As one who has listened to dozens and dozens of highland romance audiobooks, I couldn’t help but notice certain characteristics that make out the genre. Characteristics such as the broad-chested, deep-voiced, and hard-muscled, alpha-male highlander, the sassy, unintimidated heroine, or the magical setting of the Scottish Highlands. But what elements make highland romance audiobooks particularly
unique and desirable?
Taming the alpha-male in highland romance audiobooks
Whether it is a Jamie Fraser from “Outlander”, Thor MacLeod from The Chief, Drustan MacKeltar from Kiss of the highlander or Iain Maitland from the Secret, they all have one thing in common. They are highlanders. And not just any highlander. They are lairds, the rulers and protectors of their respective clans. The highlander belongs definitely in the category of high-handed alpha-males. They are big. They are bossy. They are extraordinarily strong. Despite of their caveman attitudes, highlanders are also intelligent, persuasive, and understanding when it comes to their women. Foremost, however, they are warriors, and that means that they see love as being a distraction to their duties and an insult for their manhood. Therefore, they often try to convince themselves that they aren’t emotionally involved with the heroine until it is almost to late, which is often the main obstacle of the story. Narrators of highland romance audiobooks have tried, with varying success, to perform a Scottish accent. After all, what is a highlander without a brogue? A few narrators who manage it well are Joel Froomkin (“The Valiant highlander”), Phil Gigante (Kiss of the highlander), and Davina Porter (“Outlander”).
A strong clan bound by love
The most important trait of a highlander is the love for his country and clan. As a sign of his belonging, he wears a kilt. With a tartan pattern unique for his clan. Nothing is more important to a highlander than his extended family. Therefore, every heroine’s first task is to make the clan fall in love with her. Judith from The Secret goes from being ignored for being English to earning the respect of the women by delivering their babies, organising competitions for their children, and even offering a position to a former enemy. Gwen from Kiss of the highlander gains Drustan’s clan’s respect by persistently chasing after him and by playing chess. Elizabeth from The Chief does it by helping the women and entertaining the children. As a leaderr, the highland laird often struggles between his love for the clan, his family, and the love for the heroine. Both rely on his protection. Yet, like in the relationship to her hunky highlander, the heroine always wins.
The bonnie lasses fight for love
The heroines in highland romances are usually on the look-out for a change in their lives. Whether they are long-time virgins like Gwen from Kiss of the highlander, hopeless romantics like Elizabeth from The Chief, or trying to escape an evil villain like Claire from “Outlander”. They are often rescued by their highlanders in one way or another. In the beginning, they see the hero as either intimidating or excruciatingly gorgeous, or both. Since they are usually either English or American, depending on the time of the story, they are more often than not confronted with the deep-rooted distrust of the Scots towards the English. Even though, they do get rescued and protected a lot, the heroines aren’t generally portrayed as inexperienced, or in need of assistance. Rather, they are usually intelligent, resourceful, and even independent women, a trait that impress their highlanders more than anything else. Claire storms a prison for her Jamie, Elizabeth tries to warn her Thor when the enemy is about to attack, Gwen follows her Drustan into an unknown time, and Judith overcomes her fear of delivering babies. With patience, persistence, and stubbornness, they get their highland lover to admit to his feelings as soon as they are threatened, because he realises that he cannot live without them.
The magic of the Scottish Highlands
Whatever would a highland romance audiobook be without the majestic mountains, ice-cold lochs, and purple heather of the Scottish Highlands? This is why, every Scottish romance has a strong connection to the country in one way or another. Mostly, the landscape is described as barbaric, coldly forbidding, and wildly beautiful. Surrounded by the ocean, and covered with deep forests, the highlands, and the highland romance genre is bursting with Celtic legends and traditions. The ocean is filled with selkies (women taking the shape of seals), fairies, dragons, and dwarves. They contribute to the overall impression of the heroine entering a whole new world.
A time of war and love
The best-known highland romance is undeniably the “Outlander”-series by Diana Gabaldon, where the heroine Claire travels through time by way of the standing stones to find herself in the 18th century just before the Jacobite Rising of 1745. Her example is followed by other authors, who either let their characters travel back through time like in Karen Marie Moning’s Kiss of the highlander, or forth like in Margaret Mallory’s “A time and space for every Laird”.
Most highland romance audiobooks are historical and play either during the First Scottish War of Independence at the end of the 13th century like The Chief by Monica MacCarty, after the Jacobite rising of 1689 like “Claimed by the highlander” by Julianne MacLean, or the Jacobite Rising of 1745 like “Outlander” by Diana Gabaldon. This makes the highlander a mostly historical figure, who due to his protective, high-handed, yet chivalrous nature, is more convincing in a time, where he can fight for either his clan or his country.
Personally, I fell in love with highland romance audiobooks because of the historical and mystical setting of the Scottish Highlands as well as the strong bond of responsibility and love between the highlander and his clan. The female lead is introduced into a family, where everybody takes care of each other. Consequently, she is not only charmed by the muscles and brogue of her highland laird, but also by the members of the clan themselves and her highlander’s willingness to protect them from harm.
I hope I could give you an impression on what makes this genre special. What are your favourite highland romances? Feel free to leave a comment below.