TBR Challenge Review – The Guardian by Margaret Mallory
For this month’s TBR Challenge, I chose THE GUARDIAN by Margaret Mallory because it’s a series I’ve been collecting to read. Our theme this month in Wendy the Super Librarian’s TBR Challenge 2016 is an award winner or nominee. THE GUARDIAN was an OKRWA National Readers’ Choice award winner for Historical in 2011, and since I have all the books in the series, it seemed the perfect choice.
Why was it in Dorine’s TBR? In 2012 I read THE WARRIOR for review, which is the third book in the series. I loved it and the publicist kindly sent me the first two books so I could catch up on the series. I’ve since purchased book 4 and 4.5, anticipating a back-to-back series read. It’s rare that I get to read a full series, due to the volume of books that I review, but THE WARRIOR impressed me enough to gather the books in hope of a window of time to binge on them. Now is the time!
THE GUARDIAN takes place mostly in 1513 in Scotland and it is the first book in the RETURN OF THE HIGHLANDERS series. This novel lays the groundwork for the series by introducing us to five friends who grew up together. Ian MacDonald was forced to wed Sileas when they were very young. Ian went off to fight abroad with Alex, Connor and Duncan, never consummating his marriage. Sileas was thirteen years old when they were forced to wed because Ian’s father suspected that Ian compromised her virtue. Ian’s father also saw a chance to get control of Knock Castle because Sileas would eventually inherit it. The MacDonald clan is determined to have Knock Castle by whatever means, so when Ian returns home, he’s encouraged to make his marriage work for the sake of the clan.
Ian remembers Sileas as the pesky girl who followed him everywhere when they were children. Sileas has always been in love with Ian, who protected her even when they were children. When Ian left Sileas and stayed away for five years, it hurt her deeply and she won’t accept his affection now.
The clan is in an uproar after war with the English, currently enduring a cruel man as their chieftain. Ian, Alex and Duncan are determined to get Connor elected as chieftain as is his birthright. That is if the current chieftain doesn’t succeed in killing them all, first.
I really enjoy stories based on childhood friendships that last a lifetime. THE GUARDIAN has some great male bonding scenes that made me laugh. Alex is especially entertaining. Ian and Sileas must work through their past and it’s an emotional journey. Sileas is a feisty redhead who isn’t so easily convinced that Ian wants her as his wife. Ian isn’t sure he loves Sileas. When he realizes the awkward girl has turned into a beautiful butterfly, Ian is willing to make an effort. But, Sileas’ beauty hides secrets that have made her feel insecure and Ian soon finds himself falling hard for this very strong woman.
Ian has neglected his family as well as Sileas, which makes his younger brother Niall angry, as it should. Ian is selfish and self-serving, so he deserves what Sileas does to him and more. I thought the scene where Sileas hit Ian repeatedly on the head with a skillet very rewarding and funny. He deserved more than that, but Sileas sees the man he can be beneath the boy he has been.
THE GUARDIAN is also part adventure as the clan tries to get Connor to his rightful place as chieftain. There are pirates among the clans, as well as leaders who will do anything to claim the land they feel are theirs for the taking. Marriages are arranged to bring clans together as joint forces for protection, so women don’t always have a choice other than to do what their father or guardian tells them to do. It makes for some fun, especially when the heroine is as feisty as Sileas.
There were a few unbelievable “mighty” highlander moments that seemed a bit farfetched to me, but otherwise I found this historical romance entertaining. The camaraderie between these five friends was often humorous, boastful and sarcastic, which is my favorite part of this type of story. There is also a “ghost” based on legend, so that may not appeal to strict historical readers. The ghost isn’t part of the main plot, but it is threaded through several scenes. Although I do enjoy some paranormal or fantasy in a Scottish tale, I feel this particular story would have been stronger without it.
Fans of highlander romance will enjoy this series. Although it can be read out of order, I feel that the books I’ve read so far are better as a set when read in order. My favorite so far is THE WARRIOR, book 3, and I don’t feel it hurts to read them out of order because you can always go back to read the ones you’ve missed.
Margaret Mallory tells a good adventure story which enhances my anticipation for the entire RETURN OF THE HIGHLANDERS series. I enjoyed getting to know the characters better in THE GUARDIAN that I enjoyed briefly in book 3 so long ago. THE WARRIOR was about Duncan and it really touched me. Now I’m anxious to read book 2, THE SINNER, which is Alex’s story. He sounds like a womanizer who needs put in his place and from the excerpt I read, I’m hoping that will happen. The final book, THE CHIEFTAIN, is about Connor. Then there is a short novella, book 4.5, called THE GIFT, currently sale-priced in digital format at Amazon.
Review by Dorine, courtesy of The Zest Quest. Print copy provided by the publisher.
The Guardian by Margaret Mallory
Series: Return of the Highlanders, Book 1
Category: Historical Romance (1511-1513)
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing (May 2011)
Rated 3.5 out of 5
Are you a fan of highlander romances? Which ones are your favorites?