Shirtless and in a kilt. Is there a downside here? I think not. 😉
Elena has spent her entire life hiding her family name while walking the thin line between lady and servant in a Protestant household. Keeping the secret of her lineage has been a success for years, but now, with a new, fiercely Catholic queen on the throne, Elena’s Protestant caretaker is being targeted. And when Bloody Mary discovers Elena’s true identity, she must not only flee to Scotland for her freedom, but also for her life.
Highland warrior Searc Munro has secrets of his own. In a family of healers, his own dark, killing magic must never be known. But when his father’s life is threatened, Searc unleashes his lethal power to save him. With his clan’s suspicious glances and whispers plaguing him, he sets off alone, only to find another use for his magic in saving a beautiful lass being attacked in the forest.
Teaming up as exiles, Elena and Searc head toward Edinburg to find refuge. Yet, with a series of ritual killings haunting the city and a traitor attempting to assassinate Scotland’s regent, suspicion turns to Searc. As word of another British heir reaches the country, the two must find a way to trust each other, despite their secrets, before it’s too late?
Okay, I’ll admit it. The shirtless guy in the kilt is totally the reason I picked this one up in the first place. Yep, I’m that shallow…even though a teensy part of me is concerned that this might be slightly inaccurate. (Shirtless? In Scotland? Isn’t it a wee bit chilly up there? Elena often complained of being on the cold side, so…
Hang on. My mistake–he’s a Highlander and therefore impervious to cold. Right? 😉
But I digress…)
Fortunately, there’s plenty of story awesomeness to give credence to my initial fluffy reasons for reading.
Crimson Heart is a nice blend of history (Tutor period–yay!), magic, suspense, romance–and did I mention the kilts? Parts of the novel were pretty heavy on royal politics, which made me more convinced than ever that it just didn’t pay to be royal or have royal aspirations back then (poor Jane Gray, the “Innocent Traitor” is mentioned several times here, and I got chills each time). Those people could be pretty gosh-darn scary. Elena and Searc spend quite a bit of time with Mary de Guise, Mary Queen of Scot’s mother, and that woman gave me the willies right through my ereader! I don’t envy them one second in her royal presence, that’s for sure.
Both Searc and Elena are fantastic characters. Each has grown up not being able to trust anyone else with their biggest secret, and therefore trusting each other is not going to come easy. Elena’s secret is a doozy–I knew part of it going in (and there’s clues, if you’re paying attention and a few spoilers out there on the web) but not the whole of it. What an awesome twist! I really loved how Elena in turn was able to make Searc see that his secret isn’t the dangerous curse he’d always believed it was. That part alone was worth five stars!
Much of the romantic conflict here could have been resolved earlier with a good sit-down conversation, even given their trust issues, I thought–hence the 4 1/2 stars instead of 5–but really, that’s the only complaint I have for this entire book. I had a hard time putting it down, and the end kept making me tear up…in the good way. I don’t know if there’s going to be more of this series in the future, but I’d definitely be first in line to read it.
Crimson Heart is the third book in its series (though there’s actually two novellas in there too, so technically isn’t it the fifth?) but I hadn’t read the others yet (I WILL NOW! Already in my TBR. I exoect the darn thing will bury me alive soon) and found that it worked just fine as a stand-alone.
Rating: 4 1/2 stars / A-
I received a complimentary copy in exchange for an honest review.
Heather McCollum is an award winning, historical paranormal and YA romance writer. She earned her B.A. in Biology, much to her English professor’s dismay. She is a member of Romance Writers of America and the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood of 2009 Golden Heart finalists.
The ancient magic and lush beauty of Great Britain entrances Ms. McCollum’s heart and imagination every time she visits. The country’s history and landscape have been a backdrop for her writing ever since her first journey across the pond.
When she is not creating vibrant characters & magical adventures on the page, she is roaring her own battle cry in the war against ovarian cancer. Ms. McCollum recently slayed the cancer beast and resides with her very own Highland hero, rescued golden retriever & 3 kids in the wilds of suburbia on the mid-Atlantic coast. For more information about Ms. McCollum, please visit www.HeatherMcCollum.com.