Review: Highland Bride by Hannah Howell

Though she has yet to be courted by any man, spirited Gillyanne Murray decides the time has come to visit the dower lands gifted to her by her father’s kinsmen. She arrives to find the small keep surrounded by three lairds, each one vying for her hand…and property. Though resolved to refuse them all, the threat of battle on her threshold forces her to boldly choose a suitor: Sir Connor MacEnroy, a handsome, daring knight of few words. As his wife, Gillyanne is stunned by his terse, cold distance—and her own yearning to feel passion in his arms. Now, bringing her healing touch to a land and a keep ravaged by treachery and secret enemies, she dares to reach out for the one thing she fears she may forever be denied…her husband’s closely guarded heart.

Gillyanne Murray is determined to keep the dower lands that have been given to her by a kinsman. When approached by three handsome lairds telling her that she will marry one of them it kind of gets her back up. She decides that she will battle the three lairds, as she know they’ll be back with their armies, but she basically wants no bloodshed. She comes up with wonderful and clever ways to thwart the lairds in their attempts to occupy her castle and tries to buy time so that her father can arrive and fix everything – she also has fun doing it. Unfortunately she finally realizes that the lairds will never give up and that her father won’t be there in time so she capitulates and decides to marry one of the lairds – the tall good looking one. (She may be coerced into marrying but she’s not stupid!)

Gillyanne is rushed off directly to the church and no time is wasted to put her on a horse and head for Connor MacEnroy’s keep. Gillyanne isn’t thrilled with the situation but tries to make the best of it. When Connor stops on the way to his lands to tup her in a crofters cottage (after he unceremoniously kicks out the inhabitants) Gillyanne is not happy. Then they arrive at the keep and Connor heads inside to tell of how he won the “prize and how studly he is, etc. Unfortunately he leaves his very short wife on the horse with no way to get down. When she finally gets help she head into the hall to see her husband being mauled by one of the local whores and Connor’s current leman. Gillyanne has reached her boiling point and tells her husband in no uncertain terms that if he can have a mistress then she can’t possibly be made to stay faithful either. She grabs Connor’s brother and heads off to bed him but is stopped by her husband. He manhandles her and takes her up to their chambers where they have a frank discussion. She says that she believes that the vows of marriage are sacred and those vows should not be broken. Connor has been told by his uncle that the baser desires of a man are to rough for a wife and therefore they should be gentle with the wife and indulge their rougher desires on their lemans. Well Gillyanne is having none of that and tells Connor that SHE is the one he needs to desire and that she can take what he’s dishing out. Connor is thrilled when he finds out that she’s absolutely correct and comes to desire his “wee wife” as he puts it, more and more.

Now Connor and his siblings, in fact his whole clan, have pulled themselves up by their bootstraps. His clan and the other two clans (the ones that were fighting Gillyanne) has been at war and massive amounts of clan members had died during that time, including the parents of all the current lairds. Connor became laird when he was just 15 and despite an incredibly rough time they managed to rebuild their lives and their castle. This made Connor a hard man. He felt he needed to be hard in order to lead his clan through the incredibly hard times. That’s all well and good but because of that he unfortunately doesn’t know how to be soft toward Gillyanne. She does almost everything that she can think of to get him to like her and care for her and while he responds to her sexually in a big way he doesn’t carry any of that with him during the day and she feels almost ignored.

Gillyanne being who she is makes the best of things despite those in the castle that want her gone and make several attempts to get rid of her. But she also knows in the back of her head that although she’s married to Connor the marriage can be dissolved because of coercion. Can she get Connor to care for her outside the bedroom as well?

This is my first full novel by Hannah Howell (I'd only read a vampire novella in an anthology before this) and Holly recommended it to me. Not only recommended it but sent the book to me…how could I not read it? I’m so glad I did because I just loved it. I haven’t read a fabulous Scottish medieval romance that I liked this much in years.

The main attraction in the book, for me, was Gillyanne. She was wonderful. I love a heroine who has a temper and isn’t afraid to use it. Now saying that, there were times when Gillyanne kept her mouth shut about certain things and frankly this made me like her all the more. A woman who knows when to keep her mouth shut is a good thing, imho. She was clever and kind and even though Connor didn’t pay any attention to her when they weren’t in the bedroom she was fiercely loyal and wouldn’t let anyone say anything bad about him.

Connor and Gillyanne were great together. I loved their scenes when Connor got some insight into how things should be when he had been taught otherwise. He wasn’t opposed to learning but there were some things he wasn’t willing to do – like be soft for his wife.

The story has a small suspense story running through it and that was interesting as well. I thought it was a little too easy for Gillyanne to save the day but I can’t say I disliked that part altogether that much either.

Overall I loved the book and yes, Holly is sending me the rest of the series so I can read those as well. I think I have a lot of Howell and her lovely Scots in my future.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Hannah Howell


Sandy James said...

This is my favorite of Hannah's Murrays!! She's one of my "go to" historical authors, and I love most of her books. But the way the relationship builds between two virtual strangers trying to make a marriage, especially since Gilly is such a strong woman for someone so tiny, is beautiful to experience.

orannia said...

Lovely review! Have a medieval to start tomorrow, but it's a suspense, not a romance :)

Tracy said...

Sandy - I can't wait to read more about the Murray's. Holly said she'll send more Howell books so I'm looking forward to that. Gilly was so awesome in this book - I just loved her!

Orannia - You're starting a historical?? I thought those were out? Or was it just romantic historicals that were out?