I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.The Highland Commander by Amy Jarecki
Series: The Lords of the Highlands #2
Published by Forever, Grand Central Publishing on June 27th 2017
Genres: Fiction, General, Historical, Romance, Scottish
Purchase Links: Amazon | iBooks | Kobo | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Google Play
ADD TO GOODREADS:
She cannot resist the man behind the mask...
As the illegitimate daughter of a Scottish earl, Lady Magdalen Keith is not one to partake in lavish balls or other frivolities. Yet at her father's urging, she agrees to dance with the battle-weary officers at this year's holiday masquerade. It's practically her civic duty! But when one such officer-whose dashing good looks cannot be disguised by a mere mask-sweeps her off her feet and into his arms, the innocent lass can't help herself. Her lips are his for the taking.
But will he betray his country for a kiss?
Navy lieutenant Aiden Murray has spent too many months at sea to be immune to the charms of this lovely beauty. Even after he returns to his ship, she lives in his dreams. But when he discovers Maddie's true identity -and learns that her father is accused of treason – will the brawny Scot risk his life to follow his heart?
Lords of the Highlands series: The Highland Duke | The Highland Commander | The Highland Guardian
Author Amy Jarecki offers a unique and exciting Scottish historical romance with her newest release, The Highland Commander. With so many British Isle historical romances set during the Regency era of the early nineteenth century, it’s refreshing to encounter the eighteenth-century reign of England’s Queen Anne and start of the Jacobite movement. The Highland Commander is set soon after the union of Scotland and England and explores the practical and emotional impact of the merging of the two kingdoms. Palace intrigue and Highland politics make an excellent backdrop to the epic romance between Royal Navy Commander Lord Aiden Murray and Lady Magdalen “Maddie” Keith, the illegitimate daughter of a Scottish earl.
We first meet Aiden and Maddie in their early twenties at a Hognammey celebration masqued ball, held at the Highland castle of Maddie’s father. Aiden has been granted leave from his naval vessel only for the evening, making for an almost Cinderella-esque encounter with the lovely Maddie. Although their connection is instant and palpable, as both are wearing masques, their identities remain a secret. They must content themselves with a few stolen kisses and memories of the time they shared as Aiden returns to the sea.
Fast forward in time and the newly promoted Aiden is finally granted leave again as his ship docks in London. Sexually frustrated and tired of being teased for his lack of experience by his rakish fellow officers, Aiden is looking forward to his time at Whitehall Palace where he hopes to find an accommodating courtier to introduce him to the art of lovemaking. Aiden never dreamed he’d ever encounter Lady Magdalen again, must less near the docks of London where she has arrived to plead for her father’s freedom. As a supporter of “the cause” Maddie’s father is being held in the Tower of London, charged with treason for supporting the claim of Queen Anne’s half-brother (aka “King James”) for the crown. Aiden’s father supports the Queen, making for tension between the families.
Offering shelter to Maddie and her overprotective lady’s maid Agnes puts a damper on Aiden’s mission to woo a willing widow. Aiden’s conflict between wanting to lose his virginity and his burgeoning relationship with Magdalen make for some charming inner dialogue for the frustrated young man. Luckily his heart wins out and he and Maddie enjoy a quiet, clandestine courtship, leading to some rather steamy encounters between two virgins. Before they can fully commit to each other physically or emotionally, Aiden is once again shipped out. The scene of their sudden parting was beautifully written, with unspoken heartache and hopefulness flooding the pages.
The tale of Aiden and Magdalen’s separation and developing love, along with the politics of their fathers and court machinations are more than enough to make The Highland Commander an exciting story. Author Amy Jarecki adds plenty more obstacles in the two young lovers path toward happiness. Family tragedy and interference, wrongful arrest, imprisonment, escape, bandits, and a daring race to the Highlands all feature in the second half of the novel. While every aspect was executed with skill and precision, from the sea battles to the prison conditions, I fear The Highland Commander suffers from too much of a good thing. Fewer obstacles and a deeper exploration of their emotional consequences would have had a greater impact for me. This epic love story would have made an excellent two-part story, elevating it to Outlander quality story-telling. Author Amy Jarecki has the talent and imagination to craft thrilling and stirring stories, which definitely defines The Highland Commander.
As in the Highland custom, Aiden wore the plaid belted at his waist, the length pulled from the lower right opening of his doublet, around his back and pinned at his left shoulder with a silver brooch bearing the Atholl arms. The valet had put forth a good effort ensuring there was neither wrinkle nor hair out of place.
