Highlander Unchained – Monica McCarty

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Flora MacLeod is determined to avoid the sad fate of her mother—bartered between rival clans through four unhappy, politically arranged marriages. Now Flora, considered the greatest marriage prize in the Highlands, has become a political pawn herself. Despite the determination of no fewer than three powerful Highland Chiefs to force her hand, she has vowed never to become any man’s prize. Flora’s resolve is soon put to the test by the fiercely handsome, enigmatic man who’s kidnapped her for a ransom she’ll never pay…her heart.

Lachlan MacLean has gotten more than he’s bargained for. The battle-hardened Chief has kidnapped the beautiful heiress with the intention of wooing her for marriage. But the gruff Highland chief isn’t used to wooing women, especially not the most exasperating, stubborn woman he’s ever met. And when the curse surrounding an old tragedy puts Flora’s life in danger, Lachlan realizes his ploy may well have cost him a chance at love.

It seems destined to fail, a woman determined never let any man control her, let alone a Highlander and a dominating Highland chief born to rule and control everyone under his responsibility.

Lachlan MacLean is the Highland warrior at his best: rugged, masculine, handsome and fierce but underneath that all there is tenderness, honor and pride. He made my heart flutter with his intensity and passion. Although all the heroes in this trilogy are utterly scrumptious, he is most definitely my favorite. His devil’s bargain to regain what is taken from him by Flora’s brother turns void when he finds the woman who can make him yield to a love so strong everything fades away in comparison.

Flora McLeod is known as the Holyrood Hellion and she certainly lives up to that title. All the heroines in this trilogy are strong women who won’t be controlled or ruled by anyone and Flora is absolutely no exception. She is willful, headstrong, proud, feisty and defiant in every way. Trouble has no problem finding her, even when she is not looking for it. Of the three heroines Flora is the most spirited one and the one who has no regard for the dutiful Highland ways. In her eyes duty equals the misery her mother went through and she vows she’ll never end up that way.
The recurring theme of duty and loyalty to the clan versus love applies to Lachlan in this book but not to Flora, her only loyalty is to herself and this may come across as selfish or egotistical but I can assure you that Flora is anything but that. It is the only way to protect herself from the agony she saw her mother live in. Her plans to avoid being pawned of as a marriage prize in the political schemes of her relatives by arranging her own marriage of convenience is irrevocably interrupted by an abduction that will change her life forever. She finds herself wanting the one thing she was always warned for by her mother: a Highland chief and warrior.

After reading only the prologue I knew for certain that the final book in this trilogy was a matter of saving the best for last. This was the most intense and heart wrenching of the three books. At the risk of sounding like a broken record I must again admire the writing skills of McCarty. She is able to describe the feelings and thoughts of the characters with such intensity it had me glued to the pages. Their dialogues and interactions go from sarcastic bantering, to sensual awareness to full-blown passionate without a hitch. The love scenes are lush, enticing and stimulating. Masterfully dosed into the story and contributing to the emotional development of the characters.
But McCarty also has the ability to pull you deep into a historical plot of Highland feuds, this time enhanced with a family curse that hovers over the main couple’s head.
The intricate connections between the different clans and families throughout the trilogy also stretch to the family connections surrounding Flora and Lachlan. Puzzling at first but more and more intriguing along the way.

Where in the other two books the plot is disclosed fairly early in the book, in this one she gradually fed me with tidbits of the plot and eventually it all fell into place in an amazing conclusion. This certainly contributes to the intensity of the book, keeping you on the edge of your seat wanting to know how it’s going to unravel.
And the descriptions of the Scottish Highlands were equally sublime. Even more than in the previous books the descriptions made me long to see and experience the rugged and magnificent Highland Isles, full of history, for myself.

In short, Monica McCarty is a refreshing and original new voice in the Scottish historical genre who’s earned my admiration for her writing skills, her amazing characters and her ability to turn true historical facts into lovely historical romances that stir the emotions.

Quotes:
Lachlan: “Don’t play with me, Flora. I’m not one of your pet courtiers. Poke me and I’ll bite.”

Men had stolen kisses from her, but no man had ever kissed her in a way that made her want to weep, her heart slam into her chest, and her knees go weak all at the same time.

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