As far as brawny lads go, they don't get much better than Patrick MacGregor.
After re-discoverying Monica McCarty I have read 3 more books from her and been most pleasantly surprised. Granted, there are a few things that bother me a little bit. But all in all I have to say I am most impressed with her story-telling skills.
Patrick MacGregor, aka Patrick Murray in the first half of the story was a hunted man. Any avid highland romance readers must have read about the MacGregors in history at some point. They were an outlawed clan who were hunted everywhere. The King wanted them extinct. Patrick was cousin to the then MacGregor chief and had survived 20 years of hardship of being a MacGregor. He started this nomad life when he was 10, when his parents were killed. So by my calculation he was 30 in this book. He met Elizabeth Campbell at a Highland Game and lent the single helping hand when Elizabeth suffered the most cruel blow to her confidence and dignity. Then they did not see each other for 2 years.
Elizabeth Campbell was the sister of Jamie Campbell, a (naturally) formidable Campbell warrior and the hero of the first book in the series. I skipped Jamie's story because I knew I would hate his wife Caitrina with a passion. Elizabeth grew up in wealth and was a sheltered lady. After the tragic day at the Highland Game when she was humiliated by her then fiance and one time lover but at the same time, she met Patrick MacGregor for the first time, never knownig the identity of this man who showed her kindness and compassion when her own finace betrayed her trust.
The story began 2 years later after that day at the Highland Game. Elizabeth broke off the engagement, remained unmarried. Now 26, her cousin wanted to marry her off again and added another piece of land to her dowry. The land, used to belong to Patrick MacGregor's family. Patrick decided, if he could convinece Elizabth to marry him, the land would be again in the MacGregor's hands.
Elizabeth and Patrick had great chemistry. A hardened warrior like Patrick, who had faced down death, cruelty and hardship for 20 years, needed exactly someone like Elizabeth, whose genle and loving aura could heal even the most cynical heart. The story is emotionally intense, featuring A LOT OF characters who I had trouble keeping track of. But this is why Monica McCarty's books are so complex. She employs a lot of characters and weaves them masterfully in and out of different books, sometimes across series. And the secondary characters remain solid secondary. It is all about Elizabeth and Patrick.
I love Elizabeth and Patrick, a soft and gentle heroine who is graceful even in anger and a alpha hero who is not a sleazeball. Their love story is that of Romeo and Juliet, doomed from the beginning and so so hopeless.
I think that is enough praise about the couple. There are a few things that bothered me and are the reasons why this book did not get 5 stars from me:
1. I noticed that Monica McCarty recycles her phrases and expressions. This somehow cheapens the romance and bothers me enough to wince.
2. The deceit of Patrick: Patrick was tormented because he did not want to deceive Elizabeth. He had no choice, I know, but at times I thought God how does one swallow such traitorous betrayals?
3. Elizabeth's way too often self-doubt: again I understand why she exhibits such traits. Monica McCarty's characters are usually true to their characters and the things they do are usually in characters. But like Patrick said often in the book: after all what we have been through, how can you still doubt my feelings? I know it had to be like this. But it did not make it easier to see how Elizabeth always assumed that Patrick did not want her and only lied to get he wanted. I mean yeah he lied and he did want the land, but sometimes you can want things that mutually exclude each other. It does not make you want either of them any less.
4. I did not understand some of the plot twists. I read on and thought, why are they running away now? What is the rationale behind this? However, I am not the most critical reader so I am not going to fixate on details.
It is now official. In my youth I had Julie Garwood. In my adulthood, I have Monica McCarty.