In Bed with a Highlander - Maya Banks My review contains spoilers and they're mostly my thoughts as I went with the book...

The 1st book in Maya Bank’s McCabe trilogy was a good one, despite the fact that I did (like some other reviews) find similarities with Julie Garwood (sometimes even Lynsay Sands) Highlander books. But it can’t be avoided since I’ve read all of JG’s and LS’s HR/Medieval books. It’s very tough to find someone JG’s equal who writes Highlander books as well as she did. I have to say, even then, MB did a great job with the story, the characters and there were plenty of funny moments I really enjoyed. I’ve never read any erotica by MB so this is my 1st book of her as well. I sincerely have no complaints about her writing/narrative style.

Mairin has been living in a convent for a longtime, since her childhood I believe. Her father was the former king of Scotland, Alexander I. Mairin is his 2nd child (fictional), the only daughter and illegitimate. Mairin’s mother was Alexander’s mistress. Not a lot is given about this liaison or about Mairin’s birth, just that after her parents passed away, it was important for her to be hidden away because of her plentiful dowry and Neamh Álainn or beautiful heaven. Neamh Álainn is a piece of land but I wasn’t really sure why it was so much of a pluck for any Highland clan. It was bequeathed by Alexander to Mairin’s 1st born child. Mairin needs to marry well and to someone who can protect her, Neamh Álainn and her child; possibly a warrior. So did Mother Serenity told her. From the moment she stepped inside the convent, only Nuns have been her companions. She hasn’t met a man, not many even when she was living freely. Mairin is all grown up now and the greedy, selfish and nasty Cameron laird, Duncan has looking for her. She’s become the man’s obsession. Not her but the acquiring of Neamh Álainn. When the story starts, the Camerons find her in the convent, humiliates her by looking for her birth mark which is sad in a very inappropriate are, in front of the others. Then they kidnap her and drag her away to their laird. Ironically, the greedy Duncan is very pleasant to look at but his attitudes and treatment of women is abominable. When Mairin refuses to marry him, he beats her very badly and locks her away. Ok, before that, when the Camerons were resting, they come up a boy of about 8 trying to steal their horse. They would’ve killed him if Mairin acted like a mother cat and start clawing at them. Literally. The boy is called Crispen and Mairin somehow manages to keep him with her without the Camerons hurting him. Now, Crispen did act like a baby at times. I don’t know. I have an 8 yrs old niece and she likes to hug from time to time but the way Crispen would throw himself at McCabe men or Mairin throughout the book (for a hug mostly lol) and would hang onto Mairin in such a small space of meeting, I found it exasperating at times. Maybe because Mairin saved him, he had this worshipful way of seeing her and when Ewan married her, he stated calling her ‘mama’ without any trouble at all.

Anyway, with Crispen at her side all the time, Mairin was kinda oblivious with pain from Duncan’s beating when a few servants decided to help her out. They sneak her away at night with just a horse for their conveyance. Mairin was pretty badly injured and yet she tried to protect Crispen (clawing again!) when Crispen’s uncle Alaric finds them somewhere near McCabe lands. Alaric is the gruff sort but he loves and cares for his family very much. When Crispen went missing the whole clan when insane to find him. Ewan, the laird sent his best men with his younger brothers, Alaric and Caelen to find him. They were pretty sure Crispen has died because it’s been sometimes now. The news of a MacDonald soldier trying to hold him for ransom reached them but nothing else afterwards. I wasn’t sure at first if Crispen was the legitimate heir or an illegitimate issue but later I learned that Ewan married his childhood playmate, Celia and had Crispen. Sadly, Celia was also kinda overlooked throughout the story. Yah, I get that she died very young and he was young too when they married but I didn’t feel he had any solid feelings for her. I don’t know, I didn’t like it much. So, Camerons wrecked havoc on the McCabes then, when Ewan’s father and Celia died in it. The keep and the other houses were burned. It was an attack meant to destroy the McCabes. I’m not quite clear where the brothers were at that moment but they came back and found their clan in the ruins. Crispen, who couldn’t have been a few months old, survived because some loyal servants hid him away. Ewan took his place as the laird and tried to take care of his clan as well as he could. Without much money and so on, it was a tough task. There’s also this hint that Camerons could do the damage because the woman Caelen loved betrayed them which is why Caelen now doesn’t trust any woman, at all.

Anyway, I digressed quite a bit giving a short background of the story. So, Alaric finds them and brings them safely back to McCabe lands. Mairin was scared because of what she endured in Duncan’s hand and the way McCabe brothers scowls all the time don’t help her cause much. She’s instantly afraid and attracted to the laird. Mairin was thinking she’d be on her way (destination unknown) as soon as she could deliver Crispen safely to his family. But it was not happening because Ewan has decided to keep her. Her wearing the Cameron coloring (Duncan gave it to her as her so-called wedding dress) also heightened his curiosity and anger. He wants answers and Mairin is not helping him. She would not give him her identity (because she didn’t know if to trust the laird or not, very logical). She made Crispen promise not to tell his father her name. But it didn’t stay that way of course. When Caelen returns from his search, Crispen was narrating his ‘adventure’ to his uncle with a lot of enthusiasm and blurts out Mairin’s name. Then, one day while she was bathing, a maid servant, Maddie, notices her birthmark (I found that it’s a famous one!) and informs Ewan of her identity. Ewan, at first, doesn’t believe it. But then, he considers. It can be good, to marry her. She’s beautiful and has the dowry to help his clan. In addition, he’d get Neamh Álainn. But Ewan’s idea wasn’t from greed but necessity. At first, Mairin wouldn’t help him. She tried running away once or twice but got caught (had me rolling my eyes). She did a few things throughout that did come close to TSTL activities (more eye rolling ensued), much like JG’s heroines, to my utter annoyance. But, even then, this book was put together well enough for me to not to get too frustrated.

