The Striker (Highland Guard Series #10)

The Striker (Highland Guard Series #10)

by Monica McCarty

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781501108709
Publisher: Pocket Books
Publication date: 11/24/2015
Series: Highland Guard Series , #10
Pages: 464
Sales rank: 209,877
Product dimensions: 4.10(w) x 6.70(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Monica McCarty is the bestselling author of the Highland Guard series, the MacLeods of Skye trilogy, and the Campbell trilogy. Her interest in the Scottish clan system began in the most unlikely of places: a comparative legal history course at Stanford Law School. After realizing that her career as a lawyer and her husband’s transitory life as a professional baseball player were not exactly a match made in heaven, she traded in her legal briefs for Scottish historical romances with sexy alpha heroes. Monica McCarty lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and their two children.

Read an Excerpt

The Striker

1




St. Mary’s Church near Barnard Castle,
Durham, England, January 17, 1313

IT WAS A damned fine day for a wedding. Eoin MacLean, the man who’d devised the plan to use it as a trap to capture the most wanted man in Scotland, appreciated the irony.

The sun, which had hidden itself behind storm clouds for weeks, had picked this midwinter morn to reemerge and shine brightly on the sodden English countryside, making the thick grasses around the small church glisten and the remaining foliage on the trees shimmer like trees of amber and gold. It also, unfortunately, caught the shimmer of their mail, making it difficult to blend into the countryside. The long steel hauberk was unusual armor for Bruce’s men, who preferred the lighter black leather cotuns, but in this case, it was necessary.

From their vantage on the forested hillside beyond the church, the small village on the River Tees in the shadow of the great Barnard Castle looked pretty and picturesque. A perfect backdrop for the equally pretty bride and her knightly English groom.

Eoin’s mouth fell in a hard line, a small crack revealing the acid churning inside him. It was almost a shame to ruin it. Almost. But he’d been waiting for this day for nearly six years, and nothing—sure as hell not the happiness of the bride and groom—was going to stop him from capturing the man responsible for the worst disaster to befall Robert the Bruce in a reign filled with plenty of them from which to choose.

They had him. Dugald MacDowell, the chief of the ancient Celtic kingdom of Galloway, the last of the significant Scots opposition to Bruce’s kingship, and the man responsible for the slaughter of over seven hundred men—including two of Bruce’s brothers. The bastard had eluded capture for years, but he’d finally made a mistake.

That his mistake was a weakness for the bride made it even more fitting, as it was Eoin’s foolish weakness for the same woman that had set the whole disaster in motion.

He felt for the carved piece of ivory in his sporran by instinct. It was there—as was the well-read piece of parchment beside it. Talismans of a sort, reminders of another, but he never went into battle without them.

“You’re sure he’ll be here?”

Eoin turned to the man who’d spoken: Ewen Lamont, his partner in the Highland Guard, and one of the dozen men who’d accompanied him on this dangerous mission deep behind enemy lines. Though Bruce himself had led raids through Durham last summer, the king had had an army for support. If Eoin’s dozen men ran into trouble, they were on their own a hundred miles from the Scottish border. Of course, it was his job to make sure they didn’t run into trouble.

Opugnate acriter. Strike with force. That’s what he did, and what had earned him the war name of Striker among the elite warriors of Bruce’s secret Highland Guard. Like the striker who wielded the powerful blows of the hammer for the blacksmith, Eoin’s bold, just-on-the-edge-of-crazy “pirate” tactics struck hard against their enemies. Today would be no different—except that this plan might be even bolder (and crazier) than usual. Which, admittedly, was saying something.

Eoin met his friend’s gaze, which was just visible beneath the visor of the full helm. “Aye, I’m sure. Nothing will keep MacDowell from his daughter’s wedding.”

The information about Maggie’s—Margaret’s—planned nuptials had fallen into his hands by chance. Eoin, Lamont, Robbie Boyd, and James Douglas had been with Edward Bruce, the king’s only remaining brother, in Galloway for the past month doing everything they could do to disrupt communication and the supply routes between the MacDowell strongholds in Scotland’s southwest province of Galloway and Carlisle Castle in England, which was provisioning them. During one of these “disruptions,” they’d captured a bundle of missives, which included a letter from Sir John Conyers, the Constable of Barnard Castle for the Earl of Warwick, giving the date of Conyers’s marriage to MacDowell’s “beloved” daughter. Dugald had eight sons, but only one daughter, so there could be no mistake as to the identity of the bride.

