REVIEW: Highland Master by Hannah Howell
Two people with tragedy in their past find comfort in their attraction to each other. Lady Triona is in trouble and a knight may be exactly what she needs in more ways than one.
Highland Master by Hannah Howell
Series: The Murrays, Book 19
Category: Scottish Historical
Publisher: Kensington Zebra
Release Date: November 26, 2013
Rate 3.5 out of 5 stars
The Scottish Highlands are the backdrop for an intriguing story about a woman who fights for the right to care for her people without being forced to marry. Having earned that right through hard work and perseverance, what happens when her desires outweigh her need to be independent? Will the lady risk her people’s respect and take a lover?
Recently widowed, Lady Triona McKee struggles as laird of Banuilt, not because she is inept, but because of Sir John Grant, the neighboring laird who wants her land and will go about any trickery to get it. She has worked hard to help her people recover from the fever that took the lives of many, including their laird, her husband, Sir Boyd McKee. A loveless marriage arranged for what her dowry could give Boyd, Triona is grateful for their child, Ella, and for her liege, who allows her to act in her husband’s stead for her people. But how long will that last when Sir John continually insists that she wed him?
They have lost so many people, including the men in her garrison who went off to France to use their skills for pay, hoping to restore Banuilt with what they earn. After two years of waiting for these men to return, she’s left with inexperienced lads and old men to protect the manor and village from their neighboring laird who has vengeance and greed in his heart. Sir John Grant cannot take her land outright or he threatens his goodwill with their liege who approves of Lady Triona continuing as laird after her husband’s death. But Sir John can steal from them and starve them to force her hand for the sake of her people.
Upon the arrival of her cousin, Lady Arianna, with five knights as her escorts, Triona becomes more aware of her lack of protection. Anxious for the training these knights can provide her lads, Triona isn’t quite sure how much she should tell them. It doesn’t help that she’s overly attracted to Sir Brett Murray, one of the knights, from the moment she sees him. It also doesn’t help that Brett seems just as interested in her.
Sir Brett Murray and his brother, as well as his fellow knights, immediately discern that something is amiss in Banuilt. The overabundance of women and children at the manor home, as well as the lack of well-trained men to guard the village and its assets, makes them resolute to find out Banuilt’s secrets. His attraction to Lady Triona surprises him because he hasn’t yearned for a woman to share his bed since the murder of his intended and their unborn child. Two things are certain. The beguiling and brave Lady Triona needs their help and Brett is determined to seduce her.
Book nineteen of THE MURRAYS series kicks off with an intriguing scenario and is easy to follow without reading the prior books. I think this is what impressed me most, that I understood a book from a long-term series with a multitude of characters and didn’t become confused about their relationships to one another. The dialogue is true to the times and setting, so I stumbled in my reading, trying to figure out what they were saying sometimes. If you’re familiar with the series or books like it, you won’t notice that as much because about halfway through the book, I didn’t stumble any longer.
In the beginning, I felt like there was too much talk and not enough action, with phrases or plot points repeated in dialogue. But I read an advance uncorrected proof so all of that may have been remedied in the final version. Eventually, the plot picks up and the action increases for an enjoyable adventure.
The characters are likeable and individualized enough to make most of them memorable. I kept getting Brett and Brian mixed up, but that always happens to me when two main characters have similar names. I enjoyed the exchanges between Triona and Brett, as well as their interactions with the secondary characters. There is a full cast here and probably many that fans of the series will look forward to being reunited with in this book.
My favorite character was Lady Triona’s five-year-old daughter from her first marriage, who is mischief personified. She’s quirky and smart, and I’m willing to bet that many readers will yearn for her story to be told. If five-year-old Ella’s childhood behavior is even close to what she’ll be like as an adult, we’ll all have fun watching her grow up, then fall in love, if given the chance.
Lady Triona is a heroine with intelligence and strength, laced with loyalty to her people and fierce protection of her daughter. Sir Brett Murray’s intentions are truthful to Triona from the very beginning. He intends to seduce her and Triona wants to live in the moment, even though forever love is enviable. But can they succumb to their desires when another man is determined to make Triona his wife?
The end of the book sews up the plot points nicely and the epilogue gives us a pleasing glimpse a year later. HIGHLAND MASTER will satisfy those who enjoy a small town story within a historical setting.
Review written by Dorine, Courtesy of Romance Junkies.
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What’s on your TBR Mountain Range? What’s your favorite Scottish Historical? Do you enjoy the language of the time period to be used in the dialogue of historical romances, or do you prefer that it’s modernized some for easier reading? What about a little of both in your reading?
P.S. No pictures of Scotland in my archives but I thought that this one I took in Ireland sets the mood.