Monday, September 23, 2019

Dual #Review of Highland Jewel by May McGoldrick

43263509. sy475 Title: Highland Jewel
Series: Royal Highlander #2
Author: May McGoldrick
Format: eBook/ Mass Market Paperback, 336 pages
Expected publication: September 24th 2019 by St. Martin's Paperbacks
ISBN: 1250317274
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N
Source: NetGalley
Reviewer: Crystal & Kimberly
The next book in the new lush Scottish historical series from USA Today bestselling author, May McGoldrick.

Maisie Murray is the picture of docility, quiet and compliant in the eyes of her family. To her activist friends, however, she's a fearless crusader for women's rights. In the wake of the Peterloo Massacre, Maisie and a friend found the Edinburgh Female Reform Society, and she carries the banner for universal suffrage.

Niall Campbell, a hero of the wars, a decorated officer of the Royal Highland Regiment, is battle weary and searching for stability in his life. A fierce warrior by training and a poet at heart, Niall walks away from the shining career that lies ahead of him, to the dismay of his superiors. In saving his sister when a protest turns violent, he meets Maisie. Their relationship begins as one of experience versus idealism, of scars versus hope. Soon, however, he finds in Maisie the heart he longs for.

When Niall's sister is arrested and disappears, he quickly realizes his life is not his own, for the British authorities have a mission for him to accomplish in exchange for his sister's freedom. Overnight, Maisie loses Niall, her friend, and her home. And the wake of the riots that sweep through the cities of Scotland, Maisie's own sister Isabella is branded a traitor to the crown, and the family must flee to the Highlands. Here in the heart of the Highlands, Maisie runs into Niall again. He has a new name and carries a message of hope―but Niall has a task to complete―and their future rests on their ability to overcome the forces that divide them, or―for the future of Scotland―she must stop the man who owns her heart.

Crystal's Thoughts:

May McGoldrick returns with another sweeping tale set in early 19th century Scotland, to a country on the brink of war, and a rebel with a voice that won't be quieted.

Maisie Murray is far from the meek and mild young woman with little ambition that her family thinks her, she is an activist. A young woman with a voice for women's rights. Without her families knowledge, Masie is a leader for the Female Reform Society alongside her friend Fiona. Speaking at public gatherings and penning articles concerning Scotland's suffrage and the need for equal rights. When a peaceful protest turns violent though, Masie finds herself in the middle of pandemonium, with danger right on her heels. Thankfully, a rescuer is not far behind...  Niall Campbell fought for his country with everything that he had, but the blood on his hands soon began to stain his soul and he craved peace and family. Retiring from the Royal Highland Regiment, Niall is now searching for that tranquility, and a purpose. When he realizes the peril his sister Fiona, and her friend Masie have put themselves in with their advocacy, he can't help but fear for them... nor can he help to be intrigued by his sister's courageous friend. As Maisie and Niall navigate the troubles sweeping through Scotland as King George IV endeavors to stomp out even the whisper of rebellion, friendship soon turns to passion and a future blossoms. But that future is snatched away before it can bloom when Fiona is arrested and Niall is blackmailed to take on a secret mission for the crown. Can Maisie and Niall find their way back to each other through the deceit, danger, and distance that is put between them?

I was so excited to return to the Royal Highlander series after the first book, Highland Crown that released this spring. Cinaed and Isabella captured my heart and I couldn't wait to see what the future held for them, and their family. If you're familiar with Highland Crown, I won't rehash that story. You can find my review of it and a general overview of the book → HERE ←. This tale however, opens at the beginning of all that, before Isabella, Maisie, and Morrigan flee Edinburgh for their lives. There were a lot of different dates to keep track of, months that would pass between the characters, that slowed the story down for me because I had to go back and remember the previous date to count time. Finally, I just had to force myself to stop focusing on those dates and let the story flow. Once that happened the narrative quickly swept me away!

Niall and Masie were dynamic leading characters, and while they don't have as many intimate scenes together as one would expect from a romance, there was no denying the fact that these two were meant to be. Throughout the story-line they face danger at every corner, never knowing who they can trust, even with each other. They grow, and change, and develop into respectable voices for their country as the story-line progresses. Creating depth and authenticity to their self. I really loved how they each fought for their beliefs, bending to accept each other's if they differed, and never demanding change from their person. They had courage. Once the plot moves past the point where Highland Jewel left off, familiar characters return and the over-all series arc advances with Cinaed and his mother finally being reunited. And can I just say again how much I love Cinaed and Isabella? Their support of Niall and Masie was integral.