Lamont gave him a long, knowing look. “I suspect the same could be said of you.”

Eoin’s lip curled in a smile that was edged with far more anger than amusement. “You’re right about that.”

This was one wedding he wouldn’t miss for the world. The fact that it would lead to the capture of his most hated enemy only made it more satisfying. Two debts, long in arrears, would be repaid this day.

But bloody hell, how much longer was this going to take? He was always edgy before a mission, but this was worse than usual. For Christ’s sake, his hands were practically shaking!

He’d laugh, if he couldn’t guess why. The fact that she could get to him after all these years—after what she’d done—infuriated him enough to immediately kill any twitchiness. He was as cold as ice. As hard as steel. Nothing penetrated. It hadn’t in a long time.

Finally, the appearance of riders on the drawbridge, one of whom was holding a blue and white banner, signaled the arrival of the groom.

Eoin flipped down the visor of his helm, adjusted the heavy, uncomfortable shirt of mail, and donned the stolen surcoat, which not coincidentally was a matching blue and white.

“Be ready,” he said to his partner. “Make sure the others know what to do, and wait for my signal.”

Lamont nodded, but didn’t wish him luck. Eoin didn’t need it. When it came to strategies and plans, no one did them better. Outwit, outplay, outmaneuver, and when necessary, outfight. MacDowell may have gotten the best of him six years ago, but today Eoin would even the score.

“Bàs roimh Gèill,” Lamont said instead.

Death before surrender, the motto of the Highland Guard—and if they were lucky, of Dugald MacDowell as well.



She was doing the right thing. Margaret knew that. It had been almost six years. She’d mourned long enough. She deserved a chance at happiness. And more important, her son deserved a chance to grow up under the influence of a good man. A kind man. A man who had not been made bitter by defeat.

None of which explained why she’d been up since dawn, running around all morning, unable to sit still. Or why her heart was fluttering as if in a panic. Panic that went beyond normal wedding day anxiety.

She hadn’t been nervous at all for her first wedding. Her chest pinched as just for a moment—one tiny moment—she allowed her thoughts to return to that sliver in time over seven years ago when everything had seemed so perfect. She’d been so happy. So in love and full of hope for the future. Her chest squeezed tightly before releasing with a heavy sigh.

God, what a naive fool she’d been. So brash and confident. So convinced everything would work out the way she wanted it to. Maybe a little anxiety would have served her better.

She’d been so young—too young. Only eighteen. If she could go back and do it all over again with the perspective of age . . .

She sighed. Nay, it was too late to change the past. But not the future. Her thoughts returned to the present where they must stay, and she focused, as she always did, on the best thing to come out of that painful time. The thing that had pulled her out of the darkness and forced her to live again. Her five-year-old son, Eachann—or as they called him in England, Hector.

Eachann had a small chamber adjoining hers in the manor house that had been their home in England for the past four years, since her father had been forced to flee Scotland. But she and her son would be leaving Temple-Couton for good this morning. After the wedding ceremony, they would remove to Barnard Castle with her betrothed—her husband, she corrected, trying to ignore the simultaneous drop in her stomach and spike in her pulse (two things that definitely shouldn’t happen simultaneously!).

Instead, she forced a smile on her face and gazed fondly at her son, who was sitting on his bed, his spindly legs dangling over the side and his blond head bent forward.

The soft silky curls were already darkening as the white blond of toddlerhood gave way to the darker blond of youth. Like his father’s. He was like his father in so many ways, looking at him should cause her pain. But it didn’t. It only brought her joy. In Eachann she had a piece of her husband that death could not claim. Her son was hers completely, in a way that her husband never had been.

She smiled, her heart swelling as it always did when she looked at him. “Do you have everything?”

He looked up. Sharp blue eyes met hers, startling again in their similarity to the man who’d given him his blood if nothing else. Eachann nodded somberly. He was like his father in that regard as well, serious and contemplative. “I think so.”

Stepping around the two large wooden trunks, Margaret glanced around the room to make sure. Just below his small booted heel, she spied the corner of a dark plank of wood.

Following the direction of her gaze, Eachann attempted to inconspicuously kick it farther under the bed.

Frowning, Margaret sat on the bed beside him. He wouldn’t look at her. But she didn’t need to see his face to know he was upset.

“Is there a reason you don’t want to take your chessboard? I thought it was your favorite game?”

