They say indifference, not hate, is the opposite of love. And there’s not a trace of indifference in BOUND TO THE HIGHLANDER, the debut novel by Kate Robbins. The book won this year’s TARA Award for best historical romance, and it’s easy to see why. The settings, clothing, and politics of Medieval Scotland are impeccably described.
Aileanna Chattan learns upon the death of her beloved uncle and guardian that she’s been betrothed in a secret pact to James MacIntosh, the chief of Clan MacIntosh, who, though drop-dead gorgeous, also is a reputed womanizer. Tensions run high between these two would-be spouses from the moment they set eyes on one another—and not just the sexual variety (though, thankfully, there’s plenty of that!).
Aileanna is bewildered by her betrothed’s behavior—and justifiably so. One minute, he’s cold and distant; the next, he’s got his tongue down her throat. James is deeply conflicted and a bit clueless about his feelings, mainly because he suspects Aileanna is a conniving vixen—not the virtuous innocent she pretends to be. He determines, therefore, to bed her to satisfy his rapacious lust, but to break the betrothal—something only the King has the power to do. Calum MacIntosh, James’ brother, intervenes on his clueless sibling’s behalf—aware James has genuine yet unrealized feelings for the lass. At one point, Calum tells Aileanna the reason James is so distrustful: a past rejection wounded him deeply.
Meanwhile, the cousin Aileanna was supposed to marry all along turns out to be a scheming snake who makes a prodigious amount of trouble for her and James, some of which caught me by surprise (a good thing). The plot twist near the end so shocked me I gasped and cried out: “No! That did not just happen!”