by Laurin Wittig, historical (2005)
Berkley, $6.50, ISBN 0-425-0292-5
Daring The Highlander takes place shortly after Charming The Shrew but it can be read as a standalone story, I believe, because there are enough details in this book to allow a new reader to catch up with things.
Ailig MacLeod, the emo youngest brother of the heroine in Charming The Shrew, gets his story here. After the events that took place in the previous book, Ailig finds himself replacing his father at the head of the MacLeod clan. It is a thankless job for someone who dislikes most of the people he has the lead just as they in turn think very little of him. Fortunately, he has the widow Morainn MacRailt to help him get Assynt Castle into order as he tries to keep his people together.
Ailig is an interesting hero in that he is definitely a responsible man even if he doesn't believe that he's up for the task. I also like how he is determined to hold on to love instead of playing the martyr and acting as if he has to push Mora away from him for her own good. Likewise, after a rather bumpy start where she comes off like a too-precious nitwit with more sass than common sense, Mora soon evolves into a pretty sensible character who is actually good for Ailig because she keeps him going and believes in him when he could use someone who has his back for him.
And he needs those people indeed because, my goodness, his clan must be the sorriest excuse of a bunch people. I have never seen such a big gathering of cartoon villains, stupid jocks, and just plain unlikable twits. Despite the author's rushed and unconvincing attempt to show that he's worth saving, Ailig's father is a pathetic fellow who would have done everyone a big favor if he jumps off a cliff early in the story. By the end of the story, I feel so tired on poor Ailig's behalf because the poor man has been running up and down trying to protect these miserable losers when he should have just given them all the finger.
Daring The Highlander features a likable pair of hero and heroine. The hero, especially, is an interesting character with a nice arc of character growth in this story. I could do without the ridiculous buffoons playing the villains in this story, but on the whole, I find this a most enjoyable story.
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