His cheeks flushed. “Grandfather said I’m too old to play with poppets. I need to practice my swords or I’m gonna end up a traitorous baserd like my father.” The little boy’s mouth drew in a hard, merciless line, the expression a chilling resemblance to her father. Why is it that she’d never noticed the negative aspects of her father until they appeared in her son? “I’m no traitor! I’ll see that bloody usurper off the throne, and Good King John restored to his crown, if it’s the last thing I do.” Another chill ran through her. St. Columba’s bones, he sounded exactly like her father, too. His head tilted toward hers. “But what’s a baserd?”

“Nothing you could ever be, my love,” she said, hugging the boy tightly to her. This was one word that she wasn’t going to worry about correcting.

If she needed proof of why she was doing the right thing, she had it. She loved her father, but she would not have her son warped by his disappointments. She would not see Eachann turned into a bitter, angry old man who thought the world had turned against him. Who reveled in being the last “true” patriot for the Balliol claim to the throne, and the only significant Scottish nobleman who still had not bowed to the “usurper” Robert the Bruce.

Margaret understood her father’s anger—and perhaps even commiserated with him about the source—but that did not mean she wanted her son turned into a miniature version of him. Despite Eachann’s “traitorous bastard” of a father, Dugald MacDowell loved his only grandchild. Indeed, it was her father’s mention of having Eachann fostered with Tristan MacCan—his an gille-coise henchman—so the lad could be close to him that gave Margaret the push to accept Sir John Conyers’s proposal.

When the time came next year for her son to leave her care—God give her strength to face that day!—Sir John would see to his placement and not her father. Being a squire to an English knight was vastly preferable to being fostered by a man so completely under her father’s influence, even one who was a childhood friend. Her son’s safety came above everything else.

“Chess pieces are not poppets, my love.” She pulled out the board etched with grid lines and the lovingly carved and painted wooden pieces. Some of the paint had begun to flake off on the edges, and the carefully painted faces had faded with use. She’d taught Eachann to play when he was three. He played against himself mostly, as despite prodigious efforts otherwise, she’d never had the patience for it. But he did. Her son was brilliant, and she was fiercely proud of him. “It’s the game of kings,” she said with a bittersweet smile. “Your father played.”

That surprised him. She rarely mentioned his father, for various reasons, including that the memories pained her and mention of him drew her family’s ire. They all tried to pretend that the “traitorous bastard” never existed around Eachann, but if the eager look on the boy’s face was any indication, perhaps they had been wrong in that.

“He did?” Eachann asked.

She nodded. “It was he who taught me to play. Your grandfather never learned, which is why he . . .” She thought of how to put it. “Which is why he doesn’t understand how useful it can be to a warrior.”

He looked at her as if she were crazed. “How?”

She grinned. “Well, you could throw the board like a discus, or use the pieces in a slingshot.”

He rolled his eyes. She couldn’t get anything past him, even though he was only five. He always knew when she was teasing. “Don’t be ridiculous, Mother. It wouldn’t make a good weapon.”

His expression was so reminiscent of his father’s she had to laugh so she didn’t cry. If anyone needed proof that mannerisms were inherited, Eachann was it. “All right, you have me. I was teasing. Did you read the rest of the folio Father Christopher found for you?”

They’d been reading it together, but he’d grown impatient waiting for her. Like with chess, her son had quickly outpaced her hard-wrought reading skills.

He nodded.

She continued. “King Leonidas was a great swordsman, but that’s not what made him a great leader, and what held off so many Persians at Thermopylae. It was his mind. He planned and strategized, using the terrain to his advantage.”

A broad smile lit up Eachann’s small face. “Just like you plan and strategize in chess.”

Margaret nodded. “That was what your father did so exceptionally. He was one of the smartest men I ever knew. In the same way that you can look at the chessboard and ‘see’ what to do, he could look at an army on the battleground and see what to do. He could defeat the enemy before he even picked up a sword.”

Though Eachann’s father had favored a battle-axe like his illustrious grandfather for whom he’d been named: Gillean-na-Tuardhe, “Gill Eoin (the servant of Saint John) of the Battle-axe.” He’d been good with it, too. But she didn’t want to mention that. In spite of her son’s auspicious name, harkening to one of the greatest warriors of ancient times, Hector of Troy, Eachann was small and had yet to show any skill—or love—of weaponry. Her father had begun to notice, which was another reason she had to get her son away. She wouldn’t mind if Eachann never picked up a weapon and buried himself in books for the rest of his life. But Dugald MacDowell would not see his grandson as anything but a fierce warrior. Another MacDowell to devote his life to a war that would never end.

