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REVIEW: In Bed with a Highlander by Maya Banks

Dear Ms. Banks,

Your erotic romances don’t really work for me. I’m not a fan of the one wife for four brothers scenario, and I tried a few others and they fell flat. When I heard you were coming out with a Highlander trilogy that was going to be a different kind of ‘Banks’ story, I was intrigued. I’m happy to say that this worked for me much better than your erotic romances, but I still have some hesitation on recommending In Bed with a Highlander.

In Bed with a Highlander by Maya BanksIn Bed is the story of Mairin Stuart, bastard daughter of now-dead King Alexander of Scotland. She’s been hidden away in a convent for the past ten years to keep her safe. Her father bequeathed a large tract of land to her and so whoever marries her will inherit. This makes her a prize, and one unscrupulous laird steals her from the convent, intent on making her his bride. Mairin escapes his clutches and ends up in the arms of Ewan McCabe, a rival laird and the hero of our story. Ewan finds out Mairin’s parentage and so to keep her safe, and to keep her inheritance in his grasp, he marries her. Soon enough, Mairin is trying to make her place in McCabe’s clan, and all the while her life is threatened by mysterious saboteurs.

While this book started out strongly, I had some real concerns. I’m one of those people that likes historical accuracy. I’m not saying that every cup, cheese, and type of fabric must be historically accurate or it drives me insane, but I have read enough historicals that I know the basics. I expect you to know the basics, too.

This book? Not historically accurate in the slightest. A specific year is not mentioned in the story, but it takes place about ten years after King Alexander of Scotland is dead, and King David is on the throne. A quick check on wikipedia shows that this is likely close to 1134 Scotland. Okay. That’s about as close as we come to historical accuracy, however. The highlanders in this book dress in ‘colors’, and they wear braids in their hair like Braveheart. All the highlanders live in stone castles, which weren’t really common at that time in history. There’s a castle ‘skirt’ mentioned repeatedly and I’m not really sure what that is. I couldn’t find it on google or wikipedia anywhere.  At one point, the heroine puts on a dress with the hero’s coat of arms. There are modern phrases and dialogue peppered everywhere.

I must therefore conclude that this is taking place in fantasy Scotland. You know, like the place that Julie Garwood’s Scottish historicals take place. Several of the reviews on Amazon commented on how much this felt like a Julie Garwood book, and I have to agree.

If the plot and setting sound like they’re straight out of the Julie Garwood playbook, that’s because it felt like it too. The dialogue was patterned after Julie Garwood books (“twas the truth” and characters saying “aye” to themselves repeatedly). The historical accuracy feels the same. The plot feels like a mix of ‘The Bride’ and ‘The Secret’. After a while, it bothered me because it felt more like a creative reimagining of Julie Garwood than Maya Banks.

The heroine was grating at times. She’s a “so innocent but charming” heroine straight out of Garwood territory. She has an ‘adorable’ habit of talking to herself internally, except she’s actually blurting the words out loud. And like Garwood heroines, she’s a martyr who gets beat up repeatedly for the sake of plot and for the hero to realize how precious she is to him. At one point, she’s shot by an arrow and doesn’t realize it. How can you not realize you are shot by an arrow, I ask? It doesn’t pass right through the body – the fletching gets in the way of that sort of thing.

This sounds unfair, but Banks does a lot of things right in this book. It’s a light, fun historical. I found myself smiling at some of the dialogue. There’s no brogue, so if that drives a reader away from a lot of Scottish historicals, she might like this. The heroine grows into her sexuality and once she realizes that she can play with the hero as much as he wants to play with her, it’s fun to see them get together. The steam in this book is at a much more subdued level than most Banks’ books, so don’t expect anything outside of the normal historical romance mores.

The middle slumped to the point that I wondered if I’d be able to finish the book – it all felt like something I’d read a hundred times before – but the ending picked up nicely and the sequel for the next brother’s book is set up in a good way.

All in all, unoriginal but pretty fun. A grudging B-, maybe closer to a C+.

