Highlander Most Wanted

Highlander Most Wanted  - Maya Banks

My review contains spoilers and they're mostly my thoughts as I went with the book...

Honestly I’m not even motivated to write a full review for this book, but I’ll do it anyway. When I see all those 5 stars in GR, I keep thinking if I’ve read the same book or not, because to me, Highlander Most Wanted was plain boring and disappointing. I zzzZZzz my way through the last 40% of it, while eye-rolled through almost all. I liked book 1 quite a bit more than this. I think MB needs to refresh her writing style, which was terribly repetitive and predictable. I’ve read better, much better stuff from some wonderful debut authors this year. Her storyline bordered on.......... did I mention, BORING?

The ARC had quite a few glaring mistakes, making Bowen as Brodie or Brodie as Bowen more than once, and I had to re-read to understand who is actually being mentioned in that particular scene. Too bad, the cover is so very gorgeous! *sigh*

In book 1, Never Seduce a Scot, both clans the Montgomerys and the Armstrongs are introduced. Both are enemies since... no one even remembers from when, it has been that so long. None of the clans can stand the sight of each-other. They both are the biggest and most thriving clans of the Highlands and yet, they don’t even need an excuse to call a bloody war on each-other. So King Alexander II planned something for them to stop this (more than a little) unnecessary bloodshed; he plans for a marriage between Laird of the Montgomerys, Graeme with the daughter of Laird of the Armstrongs, Eveline. Now Eveline was said to be deaf-mute, which is why I was so interested to read it. MB disappointed me by giving back her voice by the half of the book and making her chatter away like she was never even harmed in any way! It was plain odd. But the story was sweet and warm so I overlooked those things. I really liked Graeme and his gruff, cuddly bear-like persona, that scar on his face and his instant bonding with Eveline even after all the enmity. Graeme and his brothers, the most handsome (and womanizer) Bowen and the younger, Teague weren’t happy about this marriage. They worried for their clan, and for their only sister, the ‘baby’ of the family, Rory. Same thing was taking place in Armstrong clan when the marriage announcement reached them. Both Tavis and Robina are more than worried for their only daughter and how she’d be treated in the hands of the Armstrongs. Brodie and Aidan, Eveline’s brothers don’t want this to happen, and yet, no one can reject the King’s dictates. Now, Eveline had a suitor before she was injured and lost her hearing; the McHugh heir Ian. Ian is cruel, with a volatile temperament and he gets whatever he wants. Eveline was one of those ‘things’ he wanted but never got because Eveline wasn’t happy about this match from the beginning. It was said over and over again that Ian whispered dirty stuffs to Eveline, as in, things he means to do to her which scared her off… so much so that she ran and got herself injured. In the course of the story, Ian is back with his wuss of a father, Patrick. He kidnaps Eveline…. Of course, Graeme and both of the clans unite to save her from Ian’s clutches. Graeme kills Ian, Patrick flees. In the McHugh keep, they meet a mysterious woman who helps in Graeme’s search of his beloved wife by showing him where she’s imprisoned. I knew this mysterious woman is going to be Bowen’s match by that time. Overall, this was a good book and I was looking forward to the next.

This story resumes immediately after book 1. While Graeme has taken Eveline back to Montgomery keep, Bowen remains here with Brodie, Aidan and Teague to take care of the matters with the McHughs. Their main concern should’ve been Patrick but since he has fled leaving his clan destitute, Bowen knows he has to take up the task. Both clans unite for this purpose, a thing no one has ever witnessed in their history of blood and gore. A boy is sent down from the keep with a piece of white cloth, and Bowen is disgusted to see that no able bodied man is here to carry it. Then, a hooded woman comes out of the keep, and hides the boy under her cloak. Bowen and the rest is disgusted even more that a mere woman is here to greet them now, and yet all are intrigued. Bowen asks her to remove her hood so that she can be seen. At first she won’t, but when she does, gasps go up in the air from the men. Once, for her beauty… and the next, for the way one side of her cheek is marked with a badly healed scar that was clearly done to mar her beauty. All the men are horrified and the woman in question stiffens by this reaction. Her face turns white. Bowen suddenly feels ashamed by their reaction. He rather starts asking her things concerning the matter at hand. The woman acts stiff, and replies vaguely, but asks them to follow her inside. The entry was easy, but Bowen was suspicious too. Who is this woman and why is she the one who’s letting them in?

