The Guardian
by Margaret Mallory
(Grand Central, $7.99, PG-13) 978-0-446-57516-4
****
The Guardian is a delightful start to a series about Highlanders in medieval Scotland.  The story is both inspiring and entertaining.

Sileas is a young lass who has always known she would marry Ian MacDonald.  Sileas found herself in trouble often and since she did not have the best home life, Ian was always there to help and protect her. Ian MacDonald is eager to grow up and protect his clan. After coming home from a stint in France, he happens upon Sileas.  He thinks she is up to her old antics again and tries to take her home.   Ian reluctantly agrees to take her to his parents home, but due to the late hour they must make camp.

The next morning, Ian’s father Payton, finds them asleep.  Even though it is not what it seems, Payton is so upset he forces Ian to marry Sileas that day. While this is not how Sileas envisioned their union, she is happy that she won't have to return to her family.  Ian is so disgusted at the situation he leaves town immediately after the ceremony and before he even consummates the marriage.

Five years later, Ian and his fellow Highlanders Duncan, Conner, and Alex return to Scotland after they hear their chieftain has been killed in battle. Since the marriage was never consummated, he could easily get it annulled.  His plan is to find a suitable man to replace him in the marriage.

Things immediately change when he sees Sileas. She has grown up and is more beautiful than he ever imagined.  He is stunned and instead of greeting his wife he finds himself in an awkward silence that Sileas interprets as indifferent feelings.

The cold shoulder receipt from Ian has Sileas upset.  She knew Ian left five years ago an unhappy man, but she couldn't imagine he still held those same feelings.  Sileas has been hoping for Ian's return everyday and she is now so upset that she plans to request an annulment from the Queen. After a few days Ian realizes that he needs to reconcile things with Sileas, but she is not making it easy for him.  

Ian is also trying to help his clan by leading the effort to get Conner named as the new Chieftain. The self appointed current chieftain, Hugh, is wrecking havoc amongst the area clans and Sileas' right to her castle is a big part of the puzzle. .

The medieval era and Highlanders are not my favorite time period to read, but The Guardian was entertaining and held my interest.  The history between Sileas and Ian was well developed and helped their re-unitment and reconciliation even that more meaningful.

The characters are also great.  Sileas is very strong and independent.  Her fiery red hair holds true to the stereotype.  Ian is an excellent warrior and represents his clan well.  But he is also a very caring man to his friends and family. It's the perfect combination in a man every woman would want.

Some parts of the story are a little farfetched.  Duncan and Conner get badly wounded and Ian seems to have super human strength to get them help.  The next day as Conner is still on death’s doorstep he is able to stand and talk to a crowd ready to name him Chieftain. But overall, The Guardian is a great start to a series.  The secondary characters are well developed and I look forward to reading their stories in the near future.

--Nichole Howell


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