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

Umm, this book is all about Lachlan ‘the delish’ MacLean without a doubt. He was great, intense, sexy and hawwwwt, just the type I like. Yah he was a bit of a blockhead about a few things, which bugged me but ultimately, I ended up liking him and the story too. I liked Flora for the 1st half of the story, the 2nd half and the big misunderstanding part just pissed me off because I thought she was being totally stupid. Anyway, first, I’d like to talk about Lady’s Rock and the curse of the amulet, as the prologue will tell you.

The story of the curse of Elizabeth Campbell to the MacLean clan with an amulet was simply marvelous. I was a bit confused at first about the names (you know Jamie’s sister is also Elizabeth of the Campbell trilogy). But soon I realized it’s about ancestors to both Lachlan and Flora. Lachlan MacLean (Elizabeth’s husband) wanted to kill her so he left her in a small rock near the Isles of Mull (and Coll) so that she would drown by night. The reason behind it was horrible, also the fact that Elizabeth loved her husband and raised his two kids (from an earlier marriage) as her own. It was so heart wrenching, her thoughts and despairs, from which she finally curses the MacLeans; that the MacLeans would always be bound to the Campbells, only a true love between the two clans and the handover of the amulet could break it. She was saved by some fishing boat/people from her own clan when MacLean left her that night. A few days later, MacLean goes to the Campbells’ to give them the sad news only to find Elizabeth waiting for him. MM has been almost true to the story, only the curse and the amulet part weren’t true with the names of the characters.

Flora won’t marry on anybody’s order. She won’t be a marriage prize, no matter what. Her mother set the idea in her head, since she herself was a marriage prize; bartered away in marriage with various men for greed and for political gains. Janet Campbell was wealthy and beautiful who trusted the men of her clan with her future, which was totally destroyed with the course of time. She was married 4 times, to men much older than her and brutish. 1st MacLean, she never liked. 2nd MacLean died soon after the marriage. 3rd MacIan she never talked about. 4th was Rory’s father, the MacLeod she has neither loved, nor hated. She never wanted this for Flora, who’s her last and only child with the MacLeod. Janet hated the ‘wild, brutish and bloodthirsty’ Highlanders so much that she never really let Flora visit her brothers and sisters from both sides. They lived in the Lowlands and were used to the court life. Flora is also Argyll’s cousin. Flora has it all stored in her head so she planned to elope with a Lowland lord and marry on her own wishes. With her mother dead, Flora must marry for protection. She knew even though Rory wouldn’t force her, Argyll and Hector (her mother’s son from her 1st MacLean marriage) wouldn’t be so nice. Flora isn’t really close to her siblings, 4 brothers and 3 sisters in all (from both her parents), the reason obvious. The day she elopes with Lord Murray is the day she’s kidnapped by a Highlander, on their way to Falkirk. I kinda liked those scenes, seeing how she fought and knew she had fire. Flora is known throughout the court not only for her beauty and wealth (and a marriage prize) but also for her hoyden self. She’s been to any number of misadventures that everyone knows about her. We see a little of that along the way, in Lachlan’s castle too.

Lachlan needed to seduce and marry Flora because of his clan and his brother John. Lachlan isn’t a man who sprouts poetry. There’s no use for pretty words and flowers for him. He’s very serious in life, being a Laird in a very early life. Money has been a problem for them for sometimes now. Whatever I read of his childhood, it was a happy one but he lost his parents very early, within months of each-other. Apart from younger brother John, the two younger sisters Mary and Gillian are his family. They, along with his clan are all he cares about so he’d do his duty by them, no matter what. When King James asked for the annual summoning of the Highland Lairds, for some reasons (possibly some problem with Hector because their rivalry/hatred for each-other is well-known), Lachlan sent John in his stead. The King, of course, didn’t take it lightly and threw John in prison. Lachlan didn’t care for court life, ever and doesn’t care for the Lowlanders too. Historically, I think the MacLean of Coll is supposed to bow down to the MacLean of Duart (in Mull). But Lachlan (Coll) doesn’t care for this since he’s his own law so Hector (Duart) wasn’t happy about it. He wanted Lachlan dead, no matter what. So when Lachlan was negotiating with Argyll, with whom he has the bindings of manrent, Hector stormed the Breacachadh castle in Coll and took it. Now Lachlan not only has to free John but also the castle. Argyll tells him he’ll use his influence with the King to help him at least with John’s release, only if he captures Flora (the news of her elopement just arrived) and marry her. It’ll also help Lachlan financially. So Lachlan agrees and abducts her. On his way to Drimnin (in Falkirk? I wasn’t sure) castle, where Lachlan was staying at the moment, he got a few facts straight: Flora is as beautiful (blond and blue-eyed) and as willful as the court gossips say. He also learns Argyll wasn’t kidding when he said Flora would be some work for him. She actually injures his side with a dirk when her ‘suitor’ Murray ran away!

