Highland Outlaw - Monica McCarty My review contains spoilers and they're mostly my thoughts as I went with the book...

This one’s so far my favorite in MM books. Although not the way I envisioned the book, I absolutely loved the 1st half of the book even knowing how sad it’d be when Elizabeth gets to learn about Patrick’s deception. Knowing what she went through with one suitor didn’t help at all. But, I adored how possessive Patrick was about Elizabeth all through the book. I adored that after knowing her, Patrick knew he couldn’t hurt her, she was just so lovely. On the course of the story, I identified that this one goes almost simultaneously with Highland Warrior. If you read that, you’ll see there’s a mention of Lizzy falling in some trouble with the MacGregors.

Elizabeth or Lizzy is known to us from a few previous installments. We knew she was shy and reserved, prone to stammering. Here, I saw a woman underneath, a strong and passionate one at that just waiting to be discovered. We also get to see some of what happened to her in the past few years. She’s called ‘plain’ by society’s standard, though I have no idea why. She has pale hair and bright blue eyes to go with it. But all the cruelties of life has left it’s mark, making her someone with quite a low self-esteem. Then when I knew about what her last suitor did to her, I was mad, so so mad! The poor girl already went through 2 engagements; one childhood engagement broken by something that her illegitimate older brother Duncan did, the other was with Rory MacLeod of Highlander Untamed. When this suitor started courting her, she thought she’s in love with him or the skunk wanted her to believe it, taking advantage of her sweet and trusting nature. It was all a ploy to get her lands and the fact that as she’s ‘plain’, she’d always welcome the suit of a handsome lord. The first scene of the book, where we also meet Patrick, a scene as these two meet, albeit not personally. Patrick witnessed a scene that led him to plan his deceit that played the vital role in the book. It was a Highland Game fest, where that suitor was making fun of her and Elizabeth heard it all. It was so sad, the way it all happened and she started stammering and trying to get out of there. In her haste, she fell into the mud and Patrick, who heard it all and was already incensed on her behalf, helped her out. It was a huge chance he took, being a MacGreor and an outlaw, decreed by King James. His cousin, the Chief Alasdair was about to create some distractions. Anyway, Patrick remembered Lizzy, the MacGregors even named her as ‘Patrick’s Campbell’ to poke fun at him. Lizzy, meanwhile, broke the engagement and has never since took another chance. Now at an advanced age, 2 yrs after that incident, her cousin Argyll is subtly reminding her of her duty. The ever romantic Lizzy has been disillusioned quite thoroughly from her last suitor’s duplicity. She’s very sure she’ll never marry for love, though in her heart there’s still optimism. Also seeing her two closest friends, Meg and Flora (from Highlander Unmasked and Highlander Unchained) finding love makes her wistful. She does often think of that MacGregor man (later she learned that it was someone from the MacGregors) who showed her such kindness that day. On her way to Dunoon on Argyll’s summon, she and her maid Alys, are attacked by the MacGregors. There’s this gory fight, she tries to defend herself and her maid. But suddenly, there’s this man comes through the wood, as her savior. She also wounds the leader of the gang with her dirk. Either way, she’s grateful to this tall, dark, sinfully handsome savior. They talk on their way to Campbell Castle and the man introduces himself as Patrick Murray, a guardsman of some lord. He tells her that he just lost his wife in childbirth, along with the child so he’s going away to some other place to be a hired hand, and leave the memory behind. Lizzy is quite intrigued and instantly sympathetic, wants to comfort him. Since she had no idea of his real identity, she takes his offer to accompany her to the Campbell Castle. This was closer to them at the moment as Alys’s husband along with other guards needed treatment.

