"Highland Surrender" by Dawn Halliday

Pros: The characters’ conflicting emotions were convincingly portrayed; the reader can see the Earl of Camdonn’s growth from the last book.
Cons: The person that Elizabeth wants to get away from feels like a caricature.
Rating: 3.75 out of 5

Review book courtesy of Penguin Group

After his disastrous relationship with Sorcha, the Earl of Camdonn traveled to England and became engaged to Lady Elizabeth, who is on her way to his castle where they will be wed. Cam rides to her rescue, but is shot in the shoulder. She escapes and is rescued by Robert MacLean, who takes her back to the Earl’s castle. Ceana MacNab comes across the wounded Cam and takes him to her house, where she patches him up. A connection forms between the two, but Cam doesn’t want to give into it, because he is engaged to the Lady Elizabeth, and the last time he gave into his passions it nearly destroyed him. Elizabeth, meanwhile, is desperate to be wed, because there is a person whose influence she can only be free of by marrying. They must all struggle between the pulls of duty and desire.


 

After reading Dawn Halliday’s Highland Obsession I wasn’t sure whether or not I was going to like Highland Surrender, but I was very pleasantly surprised. Ms. Halliday appears to have undergone significant growth as an author between these two books and I had a much more enjoyable time reading “Highland Surrender” as opposed to “Highland Obsession”. I found the Earl of Camdonn to be much more sympathetic this time, because he doesn’t react in some of the more immature ways he did in the previous book. For me as a reader, it was a very rewarding feeling to have been able to watch his development.

The plot also felt nicely hefty in comparison to the last one, because the reader’s focus is not only on the interactions between the protagonists but on the interactions between secondary characters as well. We get to revisit some of the people we met in the previous book, and in doing so we learn more about both the characters and the ideas of the world that they inhabit. I have always tended towards British historical romances, which feature a rather restrictive society, and so it was a real treat to see the breadth of ideals that could be believably embraced in the society that Ms. Halliday had envisioned.

All of these different idealĀ  also make for two very interesting female protagonists. Elizabeth is a girl who grew up with a good deal of heartbreak in her life, and she is not afraid to take risks to find a few happy moments. Even knowing that there could be serious consequences, she grasps at fleeting moments of joy, which is all the more surprising given the ideas of the day about women and sexuality. Ceana, on the other hand, isn’t about to let any man tie her down. She won’t allow herself to marry a man, but at the same time she doesn’t deprive herself of liaisons either. She’s also got her own set of morals, which won’t let her stay with a man who wants to pursue a serious relationship with her. I loved connecting with these two women because they had qualities that I generally don’t see in historicals.

The one thing that did make the story fall flat to me was the way in which the person that Elizabeth hopes to rid herself of by marrying Cam doesn’t seem to be all that much of a menace. They have caused much harm in the past, and will try to do so again, but the character is so filled with spite, malice, and over-the-top evil that for me it crossed the line into unbelievability. There wasn’t very much in the way of humanity so it felt like a caricature and took away the suspense, because I knew that a character that evil would be stopped before any serious damage was done. The extent to which this character is willing to go to accomplish their ends feels contrived, as if regular evil wasn’t good enough so they had to become EVIL. For some readers this character might be terrifying but to me they were slightly comical.

This was certainly an enjoyable book for me, especially because we get to see such a great deal of character progression. It actually made the book more enjoyable for me than it might have otherwise because I know just how hard Cam has had to work from one book to the other to reach the emotional maturity he has now. The women he interacts with are also interesting, and I loved learning more about the characters by watching how they interacted with each other. That being said, however, I wish that the villain had been handled a little bit differently, humanized a little bit. That would have made the ending feel much more suspenseful for me, and made a good book great. Ms. Halliday is making great strides as an author, and given a little bit more time at this rate of growth, she will become a star. I am very much looking forward to her next book!

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