My review contains spoilers and they're mostly my thoughts as I went with the book...
The Highlander’s Bargain is the second book in Barbara Longley’s time-travel series, Loch Moigh. I read the first book early last year and found that to be highly enjoyable. I was looking forward to Robley’s book and must admit, it didn’t disappoint! The storyline flowed without a problem and I was engrossed in it for the most part.
It all started in book 1, True to the Highlander. When Alethia Goodsky suddenly time travels to the 15th c Highlands, thanks to a meddling Fey, she knew her life was about to change. What she didn’t think was forever would be attached to it. She was rather duped and fell right in front of the Earl of Fife’s heir, Malcolm of Clan MacKintosh. Alethia, who had a special power of seeing visions of future events, especially bad things, was taken in by Malcolm, who was instantly attracted to her dark good-looks. Alethia is part Red Indian, so she was somewhat comfortable in the knowledge of her special power. However she knew that the greater world of the 21st c would call her either a freak or a loon, so she kept it hidden. She had to keep it a secret in the 15th c as well, otherwise she’d be marked as a witch, a threat that came her way a few times while living in the Moigh Hall, the Earl of Fife’s residence. Soon, her and Malcolm’s romance blossomed and developed. He, and his parents, William and Lydia, believed in Alethia’s story about time-traveling since the Fey in question, one Madame Giselle, is known to these parts. The gadgets that travelled with Alethia certainly proved her claim! Giselle calls herself a healer woman but Malcolm, from a previous experience, knew the woman to be something otherworldly.
Alethia also rescues an orphaned little boy, who she named Hunter because no one knew his real name. She adopts him, as does Malcolm later when they marry. Alethia or ‘True’ as the people of Malcolm’s clan start calling her, was already an orphan, so she didn’t have anyone to return to. Soon enough, it becomes clear that she’d been brought here for a purpose, and it’s really not about her finding the love of her life. It involves Hunter, who turns out to be part-Fey, also a treachery involving another enemy clan to the MacKintosh. When she saves the day, everybody made sure that Alethia knew that she’d made a place for herself here. Now that she’s also married to Malcolm, she knew she was going to stay in the past. Not that Giselle gave her any choice on that matter!
I really enjoyed this one, as I mentioned earlier and Robley was an interesting secondary character. The youngest son to his parents, he’s also a cousin to Malcolm. His older brother Liam was also introduced, and he found his match alongside Malcolm. Must mention that the closest MacKintosh relatives knew about Alethia’s ‘secret’; both time-traveling and her special abilities, including Robley and Liam, their parents, William’s brother Robert and his wife Lydia. In fact, Robley was quite taken with Alethia from the beginning though he soon enough understood that her interest lies elsewhere. From then on, his mind was stuck in a whirlwind of desire; to time-travel to future and finding a girl much like the enchanting True. In the end, Robley journeys to Inverness, near where Giselle has a hut, to strike a bargain with her. And this is where his story begins in book 2.
As the second son of the clan seneschal, Robley almost had his future mapped out; to follow his father’s footstep and become a seneschal himself. Until now, he was content about it too. Robley is nothing like Malcolm, who is rather overbearing, a bit gruff but means good nonethless. Robley is much more jovial in nature. I remember him to be a rather witty character who kept me entertained throughout the first book. But ever since True’s entrance into their clan, and lives, he has been restless. It’s been 2 years and Malcolm-True’s blessed union makes him envious... even if a little bit. Robley feels the need to find the love of his life, and he’s somewhat certain that he’d be able to find her in the future. At one point, he has a talk with True and tells her that he’s interested in traveling to the future because he wants to enjoy the marvels of that era. But True somehow managed to sense restless vibe coming from him and the reason behind it. She’s a bit worried but if you know any MacKintosh men well enough, you also know that they’re stubborn to the core. So True resigned to the fact that Robley is going to attempt to talk Madame Giselle into it no matter what. For now, she and Robley decides to keep it a secret, knowing his father and uncle won’t be happy about it. Funny thing was, he never did think beyond his wishes, and the ramifications that are sure to arise from taking such a step.
Robley would soon find out.