This book explains a lot from the MacGregors’ POV of the feud that had been fought between them and the Campbells. I wasn’t really sure in the previous books but now I know that Robert the Bruce had some influence instigating this feud. Campbells were his close allies so he allotted the MacGregor lands to them. The MagGregors didn’t have the legal documents to prove their lands and lost it, becoming tenant on their own land. The feud started and grew as the centuries passed by. The recent being, Patrick’s maternal uncle, the Black Duncan Campbell was given this land by the King. Patrick’s mother thought they were safe being kin but it was just a fool’s dream. The Black Duncan was as ruthless a laird as it can be and when he wants something nothing stands in his way, not even his own sister. So his men killed Patrick’s parents along with many other clan members that night almost 20 yrs ago. He and his siblings somehow survived and now working with their cousin Alasdair. When he heard that his land and the castle built on it, Edinample, is given to Lizzy as her dowry, he put forth a plan. I’ve already mentioned why he thought Lizzy would be vulnerable to seduction. He’d seduce and marry her and his land would be again with the MacGregors. His 2nd brother, Gregor who’s a bit temperamental, would attack her carriage and Patrick would be their savior. In the meantime, Alasdair along with his youngest brother Iain and a few other MacGregors would take refuge with the Lamonts (more on it in Highland Warrior). But the inherent truth was Patrick was already taken with Lizzy and her vulnerability, in a protective sort of way. He felt possessive about her already, though he won’t say it out loud. So his plan was working just fine but it wasn’t working the exact way he planned it. Confused? I know. I mean he thought it’d be a calculating thing, no attachments of any sort; seduce her ASAP, make her runaway with him, marry her and then tell her the truth. By the time it all comes out, the deed would be done. Yet, he and his men can’t seem to contemplate the whole thing in this regard anymore. Lizzy’s so sweet, caring and nice, they fell under her spell in a very short time.

Lizzy makes Patrick stay because she really wanted him around. Something about him just makes her breathless. The thought of him leaving, well, she just can’t think of it. He also saved her from a wolf attack on their way back from the MacGregor attack. She already knows he’s a formidable warrior and feels safe and protected whenever he’s around. So she, unwittingly makes Patrick’s job easier by asking him to act as her guard, knowing his ‘intention’ to become one. Before that, just after they arrived, Patrick becomes ill with an old open would (trust me I couldn’t believe the size of it and how he survived all this time without it being treated well). Jamie, in the meantime, pays a visit to Lizzy hearing the news of attack. But he’s called away soon when Colin’s attacks on the Lamonts reach him. Patrick was a bit scared how the ruthless Argyll Henchman (a nickname given by Argyll haters to Jamie because of his absolute loyalty to the earl) would react but he knows it’d be certain death. Jamie has been hunting the MacGregors on Argyll and the King’s behalf for a long time. I really enjoyed the scenes where Lizzy tries to take care of Patrick but he’s so attuned to her that even in his weakened state he’s aroused by her nearness. But when he asked Lizzy to ask someone to take care of him, Lizzy at first thought she’s a fool to think there could be something between them. But soon after Patrick tells her how much he really wants her and what it does to him (errm yah, he did). She can’t believe it and is really happy since she already cares about him a lot. So her proposal that he stay as her guard (as Jamie ordered be done) wasn’t farfetched.

I so enjoyed their little banters and scenes together on their stay on Campbell Castle. Lizzy was trying hard to forget that Argyll might soon call upon her. She’s in a dreamland now, with a handsome, masculine knight who it seems can’t take his eyes off her, it helps that it’s a part of his duty too, he being her personal bodyguard (ooh!). There were a few kisses but the problem was when Patrick said something about her skin being soft, she suddenly remembered her last suitor. This is when it’s revealed that the skunk took her virginity (I wasn’t really expecting this), then just a few days later broke her heart. That scene was actually very heart wrenching, the things that man was saying to his cronies about her, things Patrick and Lizzy both heard. Anyway, she tells herself that she can’t have anything to do with a guardsman, her family won’t approve but her heart won’t listen. She tries to give him wide berth but the wretch would tease her with his gorgeous face, green eyes and half nude manly body (there was a scene I totally loved :p), just to irritate her. And Lord, he’s always around! Lizzy hears of him and his men going to the village, the informer using innuendos, which she understands and is instantly angry and jealous. She tells him as much when next day he followed her. But Patrick vehemently denied being with other women, telling her very clearly he wants only one woman in his life. Lord, it was sexy! Though I knew he was playing a deception but his feelings for Lizzy were genuine; the game has shifted and now going completely wrong for him.