But she wouldn’t let that happen. The constant conflict that had dominated her life—that had torn apart her life—would not be her son’s.

She stood up. “Why don’t you put your game in the chest, while I go to tell Grandfather we are ready.”

He gave her a nod and hopped off the bed. She was almost to the door before she felt a pair of tiny arms wrap around her legs. “I love you, Mother.”

Tears filled her eyes as she returned the hug with a hard squeeze. “And I love you, sweetheart.”

Certainty filled her heart. She was doing the right thing.



Three hours later, Margaret had to remind herself of it. As she stood outside the church door, her father, son, and six of her eight brothers gathered on her left, and Sir John on her right, flanked by what seemed like the entire garrison of Barnard Castle, it didn’t feel right at all. Indeed, it felt very, very wrong.

Were it not for the firm arm under her hand holding her up, she might have collapsed; her legs had the strength of jelly.

Sir John must have sensed something. He covered her hand resting in the crook of his elbow with his. “Are you all right? You look a little pale.”

She had to tilt her head back to look at him. He was tall—although not as tall as her first husband had been—and the top of her head barely reached his chin. He was just as handsome though. Maybe even more so, if you preferred smooth perfection to sharp and chiseled. And Sir John liked to smile. He did so often. Unlike her first husband. Wresting a smile from him had been her constant challenge. But when she’d succeeded, it had felt like she’d been rewarded a king’s ransom. Sir John’s life also didn’t revolve around battle—thinking about battle, planning about battle, talking about battle. Sir John had many other interests, including—novelly—her. He talked to her, shared his thoughts with her, and didn’t treat her like a mistake.

Then why did this feel like one? Why did the very proper wedding, with the seemingly perfect man, feel so different from the improper one, with the wrong man that had come before it?

Because you don’t love him.

But she would. By all that was good and holy in heaven, she would! This time it would grow, rather than wither on the bone of neglect to die. She was being given a second chance at happiness, and she would take it, blast it!

She drew a deep breath and smiled—this time for real. “I was too excited to eat anything this morning. I’m afraid it’s catching up with me. But I’m fine. Or will be, as soon as we get to the feast.”

Sir John returned her smile, she thought with a tinge of relief. “Then we must not delay another moment.” He leaned down and whispered closer to her ear. “I don’t want my bride fainting before the wedding night.”

Her eyes shot to his. She caught the mischievous twinkle and laughed. “So I’m expected to faint afterward?”

“I would consider it the highest compliment if you would. It is every groom’s hope to so overcome his bride on the wedding night that she swoons.” He nodded to indicate the soldiers behind him. “How else am I to impress the men over a tankard of ale?”

“You are horrible.” But she said it with a smile. This was why she was marrying him. This is why they would be happy. He made her laugh in a way she hadn’t laughed in a long time. His humor was just as wicked as hers had been. Once.

Following the direction of his gaze, she scanned the large group of mail-clad soldiers. “Is that what you talk about when you are all together? Aren’t you breaking some secret male code by telling me this?”

He grinned. “Probably. But I trust you not to betray me.”

Not to betray me . . .

A chill ran down her spine. Her gaze snagged on something in the crowd. Her skin prickled, and the hair at the back of her neck stood up for a long heartbeat before the sensation passed.

It must have been Sir John’s words, unknowingly stirring memories. Unknowingly stirring guilt.

Tell no one of my presence . . .

Pain that not even six years could dull stabbed her heart. God, how could she have been so foolish? The only good thing about her husband dying was that she didn’t have to live with the knowledge of how much he would have despised her for betraying him.

“Margaret?” Sir John’s voice shook her from the memories. “They are waiting for us.”

The priest and her father, who had been talking, were both now staring at her, the priest questioningly, her father with a dark frown. Ignoring them both, she turned to Sir John. “Then let us begin.”

Side by side, they stood before the church door and publicly repeated the vows that would bind them together.

If memories of another exchange of vows tried to intrude, she refused to let them. Of course it was different this time. This time she was doing it right. The banns. The public exchange of vows outside the church door. The only thing they wouldn’t have was the mass afterward. As she was a widow, it was not permitted.

