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Intrigued by this ruggedly handsome newcomer to her father’s forces, the vivacious, enchanting Anna MacDougall is a woman whose skill at uncovering deception rivals Arthur’s own. Though yearning for a quiet life with a good man to love, Anna is drawn to this mysterious knight whose eyes devour her but whose words push her away. As danger, treachery, and the threat of looming war draw them closer into each other’s arms, a warrior made of steel must make a choice from the heart: love or revenge.
Dunstaffnage Castle, Argyll, Scotland, May 24, 1308
Please, let him be dead. Please, let it finally be over.
Anna MacDougall set her basket down and knelt at her father’s feet, praying to hear the news that would put an end to the war that had marked every day of her life.
Anna had been born on a momentous day in the history of Scotland: the nineteenth of March, the year of Our Lord twelve hundred eighty-six. The very day that King Alexander III had ignored the advice of his men and raced to Kinghorn in Fife on a stormy night to be with his young bride—sliding off a cliff and falling to his death on the way. The king’s lust had left his country without a direct heir to the throne, resulting in twenty-two years of war and strife to determine who should wear its crown.
At one time there had been fourteen competitors for the throne. But the true battle had always been between the Balliol-Comyn faction and the Bruces. When Robert Bruce took matters into his own hands two years ago and killed his chief competitor, John “The Red” Comyn—her father’s cousin—he’d made a blood enemy of the MacDougalls forever. Only their MacDonald kinsmen were despised as much as Robert Bruce. Bruce’s actions had forced the ?MacDougalls into an uneasy alliance with England.
Even Edward Plantagenet was better than having a Bruce on the throne.
And it was Bruce’s death that she prayed for now. Ever since word had arrived that in the middle of his campaign north he’d taken to his sickbed with a mysterious illness, she’d prayed for the ailment to claim him. For nature to vanquish their enemy. Of course, it was a terrible sin to pray for a man’s death. Any man’s death. Even a murderous scourge like Robert Bruce. The nuns at the abbey would be horrified.
But she didn’t care. Not if it meant the end to this bloody, godforsaken war. The war that already had claimed her brother and fiancé, and had taken its toll not only on her aging grandfather, Alexander MacDougall, Lord of Argyll, but also on his son—her father, John ?MacDougall, Lord of Lorn.
Her father had barely recovered from the most recent bout of chest pains. She didn’t know how much more he could take. Bruce’s recent success had only made it worse. Her father hated to lose.
It was hard to believe that a little over a year ago “King Hood” had been on the run with only a handful of supporters, his cause all but lost. But the fugitive king had returned and, thanks in large part to the death of Edward I of England, resurrected his bid for Scotland’s throne.
So sinful or not, she prayed for the death of their enemy. She would gladly do the penance for her wicked thoughts if it meant protecting her father and clan from the man who would see them destroyed.
Besides, as the nuns had told her countless times before, she’d never been destined for the life of a nun anyway. She sang too much. Laughed too much. And most importantly, had never been as devoted to God as she was to her family.
Anna studied her father’s face, gauging it for any reaction, as he tore open the missive and read. In his anxiousness, he hadn’t even bothered to call for his clerk. She’d been fortunate to find him alone in his solar, having just finished a council with his men. Her mother, usually found anxiously fussing at his side, had gone to the garden to oversee the picking of herbs for a new tincture suggested by the priest to help clear the bogginess from her father’s lungs.
She could tell right away that the news was not good. A dangerous flush reddened his well-lined face, his eyes grew bright as if with fever, and his mouth fell in a thin white line. It was a look that struck fear in the hearts of the most hardened of warriors, but in Anna it only provoked concern. She knew the loving father beneath the gruff warrior’s exterior.
She clutched the arm of the thronelike chair upon which he sat, the carving biting into her palm. “What is it, Father? What’s happened?”
His gaze lifted to hers. She felt a flash of fear, seeing the rising anger. Her father’s apoplectic rage had always been a terrifying sight—rivaling the infamous Angevin temper of the Plantagenet kings of England—but never more so than after his attack. Anger is what had caused the pains in his arm and chest last time. Pains that had frozen him, cut off his breath, and put him in bed for nearly two months.
He crumpled the parchment in a ball in his fist. “Buchan has fled. The Comyns have been defeated.”