Flora is totally incensed by this new development. Even though the voice and nearness of her Highlander captor sets her heart to flutter, she’s not going to bow down to him. She learns that it was the MacLean of Coll whose party abducted her but she didn’t know that Lachlan himself was the big Highlander whom she injured. But, from the way he endures pain (as other warriors were sealing his injury with a hot knife) she knew this man isn’t the vain, peacock type she met in court. Oh but the man is very handsome, ruggedly so, with dark hair and bright blue eyes. In Drimnin, she meets Mary and Gilli. They like each-other on spot. Gilli is more like herself, all vivacious in spirit and beauty. Mary is beautiful too, but she’s the subdued type. It’s also very apparent that Mary is harboring a tendre for Allan, Lachlan’s captain. Flora is very interested in the match since its apparent these two are very much in love. She also learns that Lachlan wants to marry her, to which Flora doesn’t agree. There’s no way she’s marrying by force, to a Highlander no less! Her mother’s words on bloodthirsty, brutish Highlander is always there in her mind but gradually, she begins discovering a very different man underneath all those gruff, rugged and stubborn exterior of the equally fascinating Laird. He totally loves his sisters, albeit not showing it well. Flora, at first, tries some misadventures such as putting too much salt in his meals or oiling his weapons with smelly oil and so on just to rile him up. But Lachlan is not so easily provoked. He’s patiently waiting, which Flora doesn’t know. They share a few kisses and touches that set them both on fire, especially Lachlan, who has a very healthy sexual appetite. He himself admits that he’s never kept his lust in check, for any reason. This is why I was very uncomfortable to know that in Drimnin, the healer woman of the clan was his current mistress. Flora got to know it from a... let’s say, quite a graphic way.

Soon, Lachlan throws a feast for his forthcoming nuptials. Flora doesn’t agree but she knew she has to attend. That day, while she was getting out of her bath, Lachlan comes in without thinking and … well you can guess, seeing Flora in a thin linen, Lachlan is all gone. He was already tethering on the edge, thinking about visiting his mistress but this is just sheer torture for him. Let me tell you that I absolutely HATE it when the hero fantasizes about the heroine and then goes to f*ck his mistress. I felt pretty uncomfortable thinking he’ll do the same, since the woman is always around the castle. I think she lived there. She was also invited to the feast and knew why it was thrown. When Lachlan saw her, he thinks about going to her again and to offer explanations about his upcoming marriage. WTF? The woman was bold, to my utter disgust. She was never shown the door throughout the story and the development of Lachlan-Flora’s relationship. This bugged me to no end. Ultimately, I couldn’t get over it even though they weren’t living in Drimnin by then. Anyway, seeing Flora drives all the thought of that woman from Lachlan’s mind. He’s now determined, more than ever, to win her. He realized it wasn’t only about the bargain anymore; he really wants Flora to be his wife. Flora is also very charmed by the Laird, though he’s not the charming kind. But she notices one woman keep giving him inviting glances. She’s not sure what to think but her answers come the next morning. Lachlan, goes to see the woman to tell her about the marriage. The woman dared to throw tantrum at this and then touched him intimately while inviting him, reminding him of their ‘intimate times’. Lord but that was utterly disgusting to read. Lachlan was actually thinking of giving in (again) when he realizes how calculating she was and breaks off from her, threatening her not to make trouble in his marriage. Flora saw the whole thing from a window (immediately understanding her relationship with Lachlan) as she was about to go talk to Mary, who was moping because Lachlan forbade her match with Allan. Flora is hurt but she knows she shouldn’t be. Flora kinda endured the woman all through the book, I don’t know why and I didn’t think she was bothered by this fact at all. But, I’m not so nice so it pissed me off royally!

