Click here to buy the book on Amazon (Release date: May 3, 2016)
After I finished reading this book, I went online and started looking for more romances based in Scotland/the Highlands -- I realized that I really, really enjoy reading them, and it's a welcome break from all the Regencies that I read. The pace is different, and the themes and problems that the characters face focus more on the safety and well-being of the clan, and the protection of the Highlands.
Much Ado About Highlanders is the first book in May McGoldrick's Scottish Relic Trilogy. The relic in question are four pieces of a stone tablet, which gives its owners special powers. Kenna MacKay was given one of the stones by her late mother, but she isn't aware of its full power. She has lived at the priory for the past six months, and has returned home to attend her cousin's betrothal. Kenna is also a gifted healer, something her mother also passed down to her.
Kenna is feisty and brave, and possesses a very sharp tongue and a cynical view towards marriage. Her cousin, Emily MacDougall, is about to marry a Lowlander in order to help their clan defend against the English, who are slowly encroaching on to Scottish lands. Kenna isn't very subtle in how she tries to persuade her cousin to refuse the arrangement -- and I wondered how someone so young could be so bitter about marriage.
Then we discover that Kenna is actually married, but it wasn't consummated, because Kenna ran away from her husband on the night of their wedding. I thought it was clever how May McGoldrick reveals this very surprising aspect of Kenna's life right when she was inadvertently kidnapped by her own husband --
Alexander and James MacPherson are on a mission to recover one of their ships, which was taken by Emily's father, and is now part of her dowry. The plan is to exchange Emily for the ship, but the plan goes a bit awry when they kidnap Kenna along with Emily. Alexander hasn't seen his wife in six months. They parted badly, with Kenna finding him drunk and in the bed of another woman. Yes, it was a prank orchestrated by his brother, Colin, and yes, he should have tried to explain it to Kenna -- but, Alexander's pride was bruised when his wife couldn't even give him the benefit of the doubt. But now they have a chance to clear the air and smooth things out -- if only the world would cooperate.
While Alexander and Kenna have a personal conflict to sort out, a bigger threat is looming: a man obsessed with the stones has been wreaking havoc through Scotland, and killing everyone in his way -- and now he is after Kenna's stone.
There is also a subplot that involves Kenna's cousin, Emily, and Alexander's brother, James -- I see why McGoldrick chose the title because the stories of these four characters somehow mirror Shakespeare's Hero, Claudio, Benedict, and Beatrice -- and they experience the same romantic travails as Shakespeare's characters.
A lot of the problems between the two couples center on a misunderstanding and plans not going as they should -- and this is something readers will either enjoy or dislike. I was a bit wary that, when Emily discovers the scheme concocted by some "interested parties" in order to get Kenna and Alexander together, she copies it in order to spend more time with James -- but I appreciate the author's intention. It's the same scheme, but the reactions are different, and the paths to resolution are different.
Kenna's healing ability lends a supernatural feel to the story, but McGoldrick is very good to keep this from becoming too much about mystic and magic: she credits Kenna's mother for giving her daughter the skills for healing, and the stone is just an extra boost, especially for desperate times. There are still two more stones out there, and each one has a different owner and power, so I'm very interested to see how this trilogy will end.
Much Ado About Highlanders is released today, May 3, 2016. To find out more about May McGoldrick and her books, click below:
Disclosure: I received this ARC via Netgalley. Thank you to May McGoldrick and St. Martin's Press for the opportunity. Yes, this is an honest review.