on 2 August 2012
This is Book 3 in the Highland Guards series with Arthur 'Ranger' Campbell and Anna MacDougall.
Arthur has a unique ability to blend into shadows and has heightened senses, making him aware of dangers others can't see. He's always been regarded as a loner, preferring to keep away from relationships with women, and content with casual flings. One night, he is on his way to try to steal some money from a church for the Bruce's men, when he sees an unknown woman and her protector. Unable to let her be killed, he makes himself known, but in doing so, his own men attack and kill her protector. After she is saved, she wants to know who he is, but Arthur's face is hidden behind his helmet, and he has no intention of revealing himself, despite feeling an attraction to her.
Moving on one year later, Robert the Bruce gives Arthur the perfect excuse to reclaim his clan's stolen lands and seek revenge on the man responsible for his father's death, John of Lorn, the head of the MacDougall clan. He's eager to do it, since he's been waiting fourteen years for this opportunity. But then, he meets the daughter of MacDougall, Anna, who just happens to be the woman he saved a year ago. Sir Arthur is there with Sir Dugald, his brother, so they can fight for the MacDougalls, but only Arthur knows the truth. John of Lorn is ill, and he asks Anna to spy on Arthur, since he's grown suspicious of him. At first, Arthur is annoyed at Anna's presence; he's finding it hard to keep his distance from the first woman he's ever felt the desire to be closer to. Anna finds herself falling for him, despite his constant rebuffs. There are times she sees him weakening, which gives her hope, but it's not long before he's rude to her again. So she decides to persue an engagement with Sir Hugh Ross, a man she'd previously refused. She tells her father it's to unite the clans so they can fight Robert the Bruce, but it's also to see how Arthur would react. It's obvious he hates the idea of her marrying anyone but him, which delights Anna. But then she discovers who Arthur is, and why he's there. Arthur tells her the truth about her father, but Anna doesn't believe it. But she has another dilemma. Does she tell her father? Should she stay with Arthur? But when Anna decides, she realises what a mistake it is, and goes out to save the man she loves.
Overall, the book was amazing! It reminds me of a Scottish Romeo and Juliet story; forbidden love etc. Arthur is a character you can really feel for, who just needs someone to love him for who he is. Anna does appear like some lovestruck teenager when she follows him around, but she is only doing what her father asks. In doing so, she finds she's fallen in love with him. She tells him, and despite the fact you know he loves her, he won't confess himself and continually rebuffs her. You just want to grab them and bang their heads together.
The only point I would make is the reference to Catherine, Arthur's former lover. He's with his comrades at camp and they are discussing women and someone makes a reference to Arthur's former lover, and Arthur says her name is Catherine, but we learn no more about her. Were they in love? Did she hurt him? Did he hurt her? It seemed a bit pointless referring to her, and even disclosing her name, when nothing else is mentioned afterwards. This is something the author has done in book 1 with Tor's sons, which I mentioned in that review. However, I ignored it, and it didn't change my opinion of the story. (I actually didn't want it to end!)
On with book 4 now with Lachlan 'Viper' MacRuairi and Bella MacDuff. Not sure if it'll be as good as Arthur's story, but here's to hoping!