Saturday, December 12, 2015
#49 [2015/CBR7] "Highlander Most Wanted" by Maya Banks
After the dark and disturbing Into the Woods, I was ready for something, fun, light, and entertaining. It was definitely time for a romance novel, but there wasn't much immediately available at the library. So, I found Highlander Most Wanted (2013) by Maya Banks. I'd never read anything by Banks, but it looked like she'd written a lot of books, so I assumed she must have figured out what she was doing. Apparently she's also written a lot of contemporary romances. I have a feeling I might have enjoyed one of those more.
Genevieve McInnis was on her way to her arranged marriage when her convoy was attacked and everyone killed but her. Ian McHugh (think of an older, crazier, and stupider Joffrey Baratheon) became obsessed with Genevieve when she rebuffed him at Court, so he took it upon himself to kidnap her and make her his sex slave, degrading her at every opportunity.
But when Ian McHugh kidnaps Eveline, the wife of the Laird of the Montgomery clan, he goes too far. The powerful Montgomery clan finds Eveline, kills Ian/Joffrey, and then rides to the McHugh keep to take over the McHugh lands. Genevieve is grateful that she is now under the control of the honorable Montgomery clan, and she quickly befriends Bowen Montgomery, brother to the laird. They immediately take a liking to each other--probably because they are both beautiful and Bowen isn't an evil tyrant.
I had a lot of problems with this book. The biggest one is the casual way Banks brings in the rape and torture of her heroine. Although Banks doesn't go into too much detail about the horrific year that Genevieve spent as a sex slave, I could not get it out of my head. The subject was way too dark for me, and Banks does not treat it with enough gravitas to be remotely realistic. Genevieve was not allowed to speak with anyone, she was raped repeatedly, raped repeatedly by other men of the clan, threatened and physically attacked, and forced to sleep on the floor. One of the primary conflicts of the book is Genevieve getting over the shame of what occurred to her and realizing that she's beautiful despite the knife scar Ian gave her across one side of her face.
Bowen was a bland, albeit very nice hero. He was very pretty, he didn't jump to conclusions, and he didn't act like an asshole alpha. But after all the horror Genevieve went through, the romance between Bowen and Genevieve was just uncomfortable and unrealistic. Genevieve was a one-dimensional character, defined only by the horrible things that happened to her. She was grateful to not be in hell anymore, and she was wholly dependent on Bowen to keep her safe and get her away from the McHugh clan. The first time they have sex, it was an awkward juxtaposition of Genevieve blithely getting over her past horrors and acting like a virgin. It was painful to read.
The final conflict keeping our lovers apart doesn't even make any sense. Genevieve loves her family beyond anything and they've always been nothing but loving to her, but she doesn't want to tell them she's alive because she doesn't want to put them through the shame of what happened to her. This is a grating opinion that Genevieve wordily reiterates at every opportunity. Bowen goes ahead and tells her parents that their only daughter is still alive, but he is torn because he doesn't want to lose her to her family. Umm...Genevieve was already leaving her family to get married. Why can't she tell her family she's alive and still marry Bowen? Why is this even a question? Why did I even have to read the last quarter of this book?
There are also a number of things that just don't make sense or are not explained in this book. Banks doesn't adequately explain why the rest of the McHugh's would turn against Genevive so strongly or how Tallie was able to befriend her. Also, how did Tallie know that Genevieve encouraged Ian to go against the Montgomery clan. Why weren't Genevieve's parents with her on the way to her wedding when it was made clear later in the book that they wouldn't miss her wedding for the world? Why does Bowen go on and on about how he would do anything for Genevieve and he cares more for her than anything, but he doesn't care if he gets her pregnant before sending her off with her family? In fact, I find it interesting that Genevieve did not get pregnant after a year of repeated rape by numerous men, but as soon as the semen of Bowen touches her, she's knocked up.
So, this one turned out to be exactly what I didn't want to read about: rape and torture. It took me out of the story, and I simply could not appreciate the romance. I think I might be done with Maya Banks.