a recent conversation about the appeal of Scottish Highland romance novels, a
male friend said, “They’re wearing skirts! How can that be such a turn on?”
is the gist of my reply: I explained
that a romance reader’s infatuation with Highlanders is rooted in the appeal of
the romance novel in general, which has, at its core, a love story steeped in
conflict. This should come as no
surprise, since conflict is the foundation for all works of fiction. You
probably learned that in middle school.
the romance genre, the best stories finish with a happy ending that seems
impossible to achieve along the way. The
greater the struggle, the more satisfying the resolution.
second element that drives a good romance is the emotional intensity that
emerges from a solid and defined character arc (i.e. the transformation of a
hero or heroine from deeply flawed or wounded in the beginning, to a more open,
loving, and complete person in the end).
Who better than a savage warrior to escort us through such a journey of
the Scottish Highlander. He is born out
of a rugged and breathtaking physical landscape which feeds into our fantasies
of exotic mythical heroes. The country itself was forged over centuries of heated
battles in the defense of freedom and honor.
Clan fought against clan to protect their rights, and occasionally those
same clans stood united against tyranny from England. We can’t help but root for the inspiring
courage and dedication of these vigorous men who fought as underdogs against
the overwhelming strength of the English army. They fought with heart, and were
willing to die for what they believed in.
does this translate into a love story that delivers?
a word, it’s all about the conflict, and when it comes to Scottish Highlanders,
the possibilities and complexities are endless, for both external and internal
we have the setting (drop a well-bred aristocratic lady onto a windy, rain-swept
moor without her maid, and there are bound to be struggles). There can also be political differences if
she is English or from a rival Scottish clan.
importantly, we meet a seasoned, dangerous warrior who might be laird of a
castle, chief of a clan, or leader of a band of rebels. He is a fierce alpha male, usually scarred
from tragic events in his life (and there is a deep well of dark and violent
tragedy for an author to draw from in Scottish history). He is physically powerful, brave, and
sometimes frightening with his heavy claymore and a gleaming lust for battle in
romance author will likely pair such an awe-inspiring beast with a strong and
courageous heroine who is up to the task of bringing this mighty warrior to his
knees—in gratitude for the love and warmth she brings into his dark, tortured,
and sometimes bloody existence.
all three of my Highlander historicals, the conflict
between the hero and heroine created a dynamic of fear for the heroine, who was
forced to confront and hold her own against a physically superior being who either
abducted her, conquered her people, or was bent on revenge. In each book, he could have killed her in a
heartbeat if he wanted to.
perfect Scottish hero would never do any of those things, of course, because he
is decent and honorable at heart, but the heroine doesn’t know that in the
beginning, and neither does the reader.
So it’s the perfect breeding ground for heart-pounding adventure, alive
with emotional suspense and the journey of personal discovery. The heroine must
learn to trust and believe in the man she considers to be her enemy.
just this sort of sexual and emotional tension that stirs a romance reader’s
passions and delivers a happy, satisfied sigh in the end, when a savage hero
learns how to be vulnerable and open his heart to a gentler, more tender relationship.
The reader feels empowered, because in terms of the heart, it is often the
heroine who rescues the hero, and shows him the healing power of love.
let us not forget, on the surface off all this romantic conflict, we have a gorgeous,
virile hero with a swoon-worthy Scottish brogue.
finish with a bit of naughty fun - my top ten list of how Highlanders differ
from dukes. Then please tell me which
you prefer—a Scottish warrior or an English gentleman. I would love to hear
#10 – A Highlander carries an axe instead
of a walking stick, which can come in handy if you need to chop down a tree.
#9 – A Highlander won’t complain if you
have to sleep in a cave.
#8 – A Highlander doesn’t need to worry
about fumbling with trouser fastenings.
#7 – A Highlander DOES need to worry about
a cool, stiff breeze.
#6 – A Highlander can run up hills, so he
has great cardio stamina.
#5 – A Highlander can buy you a drink
because he carries a man purse.
#4 - A duke may have royal blood. A Highlander likes to spill royal blood.
#3 – A duke requires a certain income. A Highlander can make do with a dirk and a
#2 – A Highlander is more likely to grunt
and groan, which gives him that attractive “savage” air.
#1 – A Highlander has a bigger sword, and
Interested in romance? Sign up for Romance Delivers, a weekly email featuring the best in romance each week - from weekly booklists to deals and exclusive content from authors.