Robley journeys to Inverness and finally comes face to face with Giselle. She looks like an old crone who loves cackling ominously as if the whole human world is big a joke. True to the capricious Fae nature, she’d grant Robley a boon, only in exchange of another. She needs something back and Robley would have to help her. With her help, he is transported into an unknown bedroom and brings her whatever it is she was looking for. But Robley didn’t realize that by doing this, he’s getting entangled in a new trouble. That, he’d find out too later in the story. But for now, Madame Giselle sends him to the future in a rush and Robley finds himself in the middle of another fair, much like the one Alethia/True used to work in her ‘previous’ life... And in the arms of a pretty blonde no less!
Erin was just taking a short break from her busy schedule and grabbing lunch when Robley was sort of launched towards her! She had no idea what the hell that just happened in front of her very eyes! A kilted highlander falling out of nowhere?? Well, to anyone else it’d look crazy but Erin, somewhere in her mind, took it in rather easily. It’s mainly because she’s also gifted, much like Alethia. Erin’s talents lie in understanding people’s health. She also has some healing power, that’s why she had taken up the job of a nurse, wanting to major in midwifery. It’s because of her special power is why Erin is doing a fabulous job with the patients too. Unfortunately, no one told her that a time-traveling highlander would be her next project, without her even knowing it!
Erin life is full of drama; the worse kind. She has a dysfunctional family. Parents divorced early. While her dad remarried and it seemed, cared more for his new family than her, her mom went through lovers like dirty dish rag. She’s now with Erin’s step-dad #4, and the relationship is already looking shaky at best. Seeing and experiencing her mother’s lifestyle, Erin has sworn off men. She doesn’t care to rely on a man in any way, let alone for love and whatever that comes with it. Besides, she has to take care of herself and there are bills to pay, so Erin has set a grueling pace. All day or night working as a nurse, then doing part-time in this Renaissance fair whenever it’s held during the year. She thought she loved her life, but one handsome, rather-naïve-for-21st c highlander, will change that soon enough.
Against her better judgment, Erin takes Robley in her home. And it has nothing to do with his sexy body or breath-stealing dimpled smile. Of course. ;) But either way, when she tried visualizing being in a century of not her own, all alone and helpless, it just kinda decided the factor for Erin. She also detected that Robley has been speaking the truth all along. Then there was the fact that Robley trusted only her, which flattered Erin. For now, he’d stay with him until it’s time for him to return to his century once more. But, after spending a couple of days with him, this thought makes Erin rather sad. Only she had no idea that Robley had already set his sight on her, completely fallen and determined to woo her in any way possible. Just like a MacKintosh male!
Robley though tries the wonders of the 21stc a bit here and there. Through Erin’s costume party of the Renaissance Fair, he even meets a few people who shares his interest in jousting and so on. He manages to get a job when he meets the organizer of the festival, one Colin McGladrey. After a match in his academy where medieval sports are encouraged, Colin reveals the most astonishing secret to Robley; something that no one beyond his immediate family knew. That he’s also from the past, more precisely from the 13th C Ireland! He’s been here for long now and has made a life too but it didn’t take him long to identify Robley for who he was. Colin gave up on returning because he had no idea how to. The Fae who did it to him never gave him an option. How sad. But he has found love and is happily married with kids. What Colin didn’t know that Robley has a way of returning to his own time, and so, he offers a job to him, willing to help out a fellow time-traveler.
After a month or so living in close proximity, Robley and Erin’s attraction grow to a heated level. Both want to give in but not knowing what the future holds, both are confused about what to do. Robley is still determined to woo Erin and take her with him and Erin is trying to keep her urges where he was concerned, at bay, due to her relationship issues. Not to mention his imminent return to his time. But they don’t get a chance to sort it out when Robley’s, or should I say Madame Giselle’s, crime finds him. Turns out, he actually stole something from the High King of the Fae, and his right hand man, Haldor, finds him in Erin’s apartment. He sends Robley back to his time with an ultimatum; he needs to rescue what he stole on behalf of Madame Giselle, who turns out to be Áine, the High King’s daughter. A Princess no less! Damned Fae and their annoying mischief! A fact Robley can attest for sure, poor guy. But in the midst of all the confusion, Erin also ends up time-traveling with Robley, finding herself in the 15th c Scotland.
