Friday, September 11, 2009

Review: Highland Rebel

Title: Highland Rebel
Author: Judith James
Genre: Historical Romance/1668
Published: September 2009

ARC Review

From the author's website ~

Set in a dangerous time of religious and political upheaval and civil war, HIGHLAND REBEL tells the story of Catherine Drummond and Jamie Sinclair, two proud and lonely outcasts whose struggle for acceptance and survival draws them together in a partnership based on mutual interest that will transform them both. In so doing it transports the reader to Ireland, the Scottish Highlands, the court of King James II, and the coffee houses, backstreets and taverns of seventeenth century London, while chronicling the brief reign of England’s last Stuart king.

Born in the waning days of Cromwell’s England, despised as a bastard by his Puritan father, and abandoned by his mother, James Sinclair has learned from an early age to fend for himself. Charming, dangerous, and decidedly amoral, his quick wit, good looks and military prowess have served him well in the courts of two Stuart Kings, the grudgingly Protestant Charles II and the openly Catholic King James. Adventurer, courtier, mercenary and spy, he’s a master of disguise who can transform from aristocrat to beggar and disappear in any crowd. Sent to mind a troop of foreign mercenaries, he looks forward to completing his mission and collecting his reward, and when an inconvenient spark of gallantry and his own perverse humor cause him to marry a maid captured on the battlefield he intends the marriage to be in name only.

Raised in the Scottish Highlands, heiress to a title, a fortune founded on the whiskey trade, and properties in Scotland and in France, Cat Drummond is far from the camp follower Jamie mistakes her for. Fiercely loyal to family, clan and king, she’s born to rule, trained on the field of battle and at the court of Versailles, and equally comfortable in men’s breeches or a gown. Disguised as beggars on the streets of London, or glittering amongst the courtiers of Whitehall Palace, Catherine and Jamie will join forces in an age where treachery and adultery are the fashion, and cynicism, cruelty and barbed wit are the qualities most admired. But in a world where family, creed, and princes can’t be trusted, and faith fuels intolerance, hatred, and war, they’ll soon find themselves on opposite sides of a growing conflict that will force them to question everything they know, and test the bounds of friendship, loyalty and love.

What a lush, provocative story Judith James has written. The setting is rich with history and the characters are different from the usual fare historical romances serve up. Highland Rebel isn't as dark as Broken Wing but still has it's gritty moments. The love story of Jamie and Cat isn't typical, they meet under very strained circumstances; on the battlefield. What I like about their story and the whole book for that matter, is that it's a step away from the usual. I wasn't always sure what might happen next which made for some fascinating reading. Highland Rebel is a not necessarily a book you can bang out in one sitting but something that takes time to read, a book that you want to take your time reading.

Let me just say how much I loved Jamie Sinclair. His brash boldness, his cynical view of the world around him, all made for a fascinating character. He's not at all what I was expecting and I'm thankful for that. He's one of my very favorite hero types - the anti-hero. He's all about looking out for himself. Jamie has been a Protestant and a Catholic, his religion depends on who is in power and how the political winds are blowing. This is a volatile time in English history and Jamie has every intention of coming out on top or the very least, surviving. He acts like he is only looking out for himself but he does have a handful of people he cares about. And now Cat is part of that select few. In true anti-hero fashion he tries to deny how he feels about Cat, he's really not sure about love. He's never know what true love feels like but he does know that he likes Cat, actually likes her and this surprises him. He comes to consider her a good friend and has every intention of keeping her safe.

Cat is a dynamic heroine. She was raised by her father to take over as head of the clan but she also spent time at the French court, acting the part of a lady. So she has two very distinct sides to her: the pants wearing, sword wielding Highlander who will do anything for her clan and the lady dressed in silks, tempting Jamie to find out what's under those silks. I completely enjoyed Cat, her loyalty and honor and her love of life that took such pleasure in seeing the darker side of London with Jamie. Cat is a complex heroine that has such difficult choices to make but through it all she stays strong and true to her character.

One of the things that I enjoyed in Highland Rebel was the setting and time period. While I enjoy the Regency and Victorian eras, I also enjoy a chance to read a different time period. The period of Highland Rebel is one of political upheaval and war. With friends and enemies changing from one day to the next, Jamie and Cat are caught in the middle. I loved the intrigue and the way Ms. James used it to show how these characters react to the different situations they find themselves in. When everything was said and done their actions made sense given the unrest in their countries and their own beliefs.

This is not what I would consider a quick read but a story thick with politics and court intrigue. That's not to say that the love story took a backseat to the history, not at all. At the center was Jamie and Cat's relationship, whether they were together or miles apart their relationship was still growing and developing even if they didn't realize it. Their love story was one of mutual attrations but also one of becoming friends first. Of learning to trust and to love. These two were perfect for each other because at their core they held very similar values. On the outside they seem so different, with Jamie having his 'devil may care' attitude and Cat being all about her clan. But at their hearts they were all about keeping their families safe and fighting for what they believed in.

Judith James has done it again and written a novel that takes the reader into a world of intrigue, action and most importantly, romance. Ms. James next novel, Libertine's Kiss, is set for release in August 2010. You can find out more about this wonderful author at her website.

Rating: A


  1. Lovely review! I had this one in my hands yesterday but put it back. What was I thinking?!?

    I will def have to go get it!

  2. Thanks Mandi! Yes, this was a wonderful story. I would definitely recommend Judith James. :)

  3. Leslie this was a beautiful review. I haven't read Judith James yet. This book sounds very attractive -- the setting and time period (besides the romance) are the big draw for me.

  4. Hils ~ I was so thrilled that she went for a different setting. It definitely worked. :)

  5. Great review!! We don't often see books these days with this kind of depth to them and when we do, they are such a treasure aren't they? To those who haven't read this one - you really do need to. And what I also found so great was it was so different from Broken Wing. Often when you read books by the same author you see similarities that get old after a while. But with two such opposite books, I can't imagine ever getting tired of this author.

  6. Kristie ~ Yes, about it being so different from BW. It's just another reason why Judith James will stay on my auto-buy list. Very talented!