How to Train Your Highlander (Broadswords & Ballrooms #3)- Christy English
Release Date: December 6, 2016
Rating (out of 5):
Warning: Possible spoilers!
Synopsis: Wild Highlander Mary Elizabeth Waters is living on borrowed time. She's managed to dodge the marriage banns up to now, but even Englishmen can only be put off for so long...and there's one in particular who has her in his sights.
Harold Percy, Duke of Northumberland, is enchanted by the beautiful hellion who outrides every man on his estate and dances Scottish reels while the ton looks on in horror. The more he sees Mary, the more he knows he has to have her, tradition and good sense be damned. But what's a powerful man to do when the Highland spitfire of his dreams has no desire to be tamed...
How to Train Your Highlander's Highland heroine Mary Elizabeth Waters a character not often found in Regency romances. While we read about plenty of women who see only the downsides of marriage, who are intelligent, possibly stubborn and headstrong, and don't fawn over money or titles we rarely see all of these qualities armed and dangerous. Mary's rule is to never have less than three knives on her at any time. And she knows how to use them. Refusing to be anyone but herself has scared off all the fine men of Edinburgh and London, so her mother has sent her to Nothumberland to see if Mary can catch a duke. Mary isn't impressed by dukes, but she rather likes the look of the stableboy Harry.
Harold Charles Percy, Duke of Northumberland, isn't a fan of the mindless fawning of people impressed by his title. When his mother's guest mistakes him for a stablehand (eventually upgrading him poor relation of the family) he loves it. Mary treats him like an equal, like a friend- even if he is English. No one has ever talked to him the way she does and he wants it to go on as long as possible. Harry bribes the servants and his mother to go along with the idea and puts off telling Mary for as long as he possibly can. It only takes a few days for him to fall in love with her- knife throwing, sword wielding, bareback riding and all. But can he ask Mary to give up her freedom and her Highlands to be a duchess? And would Mary agree to give up everything she loves if he does ask?
One of the things I really liked about Highlander was that from the beginning, Mary knew who she was and had no intention of changing. She liked herself, was comfortable with her tomboyish ways, and proud that she could ride rings around any Englishman she needed to. Her mother wants her to be someone she isn't: a classic, demure debutante. But despite the pressure Mary never considers changing herself to make others happy.
It also drove home some of the difficulties and decisions a woman had when she considered marriage in this time. Often marriage was the only way of ensuring a future, but when it isn't? Mary has a family who loves her, a home she loves, and can't imagine living anywhere else. She doesn't fit in with the Ton and has no wish to try. When she falls in love with Harry she has to weigh that love against leaving Scotland, taking up the responsibilities of a duchess, dealing with the aristocratic English she doesn't care for.
I wasn't as happy with the fact that, haven't not read the two previous books in the series (How to Seduce a Scot, & How to Wed a Warrior), I always felt like I was playing catch up. I assumed some things mentioned briefly in this book happened in one of the others in the series. But even though some (like drawing a sword on someone in the park) have serious repercussions for Mary and might have even started of what brought her and Harry together, the reader doesn't get any kind of explanation. No quick summary or memory. No backstory, or character introduction. Until almost the end of the book I didn't feel like I knew anything about Mary's family or even her own story. While what you see is what you get with her, I kept waiting for the hints of her past that showed why she was the way she was. As open and honest as she is, I didn't feel like I knew her. Harry gets an equally brief touch of his past so you have to pretty much fill in your own ideas on why he is the way he is. Nor did I understand Mary's relationship with her mother and why her mother was so insistent on Mary marrying the way she was. Was there some hidden reason? Fear? Money troubles? Did her mother just want to get rid of Mary? And at the end, when Mary does something that is actually quite intelligent and logical, she does it in an uncharacteristically secretive way that may be a classic bit of non-communication to increase drama, but was totally out of character.
Overall I found How to Train You Highlander a mix of fun and aggravating. Mary and Harry are fun, witty, and have great chemistry, but this is clearly a series that doesn't work well if you read it out of order. Having started with book 3, I was frustrated enough with the sometimes awkward descriptions and writing style, with the brief mentions of important things that tied to other books that should have been significant (apparently nobody cared other family and friends running off to get into trouble and/or married?) that I wouldn't go back and start the series over.
I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.