If she secretly didn’t mind missing a long mass, she was wise enough not to admit it. Now. She wasn’t the wild, irreverent “heathen” from “the God Forsaken” corner of Galloway anymore. She would never give Sir John a reason to be ashamed of or embarrassed by her.

When the priest asked if there was anyone who objected or knew of a reason why these two could not be joined, her heart stopped. The silence seemed to stretch intolerably. Surely that was long enough to wait—

“I do.”

The voice rang out loud and clear, yet for one confused moment, she thought she’d imagined it. The uncomfortable murmuring of the crowd, and the heads turned in the direction of the voice, however, told her she hadn’t.

Sir John swore. “If this is some kind of joke, someone is going to regret it.”

“You there,” the priest said loudly. “Step forward if you have something to say.”

The crowd parted, revealing a soldier—an exceptionally tall and powerfully built soldier. Strangely, the visor of his helm was flipped down.

He took a few steps forward, and Margaret froze. Stricken, her breath caught in her throat as she watched the powerful stride that seemed so familiar. Only one man walked with that kind of impatience—as if he was waiting for the world to catch up to him.

No . . . no . . . it can’t be.

All eyes were on the soldier wearing the blue and white surcoat of the Conyers’s arms. She sensed the movement of a few other soldiers, circling around the crowd in the churchyard, but paid them no mind. Like everyone else, her gaze was riveted on the man striding purposefully forward.

He stopped a few feet away.

He stood motionlessly, his head turned in her direction. It was ridiculous—fanciful—his eyes were hidden in the shadow of the steel helm, but somehow she could feel them burning into her. Condemning. Accusing. Despising.

Her legs could no longer hold her up; they started to wobble.

“What is the meaning of this, Conyers?” her father said angrily, apparently blaming Sir John for the conduct of one of his men.

“Speak,” the priest said impatiently to the man. “Is there an impediment of which you are aware?”

The soldier flipped up his visor, and for one agonizing, heart-wrenching moment his midnight-blue eyes met hers. Eyes she could never forget. Pain seared through her in a devastating blast. White-hot, it sucked every last bit of air from her lungs. Her head started to spin. She barely heard the words that would shock the crowd to the core.

“Aye, there’s an impediment.” Oh God, that voice. She’d dreamed of that voice so many nights. A low, gravelly voice with the lilt of the Gael. Oh God, Maggie, that feels so good. I’m going to . . . “The lass is already married.”

“To whom?” the priest demanded furiously, obviously believing the man was playing some kind of game.

But he wasn’t.

Eoin is alive.

“To me.”

Margaret was already falling as he spoke. Unfortunately, Sir John wasn’t going to get his wish: the bride would faint before the wedding night after all.

