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May 1, 2019

Highland Crown by May McGoldrick ~ a Review

by MK French


In Iverness, Scotland, in 1820, physician Isabella Drummond is wanted by the British for information regarding the whereabouts of the rebels fighting for Scottish rights. Though she never really actively participated in any of her husband's meetings, she knew of them and had treated them in their shared practice. Things go further downhill when the rebels post a bounty for her as well. She has to hide separately from her younger sister and stepdaughter in the Highlands, and can't fight her instincts to heal when a ship crashes in the midst of a storm. It turns out she saved the ship's captain, Cinaed Mackintosh, who has ties to separate rebellions and a history all of his own. The only way to secure their futures is to work together.

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. A free book was provided for an honest review.

Highland Crown
March 2019; St. Martin's; 978-1250314970
audio, ebook, print (320 pages); Regency romance
Honestly, this book would work well without the prologue at all. Other than Sir Walter Scott's name mentioned once or twice in passing through the text of the novel, he really doesn't have a tie to Isabella's story. It isn't necessary to know that he introduced her to the man helping her hide in the Highlands, because that isn't really part of Isabella's story. It really begins in the middle of the storm that crashes Cinaed's ship, the Highland Crown. We can tell right away by the instant physical attraction that Isabella and Cinaed are meant to be together, despite the differences in their backgrounds and motives to move forward. Isabella just wants to survive and keep her family safe, and Cinaed wants to remain independent and prove to his distant family members that he is worthy.

There are a lot of action sequences, as our hero and heroine meet with the British soldiers several times, as well as opportunistic Scots. Even Cinaed's family at first is suspect, given that he works with both sides of the conflict at Iverness. Isabella is definitely caught by the situation, and then with the added fake marriage trope to ensure her safety and attempt to hide her identity. For the longest time, the two don't even kiss, but their attraction is remarked upon several times in the text and they do get along well outside of the physical. Their fears for the future as well as their past, and then the climactic sequence that helps to close the book. My only complaint is that we don't actually see Isabella be badass at defending herself, even after we're explicitly shown the beginnings of training, and we know how competent she is as a physician and surgeon. At the close of this novel, we finally see Isabella's stepdaughter and sister. There is a clear set up for further novels after this one, and it will be great to see their stories as well.

Buy Highland Crown at Amazon

Read an Excerpt

Cinaed looked up into a woman’s face. Fine black eyebrows arched over brown eyes that were focused on his chest. Thick dark hair was pulled back in a braid and pinned up at the back of her head. Intent on what she was doing, she was unaware that he was awake.

Her brow was furrowed, and lines of concentration framed the corners of her mouth. The grey travel dress she wore was plain and practical. She was not old, but not young either. Not fat, not thin. From where he lay, he guessed she was neither tall nor short. She was beautiful, but not in the flashy way of the women who generally greeted sailors in the port towns. Nor was she like the eyelash-fluttering lasses in Halifax who never stopped trying to get his attention after a Sunday service. He didn’t bother to assess the pleasant symmetry of her face, however. The “brook no nonsense” expression warned that she wasn’t one to care what others thought of her looks, anyway.

But who was she?

The last clear memory he had was seeing a flash from the shore. The next moment his chest had been punched with what felt like a fiery poker. Everything after that floated in a jumbled haze. He recalled being in the water, trying to swim toward some distant shore. Or was he struggling to reach the longboat again?

Cinaed didn’t know what part of his body hurt more, the fearsome pounding in his head or the burning piece of that poker still lodged in his chest.

“Where am I?” he demanded. “Who the deuce are you?”

Startled, she sat up straight, pulling away and scowl- ing down at him. In one blood-covered hand, she held a needle and thread. In the other, a surgeon’s knife that she now pointed directly at his throat.

“Try to choke me again and I’ll kill you.” “Choke you? For the love of God, woman!”

His ship. The reef. The explosion.  He closed his eyes for a moment and tried to clear away the fog. Everything he’d been through struck him like a broadside.

The Highland Crown was gone. He’d detonated the powder himself. Where were his men? He’d climbed into the last longboat. They’d been fired at from the beach. He’d been shot.

Cinaed grabbed the knife-wielding wrist before she could pull it away. “Where are my men?”

An ancient woman in Highland garb slid into his line of sight behind the younger one. She was making sure he saw the cudgel she had over one shoulder.

