The Valiant Highlander (Highland Defender Series,
Book two) by Amy Jarecki
(Some true historical background)
In 1692 The English monarchy punished the recalcitrance of the Chief of the MacDonalds at the Massacre of Glencoe. They also ordered a military fort to be built in the highlands which became Fort William. So by 1695 it was a turbulent time in Scotland, though it was a time of supposed peace after such a big loss at Glencoe. Yet the Jacobite rebellion threat still remained. As Scotland had still been under English rule for close to two hundred years now being treated horribly and the country itself was much poorer and in a recession. Yes the people resented it as they did the King on the throne William of Orange. Watching blood baths of innocent women and children and the elderly being murdered by the English in Glencoe and the burnings of Dunkeld. The Scottish people had long memories and were just biding their time before it was time to strike again and put the rightful king back on the Throne again the exiled King James Stewart! He still had many supporters in Scotland and France. The name Jacobites is the Latin version of his name. It was time another battle to take back their country back - without having redcoats patrolling the areas and breathing down their necks. As the wealthy and titled nobles were trying to find ways to earn a living with trade etc. through the Americas, Africa and India. They certainly didn't want to be starved out again. To feed and arm an army and your people you definitely needed income. The problem was some Scottish people were backing the English and wearing red coat uniforms, totally betraying their people and country! Also it was a time some of the nobility and wealthy had to put on airs and forget the highland way of life. Wearing breeches, wigs and cravats like the English. Laws of etiquette were changing to the English way of life too and acceptance this too was not easy for all to accept. Yet if you didn't you would be an outcast. Plus the word Jacobite rebellion could have a Scot swinging on a rope as these were dangerous and difficult times for the Scottish people. It seems so unfair as they only wanted to be left alone in their country to live in peace and freedom. Alba gu Brath...Sáor Alba!
Isle of Skye, Scotland, 1695
This story centers around Mary of Castleton, eldest daughter of a lower Highland Laird Chieftain. She can shoot a musket, throw a dagger and never miss her targets. She can also ride a wild horse barely broken in and even pull a the stopper off a powder horn with her teeth! Mary also wears lad clothes when the occasion calls for it. As this is what she was wearing the first time she meets Sir Donald MacDonald, the Baronet of Sleat, the hero of this story. He also at first thinks she's a lad and not very happy when he finds out she is not and even bested him in target practice!
Mary lost her mother at a young age and her father lost a leg at Battle of Dunkeld in 1689. As was considered lucky since many Jacobite supporters were burned alive in that battle. Therefore most of the castles responsibilities fell to Mary and has been lady of the keep since 12 years of age.
The story starts where her family is hosting the Highland games and her father is hoping to find a good match for a husband for Mary. This will help to strengthen the clan and alliances, though strong willed Mary has no interest in a husband at all. Mary and Sir Donald are like oil and vinegar when they first meet. He the refined aristocrat and she the wild highland lass.
Sir Donald was visiting Mary’s family as they were hosting the Highland Games as Mary's father wants to find her a titled husband. Mary knows this Baron is too high up in title even to look her way. Readers will feel the attraction immediately - even though they both are in denial. Especially when he sees her dressed as a beautiful lass for the first time in a gown with her fiery tresses and adorable freckles.
Then the villain of this story - Balfour MacLeod, steals Donald’s English galley and and kidnaps Mary. Plus the galley holds the white salt Donald needs in trade, an important agreement and secret business deal with the Americas. This is to secretly help support a new Jacobite rebellion and cause. Not to mention help support his people and clan. Donald is trying to work out a trade agreement as a successful business merchant. As he is putting up all his finances in this - if this does not happen he might be financially ruined. As for Balfour MacLeod, this Scottish turncoat and devious English supporter has been stalking and is obsessed with Mary. In his sick diluted mind, thinks he loves her and can force Mary into marriage. He also thinks he can get her to change her way of thinking. Mary is every bit a highland lass and hates everything about this traitor and bully! Mary would rather die than marry him!
As Donald and Mary are on the run the attraction becomes more apparent, but they have many conflicts too. He feels Mary’s safest solution is to bring her to his townhouse in Glasgow. He feels under his sister Barbara’s tuledge will help her become a society lady she is meant to be! Donald feels Glasgow society would eat her up so he does this for his reason of protection. Besides to being able to fit in and accepted with Glasgow society. He feels she needs to be more refined and behave like a chieftain's daughter should…. in his opinion.
Mary feels ashamed and angry too! Feeling she is not good enough for Sir Donald in his eyes. As Mary is not one to shy away from what she is thinking and feels! Mary feels he has given in to the English way of life! To her it is just being fake, phony and putting on airs. As she sees him in his periwig, breeches and fancy clothes, Mary is not impressed in the least!
Mary has her insecurities too, feeling she is not good enough for a man like Donald. She knows she is lower chieftain's daughter compared to a Baron like Donald. Yet she is still proud to be a highland Lairds daughter. Mary is who she is and won't hide from that fact either.
Donald has much on his mind, trying to help his people and lessen the suffering of the past. Also with so many responsibilities that he doesn't see with what's right in front of him? Or does he when it's possibly too late? He also worries about the future of his business dealings and the risks he is taking if it doesn't end in success. This also makes him denies what he is feeling and is right in front of him!
Will Donald choose business and support of the jacobite cause over love? Will Mary have her heart shattered? Will Balfour have his evil way and abduct Mary and force her into a marriage she will always refuse, detest and despise? Lot of unanswered questions and more….in this story. You will have to read this spectacular novel to find out.
This story is a fast paced, non stop action packed riveting adventure! It is filled with mystery, suspense, treachery, deceit, betrayal, revenge, forgiveness, faith, hope and love. Best part for me it is layered with true Scottish history in this fictional passionate romance.
Kudos Amy Jarecki! As you did it again in book #2 of The Defender series! Looking forward to the next one in this brilliant series.
Readers can read as a stand alone novel, but The Fearless Highlander is another superb read you don't want to miss! Again I absolutely loved it! Happy Reading!
A Defender Novel Series by Amy Jarecki
1)The Fearless Highlander
2)The Valiant Highlander
Disclaimer:Was given this ARC by the publisher for an honest review through netgalley.com.
Rating - 5 Stars/Kilts ( Highest rating*powerful read)
Heat Rating - Mild and Tasteful
Reviewed by - Celtic Barb ( Celtic Barb’s Kilted Tartan Book Review Blog)