Taming the Highland Bride by Lynsay Sands 213
Merewin, Merry, Stewart, has been taking care of her father and two of her brother's every since her mother died. The three men are heavy drinkers and are often mean drunks so Merry is left to do damage control and to see to the running of the Stewart lands. Despite this none of them particularly like Merry and are more than happy to see her go when her betrothed returns from the crusades. Unfortunately her first meeting with Alexander d' Aumesbery does not go very well as he had drunk a bottle of whiskey in preparation for having a tooth pulled. Merry is left with the belief that Alex is just like the men in her family but the marriage goes through. Something goes wrong with Alex though as on their wedding night as despite not drinking he ends up passing out. Determined to ensure that the marriage cannot be annulled, or even worse if her husband were to die and leave her with no claims at being a wife, she decides to fake losing her virginity. In the process she leaves a big stain on the sheet that convinces everyone Alex had been a brute.
Alex is horrified at what he believes he did to Merry on their wedding night but he does not remember any of it. He decides to go visit his sister Evalinde to make sure that she is faring well with her new husband and he brings Merry with him. On their journey Alex discovers that his new bride is capable, strong, very independent, and very much fun in bed. Unfortunately someone is trying to harm Alex and it does not take them long to discover that his attackers want to both kill Alex and make him very randy (sounds better than horny). Alex, Evalinde, and all the servants believe that it is their stepmother Edda, but Merry has trouble placing a woman in the villains role since she has grown up in a world where women are the heroes and men are the villains. Some suspicion does fall on Merry as the attacks did not start occurring until after she and her party have arrived but Alex can already tell that his new wife would never do that. The whole party returns to Alex's stronghold to figure out what has been happening, but they will both need to work together to do so.
Both Merry and Alex are incredibly great characters although I especially felt as though Alex could have been developed more. Merry is explored in fairly great detail as we learn about her life and how she really became the woman she is, but Alex's background is really relegated to him having been in the crusades. This book makes tremendous strides from her last Highlander novel in the sex department. This book has plenty of steam and a lot of it is very hot. In addition it's romantic, important, and really just quite funny. I very rarely literally laugh out loud at anything but there was one scene that I just could not help myself. When Edda comes in to explain the wedding night to Merry there follows the most amazingly awesome analogy ever as she compares a man's penis to a chicken neck. The conversation was truly hilarious. Plus I also found myself somewhat surprised to find a romance novel that featured early ejaculation! And I thought did a great job dealing with it- it was not a big deal and the two just moved on and made love.
Sands is very good at writing murder mystery plots that are fun, fast, and truly contribute to the plot and the development of the relationship between the hero and heroine. This one is no different as it really served as a catalyst for bringing the two of them together and really forcing them to confront their feelings for each other. It is not at all overwhelming and lends itself to the story very well. I was also very pleasantly surprised at the way this mystery resolved itself as it was a big (not really huge though) surprise and Sands really does a good job at spreading the suspicion over a fairly large number of people so it is hard to guess exactly who it is. This book also revisits Evalinde and Cullen from "Devil of the Highlands" and I did become mildly irritated (very mildly) at the look how happy we are, but it did not last all that long and at least I really liked those characters from when I had originally read about them. There were a few other instances that made me just roll my eyes, such as when Alex reflected on how the elderly woman, Aunt Biddy, had such a charming twinkle in her eyes. Just a few little jarring moments in the writing.
Rating: Really enjoyed this story but I wish there had been more depth in the form of depth of emotion or romantic development.