Here sort of starts the second part of the story. You can only guess Erin’s state of mind after being thrown into 5th c without any preparation at all! Thankfully, Robley comes to rescue by returning the favor. He takes her home. Though he wanted to travel to Meikkel Geddes, his family home, Robley and Erin at first visits the Moigh Hall. From there he learns that couple of months has passed already, and that after his sudden disappearance without any trace at all, he’d been declared dead. Now Robley has guilt to list with already brewing fear and worry. He must find the thing that the Fey seek in a month, or else Haldor will return and he’d be dead; for sure this time. He’s also unhappy that he’d uprooted Erin from her time without her consent. Poor guy finds out in the hard way that consorting with the Fae brings nothing but trouble. And more trouble.
Erin meets True, about whom she already heard a lot from Robley. True tries to make it at home for her. Both are just relieved to find someone from their own time to talk to. True is heavily pregnant with her second child, which Erin soon confirms as twins. This ways she also confirms her ‘gift’ to everyone, though I guess True had already sensed it. Since Erin’s training was in midwifery, with Robley’s encouragement and True’s help, she ends up opening a working place of sort to help the pregnant women of Moigh Hall. Robley’s parents come in haste to welcome their wayward son when suddenly Robert has a stroke. Erin diagnoses and tries her best to help the man. The threat of losing his father so soon after his return shakes Robley to the core. That, with the added worry of what to come in a month, and the fear of losing Erin makes Robley restless, to say the least.
When True goes into labor, the responsibility of helping her, of course, falls on to Erin... turns out, True is going to need, umm... C-section and (as unbelievable as it may sounds) Erin attempts do one on her with medieval herbs and daggers at her side! Well, it was certainly interesting to read a medieval C-section, more so when Erin confessed that though she had helped in many C-sections, she has never really attempted one on her own! It read more fantastical to me than the whole time-travel thingy, but I was glad True recovered pretty well, having two twin boys she named Migizi (Eagle) and Bizhiw (Lynx) in honor of her own Indian heritage. Oh they have English names too, David and Owain (probably not in correct order LOL) but for now, everybody calls them in their pet names.
Though after his return, Giselle’s whereabouts proved to be illusive, Robley finally receives news that she has returned to her hut in Inverness. By then, he and Erin gave their love the acknowledgement by getting married. It’d only been a few weeks after their marriage but more than a month has already passed without any more intervention from the meddling Fey that seem to bend on ruining his life. Because of that, Robley had decided that he’s in no danger, that the Fey have moved on to something more interesting than him. Though he stubbornly refuses to believe in anything, Erin on the other hand, couldn’t let go of her worries. She knows, and True agrees, that the Fey won’t give up so easily. So it’s on her insistent Robley agrees to at least face Madame Giselle and ask for an explanation and a resolution. Erin would definitely play on her Fae genes and ask for a boon; Madame Giselle must do something to dispel any danger on Robley’s life!
Sadly, that doesn’t go very well because the High King and Haldor present themselves in Giselle’s hut. It’s also where Giselle’s true identity comes to surface. An angry Haldor casts a spell and separates Robley and Erin, who is returned to her time, again without her consent, as she has already made up her mind about living in this century with the love of her life. Oh the heartbreak! :( Months pass by without any resolution, both Robley and Erin trying to cope with their losses in their respective times and ways; both living without any happiness at all. Not knowing how to return to Robley, or even any knowledge if he’s alive, Erin decides to keep busy by taking shifts and finishing up her medical courses to earn her midwife certificate. She again picks up the pieces of her mom’s latest scrapes with her stepfather. But when all seemed lost, one day, Erin finds something in her room that gives her faint hope. Maybe, just maybe she can be with Robley once again...
The ending was fine. I really loved it, especially when Erin’s relationship with Haldor was revealed. It seemed as if the MacKintosh clan has become a hub of people with Fey blood running through them. But Robley didn’t care as long as he had Erin with him, this time for good. He can take on a Fey or two with her by his side. :)
The next installment, The Highlander’s Folly, is Hunter’s book; the boy True saved and adapted as her son. Hunter was seen here and there in this story, has grown to a 12 yrs. old energetic lad. He has proven to be the pinnacle of Giselle’s interest in the MacKintosh clan. I’d like to find out what surprises his story unfolds for me! 4 stars.