To Tame a Highland Warrior  - Karen Marie Moning My review contains spoilers and they're mostly my thoughts as I went with the book...

Yah, I didn’t like everything and there were more than one frustrating moment in it but over all, it was a good one. I don’t know why people say 1st 2 in the series aren’t worth reading! I believe they are, with plot holes and all. This book was better than Beyond the Highland Mist no doubt. Ms. Moning’s narrative style changed A LOT. This book has no time travel like the other books in the series.

Grimm is just the type of adorable guy you wanna sit on the lap, kiss him senseless and then grab his hard, sexy jaw and croon, ‘you are shooo shweet!’... ermm, yah, that’s exactly how I felt about him. There were moments in the book when I wanted to strangle him but I understood his insecurities and like Jillian, I didn’t give up on him. I liked him from Beyond the Highland Mist, he was sensitive and very loyal. I thought he’d be a sweet pea and he was. But, he was also wee bit stubborn and a blockhead no doubt. In Beyond the Highland Mist, Adrienne wishes something upon a star (‘why’, you have to read the book) for Grimm, it was a funny scene because after the recent debacle in Dalkeith, he was kinda apprehensive as to what she wished for. Hawk and Grimm were sitting for portraits and making a lot of fuss about it when summon arrives for Grimm from Caithness, a place where he was fostered for a while. Grimm is up and ready to go but Hawk and Adrienne pressures him to tell them about Caithness and more of his ‘secret’, which I had no idea about from Beyond the Highland Mist. I really wanted to slap these two for respecting his privacy as Grimm over and over said he will tell them when he returns. So it comes out; Grimm’s real name is Gavrael Roderick Icarus. He’s born of the clan McIllioch but doesn’t acknowledge them. And, yes, he has a secret weapon, a power only Odin’s most fierce warriors are bestowed upon. He’s a Berserker. Here’s what the book says about a berserker:

“Legend claimed Berserkers could move with such speed that they seemed invisible to the human eye until the moment they attacked. They possessed unnatural senses: the olfactory acuity of a wolf, the auditory sensitivity of a bat, the strength of twenty men, the penetrating eyesight of an eagle. The Berserkers had once been the most fearless and feared warriors ever to walk Scotland nearly seven hundred years ago. They had been Odin's elite Viking army. Legend claimed they could assume the shape of a wolf or a bear as easily as the shape of a man. And they were marked by a common feature-unholy blue eyes that glowed like banked coals.”

Beyond the Highland Mist talked about his glowing blue eyes. I didn’t think anything unnatural about it but yes, all the berserkers have incandescent blue eyes. So, Grimm is on the way to Caithness. In between, we get to know that his clan has fought with the McKanes for generations. It’s the McKanes, who attacked his village and tried to wipe it out. Also, his mother was killed by his father’s hands. To Grimm, this was madness and he’s scared that he’s also possessed of this madness. Grimm heard of the berserkers from an early age, from his parents. When the McKanes attacked and his father was wounded, the village is burning, 14 yrs old Grimm took a decision. He calls upon Odin to grant him the power so that he can fight. With the power granted, he does and with relish. Then he left Maldebann and never looked back for these 15 years. He roamed the wilds for 2 yrs when a 7 yr old Jillian found him in the woods. I couldn’t believe that she would wait for him months after months with food, at that tender age, to tame her ‘beast boy’. But, I did believe in their instant bond. I didn’t think it was abnormal or anything. When she managed to gain his trust, her father Gibraltar *snorts* took him in. Gibraltar also took other boys in and fostered/trained them. After spending 6 yrs with the St. Clairs, Grimm left Caithness too, for James’s court where, I believe, he met Hawk and formed a lifelong friendship.

