Never Love a Highlander - Maya Banks My review contains spoilers and they're mostly my thoughts as I went with the book...

In the final installment of the McCabe Trilogy Never Love a Highlander, the story gets its fulfillment. Almost... IMO. The troubles with the Camerons are solved for the McCabe brothers. I already said in my review of Seduction of a Highland Lass that I really enjoyed this trilogy and my introduction to Maya Banks. In the future, I’ll read any Historical/Medieval/Highlander books MB writes and am looking forward to the next HR series she plans to write sometimes in the next year.

McCabes had fought the 8 yrs old feud with the Camerons that consist of bitter hatred and enmity. I’d like to recap a bit of what happened: in that fight Ewan, the laird, lost his young wife and mother of his son Crispen along with his father, the old laird. He and his brothers, Alaric and Caelen were absent at that time. Their clan was decimated; people killed, houses burned and they are left with poverty. Ewan tried his best of keep the clan going along with his brothers and a few trusted comrades like Gannon and Cormac. In book #1 In Bed with a Highlander, he finally meets his match in Mairin, the illegitimate daughter of the deceased king Alexander I and niece to King David I. They fought their troubles, mostly coming from Duncan, the Cameron laird, for Mairin is a loaded heiress to a huge dowry and a coveted land called Neamh Álainn or beautiful heaven which her 1st born child will inherit. Needless to say, a greedy, dirty bastard Duncan wanted the beautiful Mairin and the lands for himself, though his only target was the dowry and Neamh Álainn. In that book, we learned that Ewan’s neighboring clan MacDonald’s laird wanted him to marry Rionna, MacDonald’s only heiress. But, Ewan was married before that discussion got anywhere. Then, the MacDonald’s along with some other clans who hated the Camerons, wanted Alaric to marry Rionna and forge the alliance. Even King David wanted this match as he needed this alliance too. In book #2, while traveling to get engaged to Rionna, Alaric is ambushed and gravely injured by the Cameron thugs. And then he meets Keeley, the outcast MacDonald healer; a beautiful girl who immediately captures his heart and he hers. They go through a tremendous but arduous journey to their HEA as troubles after troubles, obstacles after obstacles find their way around Keeley and Alaric. I was quite saddened by the things they had to endure. Now, poor Rionna finds herself again without a match which is quite undeserving. But this time, Caelen steps in.

Caelen was betrayed by the woman he loved which led his clan to be almost destroyed. After that, he swore off love and marriage, thinking being the 3rd brother it’s not necessary. But, now that he’s seen his brothers falling madly in love, he only wanted to help out. Rionna isn’t bad and all that, she’s a tomboy-ish girl who knows how to handle a sword. Caelen thinks he can handle her and forging this alliance will only help their cause. But there was another truth here and not only the alliance; even when Rionna was unofficially engaged to Alaric, Caelen wanted her. He felt something for her yet knew there’s no way he can act upon it. But he won’t say it out loud because no matter how vulnerable he feels, he won’t show it to anyone. Now, the terms of this marriage was, when Rionna has her 1st child, Caelen would become the laird of the MacDonalds. But, knowing how lecherous the old goat (old MacDonald laird) was and still is, Caelen and Rionna both vote for him to step down and be banished, which upon hearing, the King accedes (most of it and why the man was so disgusting is in book #2). Here, old MacDonald laird won’t step down without a fight so tries to convince Rionna to help him get back his position. Rionna has no love for her father because of what he did to her clan or Keeley, who was Rionna’s very close friend before her banishment. He’s also the reason why Rionna is so tomboy-ish and learned how to protect herself from any kind of trouble. After the marriage, Rionna feels a bit sad because her’s isn’t like Mairin or Keeley’s; a love match, something she craved for herself always. But, she tries to reason practically that at least she could finally marry the last McCabe brother. She likes Caelen a lot, only his gruff demeanor and cold detachment makes her uncomfortable. But she knows MacDonalds have a new hope if Caelen is the laird, at least she hopes that it’s the way things will be.

So, they travel back to her land. People aren’t very welcoming at first naturally. Caelen wasn’t happy about it but he knew he has to prove his mettle to earn their trust and respect. Cormac gets married to Christina in book #2 so Gannon accompanies them here. Ewan also wanted Gannon to help Caelen out. New developments are made soon, as Ewan decides to travel to Neamh Álainn, to take care of the land for his daughter Isabella, who was born a few days ago. Alaric would be the laird in the meantime and rule the McCabes. Now, I’m glad that the story was mostly developed around how Rionna and Caelen’s relationship grew. There were funny banters and loveable scenes between them. I found it hilarious to read about her ‘wedding night talks’ with Keeley and Mairin because Rionna was rather apprehensive as no one ever explained her anything. And then there was this thing about her breasts. Huh? Yah, that’s right. You gotta read it to get it; it was so funny and charming. :p But they don’t consummate the marriage for sometimes and in the process, get to know each-other. Rionna finds Caelen very able and her trust and respect for him grew. But she started dislike him too when he tries to tell her how a lady should dress and act. This depresses Rionna and she feels smothered by this. Her father felt the same way about her when he gave her a little attention, which wasn’t that much, ever. She absolutely hates this feeling and all these restrictions.

