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5 Stars / Contemporary / Review / Romantic Comedy

Review: Highland Games by Evie Alexander

Zoe’s always played it safe, just as her parents wanted. But when her great-uncle dies and leaves her a ramshackle cabin in the Scottish Highlands, she decides it’s time to change her life.

Upping sticks seems like a good idea in her cosy London flat, but the reality is very different. There’s no electricity or running water, the roof leaks and there’s no front door. If that wasn’t bad enough, she’s moved up in the depths of winter and her scorching hot neighbour wants her out.

Rory’s got a fifty thousand tonne problem. If he can’t make Kinloch castle profitable, he’s out of a job. He needs a clear head, but there’s someone living in the cabin he saw as his own and she’s turned his world upside down.

Rory needs Zoe out of Scotland, and out of his life. The trouble is, she has no intention of leaving.

Let the games begin.

Title:Highland Games
Author:Evie Alexander
Series:Kinloch Series (Book 1)
Pages:310
Category / Genre(s):Contemporary
Romantic Comedy
Trope(s):Enemies to Lovers
Fish Out of Water
Hidden Identity ⇦ spoiler underneath
Point of View:Third Person, Past Tense, Dual Viewpoint (H & h)
Location:Kinloch, Scotland (and some London), UK
HEA:✔️
Release Date:15th October, 2021
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Sexy Scottish Shenanigans

I’m always up for a sexy enemies-to-lovers romance and the blurb of this book sounded super cute. The reality is actually even better as we’ve also got the grumpy loves sunshine trope, 2 main characters that are perfect for each other all set against a backdrop of mud, rain and all the other delights of the Scottish Highlands.

I love a heroine like Zoe – one who’s brave enough to make a life-altering decision and fierce enough to take things (like Highland cows and rats) completely in her stride. Yet it’s the little things that she worries over and overthinks, making her someone it’s so easy to love and root for. She’s quirky without being a caricature and while she might be new to Highland life, she’s definitely not clueless or thoughtless about her change in circumstances.

Rory is the best kind of book boyfriend and I was cursing Ms Alexander throughout the book for not including pictures of this god of a gorgeous man. He’s a tough ex-soldier who while being gruff and a mountain of a man – is also in need of a good ol’ hug and knowing that he is liked for himself. He’s also so thoughtful with a great sense of humour and he gets extra points for the way he describes Zoe in his head.

“…I was cursing Ms Alexander throughout the book for not including pictures of this god of a gorgeous man.”

And that’s what I loved best about Zoe and Rory and their relationship – the fact that they could be themselves around each other and the other person liked them anyway – just the way they were. Part of that might have been that they were pretending not to like each other in the beginning so there was no thought of pretences… but it just gave me a deliciously happy feeling inside. Happy sighs.

Maybe what I actually loved best about Zoe and Rory, now that I think about it, was the chemistry they had together – and how when that was unfulfilled, led to some sexual tension for the ages. It got so good that I wanted to smoosh their faces together so badly. But when they did… that wedding scene in the castle nearly burnt my bloody house down.

I’m not ashamed to admit that I always have a teensy bit of trepidation when I see a book set in Scotland or with Scottish characters – will it be a massive cringe fest full of “och aye the noos”? Well, I can confirm that this phrase is indeed uttered in this book – but fear not, it’s all in good fun and there were absolutely no cringe-worthy Scottishisms anywhere to be seen! Definitely Scotland approved!

This book fair drew me in. I’m used to getting lost in a book but the writing style of Ms Alexander really made me lose track of time and where I was. I was completely immersed in this story and the writing – I was shocked to find out this is actually Evie Alexander’s first published novel. I will happily be looking our for more of her writing in the future and would highly recommend this book to anyone looking to escape to Scotland for some rest and romance. Easily 5 stars.

* I received this book in exchange for my honest review *

Evie Alexander is the author of sexy romantic comedies with a very British sense of humour. She takes a method approach to her work, believing her capacity to repeatedly fail at life and love is what has given her such a rich supply of material for her writing.

Her interests include reading, eating, saving the world, and fantasising about people who only exist between the pages of her books. She lives in the West country with her family.

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Excerpt:

The courtyard was old and utilitarian. Part car park, part workshop. A muddy truck, bearing a coat of arms, was parked haphazardly next to a pile of logs. The courtyard looked like a place for dumping things for dealing with later or never. But it was also a place where the heavens had opened and flung out a god. To the side of the courtyard, facing away from her was Thor’s better proportioned brother. Thor got the hammer, but this guy got an axe. He was splitting wood with ease and precision, his movements effortless and exact, a fusion of man, metal and wood.

He was shirtless, wearing faded trousers and brown leather work boots that looked so used he must sleep in them. His body appeared chiselled from golden marble, with not an ounce of fat to hide his perfection. Zoe watched, mesmerised, as he casually swung the axe down, his muscles moving in exquisite harmony. She stared at the expanse of his back and arms, a body created by work outdoors, not pumped up in a city gym. His hair, wavy and wild, skeins of dark honey and gold, almost grazing his shoulders. She felt dizzy, discombobulated, a ringing sounded in her ears as her unconscious mind and hormones roared into life. She shook her head, confused by her reaction to the sight in front of her.

