Middle Ages / Medieval (476-1300)

The Highlander’s Promise by Lynsay Sands

The Highlander's Promise (Highlanders #6)The Highlander’s Promise by Lynsay Sands
Tracy’s rating: 5 of 5 stars

Series: Highlanders, #6

Release Date: June 26, 2018

Laird Aulay Buchanan’s day is not going as expected. He felt a black mood coming and set out to his hunting lodge for some time alone, but his younger brother Alick has tagged along. Aulay reiterates that he is going fishing – nothing more. Alick is disappointed (he was hoping fishing meant drinking and wenching), but decides to stay for a couple of days anyway. They take a boat out on the ocean and Alick spots something – it looks like a ship mast. They get closer and discover a woman tied to the mast. They cut her free and are shocked that she is alive. She wakes and looks at Aulay, he prepares himself for the inevitable scream of horror when she sees his scarred visage. But she surprises him by asking if he is an angel. He asks if she has family they should notify and she gets upset and babbles about a cat, a white lady and betrotheds who are not her betrothed killing their first wife and now will kill her. Aulay promises to keep her safe and will not alert anyone until she is well. He asks her name, but she has passed out. That is when he sees the blood. They rush back to the lodge and he sends Alick to get Rory and a few of his other brothers.

She is wounded and Rory doesn’t expect her to live, he shaved part of her head to treat the wounds and leaves her in Aulay’s care. He spends the next few weeks nursing her back to health. He has been calling her Jetta, because of her beautiful black hair, but he longs to know who she is, because she is the first woman to look upon him without horror since he got the injury in the same battle that took his twin brother Ewan. She wakes and believes that Aulay is her husband, she has no memory of her past and when she tries to remember, it causes her extreme pain and she passes out. Rory tells Aulay to play along, he doesn’t want her to get upset or be frightened. Aulay agrees, but his attraction to her makes it hard to keep his distance. Especially when Jetta doesn’t understand why her “husband” won’t bed her.

Slowly, Jetta heals, but has not remembered much more than a few trifling bits of her previous life. She and Aulay spend a lot of time together and she tells him how lucky she is to have him for a husband. When he is called back to the castle to investigate the shooting of a maid, Jetta learns more about his past. Aulay longs to return to Jetta, but he owes Katie, the maid justice. His attempts to discover who Jetta really is have turned up nothing and he wonders what will happen if she learns they are not really married. Will she leave him? His uncle points out that his family has descended on the lodge and she will soon be brought to the keep – if she calls him husband and he calls her wife, they will be in fact married. But Aulay doesn’t want to trick her, he will have to tell her the truth.

Jetta and Mavis are at the lodge and are upset over the death of Robbie’s dog when Saidh, Edith, Murine and Jo all converge on the lodge. The ladies wanted to meet Jetta and they all love her – they want her to be married to “her sweet Aulay” and if Saidh has anything to do with it – she will. They take her back to the keep and Aulay is worried that she will inadvertently announce they are married and takes her right up to their room. He leaves her to rest and goes back to his family. They all think he should keep her and the ladies go up to get her dressed. When she finally comes down, she is pushed and tumbles down the stairs. They are unable to find the person who pushed her, so Aulay orders a guard on her. Later over dinner, she remembers more and Aulay’s secret is out. She is upset, but when he very sweetly proposes, she accepts.

They marry and when they slip away to consummate their vows, another attempt is made on her life. Worried for her, he confines her to their chamber. But later sees her sneaking into his brother Niels’ room and propositioning him – Aulay is devastated, he believed her words of love and feels like a fool. But soon he realizes, not all is as it seems but can he save her before the viper in their midst gets to her!

You just can’t go wrong with a Lynsay Sands Highlander novel, they are a perfect blend of humor, action and steamy love scenes. I loved this book and cannot wait for the next installment in the series. Even though this is the sixth book in the series, but it can absolutely be read as a stand alone title with no problems and I can’t recommend it highly enough.

*I am voluntarily leaving a review for an UNCORRECTED eARC that was provided to me by Edelweiss and the publisher*

The Princess by Elizabeth Elliott

The Princess (Montagues, #5)The Princess by Elizabeth Elliott
Tracy’s rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Series: The Montagues, #5

Release Date: June 5, 2018

Let me start by saying, this book is written in the first person – I am not a fan of first person narrative.

