So, here's the thing. I'm not a big fan of highland romances. Or, really, anything that involves Scottish characters. It's the accents. Many people find Scottish accents very, very attractive. I'm not one of them. In fact, watching Brave was a trial that had me doing this the entire time:
And yes, I've been picking at Dragonfly in Amber, the second Outlander book, for going on a year now, but I think the very fact that I've been working on it for that long speaks for itself. It's all the "lairds" and "lasses" and "bairns" that has me rolling my eyes heavenward and praying for someone to make the agony just stop. But this was the book that had been recommended and brought me to the Castles Ever After series to begin with, and the premise was interesting. What is that premise, you ask? Well, our heroine, Maddie, has a pretty bad case of social anxiety. To avoid having to go to balls and socialize and find a husband, she invented a Scottish military captain whom she had met, fallen madly in love with, and promised to marry while on vacation with her aunt. She proceeds to write letters to him for close to a decade, and then she does what needs to be done to end the charade: she kills him off and goes into mourning. This works out quite well, because her godfather leaves her a castle in Scotland, to which she retreats and begins concentrating on her career as a naturalist illustrator.
And then a guy shows up at her doorstep: Captain Logan MacKenzie. Yes, indeed, there is a guy behind the name, though Maddie didn't know it when she wrote the letters. But he got them, and now he's arrived to collect on her promises. You know. Of marriage. And everything that comes with it. And he brought his fellow soldiers with him.
You see, the thing is, Logan is broke. No money, no home, and his men came home from the war to find that many of their spouses and lovers had died or given up on them in their absences. So Logan needs to marry Maddie to get a hold of her castle and the lands that come with it to give his men a new place to call home. And then there's Maddie herself, of course, though there's some animosity lurking there on both sides. Logan has his reasons, and Maddie...well, she doesn't exactly appreciate a guy she thought was fake turning up and demanding to marry her. She doesn't hate him, but she made him up to avoid marriage, so marrying him isn't exactly the outcome she'd pictured.
I loved this one. Despite my general dislike for highland romances, I thought this was both sweet and spicy, and that Maddie and Logan were great mains with a strong supporting cast. I loved that Maddie had her own burgeoning career that she was ready to fight and take credit for, which is something lacking in a lot of heroines; she was ready to do it from the very beginning, and didn't need no man to tell her that she could. She already knew that she could. And Logan was a self-made man, rather than the rich dukes that proliferate in historical romance--though I think rich dukes have their place, too! He's also a bookworm, another welcome surprise. Women are frequently given bookworm status in books because it's an easy "how to make a reader like her" trick, but it was nice to see a guy who actually liked reading for a change. Maddie and Logan don't fall instantly, madly in love, but instead have a steady push and pull that they slowly work to resolve. Honestly, this was just a very refreshing book, and I wholeheartedly enjoyed it. Definitely the best out of the series!
5 stars out of 5.