Once, Arianna Murray Lucette believed she’d met the man she could always rely on. She was wrong. Now she is fleeing for her life, and when her enemies attack a ship bound for her only refuge, she believes all hope is lost. Until she awakens on Scotland’s shore to a pair of the most entrancing blue eyes she has ever seen.When Sir Brian MacFingal first spots the sun-streaked beauty on the beach, he mistakes her for dead. Soon, however, he discovers a woman more full of life and vitality than he ever dreamed possible. But though he knows he is fit to defend her life–even at risk of losing his own–can such a raw warrior as he ever be worthy of her love?
This was my first Hannah Howell book, and I can see why she’s such a popular author for Scottish historicals. That being said, while there were quite a few things to like about Highland Avenger, there were also a few things that kept me from liking it enough to give it a higher rating.First, the good. From the very beginning, I found the story to be unique and interesting in terms of the background story of the characters and the plot moving forward. Both the hero and heroine were very likeable, as were the other secondary characters, and the villain seemed believable as well, although I would have liked him to have had a little more depth.But really, all of that is enough for a really solid story. The book begins when the ship that Arianna and her stepsons are on is crashed into–and by none other than the boys’ uncle, who is believed to want them all dead in order to gain the boys’ inheritance. (After the boys’ father’s death, Arianna’s suspicion that the uncle wanted to kill the boys was what had her taking them to England in the first place. Their mother is now dead, too.) Arianna had been married to the boys’ father in an arranged marriage and sent to France, only to find out later that he was already married with these two children. Her pseudo-husband was verbally abusive and intercepted her missives to and from her family asking for help. Arianna is a strong heroine who would have run from such treatment if it had been physical, but his verbal abuse was something she wasn’t prepared for.
Basically, then, the plot of the story is how Arianna and the boys (whom she loves as her own) get to safety in Scotland, away from their murderous uncle, how he is ultimately defeated, and how she overcomes the mental abuse dealt by her dead husband in the past.
Again, all good reasons for a solid story. However, three points dragged the rating of this book down for me.
1) I felt that the relationship between Arianna and Brian developed too quickly. He offers himself as a way for her to find herself worthy as a woman again, and while I think this needed to happen, I would have preferred to see them really get to know one another before such intimacy developed.
2)The main issue I had with this book–and really what made me want to throw it against the wall quite a few times–is that it felt like a huge percentage of the book was devoted to the heroine thinking/talking about her past with her dead husband and what she should have done differently or thinking/talking/speculating about why the uncle wanted the boys dead, what he might want with her, etc. Once or twice for both would have been enough for me, but it really felt like I was bashed over the head with both of these for most of the book. I usually enjoy introspection and dialogue, but there was so much thinking/talking about these same two issues over and over that I just wanted them to do something in the book!
3) The triumph of the last battle is very anti-climactic. The good guys won too easily, in my opinion.
In summary, the book had a great setup and I enjoyed the characters, but due to these reasons–primarily the second one–it’s not a book I can recommend.