"An enchanting and exciting Highland romance that leaves your heart panting for more!"
Reviewed by Audrey Lawrence
Posted April 19, 2019
As the wind and rain rattle John Gordon's Auld Aunt Jean's wee house
in Duff Head in northeastern Scotland, Isabella listens to Jean's dire
predictions about how unsafe the small village is for her. After being
forced to flee from her Edinburgh home where her husband was
murdered in cold blood, Isabella is fully aware of how powerful the
thousand pounds sterling bounty now on her head would quickly cause
people to turn her over to the English soldiers. Then, she is certain to
face trial and her execution.
When news of a shipwreck reaches them, Isabella cannot resist acting
and ignores Jean's stern warnings. She is a professionally trained
doctor and she had seen enough death. If she could help, she would.
Spotting a man near death, she is bound and determined to save him
over Jean's objections. The ship had exploded and the desperate
villagers are angered that they have been robbed from stealing any
salvage. Even as she struggles to save the dying man, how can they
HIGHLAND CROWN is the exciting
first book in the Royal
Highlander series by May McGoldrick (skillfully penned by the
very popular and award-winning writing team of Nikoo and James
McGoldrick, with more than 40 books to their credit). Set in the 1820s
near Inverness, Scotland, this fast-paced, exciting story is full of almost
nonstop action from shipwrecks at sea to the protest gatherings of
workers determined to seek a fairer wage for their hard work. The
McGoldrick team have a lovely talent for giving just enough period
detail that readers will feel drawn into an authentic story; yet, it is not
so overdone that it overwhelms the dramatic and intriguing happenings
in HIGHLAND CROWN.
Isabella is a very intelligent and immensely likable character. Due to her
unique background as a physician, she is compassionate to others
while her excellent observational and other skills that enable her to
interact across various the various social strata in Scotland. The
shipwreck's captain is none other than Cinaed Mackintosh, a handsome
man of strength and quick wits, despite his injuries. He is the
quintessential hero and I could understand why Isabella falls for him
when my own heart yearns for his passionate embraces as well.
A key strength of the story for me is how effectively the writers
integrate the characters' thoughts with their witty dialogues, especially
as Isabella and Cinaed's relationship blossoms almost as fast as their
ill-fated troubles arise. The McGoldrick team also demonstrates their
solid research into the times of the 1820s Radical War as the various
attitudes, actions, and mannerisms of the characters ring true to their
nature, be they brutal or kind.
While HIGHLAND CROWNis a
terrific lead-in book to this awesome new series about the Murray
women, it also reads well as a stand-alone historical romance; although
I must admit it does leave the reader panting for more. I am so glad that
the sequel, HIGHLAND JEWEL featuring Maisie Murray and her family's
adventures, will soon be available! If you love historical romances or are
already a May McGoldrick fan, I am very sure you will find great
pleasure in slipping back into those turbulent times to follow the twists
and turns to the very unexpected ending. Enjoy the discovery in the HIGHLAND CROWN!
Scottish pride, persuasion, and passion—this is
Highland romance at its breathtaking best.
Perched on the North Sea, this port town—by turns legendary
and mythological—is a place where Highland rebels and
English authorities clash in a mortal struggle for survival
and dominance. Among the fray is a lovely young widow who
possesses rare and special gifts.
WANTED: Isabella Drummond
A true beauty and trained physician, Isabella has inspired
longing and mystery—and fury—in a great many men. Hunted by
both the British government and Scottish rebels, she came
the Highlands in search of survival. But a dying ship’s
captain will steer her fate into even stormier waters. .
.and her heart into flames.
FOUND: Cinaed Mackintosh
Cast from his home as a child, Cinaed is a fierce soul
allegiance is only to himself. . .until Isabella saved his
life—and added more risk to her own. Now, the only way
Cinaed can keep her safe to seek refuge at Dalmigavie
Castle, the Mackintosh family seat. But when the scandalous
truth of his past comes out, any chance of Cinaed having a
bright future with Isabella is thrown into complete
darkness. What will these two ill-fated lovers have to
sacrifice to be together…for eternity?
Abbotsford, the Scottish Borders
Some say I’m a hero. Some call me a traitor.
My time grows short now. I feel nothing in my right side.
My hand lies inert on the bedclothes. The apoplexy has
robbed me of any useful employment. I tried, but I cannot
hold a pen. Not that it matters. Those exertions are behind
Some will say that I, Sir Walter Scott—author of Waverley
and Rob Roy and Red Gauntlet—invented the new Scotland.
That I was the unfailing champion of the noble traditions
of the past. That I revealed the Scottish identity that all
now wear with tartan-emblazoned pride.
What they say is a lie.
My family has brought down my bed and propped me up before
the open window of my dining room. In the meadow outside,
the yellow of the rock-rose, the scarlet of the campion
flower, the pure white of the ox-eyed daisies nearly blind
me with their reckless brilliance. The water scratches over
the pebbled shore of the Tweed at the end of the field, but
instead, I hear the haunting voices of hungry, homeless
Highlanders, dying by the thousands.
How many have died as the ancient hills continue to be
cleared of their tenant farmers in the name of progress?
