5 * Review | The Highlander by Kerrigan Byrne

The Highlander by Kerrigan Byrne | Victorian Rebels #3
Historical Romance
Published on August 2nd, 2016
ARC from Netgalley

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Book Blurb: 

Can the fiercest master of battle conquer a woman’s heart?

They call him the Demon Highlander. The fearsome Lieutenant Colonel Liam MacKenzie is known for his superhuman strength, towering presence, and fiery passion in the heat of battle. As Laird to the MacKenzie clan, the undefeated Marquess has vanquished his foes with all rage and wrath of his barbaric Highland ancestors. But when an English governess arrives to care for his children, the master of war finds himself up against his greatest opponent… in the game of love.

Defying all expectations, Miss Philomena is no plain-faced spinster but a ravishing beauty with voluptuous curves and haughty full lips that rattle the Laird to his core. Unintimidated by her master’s raw masculinity and savage ways, the headstrong lass manages to tame not only his wild children but the beast in his soul. With each passing day, Liam grows fonder of Miss Mena—and more suspicious. What secret is she hiding behind those emerald eyes? What darkness brought her to his keep? And how can he conquer this magnificent woman’s heart… without surrendering his own?

| Book Review |

I’ve read some amazing historical romance in the past year. Some have even reached spectacular heights. But none can touch The Highlander. The thought that kept going through my mind while I was reading this was ‘I didn’t even know they wrote historical romance like this anymore.’ This story, even outside of this series, felt epic to me. And I feel blindsided in the best way. I read the first two books and enjoyed them, but they felt ‘bulky’ to me, as if they needed a good 25-30 pages of hero angst shaved from the book. Don’t get me wrong – there were great stories between those pages, but in going back and re-reading my review for The Hunter, I mentioned how there was something about this series that I just couldn’t give myself over to. That was not the case with The Highlander. I was so enraptured with this story that it consumed me. If I wasn’t reading it, I was cursing whatever I was doing (work) that was hindering me from reading it.

This book starts off with a punch that left me slack-jawed, and I don’t think I recovered until, the end, when finally, Mena was avenged. I adored her character. That she was able to be open to anyone after what she went through was a testament to how strong a woman she was, and that she stood up to the ‘Demon Highlander’ even though she was scared out of her wits solidified that strength – and not just for the reader, but for Mena as well. Liam’s character could be brutish, but it was clear there were a lot of layers to him just waiting to be discovered. It was sad to me that all he could see in himself was his father when it was so obvious he was full of the compassion his father lacked. And I know it shouldn’t, but listening to Liam’s self-recrimination in this book (insomuch as it pertained to his lust for Mena) was hilarious. But as the book wore on and we saw the shame he carried for other things, it took on a much graver tone, and I ached for Liam. Heroes who are convinced they are beyond redemption are my weakness, and Liam nearly brought me to my knees. He really was a gentle giant, and he had no idea.

The Highlander, while it had some of the most serious moments of the series so far, had an overall lighter tone to it than the previous installments, and I think it needed that. Especially for someone who is just discovering the series and reading the books back to back. This is a series that could take an emotional toll on a reader; it certainly has me.

What I really loved about his book was the amount of growth for both characters. I loved how Mena was able to finally come to understand and even appreciate the ‘demon highlander’ when he appeared on her behalf. The shock and awe Mena felt at Liam being so determined to keep her safe – I just loved it. This was a man who held very dear those he loved, and he would do anything to protect them. And when this man turned on the charm, poor Mena. She had no prayer of resisting him. And man…when she finally gave in – we are talking smokin’ hot. The love scenes in this one were so sexy, but with as gruff, untouchable, and smoldering as Liam was, of course it was. The whole book felt like foreplay. Of course, the whole book was moving toward one main event, and when we finally learn Mena’s husband’s motives and just what he was trying to do to her, my heart broke for her. I can’t imagine how Liam felt.

We got to see the couples from previous books in this series in essential ways – nothing gratuitous about their appearances, which is something I always appreciate. I like it when the book is concentrated on the current characters instead of the last one. And oh, man – the thought of Liam, Christopher Argent, and the Blackheart of Ben More prowling the streets of London together in search of retribution is a much sexier thought than it should be. This book was a huge win for me, and I could go back right now and listen to it from the beginning. If you read one historical romance this year – it should be The Highlander.

I flipped back between print and audio for this one, but it was mostly audio for me. I love Derek Perkins, the narrator for this series. His reading is phenomenal, and it’s clear he understands these characters and where they’re coming from. He is someone whose back list I will peruse to see if something sparks my interest.

| Rating |

5-stars

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Series: Victorian Rebels

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Snippets I loved:

It was disconcerting, to say the least, when the person you hated the most wore your own features. To ken that someday, perhaps in two decades past, those same monstrous dark eyes would stare back at Liam from the mirror, a reminder of the rancid cruelty that ran through his tainted Mackenzie blood. Seeing the paternal challenge on the face of his father, Liam realized that one day, he would no longer have to be afraid of this man. He would have to grow just as large, just as cunning, ruthless, and brutal. But one day, he would challenge the monster with a beast of his own.

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No one had ever called her strong before. In fact, she’d been berated for being such a mouse. Perhaps strength wasn’t so much her virtue as survival. And she had survived, hadn’t she?

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…maybe she needed him to say something, to allow her to explain, to perhaps absolve her, somehow.
Mena watched the muscles of his jaw work ponderously on a bite as he listened to his steward’s reports intently. Only a fool would expect absolution from such a man. He was the sort that granted favor sparingly and forgiveness never.
She’d do well to remember that.
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Inhumanely stark features weathered by decades of discipline and brutality frowned down at her now, as though measuring her coffin.
Suddenly the fire and candles cast more shadows in the grand room than light.
Mena knew men like the laird of Ravencroft Keep rarely existed, and when they did, history made gods of them.
Or demons.
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To Mena it seemed that every time she chanced to meet the marquess, she was introduced to someone new. The Demon Highlander, the barbaric clan chieftain, the regimented nobleman, and now, the fond and affectionate father. Each incarnation of Ravencroft, however, stared at her in the most disquieting manner. As if she were a mystery he planned to solve, or a secret he intended to uncover. She’d rather be anything to him than that, for her secrets were too dangerous.
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Liam ran his hands through the soft green of the fresh peat moss and tried not to compare it to the vibrant shade of Miss Lockhart’s eyes. Was this the newest torment to his endless search for peace? Was there no escaping the lass? He couldn’t even examine something as innocuous as fucking moss without conjuring some part of her to his mind. She’d been at Ravencroft two weeks, and he could barely get through dinner every night without hiding arousal beneath the table.
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His demon burst into flames of lust. Liam knew she could read it in his eyes, as she released his hands with a shocked gasp and made to rise. To retreat.
Well, if he was already damned, he might as well follow his wicked impulses all the way to hell.
At least he’d get to taste her again.
Liam sprang toward her, grasping her wrists and pulling her back down to him. He sank his fingers into her luxurious hair, loosening the intricate coiffure there, and pinned her head between his two strong palms as he took her wicked mouth with his own.
It was in the joining of their lips that Liam found what he’d come to the chapel seeking. He kissed Mena with a reverence he’d never felt in the entirety of his life. Driven by a hunger that welled from the darkest, most heretical depths of his soul, he knew he’d finally found something worthy of his worship.

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