Author Isabel Cooper begins her new paranormal historical romance series with a slow-burn courtship between a curious, intelligent Jewish alchemist and a world-weary dragon shifter. The tension sizzles page after page in this excellent start to the Dawn of the Highland Dragon series.
Alchemist Sophia Metzger is journeying to the Scottish Highlands based on a rumor that there may be dragons lurking within Castle MacAlasdair. Exiled from England due to the Edict of Expulsion, Sophia is used to feeling like an outsider and being the subject of judgmental stares. Bayard, her guide, assures her that Lord Douglas MacAlasdair is a welcoming host. However, Lord Douglas is away, leaving his prickly son Cathal in charge. Seeing as how Sophia is there to ask for a very strange favor—a dragon scale for her alchemic experiments—Cathal’s demeanor immediately presents a challenge.
Cathal is an incredibly refreshing hero. Though a dragon shifter, he’s absent of any overwhelming and instantaneous overprotectiveness for the heroine. Quite honestly, Cathal is tired and doesn’t have the time for such posturing. The difficulties of running a castle and maintaining a nearby village in his father’s absence hold no real interest for him, and his childhood friend, Fergus, is suffering from a mysterious illness. His responsibilities and loneliness weigh heavily on him, and the small smiles Sophia begins to elicit in him are stomach-fluttering victories. When she approaches him about whether the whispers are true regarding his dragon-shifting abilities, he doesn’t bother to hide what he is. In fact, he sees her need for a scale as the perfect bargaining chip. He’ll allow her to stay at his castle and conduct her experiments with his help if she’ll agree to investigate the disease plaguing Fergus.
Cathal and Sophia carefully dance around each other, their tentative proximity only increasing their mutual attraction. Sophia is shy and still carries a deep hurt from being treated as “other” because of her heritage. And Cathal has lived for many years with Fergus as the only bright spot, even though Cathal will continue to live long after his human friend dies. The prospect of his loss is crushing for Cathal, despite the strong face he keeps in front of others. In different ways, Sophia and Cathal are dealing with the pain of abandonment that they’ve both buried within themselves.
The romance is sweet throughout, especially as Cathal’s admiration for Sophia’s work grows. She excitedly meets the challenge he sets out for her and is determined to heal Fergus. Her dedication is a glowing example that strength can take many forms—resilience, fearlessness, empathy.
Cathal’s dragon-shifting takes a bit of a backseat to Sophia’s alchemic discoveries, making Highland Dragon Warrior perfect for readers who want to dip their toes into a romance with paranormal elements. It’s magical, captivating and throws in a bit of mystery to keep the pages turning. Let yourself be enchanted by Cooper’s cynical dragon who wants more from life and the brainy alchemist that captures his heart.