THE CHIEFTAIN - Margaret Mallory
Return of the Highlanders , Book 4
Grand Central's Forever
To escape the bad memories at Dunscaith Castle, his childhood home, Connor, chieftain of the MacDonald of Sleat, entrusts it to his friend Duncan. He plans to move to the newly reclaimed Totternish Castle. Between the two sites, he hopes to protect his people and the lands he holds while regaining all the former MacDonald lands. He has many adversaries, foremost his Uncle Hugh, a pirate and troublemaker who wants the clan leadership for himself. To prevent the family situations his grandfather and father perpetrated on the clan with their licentiousness, Connor has remained celibate. This will end as soon as he makes an advantageous marriage alliance with a more powerful clan, one whose leader is willing to help him reclaim his lands from Alastair MacLeod and the MacLeod clan. In the meantime, he needs to find a new captain of the guards to replace Duncan.
While out patrolling the lands around Dunscaith, Connor and men come under the fire of an archer, and an arrow pierces Connor's thigh. His men take him to Ilysa, the clan healer and Duncan's widowed sister. Later, while the men talk, they realize whoever shot Connor was one of their own.
Ilysa, who is a talented healer and a sometimes seer, tells her brother she will move to Totternish. Ilysa has always loved Connor. She knows she can keep Totternish running well for Connor while he remains unmarried, and her foresight senses danger which she hopes to prevent. Yet she also knows, once Connor has made a marriage alliance, she must leave. Ilysa's dowdy appearance isn't one to attract Connor's attention except for his sex-starved body's reactions, but he trusts her. So much so that she blends into the background, and he and his men do not realize she listens when they talk clan business. This gives her keen insights into Connor's needs.
At Totternish, clansmen recommend Lachlan for captain of the guard. Little does Connor know he has appointed the very archer who shot him.
THE CHIEFTAIN is another excellent addition to the Return of the Highlanders saga. Ilysa is a very worthy woman, honorable despite her lowly birth, insightful, hardworking, and dedicated. Connor falls into some situations that seem unfathomable for such a worldly man, but perhaps his sexual abstention has affected his acumen. He seems blind to all the gifts Ilysa brings to both him and his clan, which might rile some readers' indignation, but certainly adds the zest of ire to the story. While Connor searches for a wife, the situation with Hugh and the MacLeods spirals out of control. In THE CHIEFTAN, author Margaret Mallory has written another absorbing historical novel.