His Wicked Highland Ways by Laura Strickland

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Widowed following a marriage of convenience, Jeannie MacWherter has fled lowland Dumfries, Scotland, for the highland cottage bequeathed to her late husband by his brother-in-arms, laird of the glen. Though she’s never met the laird, local rumor labels him both murderer and seducer—a wicked, dangerous man who Jeannie learns is determined to chase her from his land.

Finnan MacAllister has come home to Glen Mhor in order to right past wrongs. He doesn’t care that Rowan Cottage is the beautiful Widow MacWherter’s only refuge. He’s convinced she’s a wanton who deliberately broke the heart of his best friend, Geordie, and he’s vowed to get even with her: seduction is his weapon of choice. But will his own heart betray him?

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Publisher and Release Date: The Wild Rose Press, April 2015

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: Scottish Highlands, 1746
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 4.5 stars

Review by Maria Almaguer

I’ve read several Scottish romances over the years that have made men in kilts and the beautiful landscape of Scotland quite appealing: Katharine Ashe’s How to Marry a Highlander, The Brides of Wishmore series by Cathy Maxwell, and the Victorian era MacGregor series by Grace Burrowes to name but a few. In His Wicked Highland Ways, Laura Strickland spins a rather heavy-hearted tale of darkness and ever present danger.

Finnan MacAllister and Geordie MacWherter were once best friends and comrades at the Battle of Culloden. After the war, Finnan gave Geordie Rowan Cottage, a house that Geordie’s young widow, Jeannie, has made her refuge. Together with her only servant, Aggie, they’ve endured much and now enjoy a simple and content life of peace and quiet in the Scottish Highlands.

But unbeknownst to Jeannie, Finnan holds an intense hatred for her, the woman he believes Geordie adored with a love that was not reciprocated. Now that Geordie is gone, Finnan is determined to run the young widow off his lands but, when he meets her – in a very sexy and breathtaking scene – decides that making her fall in love with him and then breaking her heart (as she broke Geordie’s), might be a better and more deserved revenge.

Finnan is also fighting an old and bloody feud with the Avrie family, who claim a hold on his lands at Glen Mhor, so he obviously has his hands more than full of hate and retaliation which eats away at him, creating a turbulent and miserable existence. Furthermore, there are always two sides to a story and Finnan has no idea of the kind of marriage and relationship that Jeannie and Geordie shared.

Jeannie refuses to leave Rowan Cottage when Finnan haughtily demands it, the only home she now has after her meager existence in lowland Dumfries. Finnan admires her bravado but will not be swayed, until his man is wounded in a skirmish with the Avries and he must seek shelter in her home. That’s when he decides to put his seduction plan into action.

Jeannie is in a vulnerable position. Almost against her will, she is attracted to Finnan, the man who, through his friend, gave her a home from which he now wants to oust her. But she comes to admire his fierce devotion to Danny, his handicapped groom/valet, and the love he holds for his lands. And she also loves his “wicked ways,” the way he kisses her, holds her and, eventually and cleverly, seduces her.

There are a few paranormal elements in this novel, including an appearance by Geordie’s ghost and the mythical wisdom of a trout. It is a little surprising but it does suit the magical tone of and dramatic events of the story.

Finnan’s past family life also contributes to his great anger and thirst for vengeance. His father was murdered, he was run off from his lands as a young man, and he also lost his younger sister. He has since learned to survive on his own, now lives with a reputation as a mercenary and is even rumored to be a traitor.

But Finnan is awed and humbled by Jeannie’s sincere goodness and love for him, even when he hurts her deeply and does not deserve it. The love scenes between them are sensual and brief and not overly graphic. When a shocking event toward the end of the story shows Finnan what true love really is, he must make a choice for love or hate.

Laura Strickland pens a complex and melancholy romance, with strong themes of revenge, family, forgiveness, and loyalty. Her pacing is unhurried but it never wavers and is filled with a slow burning tension throughout, both in the passionate love story as well as the danger of discovery by the Avrie clan. My only complaint is an overuse of Finnan’s physical description as “a god.” I understand he is gorgeous and beautiful to look at from the opening paragraphs – I don’t need to be constantly reminded.

If you love romances set in Scotland, clan skirmishes, and a fierce and gorgeous kilted hero, you will enjoy this book.

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