He regarded himself in the looking glass above the mantle in the drawing room, sliding one foot forward as he would do for a portrait. Not liking the image, he puffed out his chest and moved a hand to his lapel.
God’s bones, take me to sea where I can cast aside these frills.
Tuning his back to the looking glass, Aiden resorted to pacing and pulling out his pocket watch. The coach would arrive in five minutes, and Maddie hadn’t yet made an appearance.
At least a light glowed from beneath her door indicating she was within. It cast a hazy glow in the otherwise dark passageway. After pacing around the chamber half-dozen times, he again eyed his timepiece. Another minute had passed. Perhaps he should knock on the door—perhaps Maddie’s mantle clock had stopped and she was unaware of the time. Just as he started off, her door opened. A burst of light flooded the passageway, and with the tap of dainty footsteps, an angel emerged.
Aiden knew she’d purchased a new gown, but he hadn’t expected this. His mouth went dry and he suddenly needed to take in two stuttered breaths to steady the thumping of his heart.
Christ, men aren’t supposed to experience such heart hammering. Especially men bred for the sea. Damnation.
She smiled, and his goddamned knees wobbled. He should have taken a healthy tot whilst he was pacing in the drawing room.
Her golden gown rustled as she walked forward, with a matching fan in her hand. She moved the fan to her waist…just below her breasts. Creamy skin Aiden knew to be softer than spun silk swelled above a dangerously plunging neckline. His mouth went completely dry. If Maddie’s serving maid had been anywhere but behind her lady, Aiden would have taken the lassie into his arms, pushed through his bedchamber door and damned the recital.
“I hope I haven’t made us late.” Maddie batted her eyelashes as if she had no idea of the effect she had on his aching cods. “Miss Agnes spent ever so long curling my hair.”
Aiden’s tongue slipped over his bottom lip. “Your curls are exquisite. You are exquisite, m’lady.”
Agnes cleared her throat, coming up behind with a cloak over her arm. “You’d best say so, m’lord. It took the greater part of the afternoon to make those ringlets.”
Nay, there’d be no slipping into the bedchamber for a hasty sampling of those pearl-tipped bosoms.
Aiden glanced to his pocket watch—they still had a few minutes—and now that he knew Maddie was ready, there’d be no harm in making the coach wait for a minute or two. “Fine job, Miss Agnes,” he said with more sobriety than he felt. “I think you deserve a healthy tot of fine spirit for taking such fine care of her ladyship.”
“Have we time?” asked Maddie.
Aiden led them into the drawing room and gestured to the settee. “A stolen moment will not set us behind overmuch.”
Agnes gave a firm shake of her head. “You needn’t make a fuss for the likes of me.”
“It is no fuss. You take good care of your lady, and for that I want to thank you.” Aiden poured three tots of sherry and offered each of the ladies a glass. “Shall we drink to Miss Agnes?”
Blinking, the woman drew a hand over her mouth, dipping her head and smiling broadly. “Heavens.”
“Aye, we should.” Maddie patted her chambermaid’s knee and raised her glass. “To the woman who has seen me through one and twenty years of happiness. I have no idea what would have become of me if you hadn’t been by my side. Sometimes I’ve felt as if you’re the only person in all of Christendom who cares.”
Aiden’s gut twisted. He cared a great deal, but it was inconceivable that Maddie had been made to feel like an outcast from such a young age. He drank thoughtfully, watching the two women as they sipped. Even their mannerisms had become similar. “Miss Agnes, how long have you been serving Lady Magdalen?”
The woman’s eyes glistened with pride. “Since the day she was born. The moment I held her in my arms I knew my purpose.”
Aiden glanced to Maddie and knitted his brows. “Did your mother pass in childbirth?”
Shaking her head, the lass bit her bottom lip. “Nay. My mother knew I would have a better life if she gave me to my father. Only…” Maddie looked away, and took another sip.
“The one caveat was that she could never set eyes on me again.”
Grumbling under her breath, Agnes guzzled the remainder of her sherry. “We shan’t discuss the countess any longer. It sets both of our hackles to standing on end.”
“Agreed.” Aiden set his glass on the mantel and offered Maddie his hand. “Shall we be off, m’lady? We do not want to miss the opening. I hear it will be most spectacular.”
Maddie tapped the chambermaid’s shoulder before they strolled toward the door. “I want you to take some time for yourself this night. Do something that will make you happy. You have nothing to worry about, my pet. I’ll be in Lord Aiden’s capable hands.”