Princess Isabel Plantagenet is the widow of the Crown Prince Hartman of Rheinbaden and daughter of King Edward I of England. Sent to Rheinbaden at the age of 6, Isabel is back in England for the first time in years and is faced with a very dirty, very angry Faulke Segrave. Faulke had arranged a betrothal to Avalene, but has learned that the King betrothed her to his assassin and is demanding Faulke marry Isabel or be tried for treason.

Isabel endured much in her first marriage and has no desire to be subjected to that kind of pain again, which she is sure will happen when Faulke learns the truth about her. Faulke has a reputation of womanizing and three wives who died under questionable circumstances, but looking at him, Isabel cannot fathom the first and completely believes him capable of murder! But she has no choice, she is but a pawn for her father and will do her duty.

Isabel is saddened when the captain of her English guard is found dead, poisoned and further investigation reveals his daughter and her family are also dead. Her father sends her a new captain and has Dante figure out who murdered him. When Faulke returns, Isabel is stunned at the change – he is gorgeous and he knows his effect on women- but she is determined to resist the pull, her father has promised that if marriage to him is unbearable, he will support her decision to live apart from him. Faulke is completely different today, today he is handsome, charming and more than willing to marry her. When he learns of the murder, he insists on moving in with Isabel and helping with the investigation. Her father agrees and when Faulke wants to push up their wedding, much to her dismay.

They marry and Faulke learns one of her secrets. He is patient and kind to her and helps her move past her fear. They grow closer and she begins to have hope for a happy marriage, but when a contingent from Rheinbaden is set to arrive and demand her presence, she feels bound to tell Faulke the truth and reveals her darkest secret. He is furious and she is heartbroken.

When he calms, he admits he knew or suspected her secret all along (?!?) and is angry that she deceived him, but he still cares for her and defends her honor. It seems like they will get their HEA, but Faulke’s enemies are not done with him yet and they will learn that his enemy is closely tied to her – but will the figure out why she has become the target of his enemies wrath or will Isabel pay the ultimate price?

The book is well written, but since it is first person, I never learned anything from Faulke’s POV, he was such an interesting character that I felt deprived not getting to know and understand him better. The mystery was decent, the love scenes were mild and the secondary characters were abundant and likable, the story and characters were an interesting mix of fact and fiction with a healthy dose of creative license. This book is part of a series, but it can absolutely be read as a stand alone title with no problem.

*I am voluntarily leaving a review for an uncorrected eARC that was provided to me by NetGalley and the publisher.*

Forbidden Vow by Diana Cosby

Forbidden Vow (Forbidden, #3)Forbidden Vow by Diana Cosby
Tracy’s rating: 4 of 5 stars

Series: Forbidden, #3

Release Date: May 15, 2018

Sir Aiden MacConnell, former Templar Knight and loyal warrior to King Robert is sent to take Latharn Castle from Lord Comyn’s control. On the way to the castle, he finds Broccin Macraith, Earl of Balfour, dying from battle wounds. Broccin remembers Aiden from his youth and asks him to take a missive to his betrothed at Latharn Castle. The missive is a Godsend to Aiden, it will gain him entry to the castle. He will assume Broccin’s identity, learn the secrets of the castle and when he leaves, he will send a message saying Broccin died in battle.

Lady Gwendolyn Murphy is not happy, she does not want to marry again. She married years ago to strengthen alliances for her father, but when she was widowed, her father assured her, she would be able to live her own life. But with his death, Lord Comyn has taken guardianship of her and is insisting she marry the Earl of Balfour, a man with a reputation of coldness and ruthlessness.

Aiden and Gwendolyn meet when her prized mare is struggling to birth her foal – Aiden steps in and saves both the mare and the foal. Gwendolyn is grateful, until she learns who he is. She bristles at his commands and informs him in no uncertain terms that until they marry – Latharn is HER castle and she does not answer to him!

Aiden is attracted to Gwendolyn, but he is on a mission, he must gain her trust to learn the secrets of the castle for King Robert. He plans to stay for only a few days and then he will ask the king to make sure Gwendolyn is taken care of. But when a missive from Rome arrives, calling the priest back to the Vatican, all his plans are destroyed! Lord Comyn was adamant that their wedding take place within a fortnight AND by the priest. With no other priest available, Aiden must marry Gwendolyn. He is not happy, but he will make it work – he will get the information he needs and then send a missive that he died.

Gwendolyn is confused, this warrior is not what she expected and when he refuses to consummate the marriage but feigns proof of her innocence, she begins to admire him. Before he shows the “proof” to her retainers, she tells him the truth, she was married before. As they are disposing of the “evidence” they see a fleet of English ships dropping anchor. It seems that Comyn has joined forces with the English to fight King Robert.