Pushed from their homes, driven to the sea, to the cold,
hard streets of our cities, to lands far away . . . if they
could survive the journey. All to make way for a few more
sheep. All in the quest of a few more shillings.
I did what I believed at the time was right for Scotland. I
convinced myself I could not let my country descend into
the lawless chaos of bloody revolution, the throat of
civility ripped out by the mob. It happened in France. The
guillotine’s dread machinery flew out of control, splashing
far too much innocent blood into the streets in its
ravaging thirst for the guilty. And the cobbled lanes of
Paris were not yet dry when a new terror arose in the form
of their arrogant tyrant Napoleon. I told myself I could
not let that happen here. Not here. Not in my homeland.
But now I see the truth clearly, and the bitter gall of
that knowledge rises into my throat. I spent a lifetime
creating an image of Scotland that I knew was not real. I
closed my eyes to the suffering and the deaths of my own
people, and instead told stories depicting the grandeur of
an imagined Highland past. And as I worked, I held my
tongue about the bloody decimation of the clans and their
way of life. Men I dined with daily were profiting from the
killing, and I said nothing. Worse, I, too, made money from
it with my romantic tales.
Many are those who see me clearly. To them, I am Walter
Scott—turncoat, bootlicking lackey of the British Crown.
They say I sold the independence of Scotland for a shabby
box of tawdry and meaningless honors. They say that because
of me, the Scottish people will never be free again. That I
betrayed them for a wee bit of fleeting fame and the price
of a few books.
Now, after all these years, I find myself forced to agree.
And that is all the more difficult to bear because I lie
here with Death stalking the shadows of Abbotsford.
He’s been dogging my faltering steps for some time now.
This fever struck me as we returned from our travels. Rome
and Naples, Florence and Venice. Those places had offered
no relief. Death was coming for me. London was covered in
yellow fog when we arrived, but the rest is a blur. They
tell me I lay close to death for weeks. I don’t recall. And
then the final journey home. The steady rumbling rhythm of
a steamboat remains in my mind, but I remember very little
of that. I only know that I am home now.
Two of my hunters have been turned out into the meadow.
Fine mounts. The golden sun glistens on their powerful
shoulders as they begin to graze. I wish I could be as
content, but life has buffeted me about, and the choices
I’ve made give me no respite. Nor should they.
My mind returns again and again to the upheaval of 1820, to
We called those men and women radicals, when all they
wanted were the rights and freedoms of citizens. In the
name of equality and fraternity, they cried out for
representation. They demanded the vote. Some called for an
end to what they saw as the iron fist of Crown rule. They
wanted to sever our northern kingdom from England and
restore the ancient parliament of Scotland. In my lifetime,
those men and women were the last chance for Scotland’s
independence, and I blinded myself to their cause. And when
Westminster made it treason to assemble and protest, they
willingly gave their lives. The heroic blood of the Bruce
and the Wallace flowed in their veins. I see that now. Too
That same year, that same month, as the blood flowed, I
returned to Scotland from Westminster bearing my new title.
Even now, I feel the weight of the king’s sword on my
shoulders. But as I reveled proudly in my accomplishments,
the cities across the land were tinderboxes, threatening to
explode in a wild conflagration of civil war. The weavers
and the other tradesmen in Glasgow and Edinburgh had just
brought the country’s affairs to a halt with their strikes.
Some of the reformers had courageously marched on the
ironworks at Carron to seize weapons.
Scotland teetered on the brink of anarchy. I was afraid. So
I took the well-worn path of weak men.
I feel the fever’s heat coming on again. The colors outside
my window grow more brilliant. I hear the sound of voices
singing an old Scots ballad. Or is it thunder?
My single moment of courage came when I saved a woman who
would help change the course of history.
Isabella Murray Drummond. A marvel of this modern age. A
doctor, no less, who’d studied at the university in
Wurzburg, where her eminent father held a professor’s
chair. When he passed away, she married an Edinburgh
physician who’d gone to further his studies under the
tutelage of her father. He was a widower with a growing
daughter. She was a single woman left with a younger sister
and a small inheritance. It was a marriage of convenience.
Isabella, who had the loveliness of Venus and the bearing
of a queen. She saved me from losing my leg—lame since my
childhood—after the carriage accident in Cowgate. Carried
to her husband’s house, I was fortunate he was not at home,
for she was the very angel of mercy I needed at that
moment, and her skill as a physician saved my life.
Some will always think me a traitor. I know now that I have
helped in giving away Scotland’s chance for independence .
. . perhaps forever . . . in return for a peace that was
profitable for a few. But if I have one thing in my life
that I’ll never regret, it was my action on that woman’s
behalf when the time came.
The news spread across the city. Isabella Drummond’s
husband was dead, and she was in hiding with her sister and
her stepdaughter. The government had declared her an enemy
of the Crown, placed a bounty upon her head. Her husband’s
rebellious allies wanted her, as well, believing she’d
inform on them.
I succeeded in helping the women escape from the city, far
to the north where they would board a ship bound for
Canada. She was to join all those Highlanders who were
journeying to a new life. But she would never board any
ship. She would never reach the shores of that far-off
It was there on the rugged coast of the Highlands that she
disappeared . . . and lived a truer adventure than ever
flowed from my pen.
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