Tracy’s rating: 5 of 5 stars
Series: Heart of the Highlands, #3
Release Date: 1/19/2016 – Re-Released: 2022
Another great book by Ms. Martin! This book is about Alec and Celia. Alec is the final member of the trio we met in the first book. I hesitate to call this a series because the three books are in no way connected to each other – save the fact the three heroes know each other and were all introduced to us in the first book. Each story so far has centered solely on the current hero of the book. Other than a passing mention of the other heroes – the books have no connection at all.
Alec meets Celia when he is injured defending a young woman on the road from outlaws. He was returning home to claim his inheritance now that his father is dead. Alec left ten years ago and hasn’t been home since. Celia is a healer with a dark and troubled past. As much as she is attracted to the new Laird, she knows that she must not become involved. She tends his wounds and sends him on his way.
Alec is besotted with Celia and fully intends to have her as his mistress – but first, he has to set his castle to rights, regain the trust of his people and rid his lands of the outlaws that are raiding and terrorizing the castle and village. Thanks to his father’s actions over the past ten years, he has no allies, a ruined castle, and no warriors to help him. So as much as he wants Celia, he doesn’t have the time to pursue her – yet.
Celia is haunted by the past – she was orphaned and taken in by a loving woman who was later accused of witchcraft and who sacrificed herself to save Celia. Celia believes that she can’t let anyone love her because she will only bring them pain and heartache. She keeps to herself and avoids getting too attached to anyone. She has never even been tempted by a man – until she meets Alec.
Alec and Celia meet again two weeks later and Celia gives in to the temptation of Alec and seduces him. Frighten by the emotions their encounter generated in her, she runs away. Alec looks for her, but cannot leave his people unprotected for days to search for her. His lands are still overrun with outlaws and he doesn’t have the manpower to drive them off.
Celia has been gone for three months and Alec is getting desperate. He finally asks his neighboring laird – Laird MacDougall for help. MacDougall will help – for a price – he wants Alec to wed his daughter Saraid. Alec is not happy about this but tells the laird that he will consider it.
Cold and almost starving, Celia finally returns home – she was not able to support herself away from Alec’s lands because people feared she was a witch. Alec sees her in the village and follows her. She firmly rebuffs his advances and tells him to stay away from her. He reluctantly agrees to leave her alone but begs her to come and tend Duncan – his ward, who is deathly ill. She tends Duncan – but is determined not to become attached to anyone.
One day while returning to her cottage she is chased by a witch hunter – she is terrified and turns to Alec. She won’t tell him what happened – but agrees to stay in the castle for her own protection. Once she is living in the castle, she and Alec become lovers, he asks her to marry him, and she bolts. Upon returning to her cottage, she finds it ransacked and all her belongings destroyed. She doesn’t know what she will do to survive and then Duncan shows up and tells her that the MacDougall is hunting her and that she is not safe at the cottage – but he knows a place for her to hide.
Alec is fighting his own demons – he fears he is like his father and believes that the darkness inside him is the reason Celia has left him. He tries to respect her wishes and leaves her alone. When the attacks on his lands escalate – he again turns to the MacDougall for help and finds out that MacDougall is looking for Celia – who he believes is a witch. Alec agrees to help him find Celia and marry Saraid. He has no intention whatsoever of turning Celia over to him but plays along with him.
Celia remains hidden for about a week, but a desperate situation draws her out and she is confronted by Saraid. She is able to escape and makes it back to her hiding place. When Saraid’s father finds out that his “witch” has finally been caught – he orders Alec to arrest her. Alec knows where she is hiding -but knows if he goes to her, she will be caught. Duncan not realizing that it was a trap, runs to her hiding place to warn her. They are both caught and Alec has to pretend he is betraying her to save them.
To find out what happens, you are going to have to read the book – the ending of this book was a nail-biting (if I did that sort of thing – which I don’t), page-turning, edge of your seat, OMG, OMG, OMG read!
Seriously – this book is not to be missed! The writing is fabulous, the love scenes are hot, the villains are certifiable and warped, the plot is complex but easy to follow and the epilogue is adorable.
*I received an eARC of this book from the publisher and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*