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The Striker 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 23 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I've never left a review of any of the many books I've read, this is a first but this book by my second favorite author of all time is simply AMAZING!! If I could give this book a higher rating I would. It deserves it!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have read the first nine in this series and #10 is a huge disappointment. Ridiculous dialog and confusing episodes in the plot. I made it through 75 pages and had to stop. Changing publishers and editors seems to have been a lousy decision. I won't bother with #11.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The storyline had a weak base
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Slightly different storyline from the others. Read it in one evening into wee hours of the morning! Enjoyed it very much.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Always a delight
BuckeyeAngel More than 1 year ago
of Galloway- last of the significant Scots opposition of robert The Bruce’s kingship. Dugald was responsible for the death of over seven hundred men. Even was eoin’s partner in the Highland guards . Eoin has the nickname Striker among the elite warriors of the King’s secret Highland Guard. This was Dugald’s daughters wedding day and Eoin was sure Dugald would not miss that. The guard had found out by missive that Maggie was to marry and out of nine kids Maggie was Dugald’s only daughter. Maggie had been married one time before and had a five year old son -Eachann who was like his father who had been serious and contemplative. His eyes were also similar to his father’s who had died or so Maggie thought. Then as Maggie was to marry Eoin objected when the priest asked anyone objected to the marriage. Eoin had fell in love with his enemy’s daughter he had been torn between Maggie and his loyalty to his king. But then Maggie had betrayed him or so Eoin believed Eoin being part of the Highland Guard yet he couldn’t tell Maggie Eoin is a great strategist and his cousin to Robert The Bruce. At the wedding after seeing Maggie he realizes his feelings aren’t dead but also that he has a son. The first part of this story goes back to Maggie and Eoin meeting and falling in love. The second half appropriately was at Maggie’s second wedding. Dugald escapes takes Eachann with him now Maggie and Eoin must work together to get their son back. Excellent story really enjoyed it. I like how the author went back to show you how Eoin and Maggie met and fell in love despite their beliefs. I don’t usually like going to the past in a story but for some reason this was written just so and I didn’t mind at all. It was wonderful to see Eoin’s bitterness and distrust fade and love to return to him as well as Maggie even though she was to remarry it was for the safety of her son. So all and all a great story with great characters. I liked all the twists and turns Maggie and Eoin went through. I highly recommend. I received an ARC of this story for an honest review.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Can't put it down.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have read all the book in this series and loved them all !
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved this book because it seemed different than the other books in this must read series. The pictures that Ms.McCarty are out standing. I have read all of her Highland Guard series and every single book is not only unique and original that kept my mind in the time of the book. That and I've not ever been able to put one of Ms. McCarty books down once I've started reading them. Thank you Monica McCarty for sharing your wonderful stories.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you enjoy reading Highlander romance books then The Highland Guard series is a must read. Monica Mccarty is the best at putting together romance, adventure and history together in wonderful stories and Striker is no exception!
Hecsania17 More than 1 year ago
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Historical_Romance_Lover More than 1 year ago
This is book 10 in the Highland Guard series. Eoin "Striker" MacLean and Margaret MacDowell are on opposite sides in a broken Scotland, but they can't seem to fight the attraction they feel for each other. Soon married, Eion must go fight for the Bruce and leave his wife with his family. Margaret is miserable living with Eoin family and eventually returns to her own family. But with misunderstanding on both sides, Eion and Margaret are soon torn apart. Six year later, they reconnect. Can this second chance bring them the happiness they deserve? I LOVED THIS STORY!! If was very hard to do the write up without giving up too much of the plot…so that is why it is one of my shorter ones. The story starts at the time of their reunion and then goes back to their meeting. We see their struggles to make their marriage work and how tragedy ends it. When they are given a second chance, you can't help but cheer them on! This is definitely one of my favorite series (even though I haven't read them all…must do that!!) The next book in the series, The Rock, is out on Dec. 29th. Thanks go out to Pocket Books via NetGalley for a copy of the book in exchange of an honest review.
ALT More than 1 year ago
I just finished this book. First, I'll start with - it was AWESOME! There is another reviewer who said they wished they could give it six stars. I'm right there too. I have to admit when I read the overview of the book, I didn't think I would like it as much as the others in the series. But, I was dead wrong. It surpassed the others - which I absolutely loved.
Esther Parsons More than 1 year ago
