My review contains spoilers and they're mostly my thoughts as I went with the book...
Must say, once again I enjoyed losing myself into Juliette Miller’s beautiful narratives. Since book 1 of the Clan Mackenzie series, I’ve been addicted to her writing. She created an enchanted and beautiful Medieval Highlands, occupied by burly, good-looking highlanders that only makes me wanna run there. lol I always say I find her writing excellent, however sometimes the story just doesn’t work for me.
Note that all three books are written from first person POV; the heroine of each story. Personally, first person POV doesn’t always interest me but somehow it worked for me in the Clan Mackenzie series.
I absolutely adored book 1, Highlander Claimed, which was the youngest of the Mackenzie brother, Wilkie’s story. He’s beautiful, happy-go-lucky and charming. And women have never been his problem. Wilkie hasn’t been in love though, until the day he rests his eyes on Roses who was running away from her adoptive (and abusive) clan and its obsessive laird. That guy was an a$$hole, can’t blame her. Stumbling into Mackenzie land on her way to a long-lost relative’s clan was the best thing that ever happened to Roses in ages. But having a glimpse of a wet Wilkie must’ve been the best thing that happened to her ever! And so it began, they fall in love at first sight. As the story unfolds, the crazy laird of Roses’s former clan comes to claim her but Wilkie will never give her up. He’s too deep in love with her, as she is with him. Though his immediate elder brother Kade is amused by his brother’s sudden ‘fall’, Knox, the Laird is not, as he knows Roses is not a lady of means but was a servant. He even makes sure Wilkie is engaged to a daughter of the Morrison’s because he can’t let Wilkie marry a servant! This was one of those instances that made me wanna kick Knox for not caring about Wilkie and Roses’s feelings. But things work out well in the end when Roses’s secret identity is revealed. She’s been searching for her parents and why she was adopted in that clan in the first place. Turns out, Roses is the secret daughter of King Alexander III and his mistress, the only woman he has ever loved. The King acknowledges his daughter and the rest is one big HEA for Wilkie and Roses.
I wasn’t fond of book 2, Highlander Taken, because there were some stuff that bugged me right from the beginning of the story. Stella, considered the most beautiful of the Morrison sisters, at that time was nurturing a broken heart, but of course, the clan’s goodwill came first. She had been brought to the Mackenzie clan to seek a match because they’re one of the most prosperous clans in the Highlands. Stella is all but bartered off like a chattel; at first with Wilkie, who was not only already in love with Roses, also had a ‘history’ with Stella’s more adventurous younger sister, Maisie. When Wilkie refuses to marry her, Kade steps in to honor the contract. But was that all? Was he just honoring a contract with the possibility of marrying a woman considered one of the most beautiful throughout the Highlands? But of course not. Kade has been crazy about Stella for a long time since he had a chance to see her on another occasion. Stella had no idea of course. This should’ve been a very intriguing setting, and I was very interested. Sadly, the story starts with narratives of Knox’s sexual conquests, the discussion of it and his kinky taste by Stella’s idiotic sisters and cousins on the day she was about to marry him. A thing that scared the sh!t outta Stella since she had no idea why anyone would want to bind a woman to bed? WHAT? Don’t ask but I kinda lost it there. There were some other things I didn’t like about that book, one has to be the sexual tension and the subsequent frustration; loads of teasing but not a lot of action. I won’t recap but I wasn’t amused by any of it. I was seriously disappointed because in book 1, the sexual tension was high and even though there weren’t many sex scenes, everything between Wilkie and Roses seemed perfectly proportioned to me.
I have to admit that I was a bit apprehensive about getting into Highlander Mine. But I wanted to read Knox’s story as a continuation of the series. Knox, the strict and devoted laird of Mackenzies, who is living a very strict life too. I also wondered if he’d be as passionate and intense as his other brothers. But my, my! Mr. Laird knocked me right off my socks... all in a very good way. He proved to be hotter than Wilkie and Kade combined. Damn!
The story starts from the h, Amelia’s POV, recounting her sad plight in life. She’s running away from an ‘enemy’ back in Edinburgh, her only companion her 9 yrs old nephew Hamish. We gradually get to know that she was the daughter of a doctor, who passed away without leaving them much. Their mother had already passed and Amelia’s elder sister, Cecelia had to marry the owner of a gambling den, James, who has not been a responsible guardian. Things started going downhill soon enough. They were in debt; Amelia suddenly had to drop off the educational institute where she was getting a noblewoman’s education, to work in the gambling tables. This came as a big blow to her. Then James got deep in the underworld and became a smuggler of illegal goods. But the appearance of the evil, a man named Sebastian Fawkes who bought the majority of the share of James’s gambling den, changed everything. Apparently, it started with his fascination and an express wish to own Amelia, who has strawberry blonde hair, fair complexion and a curvy body that has always attracted men. While working at the tables as a ‘cardshark’ (she’s an expert by now) Amelia been around men at the gambling tables. I kinda found it impossible to believe that she is still a virgin. She claimed to be innocent of any types of sexual practices. But she understood the lust in those men’s eyes and had no trouble understanding the ‘service’ Fawkes wants from her. It’s that or her family is ruined forever. But the threat on Hamish’s life tipped everything for Amelia, the nephew she has practically raised since his birth. One day, she just found no other way to fend off Fawkes’s advances. With her useless BIL away and on Cecelia’s pleading, Amelia had to run far away to save herself and Hamish.
