Dangerous Highlander
by Donna Grant
(St. Martin’s Press, $7.99, R) ISBN 0-312-38122-6
*****
Dangerous Highlander is the first novel in Donna Grant’s new “Dark Sword” series, and I already can’t wait for the next book.

Lucan MacLeod is a fierce warrior, a charming rogue who attracts women carelessly, and he is seriously devoted to his family, especially his brothers Fallon and Quinn.  Then, on the day of the Spring Equinox as he and his brothers were away from the family lands to meet Fallon’s intended bride, evil destroyed their home and devastated the brothers forever.  They were still a distance from MacLeod castle when they saw smoke, and left the girl with their men, and rode on ahead.  Lucan, Fallon and Quinn weren’t prepared to see every person and animal on their family lands massacred.  They had no idea who had attacked their clan, why it had happened or what to do about it.  Fallon’s fiancée and the men reached the castle and saw the devastation.  Right away, she wanted to go back home, so the men quickly turned around and returned her, leaving the three brothers to deal with the complete devastation of their way of life, completely without direction.

Shortly, a Druid priestess named Deirdre sent a missive to the MacLeod’s, telling them she had information about their family’s massacre.  The brothers came running to Cairn Toul, Deidre’s home, only to fall into her neatly set trap.

Deirdre, a drough who is incredibly power hungry had found out the MacLeod brothers carried the lineage of the gods, so she set up a way that they would come to her: the MacLeod Castle massacre.  In short order, Deirdre unbound the generations-leashed gods trapped inside the three MacLeod brothers.  Lucan, Fallon and Quinn were imprisoned in Deirdre’s dungeon for a time, and then they escaped.  They fought each other, railed against fate and despaired about what to do, finally choosing to return to MacLeod Castle to hide – for over two hundred years while the world changed around them.

Until one day, when a young woman named Cara stumbles on a cliff by the castle, and Lucan can’t let her fall.  He rescues her, and brings her into the castle to recover.  Cara quickly discovers the MacLeod brothers’ secret, but a vicious, quick attack by Deirdre’s sidekicks cements the bond between Cara and Lucan.  Lucan learns that Deirdre is after Cara, and while he doesn’t know why – he will stop at nothing to protect her now that she’s accidentally ended up under his wing, especially since he knows first-hand what pain and suffering Deirdre is capable of.

Cara is a lovely leading lady.  She starts out as a tragic figure because of her family background but then grows through the dire circumstances of her life into a very capable, strong, courageous woman.  Cara shows a brave face, no matter what’s happening and she’s admirable for not succumbing to hysterics, whining and hiding.  Cara’s innate sensuality is attractive, well-written and fully explored.  Her attraction to Lucan is written in the same understandable, and enticing manner.  Cara’s character is fully realized by the end of the story and expands in a manner that introduces her to the reader gradually, it doesn’t feel forced and it’s easy to believe.

Lucan is the true hero of the tale: strong enough to have learned to control his god, brave enough to face Deirdre again for Cara’s sake, and loving and caring towards his very messed up brothers. Lucan has undeniable sex appeal and Grant handles the attraction between Cara and Lucan very well while he’s in his god form.  This had the opportunity to become creepy, but it didn’t and instead enhanced the chemistry between the lead couple.

Grant set this novel up as the first of a series, and Fallon and Quinn’s stories are sure to follow.  Throughout Dangerous Highlander Fallon and Quinn’s personalities and suffering are clearly outlined, but they become more human and sympathetic as the pages turn.  Fallon turns to wine to control and dull his god, not allowing it to come out.  As Lucan explains to Cara, he’s a laird without a clan and having been the in-control, dutiful oldest son, he doesn’t know what to do now except drown himself in alcohol.  He becomes slightly more clear-headed when Cara comes along, because having a mission to help protect her helps him come back to himself a little. 

Quinn’s rage is out of control, although he remains more of an enigma than Fallon.  We learn that Quinn’s wife Elspeth and his young son were killed when the clan was murdered, and that he feels he failed to protect them.  But Quinn’s family issues go much deeper than that, and the reader slowly learns bits and pieces of Quinn’s hardship through the novel.  As Fallon and Quinn are the major background characters in the story, Grant gives them significant attention, but it’s well spent as the brothers’ complex relationship is the cornerstone of the series.

While it’s clear that this is the first book of the series and meant to draw the reader into the brother’s lives, it stands well on its own and serves the purpose of causing the reader to anticipate the next wonderful installment.

I definitely recommend Dangerous Highlander, even to skeptics of paranormal romance – you just may fall in love with the MacLeods.   

--Amy Wroblewsky     


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