubt it for 90% of the novel. What she does have in spades is an allure and a sweetly adorable kind disposition. She is charming and beguiling but alarmingly juvenile.
Personally, I often tire of hyperindependent, ultra strong, ball busting heroines. It is a nice change of pace to have a different type of heroine showcased, but my troubles with Caitlin grew when she didn’t grow. She was unbelievably immature from start to finish and there is only so much doe eyed enchantment I can take before I start to judge her, for her consistent and unrelenting lack of common sense. There is a balance between a bitchy shrew that the hero has to practically corral into love and a vapid heroine who just wants to say “yes laird” and “no laird” and have bairns. That balance is sorely missed in this novel. After a while, Caitlin’s naiveté’ crossed the line and I had to disconnect with her because I’m not into men lusting after the mentally addled or immature- and the more she acted like a child, the less I looked forward to Darach bedding her because- well, gross.
“I knew I hurt you with my indecent rubbing. Is that why it’s swollen?”
She couldn’t take her eyes from it. He rested his forehead against the mantel, rubbing the back of his neck.
“Lord have mercy, I have ne’er met a lass so innocent. Do you know naught of intimate congress?”
Her mouth snapped shut. She’d seen animals in the act, aye, but always from a distance. When she’d asked her mother about it, she’d been told a man’s parts fit into a woman’s parts like a broomstick into a bucket. She’d said naught of the broomstick breaking.
(Interrupting the quote to inject- SERIOUSLY.)
“So…’tis not broken?”
“Nay.” He looked over his shoulder toward the door and mumbled something under his breath about Edina. She thought he was going to leave, but instead he moved stiffly to the other chair and sat down. Color came and went in his cheeks. “Caitlin, what we did, the way we touched each other and how our bodies reacted, mine as well as yours, is all part of lovemaking. If we’d been married, I’d have…finished the act.”
She scrunched her brow. “You mean, put your broomstick into my bucket?” She didn’t think that had happened, but it would be good to know if she were still a maid. He half laughed, half coughed at her question and nodded his head. “Aye, that’s what I mean.”
Listen. I love virginal heroines. Confession: sometimes I keyword search just to see if the heroine or hero (even better) is a virgin. It’s my kink ok. You can’t shame me either, so lower those eyebrows. BUT even though I like virgin trope- I do NOT like “too-inexperienced-to-know-if-the-bedroom-play-you-are-participating-in-is-actual-intercourse.” I don’t think it is apropriate to be a heroine who is that immature. Caitlin first rode that fine line and then leapt over and crossed it. So much so that I couldn’t even really enjoy their smexy times because she was so damn doe-eyed “oh-my-what’s-an-erection” and that kind of immaturity is a wet blanket. And who likes wet blanket smut?!? Not me. Even actively working though my “no, what, nope. no,” I could tell that things were seriously hot. But- wet blanket Catilin and her too innocent innocence was an intrusive and unwelcome distraction from an otherwise good story.
Aside from my issues and roadblocks with Caitlin, I’m interested in the second novel as the characters that were introduced in Highland Promise were colorful and inviting. I just hope the heroines are more mature next go round. I totally anticipate more innocent lasses-(Afterall, It is highlander romance and this genre is chocked full of bonny maidens) but I am hoping they are simply sexually untried young women and not so juvenile.