Amelia is looking for a place to stay, maybe get a job, until she gets some news of Cecelia and James and whether she can go back and bring her sister to safety. While they’re at an inn, contemplating those few options, Knox’s sister Christie and Ailie stop by from a recent excursion. This is how they met... but, wait a min. We’re told that Hamish is a beautiful boy with her sister’s blonde hair and blue eyes. Apparently, he’s already aware of his ‘charms’! Hamish is not only very adept at making up stories and acting up (‘lying’ would probably be the exact word) but also an expert cardshark, even at that tender age!! He ‘convinces’ Ailie and Christie with a story of made-up robbery that they’re now destitute and in desperate need of shelter. The sisters are very sympathetic and instantly bring up Knox and that he should be informed of this new robbery. They also invite Amelia along, who is now Hamish’s ‘sister’, thanks to the boy’s story.
Amelia is very proud and continues to be biased towards Hamish, so at times it felt like she’s exaggerating his supposed accomplishments; as in how good he is in everything he does, down to the lying and cheating (yes, he’s an expert cheater at cards as well). This is something I had trouble swallowing. No matter how many times Amelia tried to validate this as a part of their survival process, I couldn’t just take it in. It all felt wrong, and every time Amelia would go ‘oh, I’m so proud of Hamish because he’s such an expert in making up stuff’, I wanted to smack her. First half of the story was kinda ruined for me not only for this reason but also because I was getting a little bored with her repetitive description of how beautiful Mackenzie lands are, how beautiful and manly its Laird is, about her own perils and how she’s going to go off in a few days to find her sister once she earns some money. Very little progression was made storywise.
So, Amelia found a place with the Mackenzie’s until further notice. She also meets Knox in a very... er, awkward fashion. It seemed to me that Amelia had her ‘bountiful curves’ hanging almost always out of her dress every time Knox was around, who’d be struck dumb at the display of... ummm, Amelia’s ‘charm’. But the fun, for me, was in the fact that Knox was known to be somewhat prudish. He definitely was celibate after the death of his wife in childbirth. Amelia was giving him a permanent boner, all.day.long. Can’t be good for any man’s health! Too bad, there was not a thing he could do about it but to keep acting as the gruff laird around her. *heehee*
Amelia also finds a teaching job for the children of one of the women of the clan. Now, for the love me, I couldn’t remember Katriona from the other installments or whatever happened to her husband. She’s a widow and had her eyes on Knox. Amelia’s presence and her somewhat shadowy past only made Katriona suspicious. She tried cooking up trouble for her more than once. Even Amelia knew the story Hamish told Knox and his family were very unrealistic and that Knox didn’t believe them. She was feeling guilty about not telling them the truth, the clan that has been so very kind to her. To Amelia, no emotion can do anything about her sister, who might or might not be alive at this very moment. She wants to earn some money ASAP and leave Hamish with the Mackenzie’s, as day by day it was becoming clear that he’d do very well in this clan. Hamish has already found some friends and has been taken in to be trained as a soldier when he grows up. Knox is kind to them. Yet no matter, Amelia decides she can’t confide in him. This is her battle, she’d fight it alone.
And this, for me, was also very frustrating. There was no doubt that Amelia was becoming more and more fascinated by Knox and I could only assume that he started having the same feeling. I loved some of these scenes where he’d, at first, surreptitiously, then boldly study Amelia, his eyes devouring her. But Knox wasn’t inclined to make any move. As a H, Knox solely gets 5+ stars from me. I was totally blown away in that scene on the boat house where he confesses to her about his celibacy, also the fact that he’s an inherent romantic. Unlike his brothers, Knox has never really been interested in meaningless dalliances. Sex is very important to him and he doesn’t take it lightly. He has worked hard in these past years to make the Mackenzies one of the most prosperous clans in the Highlands but he has needs too. And in the past two years, only Amelia made him want to take another chance on life. Knox had loved his wife, who was dainty and small. Amelia is a total opposite to her. It was becoming very much apparent that the ‘grumpy laird’ was finally ready to heed the advice of his brothers and move on.
