HIGHLAND MASTER - Hannah Howell
Murray Family , Book 19
Scotland, The Past
Lady Triona McKee's husband married her for her dower, just as he married his first wife for her land, which made him laird. He died in the fever that struck the village and keep. The fever took many of the residents. Her husband had been an uncaring, cold man who had no feelings for his wife or his daughter, Ella, who at least survived the fever. This left Triona the laird of Banuilt, but shortly afterward her entire garrison of warriors left for the promise of coin for fighting in France. It's been over eighteen months and no one has heard anything from the men who left. Triona has worked hard to keep her people fed and safe. Another problem is her neighbor, Sir John Grant, Laird of Gormfeurach, who tried to force her to marry him. She isn't interested. Since her refusal he has tried to ruin Banuilt's crops and stole the villager's cattle. The situation was becoming tenuous when Triona's shoe-string cousin by marriage, Arianna, arrives for a short visit. Five knights accompany her. Pregnant and fuming over a marital spat, Arianna has run away from her husband while he was away. The handsome black-haired, green-eyed man who accompanied Arianna introduces himself as Sir Brett Murray.
Brett and his brother Sir Harcourt, Sir Tamhas Cameron, and Sirs Uven and Callum MacMillian have protected Arianna on her trip. These men quickly realize something is very wrong in the keep and village, and they become determined to find out what. As long as Arianna is visiting, she must be kept safe as she is the wife of Brett and Harcourt's older brother Brian. When the trouble starts and the men become aware of what is happening, they become determined to help Lady Triona; only Brett has more interest than just helping the beautiful laird in her difficulties.
The Murray clan and family is huge and extended, giving rise to such a long series. I had not read any before, but HIGHLAND MASTER stands alone and captured my interest. The heroine's position as laird presents an interesting situation for the reader, and certainly for the men within the story's context. Triona's place is questioned in this man's world, especially in regards to politics, leadership, and misrepresentations by Sir John Grant. The convoluted plot adds to the intrigue, but Triona admirably carries out her duties. This state of affairs also leads to Brett's inability to ask for her hand in marriage. Brett is a powerful and intelligent warrior, but as a stranger within the neighboring communities, he has to move carefully. HIGHLAND MASTER presents readers a very entertaining and different take on the Scottish kilt and sword romance.