This is the first in Mallory’s latest series, the Return of the Highlanders, and it’s a well written, worthy tale. It sets the stage for the stories of four Highland warriors whose lives to this point have been fighting and war, but after learning of the Scots' disastrous loss to Henry VIII, they return to the Isle of Skye to find their chieftain and king dead, and their clan in peril.
The four MacDonald men must take wives to serve the clan's interests. First up is Ian MacDonald who 5 years earlier was forced to wed the 13-year-old Sileas (“Shee-las”) who, as a child, followed him around like a devoted puppy. He hasn’t seen her since, nor has he thought about the wife he never claimed. She has changed. Now a beauty, she is tired of being ignored and decides to seek an annulment from the queen, just when Ian has decided he will keep her after all.
Ian comes across as a self-absorbed male for the first part of the book, which I suppose, he is. Then he discovers he married a woman who is actually desirable and admirable and might as well keep her. Sileas has never stopped loving Ian so she puts up with a lot, including the knowledge he has not been faithful to her, which he excuses as a time when he didn’t consider he was really married. I have to say the one icky part was the fact the woman Sileas had seen him have sex with was in the story the whole time.
I was glad to see Mallory wove in real historical facts. The characters are well drawn and the villains sufficiently evil to be believable. There is the clan rivalry and intrigue one would expect, too. She also has a nice blend of modern language and sufficient Scots for us to know we are reading a Scottish tale. We get to see Stirling castle and meet some real historic figures like Archibald Douglas, the Earl of Angus, who figured so prominently in Scotland’s history.
It’s a solid first story and will draw you into early 16th century Scotland and the Highlands. I recommend it.
The Return Of The Highlanders: