I read this book after I read The Arrow which was the 9th book in the series. I didn’t realize I’d missed a book and when I did, I wasn’t going to read it but my Highland Guard withdrawals proved to be too much so I gave in and read it.
It was more of a novella which you probably already figured from the number of the book, 7.5. Although it was short, it packed a punch….A punch like what I wanted to do to the protagonist many times throughout the book. He was so arrogant and misogynistic! Ugh!!!!
Most of the books of the Highland Guard are about the individual warriors in Robert Bruce’s secret Highland Guard, an elite group of warriors who go on missions for Bruce, but this book was about one of the men who fought alongside Robert Bruce and before him, William Wallace.
James Douglas known as the Black Douglas will do just about anything to elevate himself and his family and to restore his clan to where they were before the English destroyed them. He is bound by honor and duty and won’t let anything get in the way of that not even the love he has for his childhood sweetheart. He hates the English with a passion and wants to see them defeated.
Joanna Dicson has stood behind James Douglas and loved him since they were children. She knows that they were always meant to be together. He’s told her that he wants to build her a castle and they’d be together forever. Shortly after James made love to her and took her maidenhood, he was called away to war where he spends most of his time fighting for Robert Bruce. He’s been gone three months but he is on his way home and she can’t wait to tell him the news about her pregnancy. She meets him up on the hill that has become their spot. He tells her he has only a few minutes with her but somehow they end up making love again. She tries to tell him that they need to move up the wedding date because she is pregnant but before she can tell him that she is pregnant, he stops her and tells her that there will be no wedding. He told her that he though she understood that he has to marry a noblewoman for the good of his clan. She had no time to argue since he was in a hurry and he left in a rush.
Joanna is devastated. She had thought that James meant to marry her but he only wanted to keep her as his leman. A common practice amongst Scottish nobleman was to keep women outside their marriages like mistresses. She would have never slept with him if she would have known. Never the less, she decided to talk to him the next day. He was in a hurry once again. He was called to duty for another mission. They argued and she told him that she would not be his leman. In anger, he told her that if she was giving him an ultimatum, it was over between them. This is where I wanted to slap him…okay, I wanted to punch him. Then to make matters worse, while he is walking away, he tells someone who asked who she was that she was nobody and “only” the marshal’s daughter. At this point, I’m really having a hard time liking James Douglas.
After James leaves, Joanna is so heartbroken and thinking about how she will be ruined, called a whore and her child will be a bastard. She runs off wildly and collides with a horse and rider and careens down a rocky hill.
Meanwhile, James is off fighting. He can’t get away to even go see Joanna to tell her he didn’t mean that they were over. He thinks that she will change her mind and stay with him even though he can’t marry her. She’s always looked at him like he hung the moon. What an arrogant arse!
Months after Joanna’s accident, he’s shocked when he is told about Joanna’s accident and even more shocked when he learns she was pregnant and lost the baby. He has to go find her to make things better but what he doesn’t know is that Joanna has left to get a fresh start.
After her accident, she struggled for her life for weeks. She managed to keep the fact that she was pregnant a secret from everyone but a few people. She is overwhelmed with sorrow but her naiveté about James loving her is gone. In its place is the cold reality that she has to let her love go for him and she has to go on with life. She leaves her home to make a new life.
I thought that Joanna was such a strong character and I felt bad for her but liked that she picked herself up to make a life for herself. I also liked that she would not settle for less than what she deserved.
My favorite part in the book was when James first saw Joanna after the accident and realized she wasn’t going to just accept him back into her life. He was stunned when she wasn’t happy to see him and that she didn’t look at him with love in her eyes anymore. I thought it served him right for how he took her for granted.
I was glad I decided to read the book. It was heartfelt and wreaked havoc on my emotions. Monica McCarty has a way of playing with my emotions. I mean, I’ve read romances for hundreds of years….okay, I’m not quite that old but you get my point…and rarely do my emotions get the better of me. Most romances are predictable and I know where they will end but not Monica’s romances. They make me laugh, then a half hour later, I’m wiping the tears away from my eyes. That is some remarkable writing!
I like her writing so much that I have decided to read her Campbell trilogy.