The writing for this time period is phenomenally rich, you can't help but become immersed into the Scotland of the 1820's. It wasn't an easy time, and this author duo masterfully weaves fact and fiction, wholly capturing the hardships and hope that the Scottish people endured. The character's plight was moving and believable, and the political upheaval hair-raising. May McGoldrick is without question, my favorite new-to-me author of 2019 and I can't wait for more from this series. While Highland Jewel can certainly be read as a stand-alone, I feel that it is more of a continuation of the first book and you will loose a lot of the history that this series stands on without reading Highland Crown first. Teeming with action, intrigue, love, family, and loyalty, Highland Jewel is not a story that historical romance fans want to miss!

Maisie, his wife. She challenged him, body and soul. She was the air, the water, the food that sustained him. They were lovers and friends. She made him want to live, to be a better man, to dream, to imagine that they could stretch the happiness of today into an infinity of tomorrows. 

Rating: 4 out of 5 Wine Glasses

Kimberly's Thoughts:

“Cinaed Mackintosh is my sister Isabella’s husband. I can’t let you do it. I’ll not let you kill him.”

Highland Jewel is the second in the Royal Highlanders series that follows three women. In the first, readers learn that Isabella's husband was killed by British soldiers as they ransacked their house thinking it was a den of traitors. While the first is more of an after the fact, this story brings us back to the beginning and follows Isabella's sister Maisie. We learn about the build up to the impetus that led to the three women (the daughter of Isabella's husband) having to run for their lives. While I wouldn't say it would be absolutely necessary to read the first before this one, like I said, this story gives us the background story glossed over in the first, having knowledge about Cinaed (Isabella's love interest) would certainly help as the connecting thread between the series is not only the women's connection but the tumultuous time period in Scotland and how Cinaed is tied up in it.

 Lieutenant Campbell was far too bossy and interfering for her to harbor any illusions about.

Niall is the brother of Maisie's bestfriend Fiona and comes into the picture as he rescues Maisie during a public protest that gets broken up by British soldiers. Niall was a solider in the Black Watch, so Maisie is distrustful of him at first but Niall does a sweet job of breaking down her walls. He listens to her and admires her will and mind, which her family has no idea about as they just look upon her as a pretty empty headed girl. I was a  little confused by Maisie and Isabella's relationship as I thought they read to be closer in the first but here we see them as pretty distant and not knowing one another at all. Maisie purposefully keeping her actions, like starting a chapter of the Female Reform Society, from Isabella didn't competently feel true to me. As Fiona becomes the catalyst for angst between Niall and Maisie and they are kept apart, I missed that friendship, too.

The back of their hands brushed. Her fingers were cold, his hand was warm . She wondered what it would feel like to entwine her fingers with his, to absorb the heat.

The majority of the story takes place in the past, with going back to explain how Maisie is at the place she is and why she distrusts Niall. Around the 60% mark is where the story catches up and we get to the present time. I liked this as it helped fill in a lot questions I had and we get to actually see Maisie and Niall fall in love. However, I did think the romance took somewhat of a backseat to the political drama going on. The authors do such a great job melding true history with their fictional story. The intrigue with Cinaed, the Scots wanting freedom, spy rings, and a Queen, were absorbing. The placement and tie-ins with the three women are very well done and although you have to pay attention and keep some characters straight in your mind, I thought how everything and everyone was brought together was inspired.

He stared into her face, and for the first time, Maisie felt like he was seeing her, who she really was. Not the outer shell of a young and reasonably pretty woman. And she saw him too. Niall Campbell was a man who wasn’t intimidated by talk of equality or of women fighting for their rightful place in society.

This series is shaping up to remind me of Grace Burrowes' Captive Hearts and Marsha Canham's Highland, the historical intrigue can eclipse the romance at times but it's interesting and still highlighted with sweet and sexy moments. I can't wait for Morrigan's story, the daughter of Isabella's husband, and to read about her hardened heart captured by a hero.

What duty did a man owe to a king and a government that had forgotten the people, he thought. Not only forgotten. Conspired against, stealing their rights under the pretense that their actions were for the good of all.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Wine Glasses

Suggested Reading Order:

Highland Crown Book #1 
Highland Jewel Book #2
Highland Sword Book #3 (Coming  March 31st 2020)

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