She blinked. It took her a moment to comprehend what he’d said as it seemed impossible. John Comyn, the Earl of Buchan—kinsman to John Comyn the murdered Lord of Badenoch—was one of the most powerful men in Scotland.
“But how?” she asked. “Bruce was hovering near death.”
Her father had always encouraged his children to ask questions. He deplored ignorance, even in women, which was why he’d insisted that all his daughters be educated at the convent. But seeing his face flame and body stiffen with rage, she almost wished her question back.
“Even from his sickbed the scourge manages miracles,” he said disgustedly. “The people already think him some kind of hero—like the bloody second coming of Arthur and Camelot. Buchan had the bastard pinned near Inverurie, but his men faltered when they saw ‘The Bruce’ at the head of the army.” He slammed his fist down on the table beside him, sending wine sloshing from his goblet. “The Comyns ran like cowards at the sight of a sick man being carried into battle. They fled from a damned invalid!”
His face turned so red that the veins in his temples started to bulge.
Fear clutched her chest. Not because she feared his anger, but because of the danger to his health. She fought back the tears that sprang to her eyes. Her fiercely proud father would see her tears as a sign that she thought him weak. He was a powerful warrior, not a man who needed to be coddled.
But this war was killing him as surely as a slow poison. If she could just get him through this trouble with Bruce, everything would be all right. Why couldn’t the false king have just succumbed to illness the way he was supposed to? This would all be over.
She had to calm him. Instead of using tears and pleas, she took his hand and forced a teasing smile to her face. “You’d better not let Mother hear you talk like that around me. You know she blames you for my ‘unmaidenly’ vocabulary.” For a moment she feared her words had not penetrated, but slowly the haze of anger started to dissipate. When he finally looked at her as if he really saw her, she added innocently, “Perhaps I should I call for her?”
He let out a sharp bark of laughter, muddled by the heaviness in his lungs. “Don’t you dare. She’ll force another one of those revolting potions down my throat. Lord knows your mother means well, but she would drive a saint to perdition with her constant worrying.” He shook his head, giving her a fond look that told her he knew exactly what she had done. “You’ve nothing to fear, you know. I’m perfectly hale.” His eyes narrowed. “But you are a shrewd lass, Annie-love. More like me than any of the others. Haven’t I always told you so?”
Anna dimpled with pleasure at the compliment. “Yes, Father.”
He continued as if she hadn’t responded. “Since the day you toddled into my solar with your thumb in your mouth, took one look at the battle map, and moved our men to the perfect place to attack.”
She laughed, having no memory of the day but having heard the story many times before. “I thought the carved figures were toys,” she said.
“Ah, but your instincts were pure.” He sighed. “But I fear it will not be so simple this time. Buchan writes that he will seek refuge in England. With the Comyns defeated, the usurper will turn to us.”
Us? She swallowed hard. Dread settled over her. “But what about the truce?”
Months ago, when Bruce had first started his march north, he’d turned his eye briefly to battling the men of Argyll, threatening them by land and by sea. Her father, ill and undermanned, had agreed to a truce—as had the Earl of Ross to their north. She’d hoped the truce would mean an end to the fighting.
“It expires on the Ides of August. The day after, we can expect to see the fiend at our gate. He’s chased off the ?MacDowells in Galloway, and with the Comyns gone . . .” Her father frowned his disgust again.
Sensing a return of his anger, she reminded him, “The Earl of Buchan has never been a good battle commander. You’ve said so many times before. King Hood would not have been so lucky against you, which is no doubt why he sought a truce in the first place. Dal Righ is still too fresh in his memory.”
Her father fingered the chunky silver brooch he wore at his neck. The large oval crystal surrounded by tiny pearls was a talisman of just how close he’d come to capturing the fugitive king. They’d had Bruce in their grasp—literally—the brooch coming off in the struggle.
She could tell by the hint of a smile around his mouth that her words had pleased him. “You’re right, but our previous victory will not stop him this time. We’re all that’s left between him and the crown.”
“But what of the Earl of Ross?” she said. “Surely, he will fight with us?”
Her father’s mouth tightened. “Ross cannot be counted on. He will be reluctant to leave his lands unprotected. But I will try to persuade him that we must join forces to defeat King Hood once and for all.”