“This one is worth less than auld fish bait, mistress,” she taunted. The crone was ready and obviously eager to use that club. “And thankless, too, I’m bound. I was right when I said ye should never have saved him.”

Should never have saved him. He released the wrist, and the hand retreated. But the dark-haired woman didn’t move away. As if nothing had happened, she dropped the knife on the cot, out of his reach. The brown eyes again focused on his chest, and she put her needle back to work.

He winced but kept his hands off the woman.

By all rights, he should be dead. A musket ball had cut him down and knocked him into the water. He should indeed be finished. Someone on shore had tried to kill him.

But he was alive, and apparently he owed his life to this one. Gratitude flowed through him.

“Want me to give him another knock in the head?” the old witch asked.

“Last stitch. Let me finish,” she said in a voice lacking the heavier burr of the northern accent. “You can kill him when I’m done.”

A sense of humor, Cinaed thought. At least, he hoped she was joking. She tied off the knot, cut the thread, and straightened her back, inspecting her handiwork. He lifted his head to see what kind of quilt pattern she’d made of him. A puckered line of flesh, topped by a row of neat stitches, now adorned the area just below his collarbone. He’d been sewn up by surgeons before, and they’d never done such a fine job of it. He started to sit up to thank her.

That was a grave mistake. For an instant, he thought the old woman had used her cudgel, after all. When he pushed himself up, his brain exploded, and he had no doubt it was now oozing out of his ears and eye sockets. The taste of bilge water bubbled up in his throat.

“A bucket,” he groaned desperately.

The woman was surprisingly strong. She rolled him and held a bucket as his stomach emptied. She’d been expecting this, it appeared. However horrible he was feeling before, it was worse now as the room twisted and rocked and spun. Long stretches of dry heaves wracked his body. “Blood I can deal with,” the old woman grouched from somewhere in the grey haze filling the room. He heaved

again. “By all the saints!”

“I’ll clean up later. Don’t worry about any of this. Go sit by the fire, Jean. You’ve had a long night.”

Cinaed felt a wet cloth swab the back of his neck and his face.

Jean mumbled something unintelligible about “weak- bellied” and “not to be trusted” and “a misery.” When he hazarded a glance at her, she was glaring at him like some demon guarding the gates of hell.

“Does my nephew know that yer a doctor?” she asked, not taking her eyes off of him as she snatched up the knife and handed it to the younger woman.

A doctor! He lifted his head to look at her again. She was definitely a woman. And a fine-looking one, at that. He was still breathing, and she’d done an excellent job on whatever damage had been done to his chest by the bullet. But the possibility of any trained physician, or even a surgeon, being here in this remote corner of the High- lands was so implausible. Male or female.

“John knows.”

“But ye say yer not a midwife,” Jean persisted, a note of disbelief evident in her tone. “And not just a surgeon, in spite of all them fine, shiny instruments in that bag of yers.”

“I trained as a physician at a university. But I’m finding that my abilities as a surgeon have more practical uses wherever I go.”

University trained. Cinaed stole another look at her. She had an air of confidence in the way she spoke and acted that convinced him that she was telling the truth. And for the first time since the Highland Crown struck that reef, he wondered if his good fortune was still holding, if only by thread. Lady Luck, apparently, had sent him Airmid, his own goddess of healing.

Long-forgotten words, chanted over some injury, came back to him from childhood. Bone to bone. Vein to vein. Skin to skin. Blood to blood. Sinew to sinew. Marrow to marrow. Flesh to flesh . . .

From the floor, she retrieved a bowl containing bloody cloths. A musket ball lay nestled like a robin’s egg on the soaked rags. By the devil, he thought, his admiration nearly overflowing. She’d not only stitched him together, she’d dug the bullet out of him.

The deuce! He’d never seen anyone like her. Frankly, he didn’t care if she came from the moon to practice medicine here. He owed his life to her.





Born and raised in New York City, M.K. French started writing stories when very young, dreaming of different worlds and places to visit. She always had an interest in folklore, fairy tales, and the macabre, which has definitely influenced her work. She currently lives in the Midwest with her husband, three young children, and golden retriever.



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2 comments:

  1. glad you enjoyed it. thanks for sharing.
    sherry @ fundinmental

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks so much! I hope you get a chance to enjoy it, too.

    ReplyDelete

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