Review: The Chieftain

Reviewed by Jen

I thought it was going to be Duncan’s story that won my heart in this series, but it turns out that it’s Connor’s book that is my favorite.  Aye, the chieftain of the MacDonald clan finally gets his turn at love, and it comes in the form of the woman who has been right in front of him the whole time.

Ilysa has been in love with Connor for as long as she can remember.  She has healed him when he was hurt.  She manages his keep. But in his eyes, she was always just his friend’s younger sister. He never saw the woman beneath the frumpy dresses and quiet demeanor.

Now, Connor is making a home in a new castle and trying to find a wife that can unite his clan with another.  Ilysa comes along, but once again, he doesn’t recognize the contribution she makes.  It isn’t until a vision from her seer’s gift warns her that he is facing danger does she take an action that changes everything. Ilysa locks him in his own dungeon to keep him from a deadly meeting… which sets in motion a chain of events that allows Connor feelings for her to change.

But it’s not a clear path to happiness.  Connor still thinks he must marry for the good of the clan, not for his heart. Add to that, ongoing battles between the MacDonalds and their longtime enemies the MacLeods… Connor’s scheming uncle Hugh… and a traitor in the keep… and the embattled chieftain can barely find a moment’s peace.

I loved Ilysa. I was afraid she was going to be a mousy pushover from what I have seen of her in previous books. But I was wrong. She has a quiet strength and resolve… and an unwavering love for Connor that is just so lovely.  Connor is a little bit of an idiot in that it takes him so long to realize her worth. He’s an honorable man, though.  He tries to do what he thinks is right, even when it breaks his own heart.  Yes, I wanted to shake him once or twice, but in the end, it was impossible for me not to root for these two to get together.

I thought this book did a great job not only with the romance, but in tying up the ongoing story arc for the MacDonald clan that was woven throughout the series.  The conclusion made sense and it satisfied.  (And if you are a new reader, I think it could still work as a standalone.)

I enjoyed all four books in this series, but this one was the best.

Rating: B+

*ARC Provided by Forever

Click to purchase: Amazon
The Chieftain
by Margaret Mallory
Release Date: February 26, 2013
Publisher: Forever

Review: The Warrior

Reviewed by Jen

Ever since I read The Guardian, I have been waiting for poor Duncan’s story. The man has been utterly miserable since he was separated from his true love seven years ago. She is married to another –far from his reach– and no other woman will do.  I am happy to say that our wounded warrior is finally being reunited with his lost love and not a moment too soon.

Contrary to what Duncan has long believed, Moira is not living a happy life.  She has no idea that her father forced Duncan to leave her all those years ago. She thought her beloved abandoned her.  And then she realized she was pregnant –and she had to marry the man her father forced on her.  That man, Sean, was an abusive beast.  Thankfully, he never realized that her child was not his, but he made Moira’s life miserable all the same.  And he sent little Ragnall to foster with Moira’s clan’s enemy.

When a seer alerts Duncan that Moira is in danger, he quickly journeys to her husband’s keep.  One look at Duncan and Sean realizes Moira’s deception. He beats her nearly to death, but she manages to best him and Duncan spirits her away to safety.  The rest of the story follows the resurgence of their relationship and the efforts to rescue Ragnall.

Neither Duncan nor Moira has ever stopped loving the, but each feels like they were abandoned. Moira thinks Duncan left her and Duncan thinks he was easily replaced when she married two weeks after he was sent away.  They’re both right and they’re both wrong. And even though they are reunited fairly quickly, the angst and hurt feelings persist throughout the book.  There are a lot of misunderstandings and bad information between these two, which was frustrating at times, because they are so obviously in love and they have been through so much.

I had to remind myself more than once how much Moira has endured, because otherwise her behavior with Duncan would have alienated me.  He is such a good guy, it’s impossible to not be in his corner.  She castigates him for not giving her enough credit, but when I see her trying to punish him for the past –or lashing out at him– it’s hard to sympathize.

