They call him the Demon Highlander. The fearsome Lieutenant Colonel Liam MacKenzie is known for his superhuman strength, towering presence, and fiery passion in the heat of battle. As Laird to the MacKenzie clan, the undefeated Marquess has vanquished his foes with all rage and wrath of his barbaric Highland ancestors. But when an English governess arrives to care for his children, the master of war finds himself up against his greatest opponent. . . in the game of love.
Defying all expectations, Miss Philomena is no plain-faced spinster but a ravishing beauty with voluptuous curves and haughty full lips that rattle the Laird to his core. Unintimidated by her master’s raw masculinity and savage ways, the headstrong lass manages to tame not only his wild children but the beast in his soul. With each passing day, Liam grows fonder of Miss Mena—and more suspicious. What secret is she hiding behind those emerald eyes? What darkness brought her to his keep? And how can he conquer this magnificent woman’s heart . . . without surrendering his own?
Publisher and Release Date: St. Martin’s Press, August 2016
Time and Setting: London and Scotland, 1878
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 5 stars
Review by Wendy
Kerrigan Byrne’s Victorian Rebels series has been a breath of fresh air in this genre. It has everything that I love in an historical romance; darkness, angst, sparkling dialogue and most importantly, a bone deep, spine-tingling romance with characters I adore and care about. All three novels in the series are beautifully and eloquently written but my favourite by a whisker has been The Highlander; from the first page to the last, I was completely enthralled.
Laird Liam Mackenzie, Marquess of Ravencroft has a fearsome reputation which is well earned. He is a warrior in the true sense of the word and has recklessly risked his life on the battlefield for many years. Now he has returned home to tend to his lands, his people and more importantly, his motherless children who have been left to their own devices for too long.
As a girl, Lady Philomena St.Vincent, Viscountess Benchley had an idyllic lifestyle, with a father who doted on her indulged and educated her, but for the five years of her marriage she has suffered horribly at the hands of her sadistic, dissolute husband. Now – apparently barren, and her money spent – she has been consigned to Belle Glen asylum a sadly convenient way for men to get rid of unwanted women at this time. Mena (to her friends) has been dropped in the midst of a terrifying, living nightmare, one that even her dreadful marriage hasn’t prepared her for. Having been subjected to the most degrading atrocities, she is at her wits end – subjugated, violated and beaten. I take my hat off to Kerrigan Byrne; she has a unique ability to draw the reader into the world she describes, in this case, one of unbearable suffering and hopelessness. I read on in horrified fascination, unwilling to put my kindle down but willing Mena to beat her persecutors. It was with some relief then, when at her lowest ebb, Christopher Argent (The Hunter) and Dorian Blackwell (The Highwayman) arrive in the company of the Chief Inspector of police to spectacularly rescue her.
Blackwell and Argent are tied by their violent pasts. Each has found love and it is because of the friendship their ladies share with Mena and also because of a service she rendered to them at the expense of her own safety, that they facilitate her rescue. Now she must be hidden from her violent husband while these powerful men start proceedings to clear her name.
Liam Mackenzie is in need of a governess-come-social-instructor for his children, who have pretty much run wild in the absence of their father. Dorian’s wife, Farah, Countess Northwalk, decides that the depths of Scotland is the perfect hiding place for a runaway wife, so Mena becomes Miss Philomena Lockhart, spinster governess, and travels to Scotland to work for the man commonly known as The Demon Highlander – Lt. Col. William Grant Ruaridh Mackenzie, Marquess Ravencroft. I loved their first meeting – there is much hilarity amongst the Highlanders when Mena regally instructs them in the repairing of a broken wheel. I can see in my mind’s eye, this bevy of rough, tough men with their hair in muddy rats tails, staring slack jawed at the beautiful, curvaceous English lady telling them what to do!
The attraction between the large, gorgeous barbarian who believes himself to be unworthy of love, and the luscious but insecure red-head who is completely unaware of her own innate elegance and sensuality simply leaps off the page and never wanes; these two people are beautifully developed characters and I loved them both. There are some fantastic secondary characters too, not least Andrew and Rhianna, Liam’s children, and Jani, the Laird’s colourful, Hindu valet.
As the story reaches its climax, Kerrigan Byrne ratchets up the sexual tension but also the drama as Liam’s and finally, Mena’s secrets, are revealed in a shocking culmination of revenge and justice involving a host of characters. This has been a fantastic series, very different from others I’ve read recently, in its dark, eloquently written melodrama and I highly recommend it. Even the few Americanisms didn’t annoy me, so drawn into the story was I. The Highlander is a real winner, Ms. Byrne.