Aiden needs to get this information to the king and sends Sir Ronan and Sir Cailin out with the news. But when the Duke of Northbyrn double crosses Comyn, Aiden and Gwendolyn must run for their lives.

Aiden still hasn’t told Gwendolyn who he is and when things between them become heated, he tries to put her off, he will not dishonor her. He will take her to the king and ask him to she her settled.

When Aiden is injured and Gwendolyn learns the truth, she is beyond livid. And when she meets with the king, she gets several more shocks – she is angry with herself for falling for Aiden. When the king offers to restore her as mistress of Latharn, she agrees to swear fealty to him. Then he makes another demand – she will marry Aiden, again, immediately.

Aiden tries to make things right with Gwendolyn, he promises to restore her castle to her and leave. Gwendolyn agrees to his terms, but isn’t sure that is what she really wants. Yes, she is angry with him for deceiving her, but she also admires him. But after learning the truth of who he is and what he was, she won’t press him to stay with her.

It seems like these two are destined to part, but when Sir Cailin intervenes and a near death experience forces Aiden to examine his heart, a HEA might just be possible.

This is a well written, fast paced novel with lots of action, secrets and betrayal. The chemistry between Aiden and Gwendolyn is apparent, but the love scenes are mild and few and far between. I enjoyed the book, but a couple of things seemed “off”, first Aiden is a Templar Knight and has been since he was little more than a boy, but he seems very knowledgeable about intimate relations and second, the cover of this book is decidedly not medieval – normally I don’t really care about the covers, but if someone was to look at this cover, there is no way they would know this book was a medieval, the gown the lovely model is wearing makes the book appear to be a regency era story.

I did enjoy this story and would recommend it, it is the third book in the series, but it could be read as a stand alone title with no problem.

*I am voluntarily leaving a review for an eARC that was provided to me by NetGalley and the publisher.*

The Knight’s Scarred Maiden by Nicole Locke

The Knight's Scarred Maiden (Lovers and Legends)The Knight’s Scarred Maiden by Nicole Locke
Tracy’s rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Series: Lovers and Legends, #5

Release Date: August 1, 2017

Helissent is the sole survivor of a fire that killed her entire family, an event that left her scarred, both inside and out. She was taken in by the local innkeepers and after she healed, she worked hard to pay back their kindness, first at the inn and then later as their caregiver until they passed away. Now their son Rudd has come to claim his inheritance and considers Helissent part of his due.

Rhain of Gwalchdu has secrets, five years ago he learned everything he believed about his life was a lie, he left his home and became a mercenary, traveling and looking for answers. But after a moment of recklessness in which he killed Guy of Warstone, he is on the run for his life. Because now, Guy’s brother Reynold is hunting him and he knows his time is almost up. He wants to save his men from Reynold and is making his way to King Edward’s camp outside York, he will leave his men there and then deal with Reynold. Taking the road less traveled, he comes upon Helissent’s village and stays longer than he should – because of his fascination with her.

When he and his friend Nicholas save Helissent from Rudd’s plans for her, he unknowingly sparks something to life in her. She decides to leave the village and will start a new life in York. So when she shows up at his camp the next morning with honey cakes and all her possessions, Rhain grudgingly agrees to take her with them.

Helissent is surprised by the treatment she receives, the men do not ignore her, nor do they treat her differently because of her scars. For so long she has used her scars for penance, she lets people look at her in horror, she believes she deserves this for failing to save her family. But Rhain refuses to let her be shamed. He cares for her but knows nothing can come of it, as he will soon be dead. But he desperately wants to help her. They travel to Tickhill castle, where he shares some of his past with her and she with him. He agreed to take her to York, but he needs to keep her safe from Reynold and tries to leave her at Tickhill castle, but she refuses to stay and he is unable to say no to her.

The threat of Reynold looms and when then reach York, he becomes almost frantic wanting to ensure Helissent is not harmed by Reynold. He tries to keep his distance from her, but they are drawn to each other and when they share a kiss, Helissent knows her heart is lost to him. Rhain berates himself for giving into his desire for her, he knows he needs to stay away, but he can’t let her go thinking her scars are the reason for his withdrawal. He finds her and they share a moment of passion, but afterwards, he is cruel and tries to sever their bond, he is not worthy of her and with Reynold so close, he will do anything, even hurt her feelings, if it means he can keep her safe.

But Helissent is not willing to be cast aside and she will save the man she loves, from Reynold and from himself.

