Reviewed in the United States on October 30, 2018
I received a copy of this title to read and review for Wicked Reads
3 Frustrating Stars
Between a Highlander and a Hard Place is the 5th installment of the Highland Weddings and can easily be read as a standalone without any confusion had by a new reader.
I'm mixed on the rating and how I feel about the novel overall. The entertainment value. The overall emotion I felt while reading was frustration. The mystery suspense angle overshadowed any and all romance, then all the sudden politics of the era came out of nowhere, with zero buildup, and stole the show. I feel as this novel didn't have a firm hold on its identity, to the point it detracted from the entertainment value. Chaotic. Paced oddly.
Athena is on the run when the man who was to be her husband decides to make her his mistress instead, thinking he didn't need permission from her guardian or her consent. Escaping England, Athena dresses as a male, catching the notice of a Laird in Scotland.
Symon was a solid historical romance hero- the perfect highlander. He was gruff and rough yet tenderhearted when it came to Athena. This lent well to the insta-lust, slow-burn, bantering between the pair. The early part of the novel was truly romance.
Symon is the last of his line, outside of his cousin, Brenda. Both widowed, both must marry to ensure the stability of their lands and their bloodline. Neither is too keen on the prospect, but Symon is instantly taken with the English beauty, and woos Athena to be his wife.
Thankfully, Athena isn't contrary. She's not too stupid to live. She's not a damsel in distress. However, the story is contrary, irrational, convoluted, chaotic, and frustrating, burying the romance entirely by forcing the characters to deal with outlandish events.
After waiting through countless interrupted lust scenes, where I am the biggest slow-burn fan. When it came to the payoff, which I'd been highly anticipating, I was disappointed beyond belief. The between-the-sheets action was ill-timed, time and time again. Brenda had just been kidnapped, one of their people killed, yet the author decided that was the time to finally reward the reader?!?
As a reader, am I to be invested in Brenda as a character, for their perilous situation, or am I to get hot and bothered by a love scene? Tell me, because it felt like an unwanted, interrupting sex-sells commercial shown as an intermission during my favorite TV show, where I want to know what happens next, where I'd undoubtedly fast-forward to get past the sexy commercials. I was looking forward to the romance and their connection in bed, but I was too worried about Brenda, or the other situations they were in, to find enjoyment in the scenes. What should have been a reward became ill-timed, frustrating, and annoying, to where I 'fast-forwarded' the last two to find out what happened next.
This happened not once, but three times. All smexy scenes took place during times of great peril. Written as an unwanted intermission, as if I enjoyed it, I obviously am heartless for not caring that a character has been kidnapped to be sold into sexual slavery (a threat used repeatedly, until I was desensitized) Whiplash. To go from someone being kidnapped, which is heart-racing suspense, where you don't know what happens next, to the scene you've been waiting forever to read, only to have it be lessened because clearly I care more about their longevity and Brenda than they do.
This rubbed me wrong, approximately at the 75% mark, and went downhill from there. The first third of the book had one identity (romance), the second third had the identity of mystery suspense, and the last third was filled with political maneuverings and the characters being held hostage without autonomy. This meant any connection I felt for the characters in the first third was gone by the time politics came into it. I would be fine with any three of these things, if they were consistent from start to finish, not fighting against one another and overshadowing each other.
Was I entertained? At first. Frustration won out, but I wanted to know what happened next. How many times does Athena get kidnapped by the same villain? 4? More? Such a bumbling idiot manages to keep kidnapping the cousin and wife to a Laird. As I said earlier- the characters aren't the issue, the events and situations the author wrote for them is. Yet there is no justice by the ending, so more kidnappings can be had at a later date.
Would I reread? No.
Do I recommend? To fans of the author and the series, as well as those who do plan on reading the next in the series, as it's the lead-up.
Do I plan on reading the next? Yes, because the politics of the last third was the heavy handed setup for the next book featuring Brenda, at the expense of Athena and Symon's journey.