But, Patrick’s actually been in the village to meet Gregor and exchange news. Gregor is mad angry at Lizzy for wounding him and wants nothing to do with her. In the end, he did come off as the merciless outlaw MacGregors are termed to be. He would foul mouth Lizzy and the Campbells at every opportunity, which even though Patrick didn’t like, couldn’t fight back lest he gives away just how much he’s softened towards her. He knew that Lizzy felt different for him, he hated to deceive her but right now, it’s a mess and nothing else. Then, suddenly, Lizzy’s elder brother Colin and her suitor chosen by Argyll, Robert Campbell pay a visit. Robert is Black Duncan’s son, which makes Patrick his cousin. But none except Patrick and his men know this truth. Lizzy tries to make him understand but can’t ignore the charming and good looking Robert as well. Patrick is totally insane and mad seeing them together. Soon, before leaving, Robert proposes. Patrick follows them in the garden and sees him kissing Lizzy, instantly wishing to kill the man *fans herself*. Robert asks Lizzy to consider, she agrees. Later when she finds Patrick in some secluded place, all the simmering rage and passion comes undone from him. He raves at her, telling her how much he wants her. Lizzy is a bit shocked, even stunned by this display yet strangely aroused and happy. They kiss, which leads to other things. They were about to do it when Lizzy hesitates for a moment so Patrick leaves, telling her to make up her mind. Then there’s this game takes place, where Robert challenges Patrick. They’d already been fighting each-other for Lizzy, albeit subtly. It was great, how Patrick finally claimed his victory over Robert on an archery match, although it made him kinda vulnerable to discovery since Patrick’s skill is simply unmatched in this. Later Robert confronts him, he was nice though, but reminds him that a guardsman can’t give Lizzy the life she deserves. Patrick concedes and decides to leave. Ugh but it made me mad! Meantime, Lizzy was being ready for dinner and had already made up her mind about Patrick, with a little wisdom from her maid Alys. But she hears about his resignation from her guards and finds Patrick in his room, packing. She won’t let him go of course. It’s a scene I totally loved, how she seduces a reluctant Patrick (not that he didn’t want it!) into making love. Patrick realizes that she isn’t a virgin but that doesn’t matter to him, he wants her just as she is. He had some idea who did this though. She says ILU to him and Patrick knew he’s now in great trouble. Anyway, Lizzy, as they were talking, tells him about some incidents with the Lamonts being killed and Alasdair surrendering to Argyll with Jamie acting as their intermediary. Patrick is totally shocked by the news. He knew something’s wrong when Gregor failed to appear in their village meetings.

Then in the next few days he tries to convince her to runaway. But Lizzy is a hard nut to crack about this. Oneday she was visiting Alys when Patrick comes to take her back. As they were talking about their mutual disagreement about the marriage, Patrick senses Gregor hovering nearby. After sending Lizzy away, he talks to his brother, in return is informed with some gruesome act of treachery by Argyll, concerning Alasdair and Iain with many of his clan members. If you read Highland Warrior you can link most of these incidents. Agryll executed all of them, betraying the contract drawn by Jamie. Also, that their sister Anne has been raped by Colin’s man. FYI: Anne was said to be the love interest of Niall Lamont, Jamie’s wife Caitrina’s brother. They already knew that Jamie married Caitrina in a hurry and the contract was a part it this. Patrick, in a haze, decides he won’t go through the marriage since vengeance is all that is left now. Gregor keeps asking for Lizzy and give her what Colin’s men did to Anne. Only Patrick’s feelings for her was what kept her safe, at least for now. Patrick comes back but Lizzy is very worried about his aloof behavior. He asks her to pack and be ready to leave for Dunoon the next day. He doesn’t come to her at night like before.

