Sunday, September 16, 2012
Highland Guard/Book 4
Ballantine/October 18, 2011
The war for Scotland’s sovereignty rages on—as Robert the Bruce is crowned king and the Highland Guard, his elite fighting force of legendary warriors, battle for land . . . and love.
Prized for his snakelike stealth and deadly strikes, Lachlan “Viper” MacRuairi is a warrior to enlist but not to trust. His only loyalty is to his purse, his indifference sealed by bitter betrayal. All that changes when Lachlan is tasked to protect and deliver Bella MacDuff to the king’s coronation—and the proud, lushly sensual countess unwittingly challenges him to his greatest battle yet: to love again.
Passionate and devoted, Bella has defied Britain’s king and her own husband to place the crown on Bruce’s head, and for this she pays a terrible price: Losing her daughter and her freedom to her husband’s vengeance. Imprisoned with barbaric cruelty, she vows to reclaim her child, even if it means selling her soul—and her body—to a dark, lethal warrior whose eyes glint like steel, but who makes her skin tingle and her breath race. Together they embark on a rogue mission with sinister twists and turns that threatens not only Bella’s gamble to save her daughter—but also her heart.
This was such an emotional, intense romance. The pain and uncertainty both the hero and heroine go through makes their happy ever after that much more satisfying. Ms. McCarty has created a world of men and women who fight for their freedom as fiercely as they fight for their loved ones. The Viper gives enough backstory to be read as a stand alone but I do think the reader would achieve a greater understanding of Robert the Bruce's men by reading the previous books. Plus -they're all very good and worth the read.
Countess Isabella MacDuff is willing to stand fast in her beliefs. It is this trait has brought her to her fate of imprisonment by King Edward I. Not only is Bella imprisoned but she is to be made an example of Edward's power and wraith. Bella is placed in a cage, high on a tower of Berwick Castle. It's a brutal existance she endures and one cannot but feel the despair and loneliness she must endure. Bella is a heroine portrayed with a noble dignity underlying a fierce protectiveness and loyalty. This comes comes across well in her words and actions. She also has this vulneralbility towards Lachlan even though she doesn't trust him. I loved how Bella is shown to have her emotional side waring with her loyalties.
Lachlan MacRuirie could be called a mercenary and he's fine with that. He doesn't pretend he's in Bruce's elite Highland Guard out of sheer loyalty. Lachlan has responsibilities he doesn't care to share with his fellow guards but instead lets them go on thinking he is only there for selfish, monetary reasons. Which is one reason he tends to stay on the periphery of the guards. One of them but not as close as the other men are to each other. Lachlan may seem cold hearted at times and he is but it's just his nature and McCarty does well in explaining his history and why he keeps himself closed off from everyone. I really enjoyed getting to know this hero.
We connect again with some of the other members of the guard and while Lachlan tries to keep his distance, there is still that bond of brotherhood forged in war. I think the other guards would have come to trust Lachlan more if he had only explained himself but that wasn't his way. I liked how Bella shows Lachlan how to open up, if only a little, to the other men and allow for a closer bond. The relationships are complex and well developed. McCarty does well in showing the whys of each characters actions whether they make the best choice at the time or not.
The historical descriptions are vivid in the setting, people and elements of the time period. It's a cruel world with many ruthless, powerful people fighting for control. I loved the feel of the story, the diversity of characters and the history of the time period. It's not all shining knights and damsels needing rescue but a knight with a bit of tarnish to his armor and a damsel does her own type of rescuing. Definitely a worthwhile series!
Highland Guard Series ~
The Recruit (October 30, 2012)