I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley but all opinions provided are my own.
Life update: a haunted house company moved in basically across the road from us, and sometimes I think I can hear people screaming from there at night.
This is the stuff that Halloween dreams are made of.
Also Lecia Cornwall’s book The Lady and the Highlander, a dark, seductive fairy tale with spooky, shivery imagery and a heroine who puts all the letters into “intrepid.”
When the book opens, Laire MacLeod’s beloved and fierce father is marrying a beautiful and mysterious woman named Bibiana. Soon after, her father, sisters, and clan-members are swept away in a bacchanal that shows no sign of ending, and the only people who seem unaffected are Laire—who doesn’t drink spirits—and Bibiana and her unsettling entourage, including her Sealgair, or hunter.
The hunter’s actually Iain Lindsay, a leader of his own clan who’s under self-imposed exile after a tragedy involving his late wife. For the last several years he’s been under obligation to serve Bibiana, a woman whose beauty helps disguise how deadly she is, and every day is a struggle between his lingering vestiges of honor and the guilt that’s poisoning him.
But when Laire starts to learn the deadly truth about Bibana and her entourage, she and Iain are forced to decide which parts of themselves they’ll listen to. Will Laire be brave and canny enough to save her family? And will Iain follow his better nature and aid Laire in her quest, or his worst?
The Lady and the Highlander’s a rich treat. It’s passionate and vivid, with provocative imagery that made me lost in the story even as I had a very visceral response to what the author describes. The Snow White vibes give the story a timeless feel to savor, but even more impressive is how much agency Laire has and how determined she is to save her family though she’s been sheltered her entire life. And though Iain’s initial lack of sympathy toward Bibiana’s victims made it hard for me to connect with him, his subsequent musings and actions make his good heart and overall integrity apparent.
That undeniable pull between Laire and Iain is delectable, especially once Bibiana pits them as enemies of the other. It’s pretty delicious seeing how much they want the other (and how much Iain respects Laire) even as he’s sent to kill her and she must defend herself against him. Ultimately, there’s a thrilling pay-off that gives me all the romance feels.
While I was all-in for most of Laire’s quest, the ending of this novel leaves me a bit disappointed. The reservations that both characters had maintained are summarily dismissed, and it lacks the more substantive emotional response that I had anticipated.
But for most of the book, from that first critical meeting of Laire and Bibiana throughout Laire’s bruised, stumbling quest from the only home she’s ever known, I was entranced, appreciating Lecia Cornwall’s distinctive voice and story.
Give me that HEA, please.
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