Jillian hates Grimm, with all her heart. But she wants him too, all the same. Among the boys whom her father fostered and her own 5 brothers, Grimm was the one who always gave her the most pain. Jillian always thought Grimm will be her and was aware of that bond but it’s been a long while since he’d left and then, not without breaking her heart by ignoring, poking, insulting and finally, rejecting her love. But, she couldn’t get married til now and her parents are very worried about it. Lord, if you just read the way her mother Elizabeth talks, I was agape for a few moments, of her own daughter’s ‘cherry’ which is too long to be ‘picked’ and how her own husband picked hers in the midst of her huge family attending... ermm. Really mama? *rolls eyes* Anyway, she and Gibraltar were going to see their new grandson when all these talking takes place. Gibraltar tells her he has a plan and sent for 3 hand picked men, 2 of them fostered in their own home, to live in their house with Jillian. What?! And, he’s sure she’ll pick someone. Jillian has been playing games with her parents and the suitors, making everyone (except her parents) believe she’s a paragon of chasteness and soon be leaving for some convent. This does no good for her matrimonial aspects but it worked so far. But, Gibraltar is determined this time, his plan will work. The men are Quinn (fostered in Caithness), a tradesman from Lowlands with money, Ramsay, a womanizer who has a clan of his own and of course, Grimm. Elizabeth isn’t very happy about Grimm since she and Gibraltar know about his secret. Anyway, they go away, leaving Jillian to handle this little ‘situation’ she has no idea about.

Jillian likes to narrate fables, which she does to the children. It was in midst of one of these storytelling moment is when Grimm arrives. She is mad seeing but breathless nonetheless. He’s grown into some fine babe! Oh, I had no doubt about it, with such body, height and such beautiful, bright ice-blue eyes. Jillian always adored those eyes. Anyway, she wanted him removed when she learns of her father’s orders (not the real plan). Then the other two arrives. Oh, another really weird moment, she’s pissed off about Grimm when she goes to change her dress and paces her room nude when she hears horses approaching. She goes to have a look, nude, not thinking that people can see her though the big windows. Huh? I found this too stupid. And, she gives Quinn and Ramsay a good peek-a-boo! Anyway, moving on. Ramsay and Quinn are determined to have her now. Quinn, who always thought of her as a little sister, can’t resist what he saw. Only Grimm stands cold. But, it was all on the outside, we know very well that Grimm is crazy about Jillian too. He’s always been. But his life as a berserker and his vulnerabilities about things made him take a strong stance as to resist her ANYHOW. And boy, he was a pain in the arse! He did almost everything to make Jillian go away. He lied about his feelings, things they did together or memories Jillian somehow treasured, trampled on those. There was a little confusion over their age at this point. I always tend to keep track of these things, so at first, it was 8 yrs difference but at some point, it turned out to be 6. Don’t know how this error could occur. Anyway, this didn’t really bother me much. I was really enjoying Jillian’s single minded persuasion of Grimm. She was hurt but not broke. Grimm tried to veer her towards Quinn, too but when he saw Ramsey kissing her (it was kinda sudden, Jillian had no idea that Ramsay would do that), he gets angry. I loved the scene where Jillian goes to spy on Grimm bathing and the conversation where a little of Jillian’s feelings comes out. Grimm perhaps didn’t expect her to still feel anything for him so was very surprised and pleased. But still, he kept on being rude to her. But, the thing is that, like Jillian, at some point I understood he means nothing of it. Of course, since I knew what he feels for her is very genuine but I was supposed to be really annoyed/pissed. Frustrated, yes I was but annoyed, nope. Then, at one point it comes out, when he left at 22 after the McKanes attacked Caithness, there was a little scene between him and Jillian in before he left. They kissed and Grimm knew he’d never be the same again. Though he rejected her offer, knew she’d be hurt, it was out of guilt and yes, those insecurities and misery of not being able to confide in her. He’s scared since even a glimpse of blood sends him into his berserker rage, he might somehow harm Jillian, just as his father Ronin did his mother, Jolyn. He took all the blames of the McKane attack on Caithness onto himself. And after that kiss, Grimm never touched another woman again. Well, Grimm didn’t know a lot of the vital information about his birth right and clan. About his father and what really happened that fateful day his mother died. So, this guilt tore him up and resulted in more insecurities with more frustrating moments for both of them.