I thought this was a very sweet story of healing, forgiveness and learning to move on from ones past. The writing was very good and the story moves quickly. However, I felt like there were a lot of unanswered questions and the ending was a bit anti-climatic. I really would have enjoyed an epilogue set a few years later that perhaps wrapped up the loose ends. But overall, this was a good read with wonderfully flawed characters, great secondary characters, very mild love scenes, a few too many baking references and a lovely declaration scene.

My Lady Captor by Hannah Howell

My Lady CaptorMy Lady Captor by Hannah Howell

Tracy’s rating: 5 of 5 stars

Release Date: March 27, 2018 (Re-issue)

Someway, somehow I missed this gem when it originally released in 1996 AND when it was re-issued in 2009 – This book is classic Hannah Howell and I am so glad I finally got to read it!

Lady Sorcha Hay finds Sir Ruari Kerr injured on the battlefield while she is searching for her brother Dougal. She learns from Ruari that Dougal was taken by the English and will be ransomed back. While she is talking to him, her cousin Margaret finds another survivor, who turns out to be Ruari’s cousin Beatham.

Sorcha is dismayed, her clan has no coin to pay the ransom and her brother is Laird, they need him! So being the smart, resourceful girl she is, Sorcha hatches a plan, she will raise the ransom by holding Ruari and Beatham for ransom! She takes them back to her keep and hopes she can keep them from learning the secrets of the Hay clan. She tends Ruari’s wounds and tells him that he is her prisoner, Ruari is beyond angry and vows revenge.

Once they are back at her keep, Sorcha waits for the ransom demand from the English and tries to ignore the attraction she feels towards Ruari all while attempting to keep him from learning that most of the Hay clan are women, that she has the power to see and speak to spirits, that her cousin Euphemia is transitioning into womanhood and all the trouble that comes with that for a Hay woman. Not to mention trying to keep her cousin Margaret and Beatham from forming an impossible attachment and thwarting Ruari’s escape attempts.

Sorcha meets with the English and becomes the object of Sir Simon Treacher’s unwanted attention, she manages to negotiate a ransom and hopes to never see Sir Simon again. She sends the ransom demand to the Kerrs and informs Ruari. Ruari is still angry, but he wants Sorcha with a desire stronger than any he has ever felt. He proposes that they become lovers, no promises, no commitments. At first Sorcha is opposed, but she is attracted to him and will probably never marry, so she agrees. They share three incredible nights together before his family comes for him. They part and words are exchanged. But as he rides away, Sorcha knows that he is taking her heart with him.

She gets her brother back and is again subjected to Sir Simon, the man is obsessed! They manage to evade him and make it back to their keep. Six months pass and it finally seems like he has given up, so when Dougal suggests they attend the market fair, she looks forward to the chance to get out of the keep, she is still nursing a broken heart, but is not nearly as dramatic about it as Margaret is. She convinces Margaret to attend and even with a warning of trouble given by Effie, they set out.

Trouble finds them almost as soon as they reach the fair, Ruari is there and when he sees her, he is ready to take his revenge.

This book is great, there is a lot going on, but it never seems busy and all the various characters and story lines all tie neatly together in the end. The love scenes are steamy, the dialogue is amusing, the villain is vile, the problems keeping them apart seem unsurmountable, the declaration scene is very sweet and the epilogue is completely delightful.

I have no idea how I missed this book years ago, but I am so delighted to have found it! I would highly recommend this book and will be looking to see if there are any other books I missed!

*I am voluntarily leaving a review for an eARC that was provided to me by NetGalley and the publisher*

Highland Conquest by Alyson McLayne

Highland Conquest (The Sons of Gregor MacLeod)Highland Conquest by Alyson McLayne
Tracy’s rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Series: The Sons of Gregor MacLeod

Release Date: February 6, 2018

Amber MacPhearson is desperate, years ago Machar Murray took over her clan and has been pursuing her ever since. It was not so bad when her father and grandmother were alive, but since their deaths, Murray has escalated his attacks, going as far as to break into her cottage, she has kept him at bay by pretending to be a witch, but now even that is not working. So with the help of a clansman, she cuts her hair, dresses as a boy and escapes. Only to be captured by Laird Lachlan MacKay.

Lachlan has spent the last five years hunting the man who killed his brother and tried to kill him and he has finally found him, Machar Murray is finally in his sights and he will finally have his justice. He is scouting the castle, when he sees a boy go over the wall and head straight for them, he grabs the boy and takes him back to his camp. Once there he learns his young cousin Adaira has stowed away in one of the supply wagons, so he ties up the “boy” and deals with Adaira. He and his foster brother Callum then leave to take the castle and kill Murray.

