The Scottish Highlands during the eleventh century were pretty exciting times particularly after William of Normandy invaded the lands to the south and the Norse and Irish were still invading the coasts as well. Exciting times indeed and a strong backdrop for an action and romance plot. I jumped in eagerly, moderately enjoyed the story for most of it, but my interest strengthened near the end.
This book is the second in a series and the one I happened to grab up first. It wasn’t long before I realized that the events of the book before have a strong bearing on this story. I wasn’t utterly lost because the author did a good job of recapping, but it would have been a vast deal easier to read them in order.
Kings like Malcolm of Scotland of Macbeth killing fame sought to strengthen their borders and gain loyal followers who would support their hold on the crown by rewarding their displaced warriors with lands and titles which is how Gavyn Farquhar found himself Laird of the Comlyn clan and wed to the feisty Scottish wildcat that is the last of her family. To hold these new lands, Gavyn thinks ahead and leaves his marriage bed and keep to earn needed coin as a mercenary in France. It’s not like his wife Katherine will miss him as she made perfectly clear on their wedding night.
It has been two years since her husband left to fight in France and Katherine has learned a thing or two since she shrewishly lashed her new husband with her temperamental tongue. Back then she was angry that a Farquhar had gained HER lands now that her father and brother were dead and she was determined to prove that she could rule in his stead even though a woman. It seems she overestimated her abilities to rule in the laird’s place as any authority she wielded was only in her husband’s name and as to her anger about his clan roots? She knew very well that her father and brother’s death was attributed to her father’s ambitious greed and need for more power and land. With time to think, she has calmed and come up with a new plan. When her husband returns home, she will seduce him into falling in love with her. But that was before she shot an arrow at him.
Two years away and Gavyn knows he has work to do. He and the soldiers of fortune and the spoils of war he returns with are there to build up the strength of the clan’s defense. The money will go to building stone walls and fixing things up along with paying seasoned fighting men to train his new clansman. But also on the agenda is wooing his wasp-tongued wife who blames any mishaps or dark deeds on his return. He will give her his body in their bed and protect her with his sword, but he knows its a mistake to offer her his heart because she will tromp all over it.
In the meantime, he must convince everyone, including Katherine, that he is worthy of his title as Chieftain of the clan. This proves difficult when others scheme to take away what he has fought so hard to win and one of those others is not afraid to brutally murder innocents to do it
This one leaped out to the races with that passionate argument across the marriage bed as two strong personalities clash over who is in charge. This very type clash of wills was liberally sprinkled throughout the story. I will confess that the Taming of the Shrew storyline does amuse up to a point if I thought this Katherine was anything more than a willful, spoiled, petulant child. Most of the conflict in this book is a direct or indirect result of her actions. I’m never in the mood for shows of temper that don’t have a good reason to exist so I guess feeling less than delighted with Katherine much of the time is on me.
Fortunately, there is more to the story and more to Katherine. There is intrigue swirling around Gavyn and Katherine. It’s not a deep intrigue in that its not that hard to work out who is running around stirring up strife and doing the murders, but it does lend some excitement when the culprit ups the ante. There was also a secondary story line involving Katherine’s greedy cousins and another storyline involving the three friends who come back with Gavyn for a summer visit.
The tempestuous romance between Gavyn and Katherine is just that. It haltingly moves three steps forward then two steps or all three steps back. Gavyn really shines in this story. He is everything a Highland Chieftain hero ought to be and he’s a warm-blooded male who can appreciate a bit of spirit in his wife and a need to work at their relationship. Katherine has one of those mouths that just spews and she gets a wild hair up her nose and can’t let it go even in the face of contradicting evidence to what she thought. I felt sorry for her a bit because she lashes out a lot when she gets unsettled or fearful. Gavyn tends to unsettle her and the only place that things are alright between them for the longest time is the bedroom where her stormy nature and unleash itself. She wants things to turn out right, but she doesn’t seem to know how to go about it. It’s not until she is in danger of her life that the full impact of what has become truly important to her hits her right when she’s set to lose it for good. So her growth arc is a biggie and spans the whole book so you have to be patient.
All in all, this was an engaging historical romance that offered a solid historical backdrop, colorful characters and engaging plot threads. Historical Romance lovers who like a lot of heat, who like their men in kilts and who don’t mind a medieval feel should give this one a try.
My thanks to Escape Publishing and Net Galley for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
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