Sunday, June 7, 2015

The Warrior - Margaret Mallory (Forever - Nov 2012)

Series: Return of the Highlanders (Book 3)

From the Isle of Skye to the battlefields of France, Duncan MacDonald has never escaped the memory of the true love he left behind. Deemed unworthy of a chieftain's daughter, Duncan abandoned the lovely Moira to prove his worth in battle. Now, when called upon to rescue her from a rival clan, one thing is certain: Moira's pull on his heart is stronger than ever.

Bartered away in marriage to a violent man, Moira will do anything to ensure she and her son survive. When a rugged warrior arrives to save her, the desperate beauty thinks her prayers have been answered-until she realizes it's Duncan. The man who once broke her heart is now her only hope. Moira vows never again to give herself-or reveal her secrets-to the fierce warrior, but as they race across the sea, danger and desire draw them ever closer.

Very good book that started with intensity and kept it up. Moira and Duncan had been secret sweethearts when she was seventeen and he was nineteen. But Moira was the daughter of the laird and Duncan a bastard son, and when they were discovered Duncan was sent away and Moira married off. Each of them believes the other deserted them when things got tough.

Seven years later Duncan and his friends are back to reclaim the land stolen from the clan. Moira's brother Connor, listening to the local seer who sees Moira in trouble, sends Duncan to Ireland to check on her. He arrives in time to see her kill her husband after he nearly beat her to death. Duncan discovers that in spite of his feelings of betrayal, his heart still belongs to Moira.

Moira had been her father's "princess" and certain that whatever she wanted she would get. Stunned at being denied her heart's desire of marrying Duncan, she accepted her father's candidate for marriage, only to find herself at the mercy of an abusive man. Seven years later she puts herself at risk to save her son from her husband's cruelty, only to see the boy sent to her clan's worst enemy for fostering. Duncan's arrival saves her life, but trusting him isn't something she can't do.

I loved the interweaving of the action and the romance. Duncan and Moira are wary of each other at first, still hurting from the perceived circumstances of their separation. During their escape they are forced to stop to get help for Duncan's injured companion, and the attraction between them flares hot again. Moira wants Duncan's help to rescue her son, but her plans to keep herself separate don't last long. Duncan is determined to win her back, but Moira doesn't want to trust him with her heart again though sharing her body is no problem. Even after the truth comes out, no matter how often Duncan tells Moira of his love, Moira continues to hold back. Eventually all her secrets are revealed and her trust begins to return. I liked seeing Duncan's protectiveness toward Moira. Moira will accept his help and protection, but she has become quite a survivor. She has no problem letting him know when he goes too far. I liked seeing them grow to respect each other as well as grow their love.

Now that Moira is safe, the attention returns to reclaiming MacDonald land. Duncan goes undercover to scope out the defenses, and discovers a complication in that Moira's son is present at the castle. Back home, Connor and Duncan try to work out the best way to attack the castle, while a spy waits to discover their plans and betray them. Bad luck has Duncan captured, but a surprising rescue gets him back on track. The battle is followed by more trouble, and it is Moira's quick thinking that prevents a disaster. There's a twist to this final confrontation, but it ends well and Duncan and Moira finally get the future they want.

The secondary characters were great. Young Ragnall and his dog Sar were terrific. I liked Ragnall's ingenuity and protectiveness towards his mother. Sar was pretty amazing and came through several times when things were looking grim. Moira's brother Connor, as clan leader, was fantastic. I really enjoyed is part in getting Duncan and Moira together, and am really looking forward to his story. I'm also looking forward to the downfall of their Uncle Hugh after all the trouble he has caused.

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