It’s Genevieve; a woman who has been sorely abused by Ian and his men over the past year after her abduction from her journey to her betrothed. Genevieve is the only daughter of the McInnes laird and had the bad luck to be noticed by Ian at the court. When his attentions were spurned, he abducted her and killed the people who were accompanying her in that fateful journey. It was known that Genevieve has also died, even though her body was never recovered. She has been living in a horrible condition since then, as nothing less than Ian’s sex slave. At first, Ian disfigured her so no one would ever want her. Then she has raped repeatedly while other men of Ian’s acquaintance watched. And some of them (I think hinted at multiple men at once) also raped her on Ian’s encouragement. Genevieve is seen as Ian’s ‘whore’ and no one, especially the women of the McHugh clan, can stand her. They are always throwing jibes and dirty words at her. By now, Genevieve should’ve became inure to all these, and yet, their words sting the same. The gasps of horror when someone sees her ruined face for the first time still makes her nauseous. Genevieve knows she has no future to look forward to and no clan to turn to except for this one, hate her as they do and as happy they would be to be rid of her. Even though, it seems like she’s free, something she never hoped to be unless her life ended, Genevieve is still worried of what will happen to her. The only friend she has here is a lame young girl called Taliesan. She’s the one who’s always genuinely ashamed of what happened to her, and takes her side in everything. Genevieve tries to take the control of the clan after Patrick fled because apparently there’s no able man here to do it. She wants to make peace... or at least try to make sure that there is no more bloodshed. And she’ll request the temporary laird to send her to a convent where she can spend the rest of her days.

But easier said than done. Bowen Montgomery wouldn’t really listen to her. He’s suspicious of everyone, including her, and has good reasons for it too. What grated on me was Bowen’s callousness. He had no tact with words. I’m sure he never needed it because of his manly beauty *eyeroll*, and women fell at his feet just like that; at least that was what was said in the story. Of course, Bowen reaped the reward whenever he felt like it. Anyhooo! He called Genevieve Ian’s whore or asked her directly a few times which made me wanna slap his pretty face. He hurt Genevieve with this, and yet, in a few pages, she is already smitten with the laird’s looks. *more eyeroll*

Bowen tries to take inventory of the whole situation, which is not at all promising. The people are hostile, the food is disgusting, the living condition awful. It seems that the whole clan needs thorough cleaning. He decides that he will stay here to take the McHughs at hand while some of his and the Armstrong men will return to Graeme to report him since he’s the official laird of the McHughs now. Bowen appoints himself as the temporary laird and bids the MacHugs to listen to his orders. In between he meets Taliesan, and she tries giving him the details of what happened to Genevieve at Ian’s hands, but Genevieve forbids her. One way or the other, Bowen is intrigued to know more about this woman and what she is up to. Brody shows a possessive streak where Taliesan is concerned, helping her when she couldn’t walk well or picking her up etc., which told me that they are the couple for the next book (no subtlety there lol). He chooses to stay behind as well, and help Bowen out, while Aidan rides to the Armstrong clan for better food and Teague leaves to report to Graeme.

Then comes the attack from Patrick McHugh to take back what used to be his. Bowen wasn’t ready in that sense, and is taken aback since he didn’t have half of his men at that point. Genevieve is determined to take revenge… and she brings out her bows and arrows to be done with Patrick, who helped his son to defile her over and over again, never raising his voice and yet, taunting her whenever he felt like it. Genevieve is very good with arrows. Fine, she might be… but what I couldn’t perceive is that, if Ian took away most her precious possessions, whatever she had when she was abducted, how come he let her keep her arrows? Couldn’t she harm him with pointy, sharp arrows???? It was SO unbelievable after reading how cruel and mean Ian was, that I could only shake my head. That Genevieve never even tried using those arrows on him was amazingly dumb. Anyway, she takes the arrows, uses them after one long year and kills Patrick, aiming from a faraway tower. It was that easy-peasy for her! Then she finds that Bowen is also in danger, goes down and saves him too. Bowen is totally amazed by her skill. But he’s also badly injured. As the enemy flees, Brodie and his men carry him unconscious to his chamber in the keep. Genevieve stitches his wound, a first time for her (the only experience she ever had was sewing clothes *eyeroll*) and does it good too!! She sits by Bowen, taking care of him for some days (and nights), exhausting herself in the process.

I could see she was going to make Bowen’s ‘good list’ pretty soon. His men already began liking her, even knowing bits and pieces of her fate at Ian’s hands. I liked that she wasn’t judged by Bowen’s men as harshly as the McHughs have done so far. When Bowen is back up, he’s glad to hear what Genevieve has done. Meanwhile, two men Genevieve ordered to fetch Teague back returns with him. Teague was duely worried. One, because of Bowen’s injury and two, he’s heard some disturbing stuff about Genevieve. He decides to tell Bowen. This is something that even Genevieve knows, if gets out, wouldn’t earn her any mercy from either the Armstrongs or the Montgomerys.

We get to see the meanness of the McHugh women, who harm Genevieve not only with their taunts and barbs, but also physically. Teague has already confided in Bowen about Genevieve’s possible involvement in Eveline’s abduction, yet, he could see how sorely abused this girl has been. He saves Genevieve when the women attack her with rock, calling her ‘whore’. They were mad at her because a few of their husbands were executed due to their betrayal of Bowen, by helping Patrick. I was pretty mad at this, yet also happy the way Teague decided not to judge her. He’s here for some days, but soon leaves again to report to Graeme. Before he does, he informs Bowen that Genevieve was the one who influenced Ian to abduct Eveline! Bowen can’t believe it, even Teague can’t but they need to verify this. Bowen is out of the bed soon enough and starts taking note of the things that has gone by since the attack. He also wants to know why Genevieve would help in the abduction.