Flora tries talking to Lachlan about Mary and Allan, also telling him about her mother and why she won’t be a marriage prize. It seems like Lachlan understands but he’s determined to have her nonetheless. Flora doesn’t know that Lachlan is halfway there, falling for her. In the meantime, Hector’s message arrives, asking Lachlan to release Flora. This scene was heart tugging, how Flora realizes that Lachlan can’t read the Scots language and Hector, knowing the fact, sent it in Scots to humiliate him because the only person in this castle knew Scots was Flora. Flora was already giving lessons on Scots to Mary and Gilli. I wish she’d do the same to Lachlan but it was never mentioned again. Lachlan understood that Flora is not scorning him or anything, that she’s totally sympathetic that his financial situation stopped him from acheiving higher educations. In the meantime, Flora plans an escape as she and Lachlan fought over their mutual disagreement on the marriage. She knew how close Hector is now so she decides to go to him. A boat ride would be the easy way out. But Flora doesn’t know how to swim. Either way, she makes an escape and takes an old fishing boat to Breacachadh castle. She didn’t know anything about Hector or how disgusting the SOB was or what his plans were for her. Flora just thought being a brother, he’ll help out. But we get to learn how Hector is abusing the people in the Breacachadh, because he hates Lachlan and the people of Coll in general. There was a scene with him and a maid servant, it was so utterly vile, the way he treated the woman that I wanted to cut off his balls! I still feel shudders when I think of it. Not only this one but another scene suggested that he wanted to rape a young girl because the older sister (the aforementioned maid) was not available. Though I saw nothing of it later on, it gave me chills, how he was forcing their mother to bring one of the girls.

Flora’s escape plans go awry when the boat begins to sink. Lachlan, in the meantime, wanted to apologies in his way to her. As he checks in her room, he finds out she’s gone. Search parties are immediately sent to all directions. Lachlan panicked like he’s never panicked in his life. Oh, I knew the guy has fallen already. Then, with his superb intuition, he understands how Flora might escape. His nightmare comes to life as he finds Flora floating somehow on the water. He also realized that she can’t swim. This was some scene. He rescues her and takes care of her cold by warming her himself. Oh my! I was already fanning myself with the delectable kissing scenes, along with hot little interludes but this was sexy though he didn’t do a thing, other than softly kissing her. Next morning, when Flora awakes finally, she realizes what happened finding herself naked in Lachlan’s bed. At that time, the healer woman comes in. She checks on Flora and then asks her about the marriage. Flora vehemently denies of marrying Lachlan. The woman dared to subtly threat her with ‘I’ll be waiting when he’s tired of chasing you’-type words. OMG! Shut up and get the hell outta my sight b*tch! But that was only my reaction while Flora was nothing but a little uncomfortable with this situation. That’s not all, as I soon found out in the story. Lachlan soon takes Flora to a nearby pool to teach her how to swim. It was a place where he used to frequent as a boy. This is where also they end up making love because Flora now wanted to claim him as her own. Lachlan asks about marriage but Flora is still determined not to marry. She also feels Lachlan is hiding something from her, since whenever his brother’s topic comes up, all the siblings changes it ASAP. Lachlan threatens Flora that he’ll make her agree with his marriage proposal. And he does, my my! Flora was totally swept away by the onslaught of his sensual attentions, along with touches and innuendoes. But he won’t make love unless she agrees to the marriage. I just LOVED the scene in the Solar, where Lachlan just came to her from behind and ummm... well, this scene has some significance in the later part of the story. Flora can’t take it anymore.