There was nothing reproachful in her father’s manner, but Anna felt a twinge of guilt nonetheless. Persuading Ross might have been made easier if she’d accepted the proposal of his son Hugh last year.
“I will call my barons and knights and send word to Edward requesting aid. He is not half the king that his father was, but perhaps Comyn’s defeat will finally force him to see the imperative of sending more men north.”
But he didn’t sound hopeful. Anna knew as well as her father not to expect much help from Edward II. The new English king had too many troubles of his own to worry about Scotland. Though English soldiers were still garrisoned in many key castles around Scotland—especially along the borders—Edward had recalled many of his commanders, including Aymer de Valence, the new Earl of Pembroke.
She bit her lip. “And if help does not arrive?”
She knew better than to ask her father whether he would submit. He would see them all dead before he kneeled to a Bruce. “To Conquer or Die.” The MacDougall motto lived strong in her father.
Posted December 30, 2010
For those of you who haven't read The Chief or The Hawk, this is a new take on our Highlanders, and a new take on Highland Warfare. Imagine "special ops in kilts." Now that we all have that lovely image in our minds, (I know I'm imagining a Navy SEAL in a kilt, and yummmm)..I'm sorry, where was I?
After William Wallace was killed, Robert Bruce finally steps up to the plate and looks at what is best for Scotland. In this series, he finds the best warriors in Britain, and uses their specialties; so about a dozen men, all trained in different skills, but trained to work together. It's not easy.
Arthur Campbell has a special skill of having heightened senses. He gets a feeling, he can hear things before others can, and he's a damned good fighter. He is also deep undercover, part of the Highland Guard loyal to the Bruce, but on the surface, he's working for the English. One night, Arthur accidentally saves a lass from an ambush by his men, and in doing so, seals his fate.
A year later, he is sent by the Bruce into his enemy John of Lorn's castle as a spy. And finds out the beautiful lass he'd saved was his mortal enemy's daughter! What happens next is such an intriguing, suspenseful ride that I almost wish it could also be marketed as a romantic suspense. Obviously it can't be as simple as boy meets girl, they fall in love, happily ever after. Oh no, it has to be not only are they on opposite sides of the war, but they can't even tell each other that much. Between the secrets, and the passion, and stress of remembering which side he's really on, Arthur is trying his hardest to keep Anna at a distance. But her father has asked her to keep a close eye on him. In other words, she follows him around til the men are poking fun at Arthur. One of the hardest parts in the book for me to read was where Arthur saved Anna and her brother from an attack, only to find out he'd killed 9 of his own men. My God, how does he live knowing he saved the enemy at the cost of his friends' lives?
At one point in the book, Anna has been utterly rejected by Arthur, who can't let her get close to him, and she agrees to marry a former suitor and potential ally. Her father sends Arthur with her as a scout, and Arthur goes crazy with jealousy. One of my favorite scenes happens after Anna tells Hugh Ross she'll marry him. I think that watching Arthur realize he's in love with her was wonderful, but being an alpha male, he pulled the whole, "I can't have you, but I won't let anyone else have you either" crap and it drive me nuts!
Anna is blunt, caring, feisty and sweet. She is the perfect match for Arthur who just needs someone to love and understand him. That his solitary existence has been to protect himself from getting close to anyone, that he's not a freak with unnatural abilities. He's just a man who loves a woman so much he won't do anything about it, so that when the war marches to her door, and her world falls apart around her, and she sees he's betrayed her, that maybe it will save her a bit of hurt.
I loved the way Anna was able to see through Arthur's exterior and love him despite his attempts at pushing her away. I loved how Arthur couldn't let her marry Ross. And I loved how Anna handled the discovery that Arthur was a spy and her father had him tortured.
I urge you all to read the author's note, because it's so full of the real names, histories and clans that Monica McCarty uses in her series. It's amazing how much
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Posted March 8, 2012
Posted February 5, 2011
The third book in the series did not disappoint. McCarty brings the Elite Guard to life and has you feeling and cheering for them. The Ranger was his own man in every way. When I think of the Ranger I feel as if I knew him. This is a keeper series.
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Posted November 19, 2010
In 1307 in Scotland, Robert the Bruce assigns Arthur "Ranger" Campbell a special top secret mission. He wants Ranger to go undercover pretending to be in support of the British while spying on their enemy. Ranger knows if he is caught he will be executed.
