When I first began exploring paranormal romance and time-travel romance, I fell in love with Karen Marie Moning’s Highlander series. I mean, hard. It’s one of those series with characters who stick with you long after the books are collecting dust. And talk about alpha males. *shivers*
Like the cliché goes, Moning’s wonderful series came to an end before I was ready to let go of my sexy Highlanders. So what’s a girl to do? Find another Highlander romance series.
Finding books about Highlanders isn’t a challenge; finding quality reads about alpha Highlanders, time-travel and steamy romance to fill a specific void can be difficult. I like my Scotsmen, but most of the time I’d prefer them outside of the setting of a true historical or a Lifetime Movie Network script.
Enter Melissa Mayhue.
The freshman entry to the Daughters of the Glen series, Thirty Nights with a Highland Husband, was as pleasant a surprise as they come. In fact, I’d make the argument that it’s the best one in the series. Of all the books, Thirty Nights is the most well-balanced in terms of pacing and match-up of our hero and heroine’s personalities. Mayhue brings back this love-match in future books, which is fortunate for her readers, since Connor and Cate are the gold-standard for couples in this series. If that’s not enough encouragement to try Thirty Nights, consider that this debut novel won the Holt Medallion and Book Buyers awards in 2008.
The sequel, Highland Guardian, was also extremely enjoyable and solidified my faith that the series was moving in a positive direction. The plot threads laid out here for future books were solid enough that I could overlook Book 3, Soul of a Highlander, for making the love connection a little too easy. Sure, we want the happily ever after, but since we’re reading a romance and we know we’re reading a romance, the HEA is a given. I thought perhaps it was just my taste; perhaps I enjoy a story more when the heroes’ journeys are the darkest (and damn, if anyone should have had a dark story, it should have been Ramos).
It’s because of this lapse in strong character development and the trouble-free acclimation to accepting a soul-mate that when I saw something similar developing early in the fourth edition, A Highlander of Her Own, I was disappointed. Remember when Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake series transitioned from dark paranormal action to erotica where sex solves all problems? Ok, my disappointment wasn’t quite as pronounced, but you get the idea. It’s a turning point in a series where as the reader, significant concerns arise about the future of the world you’ve become invested in. For example, the heroine, Ellie, can communicate with animals but there are no dramatic rescues involving a furry friend. I kept reading with my heart in my throat believing that when I turned the page one of her beloved beasts would be injured or killed, but it never happened. As much as I dreaded that scene, when it didn’t come I felt let down. The tension fizzled unsatisfactorily. The character of Caden saved the fourth entry from becoming my last, and for that I am very grateful.
The fifth entry, A Highlander’s Destiny, feels like a comeback. It’s not a full recovery by any means, but the plot twists are back and most importantly, the lead characters are individuals again. I didn’t like everything about Destiny, but she was more real than Ellie or Mairi were. What really stood out was Jesse. He had a stand-out personality when we met him in Thirty Nights and he hasn’t changed by the time we got to his own story.
The full recovery of this series lies with the sixth entry, A Highlander’s Homecoming. This book continues with the foundation and characters from Destiny so it’s no surprise that it’s such a satisfying entry (the Amazon reviews seem to concur).
The last two in the series, Healing the Highlander and Highlander’s Curse stand on solid ground and bring the series to a conclusion on a high note. Much like Moning did with her series, Mayhue has let a good thing end naturally instead of forcing the myths beyond the point where the stories are enjoyable.
I do not mean to compare Moning and Mayhue other than to point out the overall premises of their series is similar enough that once you’ve finished one, you don’t have to mourn its conclusion because there are other satisfying series to keep you up nights with fantasies of sexy Highlanders traveling through time. Finding the right fit with a new series can sometimes be frustrating, and if you’re a fan of either of these authors, trying the other is a safe bet.
Or better yet, write your own Highlander tale. (And share it with me, please!)