All best,

January

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January Janes

January likes a little bit of everything. She's partial to unique paranormals, erotic romances, contemporary, and YA. She has a fondness for novellas and trying self-published works, though more of those are misses than hits. She still refuses to read anything that smells like literary fiction. January also changes this bio on a regular basis depending on her reading mood.

36 Comments

  1. RBA
    Aug 31, 2011 @ 06:15:31

    This author’s KGI books have also read like ‘creative reimaginings’ of other suspense books (and upcoming book #4 sounds the same as Christine Feehan’s Drake Sisters #7).

    I don’t know EVERYTHING about history, but a writer has to get the basics correct or I won’t be able to enjoy it.

  2. DS
    Aug 31, 2011 @ 07:06:19

    Think she got “skirt” wall confused with “curtain” wall?

    I wonder if this is going to please her erotic romance fans. It looks like nearly every one of the enthusiastic reviews on Amazon was written by a Vine member rather than an actual fan.

  3. Barbara
    Aug 31, 2011 @ 07:35:28

    @DS: I’m both a fan and a Vine reviewer that enjoyed the book. So my review will manage to be honest and enthusiastic (or positive, however you’d categorize it). Just because they’re Vine reviews doesn’t mean they aren’t fans too. I see some that I personally know are.

  4. Tori
    Aug 31, 2011 @ 07:47:09

    I have to agree. This book reminded me a lot of Ms. Garwood’s Ransom. Not to say I didn’t enjoy this one but I liked Ransom better. :)

  5. Jinni
    Aug 31, 2011 @ 09:10:36

    I never got far in those Banks’ erotic novels despite all the praise. I’m thinking that I don’t need to add this to any TBR list. If this is not an ARC, why did you read it?

    I’m stepping away from books/authors that continue to get praise even though I don’t like them. Too much time lost that could be dedicated to finding new to me/more likable authors.

  6. Sirius
    Aug 31, 2011 @ 09:32:26

    Funny, I never tried Maya Banks before but I saw this book in Vine and ordered it, because I want to know what all the praise is about. I also want to say that when Amazon says that they want critical reviews in Vine they are not kidding, of course it is everybody’s right to disbelieve that, but I (recent member of Vine as I am) already wrote several two stars reviews on some items that I ordered. They did not kick me out of the program yet :). I am actually weird that way and I would have had a problem writing a negative review on the item (book or not book) that I received as personal gift. I guess the saying “about gift say good or nothing” is ingrained in me from childhood and too deeply lol. So when I dislike the book that I received as a personal gift, I will not write a bad review, but be quiet about it. But gift from Amazon? If I feel the book that I ordered from Vine was a crappy reading experience I will say so. Just wanted to comment on that, because I had seen the doubts about validity of Vine reviews before. Obviously I can speak only for myself and maybe some people are afraid that Amazon will kick them out or something if they write negative reviews, I have no clue about that.

    Oh and thank you for the review of course.

  7. Allie
    Aug 31, 2011 @ 09:45:06

    I’ve enjoyed a lot of Maya Banks’ books but this one does not sound like my kind of thing. Anything with “highlander” in the title warns me off, for one thing. As a general rule, I have not liked any book I’ve read with that in the title. I’ve heard people raving about Julie Garwood, and after reading this review, I’ll continue avoid her stuff, too. ;-)

  8. Jane
    Aug 31, 2011 @ 09:51:46

    @Jinni Are you asking why the reviewer read the book?

  9. Jane
    Aug 31, 2011 @ 09:53:50

    @Sirius I’m a VINE reviewer too and I’ve never felt bad about giving a lesser rating. As for the book, I know that it’s been getting a ton of praise around the internets so I don’t think the Vine voices are suspiciously full of praise. Having said that, I don’t see anything invalid about January’s review either. Different strokes.

  10. Jeannie
    Aug 31, 2011 @ 09:54:02

    Okay, what the heck is “Vine”?

  11. dick
    Aug 31, 2011 @ 09:59:10

    Well, I always thought Garwood’s medievals exemplified the fairy-tale aspects of romance fiction better than most, so I didn’t mind reading a re-take of them; even the tone was similar. But the C was right on the money, IMO.