As each chapter passed, my liking and respect for Knox grew but with each chapter, Amelia’s continued determination of not confiding in him about her past got to me. She knew Knox was honorable. At one point, I even thought she might not be the worthy heroine I’d envision for a serious yet devoted guy like him. But I guess, the ‘love bug’ does bite Amelia very soon; not very tough when the Laird turns out to be one sexy piece of a$$, his every kiss and fondle so intense that Amelia couldn’t think straight. I found it highly amusing, for once, that she’d be the one frustrated when Knox would stop and won’t take things any further. Amelia was like an eruption of volcano to Knox’s cool and calm river. More and more, she’d be the one who’d be mad at him for not having sex with her, and then she’d have doubts. Is he for real? Does he really want me? I genuinely started enjoying the story finding Amelia becoming jealous of Katriona or the thought of any other woman being interested in Knox. She was already beginning to think of him as hers. If only her circumstances were different!
I also was trying to see things from Amelia’s perspective. Her circumstances, indeed, have never been good, as she kept saying that she has, sort of, become wired to expect the worse at all times. And so, when the tablesa are turned on her and Amelia finds herself in love with Knox, and this beautiful clan, she decides that she can’t let the danger come to her man, or to his clan. To do this, she has to run away, possibly in the dark of the night so that no one knows. Because, it’s for sure that Fawkes’s men have been inquiring about her and Hamish. In between, Ailie becomes engaged to the Laird of Munro’s. Many of the clans come for a visit, to celebrate this occasion. Amelia meets up with Wilkie-Roses, Kade-Stella and their children, and she begins craving a family of her own even more. This time, Amelia hopes to return after rescuing Cecelia. Maybe someday, she can have that family with Knox.
At one point of the celebration, Knox asks Amelia to go to his room because he needed to talk to her in private. He was becoming increasingly frustrated that she’d not confide in him; bits and pieces, yes but not the entire story about her past. I’d say that he was a little hurt too, because Knox was more than halfway in love with this spitfire than he’d ever hoped of being with anyone. And he really, truly wanted to help. The information from the visiting clans had confirmed to him that the stories she told him at first were lies. He confronts her about everything, in hopes that she’d come clean this time. Though Amelia tries to evade his questions, she at last sees how futile this game of ‘hide and seek’ is becoming. For better or worse, he’s already involved and heaven forbid, she loves the kind of possessive streak he shows around her. It makes her feel cherished and protected. And so, Amelia starts confiding in Knox about what she’s been the last 10 years and this ‘danger’ aka Fawkes who’s been giving her nightmares. Also that Hamish is not her brother. She hopes that after hearing her sordid story, Knox wouldn’t push her away. This was another reason why she didn’t feel completely comfortable, as in, what if Knox hates her? But... but, Knox puts all her doubts to rest not only calmly listening to her, promising help but also, by making hasty love to her afterwards, if only to show her that nothing will ever come between them and their newfound, even if shaky, happiness.
On the next morning, a note arrives for Amelia with words written in codes. She immediately figures out it’s from Fawkes. He has finally found her out! The note says that her sister is languishing and her BIL has died, hanged after being caught with illegal goods. This spur things up for Amelia and she decides she’d just run. She doesn’t have any time to think further than reaching her sister ASAP, at all cost. When Knox asks her to go to her room and await his instruction, Amelia finds a way out to deftly escape from her room. I was beginning to become a little apprehensive, mainly for Kade cause I knew that he’d end up hurt again. What I didn’t expect was for Kade to catch-up with her in matter of hours. That was done so well, I was like ‘thank God’!
When Kade and Amelia are both wet from the watery ride (she was running away using a boat), they find shelter in a hidden cove and it’s sandy shores. I wasn’t sure of what was to come next but I should’ve. Kade tells Amelia, again, that he’s not letting her go so easily. That he’d take care of her and all her troubles cause he deems her as his, and he protects what’s his, so she should just let him. When Amelia tries to come up with a viable debate on this, things heat up. The shedding of wet clothes leads to other intense and hot activities and Kade, again discovers that the only way to keep Amelia out of her wits is to have hot sex with her. *wink* That part of the story was probably my most favorite and that sex scene, WOW, literally blew my mind. *fans herself* I begin seeing Kade in an all new way... Good God! Hello, Mr. Dreamy! *sigh*
After that, there was no question of Knox’s love for Amelia, who, for the first time, felt a sense of security so strong that she had to give in. The rescuing of her sister didn’t seem all that tough and unattainable when Knox’s Highland soldiers were there for her aid.
The epilogue was marvelous. It was fascinating to see the grumpy laird so happy, with his wife and the new arrival to the family- a little boy named Knox after his father. Definitely a big ‘awww’ moment for me! I was getting ready to finish the series, but then... er, what was that with Christie and that Mackintosh guy, Blake? That totally took me by surprise, talk about cliffhanger! I wouldn’t have thought our Christie........... Damn! Who are these Mackintosh peeps BTW? I don’t really remember them from the first two installments. Now, I’m not only intrigued about Blake but also his brother, Thane who appeared very briefly but caught my attention. I also wondered if there’d be a book for Ailie and her beau. Can’t wait find out! 4 stars.
This ARC was provided to me by Harlequin/HQN via netgalley which didn’t influence my review and rating in any way.