Can I rate this as a six star please. Wow, just finished and what an amazing read this was. Monica McCarty last couple of books were good but this, this one was excellent!!! Trying to gather my thoughts and emotions here as I write a review. We begin the first chapter in the present tense with Eoin "Striker” planning an attack and capture of Dugald MacDowell. MacDowel was one of the last important opposition against Bruce and Striker was going to make sure that he was captured with no mess ups this time. Oh, one more thing, MacDowel was also the Father of his wife, who Striker hasn't seen in six year. His wife Margaret, who was about to marry another man was the perfect revenge for what he believes she did to him and his friends. In this opening scene we are given a hint of some terrible betrayal that Eoin has suffered at the hands of his wife and the deep hurt and bitterness he's still wrestling with. Margaret's thoughts are also on display and as well as her deep emotional turmoil as she is about to marry a man she cares about but doesn't love. We find her talking to her son, Eachann and thinking how he looks so much like her husband who she believes is dead because of her and a terrible misunderstanding. The emotions that emanate from this first chapter is gripping. I felt each characters pain, heartache and anger. The scene that unfolds is so full of emotion and is so gripping that you become immersed into these two characters worlds. The author did a beautiful job of setting the scene in present tense and transitioning to the past in the next chapter and how these two meet and fall in love. The first half of the book is the story of how Eoin and Margaret meet and fall in love. Margaret is young, strong, confident, beautiful and considered a "wild" child. Eoin is handsome, intelligent, a great strategist and cousin to Bruce. He is working on becoming part of this elite group that Bruce has formed and that has has consumed Eoin life. He's considered serious, intense and reserved. When these two first meet they are shocked by the intense and strong pull they have for each other. We then witness the two fall into deep attraction and then a sweet first love. The relationship has challenges from outside forces as well two families with opposing sides to the war.Both Margaret and Eoin make young foolish mistakes that make you angry but yet you totally get and understand. And the amazing thing for me was I understood both sides and was equally sympathetic with each. And that I have to give credit to excellent writing and character development by the author (very rare for me, most times I end up taking a side). And then the unfolding of the suppose "betrayal" and the heartache and sorrow each character endures is gut wrenching. Then the second half of the book we are taken back to the wedding/surprise attack scene. We witness how each character is in for quite a shock. Eoin seeing Margaret again and realizing his feelings aren't dead and he has a son. And Margaret seeing her "dead" husband standing in front of her. Her realizing that she has never stopped loving her husband and could never love anyone else but him. A brief moment of happiness that he came for her and then her heart is shattered. Heartbroken because she realizes he's back to capture her father, he didn't come for her and then seeing the anger and bitterness that is emanating from him as he looks at her. Her father then escapes and he takes Eoin and Margaret's son with hi
SteppyD More than 1 year ago
OMG! A few weeks back I was at my local library and happen to come across The Chief by Monica McCarty while browsing the romance section. Oh yes, I am a sucker for romance novels and anything Scotland so what did I do?? Well I checked out the book and was blown away! I finished all 9 books of the series in about 3 weeks because they were just THAT GOOD!! So of course I was beyond psyched when I saw book #10 of the Highland Guard series pop up on NetGalley! You guys have got to check this book series out! FYI…this is a VERY emotional story. I seriously cried like a baby throughout most of it but it was sooooo good! You really feel for Margaret MacDowell, the main female character. And while Eoin MacLean was a little frustrating with making her wait over, and over, and over again as well as not fully trusting her til the end (their families are enemies, on opposite sides of the war), I still loved his character. I’ve been waiting for his book to come out since McCarty gave us little snippets of him here and there in the other books. You could just feel the vibe that his marriage was pretty rocky and boy did I want to know the story behind it! The only thing that threw me off about the book was when it started off in 1313 and then left you hangin’ at the end of chapter one by jumping back to 1305 for half of the book before then coming back again to where chapter one had left off. I was like ‘WTF is gonna happen?!??’. But while I was pulling my hair out with anticipation, I understand that in order to grasp the depth of the two main character’s relationship, you had to travel back in time to get the jest of how they fell in love and where their marriage went array. It takes place during the time of Robert the Bruce on his journey to obtain the crown of Scotland using his special ops Highland Guard and it was absolutely fantastic! If you like historical romance, with some good ol’ Scotland thrown in, then this series is totally for you!
TammyS32 More than 1 year ago
Striker left 6 years ago after he felt he was betrayed by his wife to fight for Robert the Bruce. When he finds out his wife is going to be remarried he finds it the perfect opportunity to capture her father an enemy of Bruce. This is a fast paced historical with plenty of drama and suspense and the chemistry between Striker and Margaret is excellent. The story is fast paced and I was hooked from beginning to end. A great read!
Hfowler More than 1 year ago
The latest Highland Guard novel has all of the delicious emotional highs and lows indicative of a Monica McCarty romance. There are times your throat chokes up and you feel close to tears along side the heroine, Maggie. You feel Eoin's sense of betrayal and anger towards her betrayal at the battle of Loch Ryan. The structure of this installment is set up differently from the other novels. We are first in the year 1313 where Eoin crashes his wife's attempt at a new marriage. She has believed him dead for six years and seeing him at her wedding is a shock, to say the least. It becomes clear that he has grown to hate her, due to her actions six years ago. Then we flash to the year 1305, and we watch as Eoin and Maggie are drawn to each other and how they get married in a very passionate and private moment. The story progresses to that point where Maggie betrays Eoin, and then we flash back to the "present" 1313 and watch them come back together. The details of what truly happened six years ago come to light for Eoin and he realizes that he has never stopped loving her; that though he has tried hard to hate her, he has not been able to stop loving her. The story has all of the hallmarks of a great Monica McCarty story. The struggle between the two main characters is intense and the moment near the end where Eoin makes his last mistake in not trusting Maggie, he realizes too late what he has truly lost. But Maggie also has an epiphany that leads to her not repeating her past mistakes, and the story ends with a happy ending and a great epilogue giving us more glimpses of what the future after the war will look like. I enjoyed the story, I don't think it was my absolute favorite in the series, but it doesn't disappoint. Entertaining and enjoyable read and I look forward to reading the next one, The Rock. :-) Copy lent to me by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.