  12. Sirius
    Aug 31, 2011 @ 10:05:21

    @Jane: I definitely did not mean to imply that there is anything invalid about January’s review, sorry if it came out that way. I have not even received the book yet, I only ordered it last week, for all I know I may hate the book, you know?

  13. Christine M.
    Aug 31, 2011 @ 10:38:49

    @Jeannie: Some sort of Amazon invite-only review program for the US from what I gathered.

  14. Sirius
    Aug 31, 2011 @ 10:42:45

    @Christine M.: Right, I have no idea how they choose the people to invite, I would speculate when the number of the reviews reaches a certain point, but I have no idea. They sent you a newsletter once a month (actually, no twice a month, but second time they repeat whatever is left from two or three months before) and you can choose two freebies which are still available to be sent to you. Thats my understanding anyway.

  15. Jane
    Aug 31, 2011 @ 13:17:15

    @Sirius Oh no, I was hoping my comments weren’t making it seem like I thought january’s review was invalid only that the popular opinion was that this was a popular book. Sorry for the confusion.

  16. Janet P.
    Aug 31, 2011 @ 15:51:42

    I’ve been anxious to try this one out because I’m curious as to what Maya Banks will do with it. I’m not a huge fan of her erotica but I feel like her Romantic Suspense has been from good to very good. I think very good Romantic Suspense is hard to write though because the author starts with what is probably a very unbelievable scenario (how many of us really need to dodge all those bullets?) and then has to sell that plus a relationship. I think that if this book is a Garwood rewrite I might like it. I mean, I’ve paged through how many Twilight rewrites now and how many Shapeshifter clones?…. might as well give Garwood a go.

    I’m a Vine member too but I hardly ever request books to review. That’s mostly because I prefer to read eBooks. I don’t know how I got the Vine invitation. It just appeared one day.

  17. Kim
    Aug 31, 2011 @ 17:01:50

    The historical inaccuracy in a fictional novel usually isn’t as important to me as long as the story is good. However, your reference to modern phrases and dialogue can be problematic in a historical.

  18. Statch
    Aug 31, 2011 @ 17:36:55

    I don’t believe the Vine program invitation has to do with how many reviews you’ve done (or what kinds), because I got the invitation and I rarely write reviews there.

  19. Jinni
    Aug 31, 2011 @ 18:02:55

    @Jane – yes, I was wondering why she read/reviewed the book. Lately, many folks I know have been reading books because they’re popular even when they don’t like the author’s other books. I think it’s an interesting phenomenon – group think perhaps.

  20. Emily
    Aug 31, 2011 @ 18:58:12

    I just want to say that this book sounds like almost every Barbara Cartland novel I ever read, not the Scotland part but the heroine reminds me strongly of Dame Cartland’s characters based on reading the blurbs and reviews, and the book trailer.
    I don’t know what VINE is either.
    Joan of Arc was allegedly struck with an arrow which she didn’t realise during the heat of battle. Not that this relates to the book, but I thought I would point it out.

  21. DA_January
    Aug 31, 2011 @ 20:28:41

    @RBA: I have not tried the KGI books. They did not appeal to me. And the history is a personal bugaboo – I want to feel like the author attempted to get things right. I can understand the occasional miss, but miss after miss bothers me.

  22. DA_January
    Aug 31, 2011 @ 20:29:40

    @DS: I thought it might be wall, but am unsure. It was not a bad book, so I understand the raves on Amazon. It just wasn’t a particularly original one. There are some cute moments.

  23. DA_January
    Aug 31, 2011 @ 20:33:11

    @Jinni:
    I received an advance copy to read and the reviews on Amazon were positive. I think Maya Banks is a competent writer, but the storylines she picks are not my favorite, so she falls into the “Not right for me” stack most often. This is different than the “This person cannot write” stack. This sounded more to my liking than her erotic titles, hence I read it.

  24. DA_January
    Aug 31, 2011 @ 20:34:40

    @Allie:
    I like all things in moderation. Highlanders with too much brogue are not my cup of tea. This was very easy to read in that aspect.