Caelen was actually thinking of his sister-in-laws because he didn’t care for Rionna’s mannish clothes and sword fighting. But it was also because he was scared of her well-being, that she’d be injured and so on. He truly did care for her and of course, wanted her a lot. This does create some gap between them but thankfully, not a big problem. Soon they consummate their marriage and Caelen also gives Rionna permission to train but only and only with him. Rionna begins to believe Caelen cares for her too and it’s not only because of the alliance. Caelen’s attempts to help the MacDonalds were very praiseworthy. He had to beat a few big MacDonald warriors to gain their respect, then he hunted food for them and stocked their pantry. He also made rules and knew the MacDonald soldiers need intense training if they are to beat the big Cameron army. So he and Gannon start working on that too. Some MacDonalds try to make trouble for him not only because of they resented his position but also they thought he mistreats Rionna by posing restrictions on her activities. Rionna wanted to be the leader in truth and though Caelen’s presence makes it impossible (would’ve been impossible in anyway), she soon realizes that Caelen cares enough to do anything for them. She even wanted to talk to her clan members on Caelen’s behalf. But he, sadly, forbid her to do anything as he thinks as a laird, it’s his duty. Caelen was a boor sometimes in matters such as this but soon, he too learned he can’t go on this way, that he wants to see Rionna happy.

The Cameron’s strike their 1st blow in between. This was the phase just after the consummation when they were still disagreeing over her training schedule. The clan warriors were forbade to train with her. One day, when Caelen was out on a hunt, Rionna goes out to train and learns of her husband’s new dictate. Angry and dejected, she walks to a nearest loch in the woods where they catch her and then beat and molest her. Then they deliver a message from Duncan. Rionna somehow makes it to the keep. A trustworthy warrior is sent to give Caelen the news while the clan woman takes care of her. She’s very shocked by this incident, and how vulnerable she felt without her sword and so on. Caelen is scared out of his wits hearing the news and then seeing her injuries when he returns. He didn’t like how subdued she becomes after this. Now, he’d do anything to bring the old Rionna back. I liked how vulnerable he felt and it was clear that against his better judgment, Caelen was falling for her. And when this distance between them was resolved, I loved how close they came and how they couldn’t keep their hands off of each-other. Rionna begins feeling safe with him and knew that she’s falling for her husband too.

Ewan and Mairin visit them afterwards with Isabella on their way to Neamh Álainn. Holding Isabella makes Rionna crave for her own child. Caelen wants a baby too. Then one day, she faints while training with Caelen and upon examination, it’s learned that she’s pregnant. Caelen becomes furious that she’d hamper her and their baby’s health this way. But the boor didn’t consider the fact that Rionna most possibly didn’t have any idea. They argue over it when Rionna, though hurt by his coldness and rude words, tells him she in truth didn’t know. Now, Caelen knew they have to work harder on the Cameron situation and after Rionna’s attack, the war is imminent. He discusses it all with Ewan too before he leaves again with his family. And then, the 2nd attack comes from the Camerons. They were becoming desperate and Duncan has already teamed up with the old MacDonald laird who didn’t care for anyone else but himself. Caelen goes out with his warriors for some errands when they were attacked. He was injured with an arrow and is taken to the Cameron holdings. One of the old, trustworthy MacDonald warriors somehow makes it to the MacDonald keep to deliver the news. Rionna is scared for Caelen’s life but she’s mad angry too on Duncan. And then she develops this plan which takes Caelen by surprise. Well, after that it was full of actions. Caelen, the poor baby didn’t know of Rionna’s real plan so he was hurt by her action, even knowing something fishy was going on. Though I enjoyed reading about the big showdown, I couldn’t help feeling that things were resolved rather quickly.

In the end, another bigger surprise comes from Caelen that did take me by surprise. But it proved the fact that indeed when he gives his love and loyalty, he gives it without reservations. Now, was I expecting the b*tch who hurt Caelen to show up somewhere in the book because she played such a pivotal role? I wasn’t really expecting anything but maybe it was for the best that she wasn’t here to make trouble for him and Rionna. And then, 3 things bugged me as I finished the book. One, I didn’t know if Keeley had a baby, it was a serious bummer since the other two heroines had. I would’ve loved to see a grinning Alaric holding his son/daughter. Two, even ‘til the end, Celia (Ewan’s 1st wife, who was brutally murdered by the Camerons) remained ignored. I already talked about it in my review of book #2. The brothers discussed about their father, that Cameron posed threat for Mairin and her daughter but not Celia. Why? Wasn’t she a least bit important to any of them? I was very pissed! Finally, the ever loyal and steadfast Gannon DESERVES his own book. MB, in her website, said that she has no plans for it at the moment which didn’t make me happy. I DON’T want a novella but a full novel for him because I really liked Gannon a lot. 4.5 stars, in the hope that this is not the end of McCabe Trilogy and that we’ll soon read Gannon’s book. Fingers crossed!