Adam's Promise

In My Wildest Fantasies

Love According to Lily

Portrait of a Lover

Prairie Bride

Surrender to a Scoundrel

To Marry the Duke

When a Stranger Loves Me

 
Captured by the Highlander
by Julianne MacLean
(St. Martin, $7.99, PG-13) ISBN 978-0-312-36531-8
*****
Captured by the Highlander should have a warning sticker printed and stuck on the cover: “WARNING: Do not start reading this book if you have a dinner to cook, an appointment to get to, kids to pick up or phone calls to make. Once you get involved with Duncan MacLean, you won’t care about anything on your to do list!”

Before I start gushing about how much I loved this book, here is the detail that you need to know: Lady Amelia Sutherland is a real, gentle woman who has lived her life according to her ideals and principles. She was raised lovingly by her father, who was both a warrior and a scholar. Because of her father, she has a great understanding of war without any practical experience and she also knows a great deal about the turbulent violence between the Scottish clans who have been staging a rebellion against the new English King. Sadly, Amelia has recently lost her father but is now feeling secure, newly betrothed to the great soldier Lieutenant Colonel Richard Bennett, the man that her father chose for her just before he died.

Amelia and her guardian, Uncle Winslowe, are visiting Richard at Fort William in the Scottish Highlands when he is suddenly called away for a mission. Amelia is sleeping alone in Richard’s bedchamber when she is awoken by the fearsome Butcher of the Highlands, a fierce and bloodthirsty Scottish rebel who has come to kill Richard but finds Amelia instead. The Butcher abducts the frightened Amelia from the Fort, and she can’t imagine how he got into the heavily armed English stronghold until she sees the bloody bodies he carries her over on the way out.

Duncan MacLean is a man of many sides, but he is truly the Butcher of the Highlands, a downright scary warrior who fights in defense of Scotland and its people. His hands are bloody, he has killed many men in many battles and he’s seen as a renegade war hero by the Scottish people, and as a murderer by the English. Duncan spared Amelia only to use her as bait to lure her betrothed, as Duncan has been stalking Bennett for months to take his life.

Bennett raped and murdered Muira, Duncan’s betrothed, and then sent her head to her clan in retaliation for her outspoken father being involved in the Scotish rebellion. Amelia hadn’t a clue of Bennett’s behavior on the battlefield before meeting Duncan, and she’s beginning to see that some men in England’s red-coated army are nasty vermin, while some men in tartan are not quite what they seem to be, either. Duncan’s fearsome, and deserved reputation aside, while they bide their time, Amelia waiting and Duncan drawing Bennett out, Amelia begins to see kindness and gentleness in Duncan. Traits that are completely at odds with his actions as the Butcher.

While Amelia thinks about what she has learned in her captivity, Duncan struggles with what’s left of his conscience, as he’s terrified that he’s beginning to see Amelia as more than a pawn in his revenge against Bennett. Duncan knows better than anyone the horror of war, and the truth of Bennett’s despicable character he wishes to keep Amelia safe, but how can he when he kills without mercy and has promised to avenge Muira’s death?

Captured by the Highlander is a wonderful tale in so many ways and had me captivated from beginning to end. I’ve tried to keep the plot description short in many ways since I have no wish to spoil the many – and very unexpected – plot twists that MacLean has penned.

First of all – Duncan MacLean is on my list of favorite heroes ever. While he has undeniably scary moments, his absolutely dominant, unforgivingly alpha male warrior appeal is so strong. He makes me want to book a trip to Scotland to see if I can possibly find one of his descendants. His inner battle, weighing his acts against his morals is half of the best part about him. It makes him human. His charming, sexy, sensual half is the other best part. Duncan makes no apologies for who he is and his self-possession is perfect.

Amelia could have been laughable as the perfect English lady captive in the brutal Highlands with the Butcher, but her intelligence, insight and gentle understanding made the whole tale click. We often see Duncan’s brutality tempered with Amelia’s insight and their chemistry, whether they are fighting or talking, leaps right off the page. Amelia is Duncan’s perfect foil.

There needs to be a nod to Duncan’s closest crew: Angus, Gawyn, and Fergus. They provided balance, witty conversation, filled in interesting background details and scary moments on occasion too. Even though Angus wasn’t my favorite, I was very intrigued by him, and I will definitely be looking for his story, coming up next in this new series.

So, since this is on the list of the best books I have read this year, you should pick up a copy and treat yourself to this delicious read!

--Amy Wroblewsky


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