He bent over to pick up another log and Zoe’s eyes slid down to the peachy perfection of his backside. She breathed faster, her jaw slack, her mouth dry and heart pounding. He might have had a face like a dog’s dinner but she didn’t care. She would just worship his back, and arms, and bum, and – oh no. It was happening again. Not now!

In stressful social situations, Zoe’s default reaction was to laugh. The more inappropriate the situation, the more hysterical she became. Zoe was the child who cackled like a hyena at funerals, who wet herself when her elderly neighbour was carted off in an ambulance with a broken arm. It was embarrassing, uncontrollable and socially unacceptable. The sight of the most incredible man (back half) she had ever seen started out as hyperventilation, then careered out of control into a screeching car crash of a laugh.

The god turned around, still holding the axe. Zoe had a glimpse of a ten pack of abs before she doubled over, one hand clapped to her mouth trying to disguise the hysteria as a coughing fit.

He put down the axe and pulled on a faded plaid shirt, slowly and deliberately doing up the buttons from the top to the bottom. It was a striptease in reverse but Zoe had never seen anything so erotic before. She had to get control of herself. She needed this guy’s wood.

I need this guy’s wood… she thought, compressing her lips together so tightly her hysteria had no other exit than her nose. She snorted so hard her eyes watered from the pain, then the fake cough to cover it up made her throat raw.

Still, Thor’s brother patiently waited.

‘I’m so sorry!’ she gasped. ‘Something caught in my throat!’

Get it together! she inwardly screamed as she straightened up, brought herself back under some semblance of control, and looked at the stranger.

As her eyes met his, a jolt of electricity shot through her. He had the eyes of a wolf, the ice blue of a glacier, rimmed with grey, striations of silver shooting out from bottomless black irises. They held her as the rest of the world dropped away. She took in the pure maleness of him; his features strong and powerful, a slight bump on his nose from being broken, full lips, high cheekbones, all set in the bronzed face of someone who lived his life under the open skies. His hair was a golden shaggy mess and had clearly not seen a brush for years, yet Zoe wanted to reach up, run her hands through it and bring his mouth crushing down on hers. What is happening to me? Speak to him!

‘Er, hi, erm… Morag who runs the post office said you might be able to sort me out? I mean, I need some wo—fuel for my Rayburn. I’m Zoe by the way,’ she trilled manically, thrusting forward her hand as if to shake his.

He didn’t move. She faltered and dropped her arm, chewing nervously at her bottom lip. God, she had done it this time. Or was he a deaf-mute?

‘I know who you are,’ said the man-bear.

Zoe shut her eyes, her flushed cheeks turning instantly ashen. Oh god, oh god, oh god, oh god, GROUND OPEN NOW! She sighed, opened her eyes and faced him down.

‘Look, I think we got off on the wrong foot last night. I was scared and you were, er, something. Now, as you can see, I’m here to stay for at least the next thirty years before I give my home back to your boss, so please can I just buy some wood, then I can get out of your hair.’

Zoe could have sworn a glint of humour flashed across his face as she spoke, but then the lights went out.

‘No.’

‘Er, what?’

‘No, you cannot buy any of the estate’s wood.’

‘What? Why not?’

‘Because I say so.’

‘What if Morag from the post office wants some?’

‘She can buy as much as she likes.’

‘Then I’d like to buy some for her.’

He smirked. ‘Nice try, but still no. And don’t come back in ten minutes wearing a wig and a moustache, you’re unforgettable.’

Obviously not in a good way, she inwardly groaned. ‘But why won’t you let me buy any?’

He paused. ‘Because I’m not enabling your insanity any further. Have you ever spent a winter in the Highlands? Have you even considered what you need to do to the place? The first time you set a fire, whatever is currently nesting in the chimney will go up in flames taking you and the cabin with it. I’m not going to be the one who sold you the wood that killed you.’ He raised his massive, calloused hands, ticking off each point. ‘One, it doesn’t have electricity; two, plumbing; three, water; four, a phone line; five, mobile signal; or six, sewerage. Christ, it doesn’t even have a frigging door! You need to get back into that lovely little car of yours and go back home. You don’t belong here.’

You don’t belong here. Zoe’s throat constricted. This was the only place she had ever felt she truly belonged. Tears pricked at her eyes before anger replaced them.

‘How dare you! And who are you to decide what I do or don’t do? Lord of the bloody manor? I’m not taking orders about my life and my land from someone who looks like they sleep in a hedge. And you’re a fine one to talk about belonging. You don’t even sound Scottish!’

Thor’s brother shrugged, turned his back, picked up the axe and started chopping again.

Unbelievable! As he moved to pick up a new log from the pile, Zoe leapt forward, grabbed the pieces he had just split and legged it out of the courtyard with a victorious yell. She was going to have his wood whether he liked it or not…

Kinloch Series:

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