In the meantime, even when these two are silently fighting their battle of wills, the three suitors (though Grimm has deducted himself from this list thinking after knowing his ‘secret’ and his position without any clan or anything else, Gibraltar can’t possible think of his as a suitor so it must be he wanted Grimm to keep an eye on Jillian... grrrr! Blockhead!) go into a town for supplies. Jillian follows them. There are few funny and hot scenes between Jillian and Grimm, one being she touching his back... erm, it was so good. I loved it. But, Ramsay and Quinn are poisoned, which was meant for Grimm. Whoever tried to poison him, didn’t know that berserkers can’t be killed as easily because they can heal almost every cut and wound on their body. Anyway, when they’re back, one thing leads to another... with a wee bit of berserker rage that send things flying, Jillian and Grimm end up making love. I appreciated her honest and open adoration for Grimm and never giving up on him. She let it happened, sensing the insecurities in him. Even though she didn’t know what it is that haunts him, she trusted him still just the way she did when she was 7. And, they make some sweet love to each-other throughout the story, which made me crave for my own berserker. Quinn knew about Grimm and his ‘secret’, also Grimm’s love for Jillian. When he understood Grimm won’t be convinced (read: would remain a blockhead over this matter), he decides to propose Jillian. Ramsay is trying that too. Then one morning, Ramsay tries to make Quinn suspicious of Grimm about the recent poisoning. When they were about to go to Grimm to confront him, they find Jillian slipping out of his room. Quinn is incensed; I understood that he really cared for Jillian but Ramsey, nope! I was always suspicious about that guy, which turned out to be true in the end. Grimm had a sense that he’s being watched so he decided it’s time he leave, who knows if it’s the McKanes who are waiting for him. Later on, someone tries to kill him and his horse, by blowing the stables but he comes out of it without a single scratch. Jillian was almost insane thinking he’s gotten killed and was equally overjoyed seeing him unharmed. It is then; Grimm leaves her again, in the middle of it all. She is hurt and angry just as I was.

Grimm had no idea that it’s his father who’s been keeping an eye on him. He’s so mad to have his son back, it was so apparent that I wanted to shake Grimm into realizing it. He didn’t sound like a madman. His older brother and Grimm’s uncle, Balder, whom he never knew was there with Ronin. They both are anxious and keeping an eye on the oracle who prophesied some things about the last 3 living berserkers and the young one, who’d end their lifelong feud with the McKanes. And, it’s his ‘true mate’ who would lead him back to his own people and land. I loved this ‘true mate’ concept. A berserker truly mates for only once, with a woman he loves. If that woman dies before him (even w/o giving him sons) he’ll remain celibate for the rest of his life. This is also why, unknowing to Grimm, he’d never touched another woman after kissing Jillian. From the artist he send after Grimm, Ronin knew his son has grown into a fine warrior and the lovely blonde woman with amber eyes can be none other than his true mate. But, Ronin feels guilty because he never had the chance to guide his Gavrael though his power and their “Hall of Lords”, just as their forefathers did to their sons. Anyway, all these are revealed much later in the book but I wanted to share them now.

Gibraltar and Elizabeth come back to find Jillian heartbroken again, with no Grimm in sight. When they kinda pressured her to choose from the other two, Jillian tells them she’s given herself to Grimm. What Jillian doesn’t reveal was a suspicion that she might be pregnant. I was kinda irritated by her parents but later on, Gibraltar revealed to his wife that he’d known all along about Grimm and Jillian’s tendre for each-other, so hoped this will give them a chance to figure things out. Gibraltar knows about the true mate thing so he’s sure Grimm’ll come back. And, for that he has another plan. Jillian, meantime, knows nothing of it. She selects Quinn, which makes Ramsay angry. Banns are read, time passes by but no Grimm in sight, still. Even on the day of the marriage, when she’s about to say ‘I do’, he’s not here. Funny thing was, the priest was also waiting for someone to oppose the marriage a bit longer than necessary when suddenly, yay, the blockhead bursts in; all war braids, bloody faced and torn tartan. SEXY! Oh, let me copy Jillian’s thoughts:

