Saturday, February 21, 2015

Highland Guard (Murray Family Book 20)
by Hannah Howell

New York Times bestselling author Hannah Howell brings back the daring Murray family in a brand-new tale of dangerous love rekindled. . . 

Lady Annys MacQueen has no other choice. The deception that enabled her to keep her lands safe is on the verge of being revealed by a cruel kinsman. To shield her young son from the sword and her people from devastation, she must turn to the one man she could never forget... 

He lives for duty and honor. So the only way Sir Harcourt Murray could repay the laird who saved his life was to agree to father a child with Sir MacQueen's wife...Lady Annys. 

Now the passion he still feels for the lovely strong-willed widow is as all-consuming and perilous as securing her lands. But to convince her that his love is forever real means confronting her most wrenching fears--and putting everything they treasure most at stake...

Published & Release Date: Zebra, February 24, 2015

Time and setting: Scotland, summer

Genre: Scottish Historical Romance

Heat Level: 1

Rating: 4 Gold Crowns

Vikki’s musings

I have been a fan of Hannah Howell’s ever since I read the first book in the Murray series. When the opportunity came up to review Highland Guard, I looked forward to reading it with great anticipation. I could not wait to be re-united with the Murray clan. That did not happen. This reads more as a stand alone than a book in that amazing series. I was a bit disappointed, but I still enjoyed the book, just not quite as much as I have enjoyed her other stories.

Sir Harcourt Murray comes to Lady Annys MacQueen’s side when he receives a message that she is experiencing great difficulties with one of her late husband’s cousins and believes her life and her son’s is in jeopardy. Harcourt and Annys have a past. Her late husband sustained an injury making it impossible for him to father a child, and he desperately needed an heir.

What follows in this review is the set up for the story and is expertly told in back story without being intrusive. When Sir David MacQueen found Harcourt gravely injured on the side of a road, he took him back to his Keep, and arranged for him to be nursed back to health. Once Harcourt recovered, he asked Sir David what he could do to pay him back for saving his life. Sir David told him that he wanted him to impregnate his wife. Although this went against all his principles, he agreed. After all, he did owe Sir David his life, and his attraction to Annys was more than he could resist.

Once Annys was with child, he took his leave even though it was one of the hardest things he had ever done in his life. Out of respect for his agreement with Sir David, he felt that he had to leave without biding the fair lady farewell.

When they are re-united again five years later, while this time Sir David does not stand in the way of them being together, Lady Annys is wary of Sir Harcourt since he left without a word to her. She harbors deep anguish and some resentment from this.

Sir Harcourt realizes that he has an upward battle winning the lady’s affections again. While he tries to find and end the problems with the evil cousin, not only is he constantly with Annys, he also has a chance to get to know his son.

After some time, he breaks through her shield, but so many things standing in the way of them having a lasting relationship with each other. Lady Annys must stay at Glencullaich to guard her son’s inheritance as Laird, and he has his own keep to protect. Can Harcourt find a way to fulfill Annys’s obligations without compromising his responsibilities to his brother and the rest of his clan?

As always, I enjoyed Ms. Howell’s writing style and her ability to bring her characters to life. She has such an astounding grasp of the Scottish dialect that her dialogue rings so true and helps to pull me in, putting me right there in the life of a keep during the time period. I would have liked a bit more information concerning the year, but this did not take me away from enjoying the book immensely.

I loved Harcourt’s character from the very beginning, and liked Annys a great deal and enjoyed their romance. Their little boy, Benet, stole the show, what an endearing little guy, and his lamb is just too precious, and the cat, Roban is charming. Who ever heard of a cat riding on a lamb’s back. It added greatly to the story, which did need a bit of help.

This is what gave me a bit of a struggle. The plot just did not ring true for me and was quite predictable. I easily figured out how the story would turn out well before the ending. Now it does have a very satisfying ‘Happily Ever After’, just very predictable.

Also I wanted to hear about the other amazing characters from the other twenty books, but none of them were in this story, which was disappointing. Hearing about these characters is one of the things that I enjoyed in her other books. Nonetheless, I enjoyed this character-driven tale and look forward to reading other books by this incredibly talented author. Happy reading!     


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