In Bed with a Highlander
Random House, August 30, 2011, $7.99
Bestselling author Maya Banks’s beguiling new trilogy features three unforgettable brothers risking everything to save their clan and their legacy—and to surrender their hearts to love.
Ewan McCabe, the eldest, is a warrior determined to vanquish his enemy. Now, with the time ripe for battle, his men are ready and Ewan is poised to take back what is his—until a blue-eyed, raven-haired temptress is thrust upon him. Mairin may be the salvation of Ewan’s clan, but for a man who dreams only of revenge, matters of the heart are strange territory to conquer.
The illegitimate daughter of the king, Mairin possesses prized property that has made her a pawn—and wary of love. Her worst fears are realized when she is rescued from peril only to be forced into marriage by her charismatic and commanding savior, Ewan McCabe. But her attraction to her ruggedly powerful new husband makes her crave his surprisingly tender touch; her body comes alive under his sensual mastery. And as war draws near, Mairin’s strength, spirit, and passion challenge Ewan to conquer his demons—and embrace a love that means more than revenge and land.
[Love > revenge. Always....]
I’m not going to write a review about Maya Banks’s great new historical romance, In Bed with a Highlander—the blurb above is succinct and to the point. Of course there’s a lot missing, but that’s why you’re going to read the book. Instead, I’m going to tell you what Hugh Jackman and Maya Banks have in common.
First, in the spirit of full disclosure, let me say I’m not generally an historical kinda gal. I prefer my heroines to be picking up a cell phone on their way to work instead of picking up their skirts as they hurry across the steps of the castle keep. However, when I saw that In Bed with a Highlander was written by Maya Banks, I did a double take and said Hell to the Yes. And even though the book cover depicts a bed draped in plaid with a Scottish lass and her Scottish laird, which in my mind immediately translated to “damsel in distress and her strong alpha whose word is law” (been there, read that), it was Maya Banks, for heaven’s sake, so I just had to read it. I’m so glad I did.
You may be asking, What do Hugh Jackman and Maya Banks have in common? A lot…but we’ll get to that later. I promise, this is not a bait-and-switch, so bear with me, I’m getting there.
I’ve read Ms. Banks’s Sweet series, an erotic romance series that is hot, steamy, romantic, and—best of all—character driven. I’m also a fan of her Kelly/KGI series, a terrific romantic suspense series with a great contemporary flavor and has the added bonus of a big loving family who, time and again, are in the thick of things making the characters the engine that drive that train. Now, to my surprise and delight, I’ve fallen in love with Ms. Banks’s new historical series, The McCabe Trilogy.
Before reading it I wondered how Ms. Banks would tackle the language, characterization, and story line of an historical. I wasn’t looking for historical accuracy, but rather for the essence of the time period. Would Ms. Banks be able pull off the sensibilities of an historical time period, or would In Bed With a Highlander be a contemporary romance in historical dress? Well, she pulled it off in spades.
This is an historical through and through and it also reminded me why I first fell in love with reading romance. The combination of the characters, dialogue, and action create the kind of magical experience that all readers long for; one where you are so totally immersed in a fictional world that reality recedes into the background and falls away.
In Bed with a Highlander has a Julie Garwood essence about it with many of the same qualities, but it felt updated to reflect the change in what readers expect in 2011 as opposed to 1997. It’s a fresh approach to the alpha hero and feisty-yet-naive heroine. The alpha male wasn’t a boor and the feisty-yet-naive heroine wasn’t a total ditz, but rather just ignorant of the new situation she was dropped into and trying to figure out how she belonged and how she could contribute. The hero, Ewan McCabe, has a new “look”—he’s been somewhat revamped to be an alpha who is an openly loving father, brother, and laird. The key word is openly. His word is still law, but it is tempered to reveal a man who above all acts in concert with his emotions. He doesn’t hide his true feelings. And with an historical heroine who has the capacity to adapt and contribute, and an alpha hero who is not afraid to be kind and loving, you have the makings of romance that is romantic.
So back to the original question. What do Hugh Jackman and Maya Banks have in common? It’s simple really; she’s become a triple threat. Like Hugh—who can dance, sing, and act—Ms. Banks is now writing historical romance, romantic suspense, and erotic romance; and she pulls each one off with equal aplomb. Each book reads true to the sensibilities of the genre, time period, and defining action. No missteps.
I went to different Banks books on my keeper shelf and I looked through to make sure this wasn’t something that I made up in my head; and sure enough each book/series represents exactly the tone it’s intended to. From spicy hot sex to a tempered slow burn, each book stays true to the sub-genre while also giving us great romance. Not an easy thing to do.
The first paragraph of a book should always set the mood, and Ms. Banks does that with each and every book. The prose, the pacing, and the dialogue all give clues not only to the characters but also to the setting.
In the contemporary erotic romance, Sweet Temptation, the prologue sets the stage for a woman who has loved a man for a long time, but the love is unrequited:
Angelina Moyano watched from a distance as Micah Hudson stood over the two headstones in the small graveyard. She studied him from behind a large oak tree, her small hands gripping the rough bark. It was always like this. At dawn he’d come to honor the memories. Just as he did every year.
From the first paragraph we know a lot about these characters; that they are both suffering in some way or another and the gap between them is wide.
With her historical, In Bed with a Highlander, she gives us our first glimpse into the heroine and from the very first page and she’s someone we want to know more about:
Mairin Stuart knelt on the stone floor beside her pallet and bowed her head in her evening prayer. Her hand slipped to the small wooden cross hanging from a bit of leather around her neck, and her thumb rubbed a familiar path over the now smooth surface. For several long minutes, she whispered the words she’d recited since she was a child, and then she ended it as she always did. Please, God. Don’t let them find me.
With each of Ms. Banks’s books, whether it be suspense, erotic romance, or historical, the characters infuse the plot with life and the plot energizes the characters. But what’s really exceptional is that the romance and sex are intertwined with the energy that fuels each book.
Sometimes sex can take over a book leaving us nothing but page after page of a stroke novel, and the book falls flat. Sometimes the romance is all exposition with no believable chemistry, and again the book can fall flat. However, in each of Ms. Banks’s books the characters feelings and emotions are ever present whether they’re in bed, up against a wall, talking on the phone, riding off to war, fighting terrorists, or holding hands in the moonlight. Each of her books has a different zest to savor.
So whether you prefer your books to have explosions and terrorists, or a contemporary flair with a ménage or two, or even a castle with a laird and a lass, now you can choose from savory, sweet, or spicy because now Ms. Banks (like Hugh Jackman) is a triple threat, and she has a book to suit any and all of your cravings.
I’m curious; will you read a book by your favorite author no matter the sub-genre?
Marisa is a television producer by day and at night she loves to read. She reviews for the Heart 2 Heart blog.