To Wed a Highland Bride

Sarah Gabriel
2007, Fantasy Romance (1820s England)
Avon, $5.99, 384 pages, Amazon ASIN 0061234966

Grade: B+
Sensuality: Warm

Many (okay...most) of the historical romances Iíve read with paranormal or fantasy elements have disappointed me. However, Sarah Gabrielís combination of fairies, second sight, and Scotland added up to a romance I could really warm up to.

James MacCarran and his siblings have inherited a vast fortune from his grandmother. Yet, in order for all four siblings to actually receive their portion, each must meet certain conditions set by her. James, the new Viscount Struan - and professor of natural philosophy - must finish writing his grandmotherís book of fairy lore and find a bride of fairy blood. Despite what he feels is an impossible task, he sets out for Struan House in the Highlands to meet the conditions.

The circumstances of Elspeth MacArthurís birth are quite unusual. Dealings with fairies by her grandfather and her father resulted in a dreaded destiny for Elspeth to fulfill. Elspethís father fell in love with a fairy girl and to be with her, he had to leave the human world. As a result, upon Elspethís birth her father gave her to his father for keeping until her 21st birthday, at which time she would return to the world of the Fey unless, yet again, certain conditions are met. Elspeth, however, plans to remain with her grandfather, a renowned weaver, at any cost.

When James and Elspeth meet briefly the first time at a formal introduction to the King, Elspeth accidentally demonstrates her fairy gift of second sight. James is skeptical of Elspethís behavior, yet intrigued at the same time. During the following months, James canít get Elspeth out of his mind. In the meantime he takes up residence at Struan House and settles in to finish his grandmotherís work despite warnings from the locals about the possibility of being stolen by the fairies. Of course, James is skeptical and decides to remain.

Elspeth, whose grandfather is away trying to find her a husband in the Lowlands in order to remove her from fairy threat, is forced to stay alone for a night with James at his home. However, she is thrilled to be compromised as she sees it as her way out of an unwanted marriage to a Lowlander. While there, the attraction grows. The relationship continues, in a predictable, almost tug-of-war fashion, while they confront Elspethís destiny and solve their fairy problems.

I enjoyed James and Elspethís story and the world that Gabriel created. The weaving is presented to show the art and history involved in what Elspeth and her grandfather produce and how important it is to them. The Highlands are drawn in a way that allowed me to imagine the rain, mists, cold and the possibility of fairies. I also enjoyed the characters - James, the scholar who is skeptical until he can no longer deny the fantastical (mainly because of how he feels about Elspeth), and Elspeth, who keeps her secrets, but ones that are understandable to an extent.

I truly enjoyed the Scottish Highlands that Sarah Gabriel created in To Wed a Highland Bride and look forward to the other books in this series. If youíre looking for a sweet historical fantasy, this is one that I can recommend.

-- Heather Brooks

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