Sunday, December 5, 2010

Highland Surrender by Dawn Halliday

Book Description:
Determined to put his roguish past behind him, the Earl of Camdonn arranges to marry the proper Lady Elizabeth. But when an accident lands the Earl in the expert hands of a beautiful Highland medicine woman, all well-laid plans are thrown to the wind - and, just as in the old days, his passions run high... Ceana MacNab has terrible luck with men. Resigning herself to the healing arts, she has steeled her heart against love. Then fate sends Cam her way. Even though he's a well-bred Earl - and Ceana a low-born Highlander -their all-consuming passion may lead the way to lasting bliss.

I can't say this book was really my thing.  I loved Halliday's earlier book, Highland Obsession which I read last year.  That was a different story, which featured a Georgian love triangle that winds up with an erotic menage a trois between Cam, his best friend and his new wife whom Cam has an obsession for.  Now in it's sequel, Highland Surrender, we have Cam's story.  Instead of obsessing over his friend's wife, Cam now becomes obsessed with Ceana, the local healer woman who has a strong independent streak.  The problem is, Cam is betrothed to a young and beautiful Englishwoman who has reasons of her own for marrying Cam, other than the fact he's rich and handsome and lives in a big castle.  To further complicate matters, she's fallen in love with his stableman, Robert, who's really his half brother. How is this foursome ever going to wind up with the right partner?  Much eye rolling on my part due to the incongruous plot line with some S&M love scenes that just were not my cup of tea.

This novel had everything in it but the kitchen sink!  The disgraced and much maligned Earl of Camdonn has returned from England with his betrothed, Lady Elizabeth, an Englishwoman who has secrets of her own.  Little do we know she is not nearly as naive and inexperienced as she appears.  Her uncle, the cruel and sadistic Duke of Irvington is a villain that takes pleasure in beating Elizabeth's lady's maid in lieu of beating Elizabeth when she has been "naughty."  Elizabeth lives with the duke because he is the only family she has left (he killed her parents and brother by making it look like they died of smallpox.)  She has been under the duke's thumb for years and her marriage to the Scottish Earl of Camdonn is her ticket to freedom.

Upon Cam and Elizabeth's return to Scotland from London, they are set upon by highwaymen who waylay their carriage and Cam is shot.  Elizabeth flees to safety with the aid of Cam's handsome stableman who just happened to be coming back from a tryst at Ceana's place.  Ceana MacNab, the local healer comes upon Cam in the woods and nurses him back to health at her remote cabin.  Of course, Cam is attracted to her and the feeling is mutual, but neither can act on their feelings.  Ceana has been carrying on with Robert, Cam's head stableman who rescued Lady Elizabeth.  He asked Ceana to marry him earlier, but she refused.  Maybe it was because she didn't like the way he slapped her backside while insisting she like it.  Or maybe it was due to her claim that MacNab women don't marry?  Most likely, it's the later.  The question is, why?  How come MacNab women never marry? 

The plot deepens when we find out that Robert is Cam's half brother.  Upon rescuing Elizabeth, Robert cannot get her out of his mind and he wants her.  He thinks of her at night and looks up into her window, yearning for something he can never have.  As it turns out, she's strangely drawn to him as well.  One thing leads to another and they cannot deny their attraction any longer.  His dark passions match her own, and he finally gets to try out that new flogger he made!  Much happens and they begin a torrid S&M flavored affair.  Meanwhile, Cam returns from Ceana's cabin, now very much in love with her, though he knows deep down she can never become his wife.  He is committed to marrying Elizabeth, even though it's a marriage of convenience.  He's not attracted to Elizabeth the same way he is to Ceana, bedding Elizabeth would be for an heir only.  Ironically, Cam learns of Elizabeth's affair by observing her with Robert making love in a cave.  At the same time, he overhears Robert admit to Elizabeth that they are brothers.  Wow, how much more can Cam take in one night?  Serves him right for eavesdropping.

Poor Cam!  He's trying to be good to make up for his misdeeds from the last book, but it's not easy!  He needs to marry Elizabeth for her connections, but he loves Ceana, who can never be accepted by society as his countess.  What are they all going to do?  Elizabeth and Robert love one another, but she needs to marry Cam to get away from her awful Uncle Walter.  Plus, Robert has no money to speak of, and he's the illegitimate son of the last Earl.  Can Lady Elizabeth give up her pampered life to marry a lowly stableman?  Ceana loves Cam as well, and even though he asks her to marry him, throwing caution to the wind, she must refuse another marriage offer - again.  We soon learn that a curse had been put upon the women in Ceana's family.  Whoever they are betrothed to will die before the marriage takes place.  So far, the curse has come true and that is why Ceana refuses to agree to marry Cam.  She's afraid if she says yes, she will be sentencing him to an early death.

So, let's get this straight... it's beginning to resemble a Shakespearean comedy!

Cam loves Ceana but she's just a low born healer woman, and he's a lofty earl that needs to marry another lofty personage because that's how things are done in the early 1700's.  Ceana can't marry him because she's certain it will kill him due to her family curse.

Lady Elizabeth needs to get away from her awful uncle and marrying Cam is the answer.  But, she doesn't love Cam, she loves his bastard half-brother who's nothing more than a head stableman.  Robert doesn't feel he is worthy to marry Elizabeth, even though she really likes his flogger.   The psychological trauma she has undergone by her uncle is a perfect fit for Robert's penchant for kinky sex.  They're a perfect fit.

Much hand wringing, soul searching and angst goes on, but by the end of the book all is made right and these two mismatched couples get paired off satisfactorily.   All's well that ends well.

Bottom line, I'm not into S&M or bondage type romances, so this one did little for me.  The incredibly far fetched plotline was oftentimes ridiculous, but I kept with it to the end, just to see how they all got together.   Not bad, the writing itself was well done, but I couldn't relate to any of the characters and didn't feel much sympathy for anyone.  A disappointment compared to the first. 


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