At their journey, Patrick remains aloof and doesn’t say a thing to Lizzy. But the temperamental Gregor takes it in his own hand and attacks them, challenging Patrick’s power as the new chief. Patrick, who is now in a very double edged situation, handles it as he can; once defending his clan by killing the Campbell guardsmen. But he also asks some of them to take Lizzy and ride to Dunoon pronto but they fail as Gregor’s men attack them mercilessly. Also, the guardsman who was always suspicious of Patrick came back with news about Patrick but dies in this scuffle. Lizzy is totally speechless with horror and as the proportion of Patrick’s betrayal dawns on her, she’s utterly horrified. But this won’t be the only thing that would horrify her again and again. Gregor won’t listen to Patrick. He wants Lizzy to exact vengeance so he injures him. Patrick kinda grabs her and rides for the unknown. Not exactly unknown, he knows this place like no other. Being an outlaw, his life was in the wilds, living however he could. Soon we get to learn some of things he did to survive throughout the years. I have to say, Bear Gryles or no (see: author’s note), I was really saddened by learning the truth in a hard way, to observe the things from his POV. They run to lose Gregor’s men but Lizzy was having trouble, never being used to in such situation or terrain. They spend nights in a cave, with Patrick taking care of his wounds. They walk and walk, through the heavy rain and the cold finally coming close to MacGregor land, now added to Lizzy’s dowry (yes, she knows about most of the ‘whys’ of Patrick’s reason behind choosing her initially and Lord it hurt even to read it, can’t tell you how much I felt for her). He tells her about his clan and shows her Edinample Castle. They spend the night in a small island, inside a hut. Lizzy has already decided to forgive him, weighing the truth and the situation in hand, knowing whatever it is, she won’t be happy, ever, without him. And everything he did, so far, was for her. So, she convinces Patrick, who was still determined not to marry her. They handfast, consummating it afterwards. The next day set off to find Patrick’s men. On the way, she slips on the mud and Patrick helps her get up. Suddenly something clicks and she recognizes who was that kind MagGregor in that long ago Highland Game fest. She’s over the moon realizing this, that her savior was the same man she loves. But then, she learns that Patrick (who couldn’t lie as the matter came up) chose her not only because of her dowry but also he thought she would be an easy conquest. I felt like screaming at this point, it was hurting me so much as well! Anyway, he very strongly tells her that whatever that was in the past stays in the past; there is no denying his true feelings for her anymore.

Patrick thought he’s near the kirk where his men were supposed to be waiting, but he soon learns how wrong he was. Gregor was already close on their trail and Jamie has found them too. A fight ensue, leaving him unconscious from a knock by Jamie’s sword. After that, when Patrick regains his consciousness, he and Jamie comes to an understanding about Lizzy which was totally, utterly moronic and made me so frustrated, I mean how much can one take of such “doing this for her good”, not even consulting her. Lizzy on the other hand, didn’t know so she AGAIN thought Patrick never really wanted her and is hurt. But she asks Jamie to see to his freedom as well as his land given back to him. Here, the ever annoying Caitrina did play some vital role for Jamie to come out with the truth. Lizzy knew she’s already pregnant (Lord, the way they were going in that hut... LOVED those scenes *sigh*) but of course I wasn’t surprised. Now, knowing the truth she’s very angry at both men but plans something to make Patrick come back to her and so the ending was very sweet (leaving me wishing for my own Patrick) as amazing was the long author’s note in the end, full of historical facts. So, I give this one a 4.5 star.

The story used in the book of Edinample being haunted is real. If you wanna read more Scottish ghost stories, I recommend Scottish ghost stories by Elliott O’Donnell. It’s an old book, can be downloaded from Gutenberg. I just loved it, my favorite being the 9th story set in Ayr.

Some pictures of the Edinample Castle that played such a central role in Patrick’s life...

Edinample closeup:

Edinample closeup

Couldn’t help giving it a faraway view, the way it was described in the book.

Edinample faraway