To Wed a Wicked Highlander by Victoria Roberts

WED
To Wed a Wicked Highlander by Victoria Roberts
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (291 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

She Always Wanted to be One of the Boys…

Sybella would do anything to prove she’s just as valuable to the MacKenzie clan as her brother is. She’d go on any hunt, take any dare. But her father has a different sort of mission in mind: marriage. It’s simple, he explains. All she has to do is marry Alexander MacDonell and report back on his family’s secrets. It will be easy, he says, as long as she doesn’t do anything foolish…like fall in love.

Until She Got a Man…

As laird of the McDonell’s, Alex has a duty to produce an heir. It’s a duty he won’t mind with the lovely Ella as his wife—even if she is one of the dreaded MacKenzies. He’s wooed and won many ladies, but Ella is a challenge like no other. He can tell she’s holding something back. But not for long. Because inch by inch, he plans to expose everything she’s been hiding and claim the ultimate prize: her heart.

I’m happy to say that this book surprised me in a most pleasant way. For long time historical and romance fans, they’re going to think they’ve found a typical story formula with its tried and true plot conflicts, which after a while, border on annoyance. Do not fall for it. Do not be lulled into thinking the heroine is TSTL as I did. Ms. Roberts put some starch into the spine of the heroine that I wasn’t even sure was there, but showed itself with startling force. The author also surrounded the hero with some wonderful supporting characters that figuratively whacked him aside the head when he needed it. To Wed a Wicked Highlander concluded with an amazing and surprising smack-down of the stereotype by showing that love inspires strength which in turn is capable of amazing feats of clarity, justice and breathtaking acts of heroism.

Sybella wants what many lone daughters in a house filled with men wants; unconditional love and acceptance from her father and wants him to be proud of her. The heroine’s struggle from blind adoration to mature awareness of what her father was really about was not an easy journey. It was a delicate see-saw balance of ‘will she or won’t she’ through the entire book. I can assure readers that they are going to like the woman and wife that Sybella eventually becomes. The author has a reader walk the path of uncertainty with the heroine in order to get the emotional effect as she discovers what really matters in life.

Alex is the laird who took Sybella to wife. He didn’t expect much and ended up with a mate that drove him to distraction on many levels. She was the daughter of his enemy and must woo her to his side but how can he do that with the secrets she hides? He knew she was holding back something but never fathomed what. The hero was tasked with learning to trust his wife and by falling in love with her, made it much easier and at the same time harder to do so. The pain he goes through is mitigated by the clarity he receives by his friends, the secondary characters that the author wisely gave him. They let him make his decisions because he is laird, and by doing so, Alex experiences the joys of good decisions and the pain of bad decisions. Only when he was faced with the results of his actions did his friends hold up a figurative mirror and made him look. The results of the hero’s reactions to those revelations are what made me like him. He’s not perfect by any means but he has a good heart and it’s balanced by his strength of character.

The villain was typical. His demise was not. That really impressed me, and I tip my hat to Ms. Roberts for a quick and surprising solution.

The dialogue was well paced and I liked the practice of using the Gaelic phrasing but right after translated it for the reader so I didn’t have to guess what in the world was being said. It provided the otherness of a different culture but didn’t jar me out of the story. There was humor and lighthearted moments to convince a reader that the love between Alex and Sybella was growing and it gave credence to their positive future as husband and wife.

For the first half of this book, I know I mentioned it to a couple of people how dissatisfied I was by the heroine’s choices because it seemed like it was following an overused plot conflict. The author completely enchanted me with her solution – she gave the heroine a brain. And her brain talked to her heart and they both were onboard with what truly mattered. Sybella was a woman of her time, so she had to work within its confines. She did awesome.

To Wed a Wicked Highlander is a well-rounded romance with a happy ever after that completely satisfies. I may not have been fond of the first half of the book because of my assumptions, but the last half was exactly what I needed to read in a romance book. I enjoyed myself and can say with assurance that I’m glad I read it.

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