All eyes flew to the entrance.
A great gray stallion reared up in the doorway, its breath frosting the air with puffs of steam. It was a scene from every fairy-tale romance she'd ever read: the handsome prince bursting into the castle astride a magnificent stallion, ablaze with desire and honor as he'd declared his undying love before all and sundry. Her heart swelled with joy. Then her brow puckered as she scrutinized her "prince."
Well, it was almost like a fairy tale. Except this prince was dressed in nothing but a drenched and muddy tartan with blood on his face and hands and war braids plaited at his temples. Although determination glittered in his gaze, a declaration of undying love didn't appear to be his first priority.
"Jillian!" he roared.

Oh, me gone all swoony babe, just like Jillian. *sigh*

Anyway, he ‘abducts’ his bride and takes her on his horse. But, Grimm still is not sure about marrying her without doing something about the McKanes. His first choice was Dalkeith. When Jillian learns about his family and that he’s trying to evade the path that leads to Tuluth and to his home Maldebann, Jillian decides to fake illness so that he’s forced to take her there. They stop on a abandoned hut and make thorough love but the next day, she’s sick anyway. Guess you know why. Grimm is kinda forced to take her there, thinking that place is in shambles. But as they get closer, a very different view from what he pictured and told Jillian, comes to view. Tuluth is thriving like it has never before and it’s apparent that they’re expecting him. Grimm is suddenly scared about Jillian knowing his secret and leaving him. Oh that blockhead! I loved the scenes after, Grimm and his father and uncle’s conversation was so funny. It was also great when that blockhead realized that his father is a berserker too, along with his uncle. I loved a lot of scenes here, Balder is really funny. Anyway, Jillian was sure Grimm would marry him now. That scene on ‘fixing cracks all through the night’ by Balder was priceless. :p Anyway, Balder talks to Grimm to give Ronin a chance and makes a plan to introduce Jillian to the family history. Then the truth about the day Grimm’s mother died comes out as father and son talked. Jillian spends a great time in the “Hall of Lords”, knowing about Grimm’s history, accepting him as he is and loving him more for it.

But, soon things go awry. Ramsay comes out in his real skin, as he sides with the McKanes to kill Grimm and take Jillian for her money, something he desperately needs. He abducts Jillian from the “Hall of Lords” a bit too easily IMO and takes her to a cave. All of them now know what Ramsay and the McKane’s planned. When Grimm goes to rescue Jillian, he’s trapped. Thinking he’s killed Grimm, Ramsay comes out of the cave to boast. But, berserkers aren’t so easily defeated, something he learns soon after. Grimm in his full berserker rage is a scene to be beheld, as I learned alongside Jillian and it’s beautiful, even with all the blood that spilled. The next scene was thus too beautiful IMO. Grimm was sure Jillian would leave seeing him like this and then... *sigh* I loved seeing him happy. Ah! Well, the epilogue wasn’t anything out of the ordinary except Grimm now uses his name Gavrael and is proud of his ‘inheritance’. I was thinking how nicely Adrienne adapted the 16th century life that she’s knitting tapestries nowadays! Well, never mind, I had such questions in Beyond the Highland Mist too but decided to overlook them. So, despite all the frustrations and twists, a few typos and minor mistakes, I ended up loving Grimm aka Gavrael and Jillian. I give it a solid 4 stars and I still believe it was more than just ‘worth a read’.

PS: According to the book, berserkers still roam the Earth... Ahemm, Ms. Moning, any help, clue, suggestion as to how can I have one of those for myself? Cell no#, email addy... ANYTHING will do... plz! *stares off into the space dreamily*

Something to remind me of Tuluth and Maldebann: