THE HIGHLANDER – Kerrigan Byrne
St. Martin's Press
England and Scotland – 1878
Liam MacKenzie is known as the Demon Highlander for his passion and skill in battle. But at home he's the Laird of the MacKenzie clan, a titled Marquess, and father of two children who are in need of guidance and preparation to face the world. Liam is also the son of a barbarically cruel father whose horrid conduct as sire to not only his legitimate son, Liam, but to his by-blows from various women caused unspeakable pain for all. Liam is determined to prove that he may have this man's blood, but he is nothing like him. He hires, sight unseen, a governess to ready his daughter for her coming out, and his son to be the next marquess. But he is unprepared for the arrival of the stunningly lovely and feisty young woman who was sent to him by his friends in London.
Philomena St. Vincent, known now as Philomena Lockhart to her employer, is equally unprepared to meet the marquess who hired her as a governess. She expected a much older man, not this magnificent highlander who immediately sets her heart aflutter. Although the two don't exactly hit it off well at first, Mena begins to realize that Liam wants what is best for his children, and his leadership of the clan is equally important. Yet, like Mena, she knows he is hiding something about his past that is both painful and poignant.
Liam and Mena find working together difficult, for Liam is a tough father with high expectations of his children. Mena befriends both and defends them against their father at times. But all along Liam wonders what brought such a young, vibrant woman to his keep, and what is she hiding from?
I confess, I was not prepared for the first few chapters of this book. Violent, cruel, and with negative sexual references, it took me a while to understand where this story was going. It is a unique premise, however, and the background of what Liam and Mena went through was essential for the readers to know.
THE HIGHLANDER, according to Ms. Byrne's website, is the third book in the Victorian Rebels series, although the book (an advanced reading copy) does not mention that. Evidently other characters who appear have already had their stories told in THE HIGHWAYMAN and THE HUNTER. At any rate, this book can definitely stand alone.