Overall, I liked it.  I don’t know that I ended up loving it quite as much as I thought I would, but I am still glad I read it.  Now, onto Connor’s story.  He has to end up with Ilysa, right?

Rating: B

*ARC provided by Forever

Click to purchase: Amazon
The Warrior
by Margaret Mallory
Release Date: October 30, 2012
Publisher: Forever (GCP)

Review: The Sinner

Reviewed by Jen

Alex MacDonald loves the ladies. And why shouldn’t he? He fights hard and plays hard too. He never wants to marry; he doesn’t believe any woman could ever hold his heart… until he meets Glynis.

Though most Highland women want a husband, one marriage was more than enough for Glynis. Her first husband was a nightmare. He treated her cruelly and openly kept mistresses. When she could take it no more, Glynis left him with a dirk in his leg and vowed never to wed again. But her father has other ideas. He is pushing her so hard to remarry, that she blackmails Alex into helping her run away.

Though Glynis and Alex both oppose marriage, they don’t hold the same reservations about sex.. And their trip to Edinburgh has plenty of that. Of course, it’s only a matter of time before that translates into something more.

I enjoyed this story quite a bit. Alex was suave and sexy and it was charming to watch him fumble about as he learned to be in a relationship. The love scenes are good –and I’m always a sucker for a good brogue. Plus, this was a couple easy to root for… especially once a child was brought into the story.

And then came The Big Misunderstanding. I hate these. And it was made worse, because it was so obvious that something like this would happen. Glynis went on and on about how she could never forgive infidelity. It was such an issue, there was no doubt in my mind that somehow she would end up thinking Alex cheated. It was very frustrating –and disappointing– that this progressed in the predictable fashion. And it was a shame because I was pretty invested in the story by then –and I liked it. Grr.

I was satisfied by the end. It didn’t quite live up to its potential, but it had a lot of action, some pretty good steam, and a healthy dose of heart. A little less than 4 stars.

P.S. This is the 2nd book in Anne Mallory’s Return of the Highlanders series.  It was designed to be read after The Guardian, but works easily as a standalone.

*ARC Provided by NetGalley

Click to purchase: Amazon or The Book Depository
The Sinner
by Margaret Mallory
Release Date: October 25, 2011
Publisher: Forever (GCP)

Review: The Guardian

Reviewed by Jen

I really enjoyed this Highlander love story! Ian and his three best friends are returning home to the Highlands after spending the past five years in France. His clan has barely survived through a terrible battle that killed their chieftain and badly wounded Ian’s father. Ian’s good friend Connor is next in line to take over the clan, but his uncle Hugh has taken advantage of his absence to take over leadership, himself. Now, Ian and his band of brothers must work to install Connor in his rightful place at the head of the clan.

Of course, there is much more to the story than that. Just before he journeyed to France, Ian was forced to marry his very young friend Sileas. Even though she was only 13, she was trying to escape an arranged marriage set up by her stepfather. Ian cared for her as a little sister, but nothing more. So when his father forced him to marry the girl, he was furious. Once he returned home, he planned to end the marriage right away. But once he sees Sileas again, he realizes that she has grown into a beautiful woman; one who has helped see his family through his absence and the many trials they faced over the years.

Sileas is a great heroine. She is utterly loyal and in love with Ian. Yet she manages to hold on to her self-respect. And that is no small feat, the way Ian has dismissed her over the years. Their love story is sweet and steamy (once the story gets that far.) Ian is a good guy, but I wanted to shake him more than once for his general stupidity when it comes to his wife.

The story has some fun twists and turns –and we’re set up nicely for future stories with Ian’s friends Connor, Alex and (my personal favorite) Duncan. I’m looking forward to seeing where their futures will go. 4 stars.

*ARC Provided by Net Galley

Click to purchase: Amazon
The Guardian
by Margaret Mallory
Release Date: May 1, 2011
Publisher: Forever (GCP)