Now, I didn’t know if to believe this piece of information or not. But soon we’re told that the poor girl was desperate for any kind of help. No one here would’ve helped her and so, she seduced Ian (first time no force, I’m not sure how she even managed that after months of rape!) and influenced him to abduct Eveline. Ian was idiot enough to fall for that. It was the only way for Genevieve because she knew once the Montgomerys and the Armstrongs are here, she’d be free of this hellish existence. But now that her ‘dream’ is a reality, will she be, indeed, free or will she now have to suffer the wrath of the new laird and both of these clans? Genevieve can’t think anymore and is very scared. Worst is, she has come to care for Bowen by this time and doesn’t want to hurt him. She confides in Taliesan, who requests Bowen to show mercy on Genevieve because she has suffered enough; a sentiment that is repeated many, many times throughout the story.

Genevieve keep spending her time trying to make everyone around her happy. Whenever someone showed her a little kindness, she became a watering pot and would keep thanking them repeatedly. And we kept hearing about her ordeal at Ian’s hand over and over and over and over and over again in every few paragraphs. I was at first sad, then annoyed, then plain angry at this blatant attempt from the author to glean pity for the heroine. I mean, I know already what she went through, now give me something that’d tell me how she’s going to heal! MB succeeded splendidly in that ‘gaining pity for the heroine’ part, but in the process, she took away my enjoyment. And there was no plausible and believable way in the story to show Genevieve’s healing. Oh no, she had to have sex with Bowen and that healed her so well that she kept having sex with him every day after that! HUH???????? After one year of repeated rape and torture by multiple men????????????????

They become intimate after Genevieve is again attacked by one of Ian’s men, who was also one of those guys raped her before. Bowen saves her from the guy, kills him and takes care of her. He, of course, keeps her in his chamber. She’s there for a while, no sex at first but because Bowen won’t let her out of his sight. Taliesan and Bowen’s men knew but they kept it a secret. This sleeping together led to kisses and talks, sharing confidences (whatever they can share), Bowen’s musings on his previous sluts/conquests and how badly he treated them, leaving them when the fun was over etc. (*eyeroll*, anyone?). What, was that supposed to be something impressive? Erm, nope! Not to me. As a hero, Bowen was pretty dull. He bored me to sleep, literally. Then, when they started having sex finally, I kept thinking about their budding relationship. I already had no idea why Bowen was so possessive and attracted to Genevieve in the first place since I found no connection or intensity of that kind between them from their previous encounters; where Bowen would be either suspicious of Genevieve or rather rude, leaving her hurt. I also had no idea how Genevieve could be so smitten with Bowen, and so fast, after all that she went through and more (as we’re drum-rolled throughout the story). Were they meant for to be together? I was never really sure of that.

To me, all these spelled out big FAIL and plain NO.

Now Genevieve is daydreaming away to become Bowen’s wife but she knows he’ll never marry someone like her. Bowen also wants her, but he thinks she should go and live with her family. Even though Genevieve never wanted her family to know about her ‘shameful’ ordeal, Bowen makes sure that the McInnes laird knows of his daughter. I thought it was nice of Bowen to think of her family, but what I couldn’t understand was why Bowen was acting as the martyr as if he’s losing her and won’t see her again. I mean, if he had good intentions to begin with, wouldn’t the McInnes laird give his consent to the marriage if he asked for it? After all, Bowen is the brother of the Montgomery laird and willing to take care of Genevieve. Moreover he was in love with her. When Graeme arrives, he leaves Teague and Brodie to take care of the McHughs and asks Bowen to take Genevieve to the Montgomery lands for her safety. He could see that his brother has fallen hard and would do anything for the girl. Graeme was understanding when Bowen explained exactly why Genevieve did it and what she did to acquire Ian’s help, then to keep Eveline safe from Ian’s lecherous hands. Genevieve was welcomed in the Montgomery land with open arms from Rory to everyone else, a total opposite of her time with the McHughs. Initially, she was a bit apprehensive about Eveline’s reception of her, but of course, we all knew that St. Eveline would forgive her too!

Genevieve still didn’t know about the imminent arrival of her parents. I think the scene of their reunion was the best part of the whole book. I had tears in my eyes. I also totally admired the McInnes laird and his wife, Genevieve’s mother, for handling the situation so well, in every step showing that they indeed love their daughter more than anything in the world. Even when it was revealed that she was with child, they didn’t falter but was resolved to help her through it all. They still didn’t know it was Bowen’s of course, but a result of her abuse. When the truth was out though, both parents were happy. They already figured out that their daughter was in love with Bowen, and knew that there was only one way she would be happy; to have Bowen as her own.

I had questions here: like how come in that one yr of repeated abuse by multiple men, she never got pregnant once (not even a hint of a miscarriage or anything). And a few nights with Bowen and et voila, she is? HOW?????? I could talk about it, but I simply don’t see any nice way of discussing the whole thing so it’s probably for the best that I let it go. *sigh*

But see what I mean by unbelievable? Even in a novel??

I’ve decided to read Taliesan-Brodie’s book, Highland Ever After. I can only hope that that book would be a much better delivery than this one. 3.5 stars.

This ARC was provided to me by Random House/Ballantine Books via edelweiss which didn’t influence my review and rating in any way. thankyou