The Highlander by Kerrigan Byrne
St. Martin’s Paperbacks: August 2, 2016
Genre: Historical Romance
Source: Free From Publisher
Kerrigan Byrne has become immensely popular due to her Victorian Rebels series; The Highwayman was a huge hit when it came out and I was seeing it everywhere I read about new books. While I had mixed feelings about the first book, I thought The Hunter was brilliant. If you’re a fan of romances that focus on folks with a darker past, there’s no question that you are reader that will enjoy all of the books in Byrne’s series and this latest is no different.
Colonel Liam MacKenzie is in need of a governess for his two children. After years away from home, Liam has returned home and is determined to do right by his family, something that he finds difficult considering the demons of his past. As a start, Liam hires a governess, Philomena, to get his daughter and son back on track. What Liam doesn’t count on is his mysterious governess and his desire to unravel her secrets. For her part, Mena is essentially in hiding. After being rescued from the “hospital” her husband put her in, Mena has been instructed to hide her true identity, which becomes difficult as she finds herself growing closer to Liam. I picked up The Highlander with a fair bit of trepidation. Having read the previous two books I was familiar with the character of Mena and her entrapment in an abusive marriage. I’ll be the first to say that I don’t enjoy reading about bad things happening to people, especially the abuse of women. The first few chapters were rough as Mena has been shut away in a hospital by her husband and readers are privy to her resuce, but the focus of the book was mainly on Mena and her reclamation of her independence and power. So, despite the rather distressing content, I do think readers will appreciate the fact that the violence was not gratuitous but as a means to show Mena’s journey as a character. In contrast to the previous books, I found The Highlander to be much more focused on the heroine’s past rather than the hero’s. While the focus on Mena’s personal journey could be seen as a detraction from the romance, I felt that it was necessary considering the Mena’s past. Top marks for character development here!
While I did enjoy The Highlander it didn’t become my favourite in the series (The Hunter remains number one) due to it’s use of secrets and a quick resolution. As mentioned, Mena is hiding her true identity because she’s hiding from her husband. Obviously, Mena had to keep her identity a secret from Liam, but I personally felt that the secrecy went on far too long in the book. Coupled with fast-paced and action-packed dissolution of Mena’s marriage and the solidifying of her relationship with Liam, I felt that the ending was a bit rushed. I would have liked to have spent more time with the characters after the truth came to light. A small quibble and a personal one, but it did detract from my enjoyment of the story.
If you’ve enjoyed the previous two books in the series, The Highlander is going to impress. The author continues to explore dark themes that impact her hero and heroines with sensitivity and excitement. If you’re in the mood for a fast-paced romance that deals with a lot of action pick up Byrne’s series.
The dynamic between Liam and Mena immediately calls to mind Jennifer Ashley’s Rules for a Proper Governess. While the heroine doesn’t have quite the same level of tragic past as Mena, she isn’t from the aristocracy and hasn’t lived a life of leisure.
If you were impressed with how the author dealt with Mena’s abusive relationship, you might also enjoy P.B. Ryan’s Nell Sweeney Mysteries. While this is a historical mystery series, the central character also deals with an abusive husband. Throughout the course of the series Nell comes to terms with her past and ultimately breaks free from her husband. I highly recommend checking this series out; start with book one, Still Life with Murder.