  25. DA_January
    Aug 31, 2011 @ 20:36:37

    @Janet P.: You might like it, if you are a fan of her other books. I don’t come from a place where I’ve read lots of her backlist, so this was a newer, in a sense, author to me. It was good but not great. If I was at the bookstore, I’d peek at the sequels as well.

  26. DA_January
    Aug 31, 2011 @ 20:37:45

    @Emily: Perhaps I am hard on the arrow issue. The heroine is wounded in this one quite a bit, but the injuries are played down repeatedly, hence my irritation when she was shot with the arrow.

  27. DA_January
    Aug 31, 2011 @ 20:38:52

    @Kim: Kim, my review copy had several modern words, but since it was an early review copy, I could not quote from it. Perhaps they were fixed prior to publication. Do not let that deter you if this sounds like your kind of book.

  28. Honeywell
    Aug 31, 2011 @ 22:03:13

    This is probably going to be a DNF for me. Even though I love a vulnerable heroine/ protective alpha story (which is why I tend to like Maya Bank’s books to begin with) the characters and story are predictable and boring. If I’m honest, I don’t like any of the characters–even that stupid little boy I get the feeling I’m supposed to oooh and aaah over. lol

    It doesn’t help that the book (so far) reads like a mash-up of scenes from Julie Garwood’s historicals (I couldn’t agree more with that part of your review DA_January) except without any of the charm and likability. Every time I come across a scene that Garwood did too (and there’s a lot so far) I’m pulled out of the story because I’m wondering why it’s not working for me when I loved Garwood’s version.

    Meh. Maybe I’m just in a “mood” so I’ll pick this up again in a few weeks to see if I can’t get any enjoyment out of it.

  29. Sirius
    Sep 01, 2011 @ 06:20:12

    @Jane: Oh, no problem at all.

  30. Sirius
    Sep 01, 2011 @ 06:25:42

    @Statch: Then I have no clue at all :). Maybe if not how many reviews then for how long you had been writing them, even if you wrote only a few? I don’t know. I was also thinking maybe that “helpful/not helpful” thingy they have, but my helpful rating is always somewhere in the 80s and never goes any higher, so probably not either. No idea.

  31. Emily
    Sep 01, 2011 @ 22:50:25

    I love Maya Banks but this story was highly unoriginal except for one aspect. It was an amalgamation of a variety of Julie Garwood books and I’m wondering if Maya didn’t realize it or she didn’t care. It goes beyond coincidences. Right down to the heroine protecting the boy she finds from a beating. Honestly, it drove me nuts. The heroine also did some fairly stupid, immature, things and has some reactions that were quite unreasonable and no she doesn’t learn because she does them again. It’s alright read but I completely agreed with the C rating.

  32. Erin
    Sep 06, 2011 @ 21:09:56

    I just finished this book. I’ve enjoyed quite a few of Banks’ other books, though there have been a few that haven’t work very well for me.

    I had high hopes for this one, but I have to agree, I felt like I was reading a retread of various Julie Garwood books. It was really rather bizarre, and kept pulling me out of the story.

    I’m undecided on the sequels. If I want Garwood, I’ll read the original.

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  34. Kim
    Oct 22, 2011 @ 13:44:24

    I heard some good things about this book, so I thought I’d give it a try. I must say that I agree with DA_January’s’s review, because I found many of the same problems.

    First, if the word laird was used one more time, I was going to scream. It felt like “laird” was used in every other sentence. Yes, Ewan’s the head of his clan, but can’t another form of address be used just to break things up? Also, I’ve never heard of a skirt on the exterior of a castle either. I interpreted it to mean a jagged piece of land, but why the emphasis throughout the book? I agree with the reviewer’s overall impression of the heroine. The first time Miarin expresses her thoughts out loud it was cute, but the author kept using the device over and over again. It soon grew tedious. Finally, as for the identity of Ewan’s betrayer, there was absolutely no hint or reason given. It’s as if Ms. Banks just chose anyone amongst Ewan’s clan without any consideration of his motive.

    A couple of positives was any scene that little Crispin was in and the overall writing in the novel was good. It’s just that the negatives outweighed the positives.

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