May McGoldrick (author duo and real-life couple Nikoo and Jim McGoldrick) gifts readers with a passionate, fast paced romance in Highland Crown, leaving satisfied but not fully sated readers ready for the next installment in the series.
History buffs will revel in the author’s expert geographical and historical knowledge, and romance fans will delight in the ever-present sexual and emotional tension between the protagonists. Doctor Isabella Drummond, née Murray, is a well-traveled, no-nonsense but kindhearted widow with unmatched medical prowess, her very existence an anomaly in both place and time. Beginning with the shipwreck of the novel’s namesake, the Highland Crown, upon the shores of Duff Head in the northeast Highlands, readers are immediately plunged into a fairy tale with a somewhat-familiar twist—in the vein of Hans Christian Andersen, there is indeed a human treasure from the wreck waiting to be saved on the beach—but the rescuer is none other than fierce Doctor Drummond herself, and her prize is a bedraggled, wounded seaman, Captain Cinead Mackintosh, who harbors a secretive past.
Isabella is immediately captivated by the stranger’s looks, but once they spend more time together and bond over life-or-death incidents, she finds herself drawn by the siren call of his confidence, warm demeanor and loyalty to protect those he loves. But questions eat away at her mind. Why did he destroy the cargo of his own beloved ship as she sank? Can they truly trust his relatives, Searc Mackintosh and Laird Lachlan? Can she even trust Cinead himself?
As lovable supporting character Auld Jean repeatedly chants, “The sea is a harsh mistress… [she] takes and [she] provides.” As both British soldiers and Scottish rebels pursue her, for the crime of alleged treason she hasn’t committed and the information she has been exposed to, Isabella soon loses sight of those she loves, but gains the mysterious and handsome Captain Mackintosh and his earnest promise to lay down his life for her in reciprocation for saving him. Together they must face vengeful British soldiers, angry Highland villagers and suspicious clan members to protect Maisie and Morrigan, Isabella’s sister and stepdaughter. McGoldrick expertly weaves true-to-life historical elements with the contemporary desire for numerous twists and turns on every page of Highland Crown. And in a fun, metafictional twist, each chapter opens with lines from the writings of a fictionalized Sir Walter Scott, a posthumous but nonetheless important supporting character in the plot.
McGoldrick has bestowed upon readers a feel-good whirlwind romance between two intelligent, driven individuals that is less about the complications of a new relationship and more about celebrating a partnership. Highland Crown also explores themes of self-discovery and the quest for happiness, as its main couple works together to pursue what is right for their loved ones, their country and their relationship.