Review: In Bed with a Highlander by Maya Banks (2011)

McCabe Trilogy, Book #1

Heat Factor: There’s a blazing fire to keep you nice and warm

Character Chemistry: It works. Amazing sex definitely helps.

Plot: Heiress kidnapped by Bad Man, married “for her own protection” to badass Highland laird

Overall: Classic Highlander bodice ripper

“Can a modern book be a bodice ripper?” I ask.

“Yes,” says Holly.

“Yes,” says Ingrid. 

“…Aaaaaaaand he just legit ripped her bodice,” I say. “Amazing.”

Okay. So. Here we have classic Scottish Highlander Bodice Ripper amazingosity:

  1. Heroine threatened by Bad Man
  2. Heroine temporarily escapes threat of Bad Man
  3. Heroine meets Enormous Alpha Hero with Tree Trunk Thighs
  4. Heroine must learn to live among new, stoic clan
  5. Heroine is unwillingly then willingly absorbed into new, stoic clan
  6. Stop-the-presses, bodice-rippery sex with Enormous Alpha Hero with Tree Trunk Thighs
  7. Heroine tries to fill leadership position in clan and is rejected
  8. New threat arrives from Bad Man
  9. Will they be able to make it through?!?!

I had run out of reliably bodice-rippery, Hottie McScottie Medieval smut, and Holly told me, “Maya Banks writes Scottish smut, FYI.” But she also writes what looks like some very special, very kinky erotic romance, so I shied away… until now

Mairin Stewart, illegitimate daughter of the late king, has been gifted with the dowry of a lucrative estate in the highlands. Ergo, Laird Bad Man spends years looking for her until he finally finds her and kidnaps her from a convent. Actually he has his lackeys kidnap her because he’s not that badass. On the way back to Laird Bad Man’s castle, the miscreants come across a boy trying to steal a horse. Naturally, Mairin, with her heart of gold, would protect a child rather than back down, so when she’s beaten terribly by Laird Bad Man, the child promises her the protection of his clan. 

Ewan McCabe, resident Enormous Alpha Hero with Tree Trunk Thighs, is frantic over the disappearance of his son, but he’s a Highlander with enemies, so when his brother comes back with a strange woman wearing Laird Bad Man’s colors, he’s all kinds of suspicious. Then Ewan’s son tells him he’s promised Ewan’s protection to Mairin so Ewan goes all caveman on her and forbids her to leave. He’s not wrong, given that she has nowhere to go and isn’t safe from Laird Bad Man, who has been pursuing her all over Scotland. Still, it’s irrational alpha domineering all the way. It continues. Ewan decides that the way to protect Mairin is to marry her (because of course), but she thinks he’s crazy (because of course), until she finally sees reason and capitulates (only after deciding it’s her own decision, naturally). 

Because it’s a Medieval romance novel, there has to be that blood on the sheet proof of deflowering, but Laird Bad Man’s soldiers arrive at an inopportune moment–while the party is still hopping!–commence bodice ripping so the marriage is legit. Beyond a legitimate marriage, Clan McCabe is also the most badass fighting force (as one would expect of a laird with Tree Trunk Thighs), so Laird Bad Man’s forces are vanquished… Until the final climactic moments, of course. These are at once unbelievably frustrating (as they’re meant to be) and also completely outrageous. It’s as a good bodice ripper should be. 

This style of story has never seemed to me to be particularly conducive to a real flourishing of true love and romance. Because of the period setting and the dominant/submissive male/female relationship (due in no small part to the virginity of the heroine–can’t be dominant if you don’t even know how your sexuality works!), there’s a lack of equality in these stories that precludes that level of relationship building that really makes a marriage work. That said, a good bodice ripper can be immensely satisfying if that’s what you’re looking for, and Maya Banks does a pretty good job. If you’d like a more sexed up version of Julie Garwood, look no further! 

Please note, if you’re into Outlander and you’ve never read a proper Scottish Highlander bodice ripper, this will be a surprise for you. 

Buy Now: Amazon

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