In Judith James' Highland Rebel Jamie Sinclair is a solider, a master of disguise, a little bit of a rogue, and almost penniless. Nevertheless, the ladies love him and he has a promising future with a woman waiting for him back home in England who has money. His hopes of a well off and comfortable future are dashed in the heat of battle when he meets and marries a young Scottish girl- Catherine Drummond. Jamie does not know it at the time, but she is rich... very rich. Jamie's intention for marrying her is to save her from the evil thoughts and hands of his bored, blood thirsty soldiers. Catherine soon pays him back for his `kindness' by nursing him back to health when he is all but beaten to death trying to get her back once she inevitably runs from the marriage. Beaten over the head and sent back to England in disgrace, Jamie is left penniless again and falls out of favor with the King for snubbing his former soon-to-be wife for a Scottish rebel girl.
Catherine, however, finds that she quite likes being married without the burden of having a husband around. Years pass, but circumstance takes Catherine to England to meet the King and hopefully begin to sell her people's whiskey to the court for a profit. When she sees Jamie again, they come to an understanding that they will pretend to be married for a while before splitting amicably. Catherine promises Jamie that she will pay him handsomely for playing his role.
Problem is, they soon begin to develop a powerful attraction toward one another. It is hard for Catherine to endure Jamie playing his charms on other women and not her, and Jamie feels increasingly possessive of the beautiful and charming Catherine. Because the two of them knock heads relentlessly, they convince themselves that they should not pursue one another, which only causes more confusion and anxiety. And, of course, more attraction.
If you do not like the typical "gasp and passion" romances that populate bookstores, Highland Rebel is a book that you will like. The characters are well relayed and have depth, each with their own personality and motivating forces. The romance itself is slow moving and complex, so there is a realistic and often times wonderfully frustrating progression from disdain to friendship and ultimately to love. Jamie and Cat do not fall all over each other, so the plot is not cliché as so much romance fiction is.
Judith James knows her history and it shows in the elegant way she presents the English Royal Court of James, as well as the harsher but beautiful Scottish Highlands of Catherine's heritage. My area of history, as anyone knows, is Rome, so I fully enjoyed what I was able to learn from Highland Rebel. Subtle beneath the passion and romance is a variety of great, valuable historical information. I was absolutely delighted by the matter of fact way James presents her world such that we absorb without feeling inundated by details and facts.
Highland Rebel is also very well written and I like how it plays out the way that Jamie and Catherine slowly come together. I dislike the brand of romance that has the heroine in the arms of the man as soon as they meet. The best female counterparts are strong willed and resistant. The greater the conflict, the greater the reward at the end when all differences are mended and the couple finally comes to accept the feelings they have. Jamie seems to be worth it, though, because he is the right kind of rogue- rough, smart, and misunderstood. And Catherine defies the expectations placed on women to achieve independence as much as any woman can. I can't say that I blame her. Naturally, this makes her the perfect fit for the unconventional Jamie.
Too bad they didn't see it earlier!
You will quite like Jamie at the end, rogue though he is. You come to understand why he is the way he is due to his own father and upbringing. Cat, too, comes across as a bit cold. However, once her character comes out, you really learn to respect her for her boldness, her wit, and her strength. She is a take charge kind of girl, but not kick butt; Cat is weak and flawed in her own way, which makes her more of an engaging and believable character. There are some definite character changes that occur toward the end, as the two of them change each other enough to allow love to take hold and come to fruition. Highland Rebel is a truly entertaining story, sometimes funny, sometimes sad, sometimes heated, sometimes absolutely frustrating. A page turner, for sure.