Mairin thought and thought. The more she did, the more Ewan came off as a very worthy prize, someone who can ultimately help her and her future child. He’s a warrior and loves his clan and his family very much. He bears his responsibilities like the laird he is, even though sometimes he can be a bit insensitive about her feelings. And he kisses well. There were funny scenes about kissing and the involvement of tongue into it, with Mother Serenity’s directions about ‘kissing’ to Mairin and her conveying it to Ewan- well you get the picture! *snorts* They marry as soon as the priest came to their holding. Just after the marriage, they hear the news of the Camerons riding towards their keep. Ewan knew it meant war, not only for what the Camerons did to his clan but also, because of what Duncan did to Mairin. But the marriage needs to be consummated and soon! So follows one of the stupidest and shortest consummation scenes ever, which left me and Mairin stunned and speechless. She thought he’d hold her after the ‘ordeal’ (don’t even ask) but he just up and left with the sheet! From that, Mairin felt a bit depressed because, to her, the laird obviously didn’t know much about loving. She got scared because of the pain she endured and starts avoiding Ewan. Not that I blame her! *shakes head*

Ewan fought the battle with the Camerons. When he knew his soldiers were fighting a losing battle, Duncan fled the battleground. Ewan made sure one of the soldiers get his message to convey it to Duncan that Mairin is married to him and the marriage is duly consummated by throwing the bloodstained sheet at him. Then at home he found his bride avoiding him. At first, he didn’t think it was intentional that every time he went to his bed, he’d find Crispen snuggled against Mairin. The boy did sleep with her before the marriage, every single day! Then one day he caught Mairin taking the boy in their room and handled it. She was nervous when Crispen left so stated sputtering stuffs like Ewan doesn’t know anything about making love. This made Ewan determined to prove her what he knew about making love and that’s exactly what he did later and throughout the story. Mairin had this really annoying thing of blurting her thoughts out without even realizing it (which JG heroine had this ‘quality’? I kinda forgot. :/). Needless to say, it pissed me off at times. So, after that, their married life was going well enough when there were attempts on Mairin’s life, which scared the hell out of Ewan. In both, one arrow and another by poison almost killed her. In the 1st attempt, it was a cut and Ewan took care of her. The 2nd one occurred when the MacDonalds, who were hoping for an alliance with the McCabes, were in the keep. Ewan always had a volatile relationship with the older MacDonald laird. The man wanted Ewan to marry his daughter, Rionna, so when Mairin was poisoned, Ewan immediately suspected him/his men. Before it got bad, the MacDonald’s leave the keep. Have to note here that, Mairin did form a good friendship with Rionna, who loves to dress as man and is a good fighter, too. She proved in a game held by the clans, hidden away as a man but when her father found out, he admonished her harshly for this. We’ll know more when we read Rionna’s story. Then, it was decided that Alaric would marry Rionna on Ewan’s stead and be the laird someday since Rionna is MacDonald’s only heir and strengthen the relationship between the clans. They both hated the Camerons. Ewan also wanted the MacLaurens to join with them. If they all unite, Camerons can do nothing to take over Neamh Álainn.

Soon, good news comes as the form of Mairin’s pregnancy. There are funny scenes concerning this and how she tries to defy Ewan’s commands and be ‘the bane of’ Cormac, Diormid and Gannon’s existence. These three were Ewan’s most trusted soldiers and he posted them as Mairin’s bodyguard. A convoy from Mairin’s uncle, King David I, arrives afterwards but it had no dowry with it. The message was sent by David’s cousin Archibald, who wanted Ewan to present himself in the court because of Duncan’s false claims which includes Mairin being his wife and the marriage being consummated, when Ewan abducted her and mistreated her. Ewan was very angry, yet he knew he had to defend himself but most of all Mairin and their child’s life. After some arguments about the defense of the keep and Mairin, Ewan decides to take her with him. In the court, King David is not seen but Archibald presiding over everything. He informs Ewan and Mairin that the king is ill. This doesn’t bode well, Ewan senses that along with Caelen and Alaric and soon their instinct proves right. Duncan makes big trouble for him and Mairin, with Archibald’s help and so starts the action packed climax of the book. I REALLY enjoyed these last chapters which glued me to the book. I just lurved the way Ewan rescued Mairin from Duncan’s clutches but the McCabe’s business with the Cameron’s remains unresolved. Guess this is going to be extended into the next installments. Now, even though I thought Ewan was a bit of a blockhead about Mairin’s feelings (he did sometimes bark at her, without realizing it’s not polite to act this way, that it hurts her), he ultimately proved that he’s all bluster mostly. Lol

But then, one thing that creeped the hell out of me and irritated me again, was the last part when the traitor of the McCabe’s, who gave his speech against Ewan in Archibald’s fake trial, comes back and attacks Mairin. I understood that this issue needed to be resolved. But WTF was that? Mairin actually kills him, she does. Ok, it was very unbelievable since I didn’t think Mairin was that gutsy (no matter what MB tried throughout the book). Then her words on how to ‘dump’ his body with Ewan, Caelen and Alaric grossed me out like no other! This little part was ENTIRELY unnecessary IMO because it proved nothing and only made me gag. The traitor could’ve been handled in some other, better way. I don’t know WHY the authors try to make out of the heroines something she’s truly not! Other than that, I did enjoy this book and MB’s storytelling, so 4 stars. Then again, most of the times I do enjoy a good Highland romp. I’m on to the next book now; have to see what happens to Alaric!