Review: The Highlander

I received this book for free from Netgalley in order to prepare an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: The HighlanderThe Highlander (Victorian Rebels, #3) by Kerrigan Byrne
Series: Victorian Rebels #3
Published by St. Martin's Paperbacks on August 2nd 2016
Genres: Historical
Pages: 368

“What a tragedy they both were. Bruised and beaten by those who were supposed to have loved and protected them. Tossed upon a sea of cruelty, and seeking refuge in this unforgiving world.  Seeking sanctuary, but hoping for redemption.”

FINAL DECISION:  The story of two people haunted by violence, Liam and Mena are incredibly sweet in their romance even with all the dark secrets that seem to be against them.

THE STORY:  Laird Liam Mackenzie, Marquess Ravencroft is known as the Demon Highlander from his career in the army.  Returning to his home in Scotland to care for his children, he is in need of a governess and writes to the wife of his half brother who happens to be the king of London’s underworld, the Blackheart of Ben More. Farah sends Liam Miss Philomena Lockhart, to care for his children.  Philomena has secrets.  The most important is that she is being sent to Scotland to hide from her abusive Viscount husband who had her sent to an asylum for going against his family.  Pretending to be an unmarried spinster governess, Mena never expected to be attracted to the dangerous laird.

OPINION:  Can two people haunted by violence find a sweet love together?  What I loved about this book is its relentless determination in showing that everyone deserves love and can find it.

“A good man with a frightening past. A violent man with a wish for peace.”

Liam is a man haunted by the violence that has dominated his life since he was a child. Growing up the heir of an evil and sadistic man, Liam has had violence ingrained in him. Years of being useful to the British Army because of his brutality has only confirmed his belief that he is unworthy of peace and happiness or even forgiveness.

“‘Do ye believe, Miss Lockhart, that we may be forgiven our sins? That the past can ever be left behind us?’  She shook her head. ‘We may try to leave the past, but I don’t think the past ever truly leaves us.  It is part of us; it shapes us into who we are.  don’t think any of us escapes that fate, my laird.'”

Mena is the last woman who should have any feelings for a man of violence. Abused by her husband, sent to an asylum because of her honesty, Mena is now in hiding.  I loved that she discovers a woman who can stand up for herself against a man that she should rationally be frightened of.  For a woman who has had such a difficult life (abused by her husband, dominated by her husband’s family, barren), Mena still has such a good heart. Her capacity for love, understanding and forgiveness was amazing. As she finds confidence in herself, she develops into a very special woman.

In fact, the generousness of Mena’s spirit is what makes their relationship even possible. I love how two people who should never work find their scars and fractures bring healing to the other. Mena gets a strong man to protect her and value her and allow her to be strong.  Liam needs to use his strength to protect rather than hurt and to find someone who accepts him and his past.  I love how these two find compassion, forgiveness and love in one another.

“‘The devil is in all of us, I think.  That’s what makes us human rather than divine. I believe there is a tenuous balance between redemption and damnation. You cannot have one without testing the limits of the other. No light, without first conquering darkness. No courage, without battling your fear. No mercy, unless you experience suffering.’ She turned to gaze at the golden cross gleaming on the altar, her mouth pressing into a line. ‘No forgiveness without someone having wronged you.'”

Byrne is the queen of darkness and angst giving us characters which are tortured and in pain. Yet, there is always a way to happiness and joy for these people.  I have a great fondness for stories where the characters are mired in darkness as the book starts.  Having damaged characters find happiness affirms that everyone deserves love.  The best part of Byrne’s tortured characters, however, is that she never slips into her stories being sad and depressing.  No matter how dark the past of her characters, there is a light at the end of their journey.

The book contains one of the most painfully emotional scenes I have ever read. Sent to an asylum by her husband and her family, Mena is subject to abuse there as well.  Knowing that real women in history suffered the same kind of confinement and abuse merely because they were impertinent and inconvenient for those with power over them, devastated me and I found I could only read those scenes in small doses.  Yet there was nothing gratuitous in those scenes, the truth was painful enough.

I also wanted to mention something I noticed in both THE HUNTER and this book which is Bryne’s incredibly deft way she deals with children who are not related by blood with one of the main characters. Here Liam has two children who are nearly grown. Mena has to develop her own relationship with these children and Liam, himself, having been absent for most of their lives has to find out how to relate to who his children actually are. I enjoyed seeing these secondary relationships develop and am also happy that Bryne didn’t magically “cure” Mena’s infertility but instead gave her a family built on love rather than merely biology.

Finally, I love the appearance of characters from the series who make significant additions to the story.  I prefer when characters intertwine throughout the stories. Here, there is a very nice balance. Readers who haven’t read the other books in the series will not miss anything, but readers who follow the series get to see favorites again.

WORTH MENTIONING:  Kerrigan Byrne is very naughty for giving a preview of the next book in the epilogue. Three intriguing words “rather scandalous duchess.”

CONNECTED BOOKS:  THE HIGHLANDER is the third book in the Victorian Rebels series.  While there are overlapping characters, this book can be read as a standalone.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4.5 stars.


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