The Viper – Highland Guard #4 – Monica McCarty

The Viper: A Highland Guard Novel

I don’t think I wanted to strangle a leading female character so much in all my reading experience as I wanted to strangle Bella at times….which is saying a lot for how much I read.

It wasn’t that I didn’t like Bella MacDuff…I did like her…my heart poured out to her for all of her suffering, first, at the hands of her husband and then at the hands of the English. I liked that she stood by her principals and that she crowned Robert Bruce even though she knew she could get in trouble for it, although, I don’t think she realized how far King Edward I would go when she did it. It was the trouble she caused everyone by attempting to see her daughter when her daughter seemed perfectly happy without her. Here is a woman who has just escaped from horrible conditions in an English prison who recklessly endangers, not only herself but the men who helped her escape and her daughter by trying to see her daughter in a public place with English soldiers everywhere. Then later, she forces Lachlan to go into English territory again to see her daughter when she knows if he is captured, he’ll be tortured and killed. It was ridiculous.

Bella Macduff risked everything to leave her despicable abusive husband to crown Robert the Bruce as King of Scotland. For centuries, it had been the MacDuff’s who had the tradition and rights to crown or enthrone a king. Without a MacDuff, his kinghood could be questioned…..not that it wasn’t already by many clans and the English king. She intended to escape with her daughter but when her husband, John Comyn, Earl of Buchan, got wind of it and was on his way back to their home, Bruce had his men extract Bella but were unable to get her daughter out before her husband reached the castle. She had to leave her behind.

Lachlan MacRuairi was ordered by Robert Bruce to escort Bella MacDuff to his coronation. Lachlan is known as viper by the elite squad of warriors who fight secretly for Robert Bruce. They are the best warriors in the land, each with his own specialty. In previous books, Lachlan was referred to as untrustworthy and only out for himself, working for the only but I knew he was being judged unfairly when he saved Tor Macleod’s life on the side of the mountain. He downplayed it and acted like it was no big deal but I knew he was a good guy underneath it all.

MacRuairi was the chief of his clan but was betrayed by his first wife, John MacDougall’s sister, long ago resulting in Lachlan being ambushed which killed forty of his clansmen but she did it in a way in which it looked like he was at fault so he lost his clan. Since then, he has not trusted anyone. He’s mean and keeps everyone at a distance. All he wants is to pay his debts and when his service is finished with Bruce, go live on his own island by himself.

When he meets Bella MacDuff, he is immediately attracted to her but he never wants to be betrayed by a beautiful woman again so he is abrupt and rude to her but he does his duty and delivers her to Bruce’s coronation.

After Robert Bruce is defeated once again, Lachlan is ordered to run with Bruce’s wife, Bella and a few others. Unfortunately, they were captured. Bella was imprisoned and put into a cage and hung from Berwick Castle in a cage. She suffered greatly in the wind, rain and cold.

Berwick Castle

Berwick Castle

I thought it was impressive how the crowd stood behind her by not jeering and then someone threw a single pink rose at her feet and how the pink rose became a symbol for rebellion to show how the people thought her punishment too severe and harsh.
Lachlan MacRuairi never forgot about Bella though, he tried to rescue her once but failed. It’s been years and she has been moved to an indoor cell. Sources say that she is about to be moved to a nunnery so Lachlan finally convinces Robert Bruce to let him rescue her.

Bella is being forced to take the veil in a convent. Her captives have used her love for her daughter against her for years, promising that if she was good that they would allow her to visit but it has never happened. Now, they are threatening to hurt her daughter unless she becomes a nun. Her cousin agrees to go in Bella’s place, posing as Bella, since she has always wanted to become a nun.

Bella and Lachlan had a lot to overcome. Both were tortured souls but both deserved to love and to be loved.

I think this was my favorite book in the series so far.

I like how the author puts notes about the actual historical events at the end of each book. Bella being hung from Berwick Castle really happened. The cruelty of kings and nobility back then never ceases to horrify and disgust me.

This story has gotten under my skin and I can’t stop reading it. Bring on the next book in the Series!

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