If you enjoy Highlander historical romances and Cinderella-like tales, you may want to check out Highland Barbarian. Each book in the Murray Family series follows the love life of a different Murray family member and can be read in any order. While this storyline is generally predictable, its feel good message that love can be found in unexpected places, even for individuals who have previously been made to feel less than perfect, makes it a charming tale.
Following the death of her father, Cecily Donaldson is raised in the Lowlands of Scotland by distant cousins who care more for her inheritance than her well-being. Perpetually scheming to find a way to steal her fortune (which they make her believe has been left to them), she is brought-up as a second-class citizen, forced to work with the servants and beaten and verbally abused on a routine basis. Finally, when Cecily comes of age and the opportunity presents itself, they broker a deal with an equally corrupt suitor to obtain part of her dowry in exchange for their consent to her marriage.
Believing that her closest kin, an uncle who is the Laird of Glascreag, is apathetic to her, Cecily is unaware of his numerous attempts to contact her or the many gifts he has sent over the years. Now that he is getting on in years, and still without a son, the Laird of Glascreag decides to send his protege, Artan Murray, to find Cecily, offering to name him his heir if he marries Cecily. Despite this incredibly generous offer, Artan informs the Laird of Glascreag that he will find Cecily and bring her back, but will only marry her if he feels an attraction to her.
Artan arrives just as Cecily’s wedding festivities are commencing. Quickly discerning the despicable situation that Cecily is in, Artan vows to rescue her, irrespective of whether he fulfills his bargain. Convincing Cecily, however, will not be easy notwithstanding the physical connection they feel for one another. Attempting first to seduce her into leaving (and failing), he kidnaps her. Cecily is no docile lass though, and doesn’t believe that her family has been plotting against her, so she tries to escape. Moreover, Artan’s less than straightforward methods and her mountain of insecurities fostered by her cruel cousins, further lead to significant trust issues. Will Cecily ever truly believe that Artan is attracted to her, not just her wealth? Moreover, even if he does desire her, will a barbarian like Artan ever let himself fall in love with her? Add in a villain who refuses to let his golden ticket go, and Artan and Cecily find themselves in a race against time.
While I am a fan of a number of Angela Dawe’s other performances, including Tiffany Snow’s Kathleen Turner series (one of my favorites), this narration was not quite what I was expecting. Perhaps I set the bar too high, given my previous stellar experience with Ms. Dawe’s narrations, but the particular voices she chose for a few characters were not as I would have imagined them. In particular, Cecily’s was deeper than I expected, so much so that at a couple of points I found Cecily and Old Meg (her maid) difficult to differentiate from some of the males. This forced me to rely on dialogue tags, which pulled me out of the story. While I was mostly able to settle in and let the narration fade into the background, I found myself pondering this several times (even at the end). To me, the best narrations are those that call no attention to the performance, allowing me to fully enjoy the romance. Unfortunately this narration did not satisfy that aspect.
Nonetheless, I look forward to listening to future works by Ms. Dawe, albeit perhaps not of Highlander romances, as I have had great success with others. That’s perfect proof that even some of the best narrators may not be suited for every role, at least not to the satisfaction of all.
All in all, I enjoyed Highland Barbarian and found myself cheering for Cecily to triumph over her evil cousins and, of course, for Cecily and Artan’s HEA.
Book Content: B
Steam Factor: Glad I had my earbuds in
Violence: Domestic Violence (physical and verbal abuse)
Genre: Historical Romance
Publisher: Tantor Audio
Highland Barbarian was provided to AudioGals for review by Tantor Audio.