I absolutely loved Flora, the heroine of this story!
The story has a complicated plot so let’s see if I can explain it.
Flora MacLeod’s mother lived her life in misery. She was forced to marry four times to powerful Highlanders for political alliances. Flora’s father was the last man she was married to and when he died when Flora was little, her mother was too old to have children so she took Flora and moved to the Lowlands where she raised Flora with her biases against Highlanders who she said were barbaric and only cared about fighting and war. Flora has many half-siblings and is related to at least three powerful Highlanders who could try to barter her like chattel for political purposes but Flora refuses to let anyone choose her husband for her so she decides to elope with a Lowlander, Lord William Murray, who is rich and powerful on his own, he doesn’t need her wealth or her family for political alliances. It doesn’t matter that they are not in love with each other because he is amiable and will not force her to his will and they will probably live separate lives once they are married. The most important thing is that it is her choice.
She sneaks out of Holyrood Palace dressed as a servant and climbs in Lord William Murray’s carriage. He has her wedding dress in the trunk of the carriage waiting for her. They race off towards where they will be married. She has sent notes to many of her relatives telling them that she will be visiting her brother, Hector Maclean because she knows that he on the outs with her other relatives so they won’t find out about her plans before she is married.
What she doesn’t plan on is being attacked by outlaws or brigands on the way to the kirk. William is a Lowlander so he doesn’t know how to fight and instead of fighting for her, he hands her his dagger so she can defend them. When one of the men grabs her she stabs him in the side but he overcomes her anyway and William runs to save himself. She quickly learns that she is being abducted and taken to Drimnin in Morvern probably to be forced to marry.
Lachlan Maclean needs to abduct Flora MacLeod who he has been called the hellion of Holyrood because trouble is said to follow her. He has heard that she likes to cause mischief and is outspoken and stubborn to where she would never agree to marry someone by force so he has to woo her into wanting to marry him. He has received information about her elopement and is waiting outside Holyrood Palace to follow her carriage. He almost missed her because she was dressed as a servant but then he noticed her elaborate silk slippers and knew it was her.
When he abducts Flora, he tells her it is for ransom from her brother Hector who is his sworn enemy. He doesn’t tell her that her the real reason. Hector Maclean, Flora’s half-brother and Lachlan’s distant cousin, was causing trouble trying to get Lachlan’s lands so Lachlan wrote to the king for help. When the king summoned him, he sent his brother in his stead because he knew Hector would try to take over his castle while he was gone. The king threw his brother in prison so Lachlan went to the next most powerful man in Scotland, the Earl of Argyll who also happens to be Flora’s cousin. Argyll, who has just received news of Flora’s secret plan to elope makes a deal with Lachlan. Argyll will help Lachlan get his brother out of prison if Lachlan can get Flora to agree to marry him by making her think it is her own idea. Argyll knows his cousin too well and knows she will never marry someone if she thinks it is arranged.
While Lachlan was gone to see the Earl of Argyll, Hector Maclean took over his castle (Duart Castle) on the Isle of Coll. Many of Lachlan’s clansmen and servants are trapped in the castle with Hector who is a tyrant and mistreats them. Lachlan has been forced to live across the water at Drimnin Morvern in an old tower house structure with his remaining clansmen who have been facing famine. His clan blames it on the curse.
Almost 100 years ago, Elizabeth Campbell’s husband Lachlan Maclean of Cattanach (Hector and Lachlan’s great great great great grandfather) decided he didn’t want her anymore because she was barren so he tied her to a rock so that the tide could come in and drown her. As he rowed away, she held on to the amulet that she had given him and cursed him telling him, “A curse upon you, Lachlan Cattanach, and all who shall come after you. You have murdered me for barrenness, so shall your lands suffer kind. As you have tied me to this rock, so too will the fortunes of your clans be tied to a Campbell. No Maclean chief will prosper without a Campbell by his side. This will be your legacy until the wrong you’ve done is atoned and a Maclean life is given in live for a Campbell.”
She was saved and her husband’s plot was ruined but she died shortly afterwards.
Flora now has that same amulet passed down from generation to generation and from Flora’s mother who was a Campbell to Flora. It is believed if the amulet is giving freely to her husband that the curse will be broken but Flora does not believe in the curse even though a lot of Lachlan’s clan does.
Flora cracks me up. At first, Lachlan believes that she is spoiled and pampered because she has spent most of her life at court in a life of luxury. He tells Flora to be helpful around the keep. Flora causes all kinds of trouble. She wreaks havoc in the kitchen by putting too much salt in the food, hems Lachlan’s pants too short and sews pink flowers on his shirts and oils his weapons with a foul smelling oil. But she also get close to Lachlan’s sisters and helps them with schooling and helps out other clansmen…even if her help includes advice to the wives that they refuse sex with their husbands if they stink. Lachlan can’t help but fall for the wee hellion.
Lachlan and Flora become close but even if Flora agrees to marry him, how will she ever forgive him if she finds out about his plan?
I enjoyed this book immensely. I’m only sad that it was the last book in the trilogy and I have no more Monica McCarty books to read until her next book come out in her Highland Guard series.