WILD AT HEART
Scotland, 1812: He’s ferocious and rugged to the bone, an English soldier more at home on the battlefield than in any Society drawing room. And when Major Gabriel Forrester learns that he’s inherited the massive Scottish Highlands title and estate of a distant relation, the last thing he wants to do is give up the intensity of the battlefield for the too-soft indulgences of noble life. But Gabriel Forrester does not shirk his responsibilities, and when he meets striking, raven-eyed lass Fiona Blackstock, his new circumstances abruptly become more intriguing.
Like any good Highlander, Fiona despises the English—and the new Duke of Lattimer is no exception. Firstly, he is far too attractive for Fiona’s peace of mind. Secondly, his right to “her” castle is a travesty, since it’s been clan Maxwell property for ages. As the two enter a heated battle of wills, an unexpected passion blazes into a love as fierce as the Highlands themselves. Is Fiona strong enough to resist her enemy’s advances—or is Gabriel actually her hero in disguise?
Publisher and Release Date: St. Martin’s Paperbacks, October 4, 2016
Time and Setting: Scotland, 1812
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 4 stars
Review by Maria Almaguer
Suzanne Enoch, an established, prolific, and accomplished historical romance author, revisits Scottish heroes in her newest series, No Ordinary Hero. Indeed, Major Gabriel Forrester does not fit the usual mold of historical romance heroes; though he has just become a duke and inherited great wealth and land, he is first and foremost a soldier. He has no airs or sense of self-entitlement and, when he meets Fiona Blackstock, he’s attracted to a woman who is every bit as bold and brave as he is. She has spirit and fire and she dares to challenge him. For his part, his wealth and his heart can help Fiona (a woman who has shouldered many burdens but is tired) while also finding a home for himself. As a soldier, he has traveled the world and it has never occurred to him to set down roots.
As in several historical romances I’ve read recently, there’s a strong mystery element running through the story as malevolent events threaten to destroy the livelihood of the castle and its many indigent and dependent villagers. Over the years, someone has been stealing sheep at an alarming rate and the troubles escalate when Gabriel appears. Being a superstitious people, the clan calls it a curse but Gabriel, an Englishman, is determined to uncover the truth.
The denouement in the novel is a little anticlimactic – I expected an all out blowout after all the strange incidents – but I really like how Ms. Enoch depicts both Fiona and Gabriel challenging the villain, instead of the classic hero saving the heroine schtick. It’s a refreshing and unexpected twist.
For Fiona and Gabriel, it’s lust at first sight. They bait and challenge each other at every turn but they also share an instant and intense sexual attraction. She’s wary of a “Sassenach” duke coming in to save the day, but she also can’t deny or resist his good looks and charm – and, eventually, his kind heart. Gabriel grows on her like grass, as she observes him caring for the laborers and cotters and his determination to make the estate prosper. He earns her trust as well as her heart.
The romantic love between them grows slowly as each discovers attractive emotional qualities but, while they’re discovering them, they’re having sex every chance they can get. Fiona is no virgin and, oddly enough, for a man of the time, Gabriel doesn’t seem to mind. Indeed, she challenges him on that very fact by pointing out that he’s no virgin either. They understand each other but it’s definitely a mostly physical relationship.
Fiona has been running the estate since her brother ran off – there’s an unsolved mystery there -but also taking liberties by taking into account the livelihood of the villagers. She over-employs people at the castle and pretty much single-handedly runs things. Her only mistake is that Gabriel outsmarts her by actually coming to Scotland to take matters into his own hands after she ignored his lawyers’ many letters. In this way, their romantic love grows out of a shared desire for partnership in the success of the Scottish estate and the well-being of its residents.
Every day Scottish village life is colorfully depicted with runaway cows, a village picnic, and the beautiful descriptions of the landscape of the Scottish Highlands. The reader experiences it much as newcomer and war hero Gabriel does.
Obviously, as it’s set in Scotland, this book has a lot of Scottish dialect which can sometimes be a burden to read. But I know many readers enjoy stories set in Scotland so this may not be an issue. Ms. Enoch writes very well, her pacing is steady, and her characters engaging and human.
If you love Scottish historical romance and independent and strong-willed heroines, you will enjoy this book.