|Beloved Stranger is an epic that contains war, lost memories, heroic efforts by men and women, betrayal and love. Potter has captured an era and has written a love story that will call the reader back time and again.
Lachlan Maclean is a second son who is trying to figure out his role in the clan, having never enjoyed warring but never really shying away from it either. He goes to battle alongside King James and Jaime Campbell as they fight the English at Flodden Field in 1513. Despite their best efforts, the Scots are defeated. Lachlan is seriously wounded.
Kimbra Charleton is an English border reiver. Her husband died two years ago from wounds during a raid and she is raising her seven-year-old daughter. The chief, Thomas, is fond of her. Despite pressure to marry her off, he has allowed her to retain her cottage, cow, horse and garden. Kimbra is an herbalist and has treated the wounded, saving many. In order to survive, she is with the group who is rummaging the battlefield for valuables. Though heartsick, she knows she will be able to keep a token for herself and this might be the difference in life or death for her daughter. Kimbra finds Lachlan still alive, although he has a wound in his leg and his ribs. She thinks to protect him and covers him, returning that night to get him. He is dressed as a noble and she hopes to ransom him.
Her hopes are dimmed when he starts to recover and she realizes he has no memory. He cannot tell her who his family is nor even his name. All she has is his family crest she found on his plaid. She is reluctant to share it with him because of the value of the stones. Kimbra nurses him to health and teaches him the language of the border. She is aware of the danger of hiding a Scot, when the English king has declared that all who are found must be killed to avoid an uprising in the future. Kimbra hopes to discover his identity and still get something for him.
As she and Lachlan, who is given the name Robert Howard, get to know each other, they start to care about one another. Her daughter, Audra, enjoys his company and Lachlan finds himself enchanted by “the two bonny lasses.” But life on the border is dangerous and they must keep his identity hidden, while still maintaining some semblance of loyalty to the Charletons.
The tale moves from the battle to the struggle to keep Lachlan alive. Then there is the need for healing and secrecy, followed by hiding his identity and figuring out how to get him back to Scotland. The end of the tale involves ransoms and figuring out how two people from such diverse backgrounds can be together when the world is not a welcoming place to those who are different.
Kimbra is a strong heroine, yet has vulnerabilities that have molded her. Her love for her daughter and fear for Lachlan’s life dictate her actions. She is smart and courageous without being hard. She is a delightful heroine. Lachlan is an engaging hero who doesn’t want to be a hero. He just wants to discover who he is. He is attracted to Kimbra, yet his gentle nature, valor and honor shine through his every action. But he is at the same time, a tortured hero, who knows there is more to his life if he can just remember it. As his memory returns, he struggles with the love he feels for Kimbra and with what he might have left behind.
Each and every character in this tale has depth. The Charletons, the members of the Armstrong reivers, and the friends and family of Lachlan who look for him and pray he is alive. The villains are clear and probably the least defined, but their villainy seems to fit with the times. The descriptions of the battle and life are vivid, yet not overpowering. We see the story from both Kimbra’s and Lachlan’s views, and this helps the reader connect to the story even more. This is a follow up to Beloved Imposter, and some characters are revisited, but the book stands strongly on its own.
Beloved Stranger is not to be missed and will be a welcome addition to everyone’s keeper shelves.