Amber is glad that Lachlan is going to kill Murray, but she is worried for her clan and as a healer, she wants to be there to take care of the injured. She tricks Adaira into releasing her and then overpowers her guard and returns to the castle.

Murray bolts, but not before he takes aim at Amber, she runs from him, right into Lachlan. Lachlan is floored to realize the “boy” is actually a woman, the most beautiful woman he has ever seen. Desire flares between them, but before they can act on it, Earc (the guard) shows up with Adaira, she was stabbed by Murray and left for dead. Amber uses the situation to her advantage, she promises to heal her, if Lachlan will take over the clan. He agrees and Amber immediately takes over, she tends Adaira and all the injured. Lachlan is both impressed and annoyed by her and worries for her health and does little things to ensure she is taken care of, including diverting the castle priest, who hates her and calls her a witch.

Once all the injured are tended, Amber rests and then goes up to a chamber to bathe. Lachlan walks in and they realize that Niall, the castle steward is trying to compromise them, there is an amusing scene with Lachlan trying to hide from him, so he doesn’t end up wed to Amber.

Lachlan is frustrated that Murray escaped and they find several tunnels and bolt-holes, they have had no sightings of him. Callum speculates that he will not have gone far, he is obsessed with Amber and won’t leave until he has her. Callum suggests setting a trap, with Amber as bait.

When Amber is injured during an ambush by Murray, the clan decides that she must marry, Amber agrees, but has rules, she chooses Lachlan, thinking he will refuse and is shocked when he agrees to marry her.

Lachlan cares for Amber and despite his best efforts, he has not been able to run Murray to ground or keep her safe. Murray is an incredibly intelligent villain, so Lachlan hopes with the aid of Gregor and his foster brothers, they will be able to outwit him and finally be free of his reign of terror.

This is a very well written book and is filled with non-stop action from the first page until the last, there are steamy love scenes, wonderful secondary characters, amusing moments that keep the book from being too dark, an amazingly brilliant and supremely evil villain and finally a very touching and sweet HEA.

I really enjoyed this book and while it is not necessary, I am glad I read the first book in the series before reading this one. This book can be read as a stand alone, but if you want to learn more about Gregor and how he ended up with his foster sons, I would recommend reading Highland Promise.

*I am voluntarily leaving a review for an eARC that was provided to me by NetGalley and the publisher*

The Most Eligible Highlander in Scotland by Michele Sinclair

The Most Eligible Highlander in Scotland (The McTiernays, #7)The Most Eligible Highlander in Scotland by Michele Sinclair
Tracy’s rating: 3 of 5 stars

Series: The McTiernay’s, #7

Release Date: January 30, 2018

This was not a bad book, but personally, I found it a little boring.

The book opens with Conan McTiernay, the second to youngest McTiernay son and indisputably the most brilliant and the rudest of the bunch, being held at sword point while bathing in a loch near his brother Cole’s castle. He is on his way to Cole’s at Laurel’s bidding to help Father Laneghly and assist in moving items from the burned out priory to the McTiernay holding, when two men accost him and seek to take him captive. Conan has no time for this, even naked and wet, he knows these two men are no match for him. He quickly dispatches the first man and the other man runs off.

Mhairi Mayboill is the younger daughter of a traveling merchant, she has been residing with her sister (who is a nun) for the last several years, but since the priory burned and the church has moved them, Mhairi is no longer welcome with them unless she is willing to take vows. Mhairi has no desire to commit to the church or to marry – she wants her freedom and will not be tied down.

When she and Conan meet, sparks fly, I think they both realize that they have met their match – but neither wants marriage or commitment of any kind.

After this start, I expected this book to be action packed and filled with intrigue and adventure. But, nope – it is two incredibly stubborn people falling in love but refusing to change their plans to accommodate that love.

The story would have been a total bust for me if not for the secondary romance of Seamus and Maegen and the antics of Conor and Laurel’s daughters Brenna and Bonny.

The story ends with a HEA, but it is a long and torturous road (for the reader), there are some steamy love scenes, some laugh out loud moments (thanks to Brenna & Bonny), cameos from ALL the McTiernays, a little heartbreak and I am sorry to say a lot of modern verbiage and cliffhanger epilogue.

*I am voluntarily leaving a review for an eARC that was provided to me by NetGalley and the publisher*

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