16 October 2008

Review: Heather Grothaus - The Highlander

Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Zebra (September 1, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1420102427
ISBN-13: 978-1420102420

When Evelyn Godewin departs from her native England, she's looking for a new beginning. Yet fate has other plans in store for her when she's left stranded alone in an unforgiving highland forest, hunted by wolves as winter sets in. Determined to make the best of her surroundings, Evelyn seeks shelter in an abandoned cottage in the woods. But when Conall MacKerrick, a highland chief, bursts into the cottage and accuses her of trespassing, Evelyn tells him a lie she knows she will regret one day. Much to her surprise, she finds herself falling in love with the highlander...

Conall MacKerrick believes his clan is cursed, and when he meets Evelyn he thinks he has found the key to lifting that curse. He must marry her--or at the least, get her with child. Seducing the striking beauty is the only way to save his people and his pride. Even as he begins to trust that she will heal not only his people's troubles, but his own heart, he discovers the secret that could destroy their newfound love...

When a love between a highlander and a witch is torn apart a curse is cast.

“Only heartache and toil you reap until a Buchanan bairn is born to rule the MacKerrick clan. And then I will take what is due me. When you are on bended knee will I have my revenge.”
Now the next generation of the MacKerrick endures the burden of the curse…until the prophecy is fulfilled.

Heather Grothaus’ THE HIGHLANDER invites the reader to become a part of the lives that suffer under the wrath of a curse. As I opened this book I got caught up with Evelyn as she travels through Scotland accompanied by Minerva, a woman who is heading for her home town to die. Only she dies sooner than Eve expected and she finds herself all alone in the forest of the MacKerrick clan. ‘The MacKerrick’ Conall is heading towards the cottage of his late uncle Ronan to grief the loss of his wife and stillborn child. It is in that cottage that destiny intervenes for them both.

Evelyn is a headstrong woman that has taken matters of her life into her own hands. She tries to make the best of a very dire situation and has a natural affinity with animals. It doesn’t take long for a wide variety of animals to become her friends. The black wolf Alinor takes a prominent place among the animals and turns out to be a playful secondary character. Conall is a ‘typical’ highlander, tall, strong and with a brooding nature. As ‘The MacKerrick’ of his clan many concerns keep his thoughts occupied and now he has a frail woman to take care of on top of it.

If there is one thing I noticed upon reading THE HIGHLANDER is that with all the essential elements of storytelling Heather Grothaus whips up a pleasant flowing tale. Conall, Evelyn and everyday life in a cottage gives this novel a very intimate feel and inevitably draws the reader into their world. Moreover, it allows the emotions, along with the dialogue to take precedent over the plot making THE HIGHLANDER a very character and romance driven novel.

The curse of course has its own part to play and becomes the foundation of the initial connection between Eve and Conall. Their journey of love is seasoned with anguish, secrets and loss, allowing them - as a couple - to become stronger than each could be separate. I could not help but let the essence of this classic highlander read wash over me as the touching blossoming of love eases me into this story. I enjoy it if a novel is able to make me a part of the story and just for a little while can take me away from hectic 21st century life and take it a notch down.

Eve and Conall are at it from the first moment they meet, with a bit of grounded humor, a cameo of animals and a chemistry they both cannot deny it becomes a pleasure to watch their progress. If there is another character that plays a small but very important roll it is the twin brother of Conall. Duncan, with his upbeat nature adds a bit of highlander resilience and with his brotherly interactions he eases Conall’s brooding nature. One other thing that kind of snug up to me in surprise is the plot development of the curse. What I thought to be a necessary thread in the overall tapestry of the romance became so surprising in the ending. It gave the conclusion an unexpected twist and made me revel more in the romance happy ending!

THE HIGHLANDER is the final entry of Heather Grothaus’ medieval trilogy and it shines with the endearing glow of highlander magic, home, heart and the road to happiness. It will provide many a reader an entertaining historical read.

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