Together, they go to the pool again, this time with Mary and Gilli and a few clansmen to protect them, which includes Allan. In this outing, Lachlan could see Flora’s reasoning on Mary and Allan might be true. He kinda thought of reconsidering. When Flora was changing her clothes, some men attack her. She realizes they’re Hector’s men, came to take her away. Flora, this time, doesn’t want to go so she tries to talk to them. But Gilli comes upon them and alerts Lachlan. Then there is this crazy fight where Lachlan is almost killed. Flora throws herself on him and asks the men to leave. With this incident, she realizes she loves him and would marry him. Soon they exchange ILU and some hooot love scenes and a betrothal. One scene I’d like to mention here, where Flora talks to him about her uncertainly of him taking a mistress. Lachlan was smirking thinking she was jealous of the healer woman. How disgusting! Flora taunts him too, with talks of other men, which makes Lachlan mad immediately. I mean talk about being hypocritical. He tells Flora he’d never disrespect her by taking a mistress. But Lachlan, don’t you think flaunting the woman every time there’s an injury in the castle would be disrespect to her? As the blockhead didn’t realize this, Flora should’ve demanded that he get rid of her but Flora never does, to my utter frustration. Now, Lachlan is very happy yet restless thinking of the outcome of when Flora learns of the bargain. To avoid his bargain with Argyll, he even tries to rescue John with the support of his men but fails. This time he knew there’s no way he could avoid the bargain. Next came another scene in the Solar, a really hot love scene, the best of the book I think. I absolutely loved it. Hell, the guy was so damn sexy! Anyway, afterwards, Flora finds out a few nice things: like a gift from Lachlan along with all her clothes, brought back from Edinburgh. Also that he’s given Mary the permission to marry Allan. Flora knew, on their wedding night, she’ll hand over the cursed Campbell amulet to Lachlan, as a token of their love. She has so far worn it around her neck, as it was bestowed by her mother to her.

Things go smoothly, almost. Rory and Argyll was already in the castle for the ceremony. I loved the way siblings met, would’ve loved the see Alex but I read in the beginning that Meg was about the deliver their 2nd child so... Anyway, Flora was initially a bit suspicious, the way Argyll was very accommodating but she tells them she’s willing to marry Lachlan and Lachlan sort of announces to them about their intension. Flora didn’t know that this announcement, in Highlands, is as good as being married. At night, they make love, which ultimately consummates it too. But Flora was oblivious to it all. On the day of the wedding things go horribly wrong. After the contract signing, Rory leaves but Argyll and Lachlan talk. Someone slid a note under Flora’s door, something that confuses her. As she goes to talk to Lachlan, she hears it all. Oh boy, I knew there’s a mess ahead but I was equally angry that she dismissed everything that’s been between them and downright accuses him of betraying her. Lachlan never lied. But Flora was stuck in her little theory about the Highlanders and now, won’t marry him. Then Lachlan reluctantly tells her the truth. I know she should be angry, very logical but WTF did she do next? I’ll be there shortly. They marry. At night, she bars the door on Lachlan. He breaks in (ok, that was HOT) and kisses her wildly. Flora says some really awful things to him just to hurt him. WTF! Lachlan is angry but leaves to bring John home. And what does Flora do? She presses the healer woman to help her (are you frigging kidding me?) and runs away to Hector! I mean talk about being a fool! How could Flora go to her and tempt her with a revival of her and Lachlan’s previous relationship? Is this love to you Flora: to distrust the man you love the 1st moment he’s under suspicion and tempt his ex-mistress with a boon such as this? WOW, you lost me there totally!

I lost my interest in the ending after that but it was nice. Instinctively, I knew how brave Lachlan would be to save Flora from Hector’s dirty machinations. I wish Flora learned how Hector abused the maids but she had ample reasons herself to hate the man. She also learned why her mother never talked of her 3rd husband. It was because of Hector, another sad story of Janet Campbell’s life. Historically speaking, as the author’s note will tell you, these incidents are true. MM may have altered a name here and there to avoid confusion. Again, I totally loved this note and all the historical facts in it. At night, Flora gives Lachlan the amulet with all her heart and they beg forgiveness of each-other for all the misunderstandings. The epilogue was sweet. 4 stars and my favorite (story wise) in the trilogy.

My research on a few things:

On Flora or Florence MacLeod
Her husband was one Lauchlan MacLean, no mention of any kids.

Is this the Lauchlan I was looking for?
I’m not sure. In the MacLeans’ website I found no Lauchlan MacLean, born around 1580s whose wife was Florence. How sad!

Here’s something about the Lady’s Rock from Wikipedia

Finally, a picture of the Breacachadh Castle on the Isle of Coll...

Breacachadh Castle