During an attack, Ranger saves the life of Anna MacDougall. They are attracted to one another, but he knows he must not lose sight of his task. Instead he joins her English loyalist father's call to arms. As he keeps saving her life, her father directs her to spy on the Scotsman. Arthur, who hates her father, and Anna, who dislikes her father, fall in love, but open hostility has ignited between both sides making their desires unattainable.
The third Highland Guard medieval Scottish romance (see The Hawk and The Chief) is an engaging historical due to the star-crossed lead couple whose love may prove not enough to overcome the hostilities that engulf them and others. Both are moles as he spies for the Bruce and she spies for her father. Marvelous Monica McCarty magically moves her fans to the early fourteenth century with a thrilling Highland Guard tale.
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Posted August 17, 2014
Posted August 13, 2014
One excellent read.
If you are not reading this series you are really missing a great historical adventure and romance. Get started and enjoy... Now do not miss out........D
Posted August 11, 2013
Posted July 27, 2013
4 1/2 STARS!
Arthur "Ranger" Campbell is one of the Bruce's secret Highland Guard. He is sent into the enemy MacDougall camp to spy. He is to get information that will help Robert Bruce win the war. He also has a personal vendetta against Lorn MacDougall that he hopes to take care of during this mission. I love the fact that Ranger has this uncanny ability to sense things. It's something that sets him apart from the others and has made him feel an outcast from everyone around him. He's a loner and intends to remain that way for life.
Anna MacDougall is carrying secret messages for her father who is against Robert Bruce. He feels that by sending women the men fighting for Bruce won't suspect and intercept these messages. One night she is caught by some highlander's who kill her guard then let her go. She is amazed at their abilities, some she has never seen before. She knows that she will never forget the man who saved her life that night even though she couldn't see his face.
Arthur and Anna have this chemistry that is screaming to be acknowledged but he is having nothing to do with it. She is his most hated enemies daughter for heaven's sake! He is there to see her family brought to it's knees. She, on the other hand, is entranced with him and finds any reason to stay near him and butts in every chance she gets.
His resistance starts to crumble about the same time she starts to question things about him. They both give themselves over to this attraction only to find their loyalties and the love they share questioned and put to the test in the most ultimate ways.
This story kept me flipping pages as fast as I could read them I was so enthralled with the battles, the tension, the secrets and their reveals, the pain, and the love. This Highland Guard that Monica McCarty has given us has captured my interest and heart.
Posted July 25, 2013
Posted May 11, 2013
It has has less sex scenes. Too bad.:). But despite that, this kept me at the edge of my seat. The plot is tight. The character is believable. I'm off to read the next book in the series.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 19, 2012
Great characters, a tight plot, an atmospheric historical setting, and of course, well written by Ms. McCarty, which makes this book a must to read. I really liked the time period and the story which was set in the Highlands.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 1, 2012
Posted July 26, 2012
Monica has an imagination that is incomparable!!! Wish she could write faster. I just found her books and have already read everything she has written..Can't wait for "The Recruit" If her name is on the cover, BUY IT!!!!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 4, 2012
The Ranger was very good. Not my favorite in the series but I still enjoyed it. I'm loving the Highland Guard Series!!!!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 30, 2012
These characters are so well written that you feel as if they are your friends. As usual Monica takes history and spins this amazing tale. The only problem with these books is that they end! Can't someone start a mini series about the Highland Guards? kinda like the Tudors? please??Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 10, 2012
Posted December 30, 2011
Great Highlander Series! Highland Guard #3
'Ranger' - Arthur Campbell was sent into the enemy territory as a spy. He has done a great job of this without being discovered. However, Anna brings out all his protective instinct even though she is the enemy.
Anna is her father's daughter. She believes she is fighting for the right cause and is helping in anyway she can. Her father wants her to get close to Arthur and find out if he is genuine. This creates a problem since there is a pull between them.
Will they cultivate love or destroy it?
Posted October 2, 2011
Posted September 28, 2011
I have read all of Monica McCarty's books. The love stories are beautiful. There is always suspense! When I start to read one, I can't put it down until I've finished it. Awesome writer!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 9, 2011