How to Train Your Highlander (Broadswords and Ballrooms #3)
Sourcebooks / December 6, 2016 / $7.99 print & digital
How to Train Your Highlander might just as easily have been named How to Train Your Duke—it’s both a “Taming of the Shrew” and an “Enticing of the Recluse.” This is the third in Christy English’s “Broadswords and Ballrooms” series and what an apt title. Wild young Highlander Mary Elizabeth Waters carries at all times—knives and a small flask of Highland whiskey is just two objects always to be found on her person. And she travels with a personal broadsword as well.
The ballroom is the room that Harry Percy, the reclusive, unmarried Duke of Northumberland most wants to avoid for it is there a few day’s hence his forceful grande dame of a mother has arranged for him to choose from one of the marriageable young ladies of the ton. At thirty, with no spare to take the weight off his wide shoulders, it is time for the ducal heir to step up and do his duty.
Is it fate or the machinations of two manipulative mothers that has Mary Elizabeth arriving at the Northumberland estate a few days before the festivities are to commence? When she exits the duchess’s carriage with her brother Robbie and her companion in tow, she says hello to an unusually attractive stable boy who speaks in the “posh tones of the English gentry.”
This fair-haired stable boy was tall—taller than all her brothers save for Ian—and his shoulders were wide, as if he might carry the burden of the world on them and not notice the weight.
But this is no stable boy; it’s the Recluse Duke, savoring his last few days of freedom. Incognito, he works in his stables and his gardens and messes about with boats, all in a vain attempt to stop time. What is it about the friendly slip of a girl with “a voice like a siren’s call” that has him in a kerfuffle?
He did not bother with the stables, but went straight to the garden, hoping that some time with his roses might chase the sight of the little blonde from his mind, but it only reminded him of the scent of flowers on her skin.
Mary Elizabeth’s formidable mother is a lifelong friend of the duchess. The two women have no secrets from each other. Exiled to England, a land where she does not feel comfortable or at home, Mary Elizabeth is desperate for kindness. The duchess notes how outspoken her young charge is, but there is an infinitesimal softening to her gaze,
…as if she looked on Mary Elizabeth, with her fishing, her hunting, and her knives, and liked what she saw. Mary wished to God her own mother might see her as she was and love her for it.
Mary Elizabeth tells the duchess how much she has missed the smell of the sea and how she would like to sail during her visit. The duchess offers her son’s services and is assured by her young friend that he has nothing to fear: “He might take me for a sail and come back safe as houses.” Because she is “not the marrying kind.”
Here is the crux of the tangled tale. Mary Elizabeth’s mother wants her to marry and a “duke would be just the thing.” The duchess laughs as she straightforwardly states,
“Well, my son is destined to wed. No doubt he’ll be glad that there’s one girl at this house party who’s not trying to catch him.”
There are so many enjoyable elements to How to Train Your Highlander: a wickedly willful horse named Samson with a heart of gold and a eye for a Highland lassie, all-knowing servants, a breathtaking estate with secret, enticing corners, manipulative friends and family, not to mention an incognito duke, but at its heart is a walled-off man wooing an intelligent, straight-forward, beautiful will-o-the-wisp woman.
“Every man I’ve met is too scared to kiss me anywhere,” she said.
Harry thought he heard a note of longing in her tone that was not completely covered over with dismissal. It was that longing that brought him to take the last step forward and close the gap between them.
“I’m not,” Harry said, and kissed her.
That “gap”—nay, chasm—between them runs through their unconventional courtship. Harry can’t bear the thought of changing Mary Elizabeth’s life forever, until he acknowledges his forever must include her. Mary Elizabeth cannot conceive that a happy life might be lived somewhere other than her beloved Highlands, until the bedrock of her beliefs shifts seismically. They are a delightful couple and this is a book guaranteed to provide an enjoyable respite from the everyday.
Learn more about or order a copy of How to Train Your Highlander by Christy English, available now:
Janet Webb aka @JanetETennessee moved from the San Francisco Bay to eastern Tennessee. Baseball is my passion: I follow the Chattanooga Lookouts and the Nashville Sounds (farm team of my beloved Oakland Athletics). Social media devotee. Stories on royals and politics catch my eye. Ottawa born. Grew up on Georgette Heyer and Helen MacInnes. I also review at Criminal Element.