The Highlander by Terry Spear

HIGHLANDER
The Highlander by Terry Spear
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (203 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Anora, the shepherdess, finds a half-naked man in her bed, so what’s a woman living alone in a cottage in the Lowlands of Scotland supposed to do? Prod him with her pitchfork to chase him off! Only the man is not just a traveler seeking her bed for a rest—but a wounded Highlander, who fights back, swinging his sword!

Niall MacNeill is searching for a Frenchwoman of nobility to escort to his cousin’s castle for safekeeping, when he and his friend, Gunnolf, are attacked by another Highland clan, seeking the same woman. The other Highlanders wish to sell her to the highest bidder—English or French—it does not matter.

Niall takes refuge in a sheepherder’s cottage to heal up from his wounds and discovers the shepherdess taking care of him may very well be the woman he seeks. He has no intention of doing anything but what his cousin requests of him—ensure her safety on their way to Craigly Castle—but when the lass so bravely wields her pitchfork at him, he is thinking of other, more interesting possibilities.

Having a heroine as a shepherdess is a very unique angle I’d never seen before. A woman more at home with her sheep and a dog than with her fellow man has either relationship issues or something to hide. In this case, it’s something to hide; and its discovery was an interesting journey.

Niall is kin of the Laird of Craigly castle. This tale is part of a series loosely based on following the male kin of the Laird on their rocky road towards finding their wives. So far, every single novel has been interesting, entertaining, and all are complete standalones. This one is very much a standalone read and continues the thread of a strong willed yet honorable Highland warrior finding his match in an equally strong heroine who isn’t a pushover no matter how sexy the hero might be. In Niall’s case, he’s a very determined and focused man who just happens to be sexy, and he knows it.

Anora is the unusual heroine. She’s different because she lives alone, tends her sheep and prefers her life to be exactly as it is – controlled and predictable. She’s independent, feisty, and is self-assured. Thing is, her life isn’t at all what a reader is first lead to believe. Yes, she’s hiding something. And yet, she’s not. She’s been herself for so long that being any other way is an anathema to her. Eventually, she’s going to have to face the truth and all that it entails. The heroine has choices to make and they aren’t the light and fluffy kind.

I think that’s what made Anora an interesting character. The author slowly fed me tidbits of who she might really be and as the story unfolded, allowed certain facts that supported the possibility to be revealed. It was the interaction between the heroine and Niall after each reveal that made for engrossing reading, mostly because each time something came to light, it affected their roles and their relationship to each other. It’s how they worked around it or with it to get beyond the conflict that it created which contributed to the effectiveness of the romance plot.

I enjoyed the dialogue between both Anora and Niall because it made their personalities come to life. I liked their teasing banter because it illustrated how close they were becoming. Add in the silly jibes Niall and Gunnolf traded between each other and it further reinforced how likable they all were as characters. Even Charlie, the dog, was highly entertaining and his furry personality came through quite clear. Scenes where Charlie interacted with Anora, Niall and Gunnolf were some of my favorite parts because I could “see” them happening for real. Ms. Spear wrote the dog’s antics very true to life.

Not everything jived for me during the book. I am not sure how to describe the off-note feeling I received. I thoroughly enjoyed the romance and felt it was the strongest element of the whole book. The conflict was a good choice and it was believable. It was the execution of the characters that provided some elements of the conflict that didn’t feel quite right to me. Matthew annoyed me and his actions confused me. Throw in Pierre and the Baroness and again, I wasn’t comfortable with how they were written. I think it’s possible that there was too little information about them coupled with their sudden appearance and how supposedly they were super important to the overall plot conflict that didn’t make it work for me 100%. I understand from the heroine’s POV that there was no real way to differentiate between friend or foe, especially when everyone except Niall and Gunnolf were acting as foe. That’s the feeling I got. I was waiting for the drama and suspense to feel like balancing on the edge of sharpened knife, instead it felt more like walking on a plank – only a little precarious. The only times I felt antsy with suspense were the sword fights and the river scene. Those were pretty cool and I liked that the drama and action were so strongly written. It’s a good example of the tighter quality of writing I’m used to seeing from Ms. Spear.

One thing that did not disappoint is when Anora and Niall finally take the physical step. Nothing about the heroine is typical and the same can be said for her first intimate encounter. The location and what lead up to that moment was handled in a unique and thoroughly satisfying manner. The hero is an unusual combo of practical and romantic gestures all wrapped into one sexy package.

The Highlander is a charming and delightful romance. It’s a tale filled with sexy shenanigans, dramatic sword play and interesting characters. I enjoyed getting to know the hero and heroine and felt they were the strongest component in the tale. The Highlander has an adorable happily ever after full of cheek and saucy seduction and is the perfect ending for both Anora and Niall. The book also provided hints as to the kind of woman that would intrigue Gunnolf, the Viking. His is a story that I avidly look forward to reading. I can’t even begin to imagine the kind of heroine that would fit him. The one thing that Ms. Spear always provides, no matter what, is a solid, entertaining and attention-grabbing romance. She accomplished that with this novel; I can’t wait to find out what’s next.

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