Taming the Highland Bride: Fun Historical Highland romance without the silliness of the 1st book in the series
I liked this Highland historical romance better than its predecessor, Devil of the Highlands, because it wasn't as silly or contrived. But it contains a good romance with a fairly decent suspense/mystery.
Merry has had to take on the reins of her castle and clan (the Stewarts), because her father and 2 older brothers are drunkards who'd rather drink away the days and nights than do anything useful. Merry even does battle/fighting practice with the men who guard the castle and lands. Because she's constantly having to goad her father and brother, they've given her the name of The Stewart Shrew, which has spread throughout Scotland.
So when Alex (Evelind's brother from the 1st book) returns to Northern England from his stint in the crusades, he's not racing to claim his contracted betrothed bride, Merry, from Lower Scotland. He's heard of The Stewart Shrew. So Merry's father decides that they'd be better off marrying Merry off and tells her that her betrothed asked them to come to him for the wedding.
But when they arrive, Merry's first glance at her betrothed is to see him flat-out drunk and brawling. Alex had a bad tooth, and the blacksmith who was to pull it forced him to drink a flagon of whisky. Then, Alex appears to be unsteady and slurs his words; he also seems to have a constant cock-stand. Merry hasn't a choice but to go through with the contract or lose her dowry in forfeit, so she marries Alex. On their wedding night, he starts to kiss her, which she enjoys, but when he gets up to close their bedroom door, he stumbles and knocks himself out. While she doesn't smell drink on his breath, Merry's sure he's drunk. If she doesn't have blood on the sheets to prove they consummated the marriage, she might be doomed to leave with her father and brothers. So she cuts her inner thigh for the needed "blood", but gets a little carried away; the next morning, all think that Alex practically murdered Merry. She's embarrased to discover she only needed a bit of blood to convince them.
Merry starts to observe her new husband in action, and while she's still convinced he's in his cups every evening, he seems to be a good man and good leader. Because Alex, too, thinks he hurt her on their wedding night, he doesn't touch her again for 3 weeks - enough for his step-mother Edda to believe that Merry is pregnant. Edda was Evelinde's wicked step-mother who thought she was throwing Evie to the Devil of the Highlands, a wicked and cruel man; in reality, the "Devil" is a wonderful and loving husband. Edda's been nice to Merry, who craves female companionship, but has Edda really changed?
When Alex decides to visit his sister to see that she truly is happy and settled, he gets the opportunity to truly consummate their marriage. Except that he's still unsteady and slurs in the evening - and he's incredibly randy, too. Merry doesn't mind much, because he's a good and gentle lover, until the night when he's more like an animal. Then, too, someone is trying to kill Alex or her, and the suspicion rests on Merry, because his unusual behavior didn't start until she married him.
Will they discover who's behind this plot and what the motive is before Alex or Merry or both is killed?
Too much happens too quickly in this book... and it's a shame, because there's so much to love about the characters. Merry too quickly changes her shrewish ways. While Alex is gentle, strong, and intuitive, I wouldn't think that Merry would so quickly acquiesce to his admonitions to ask for and receive help, nor tame her sharp tongue. Alex is almost too good to be true - except for his randiness caused by this dosing, he hasn't a single flaw that I could see. That's all good and well, but everyone has a weak spot.
It was nice to visit Evelinde and Collin in their Scottish home and find out that they're still happy. And it was nice to hear about Merry's eldest brother, Kade, and how much she loves and trusts him. Perhaps there's hope for the Stewart clan after all, under Kade's guidance. Even Merry's father and other 2 brothers seem to miss her after she's gone.
There are funny moments, but thankfully, not ridiculous moments. But while this is a decent read and a fairly good Highland romance, it's just not GREAT - not enough to read twice.
However, I like the series enough to give the last book a read. It's about Kade Stewart.