Series: Lords of the Highlands #1
Genres: Historical Romance
Source: ARC, NetGalley
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She'll put her life on the line for him . . .
When Akira Ayres finds the brawny Scot with a musket ball in his thigh, the healer has no qualms about doing whatever it takes to save his life. Even if it means fleeing with him across the Highlands to tend to his wounds while English redcoats are closing in. Though Akira is as fierce and brave as any of her clansmen, even she's intimidated by the fearsome, brutally handsome Highlander who refuses to reveal his name.
Yet she can never learn his true identity.
Geordie knows if Akira ever discovers he's the Duke of Gordon, both her life and his will be forfeit in a heartbeat. The only way to keep the lass safe is to ensure she's by his side day and night. But the longer he's with her, the harder it becomes to think of letting her go. Despite all their differences, despite the danger-he will face death itself to make her his . . .
The Highland Duke is a historical romance with one of my favorite tropes, the secret identity. Because of the political climate at the time, the Duke of Gordon has to hide his support for King James III. But, when injured in a battle he should not have been at, he needs the help of a local healer, Akira. Forcing Akira to run off with him to heal him puts her on the wrong side of the law in the duchy she lives in. Gordon doesn’t tell her who he is, insisting she call him ‘Geordie’. She doesn’t mention her family’s gypsy heritage.
As a History scholar (I have a bachelors degree in History with a focus on military history), I appreciate historically accurate stories. This is a time period that was very tumultuous in British history but often only told from the side of those who supported the Protestant line. So, to have this story told from a Scot who supports the Catholic line of King James is unique! Also, when I was in Rome in September I actually saw the tomb of King James in St. Peter’s basilica. Ok, back to the book.
Akira is a bit naive, but it works. She is mistrustful yet driven to do her job as a healer to save anyone and everyone, regardless of how or why they were injured. She didn’t go to the battlefield looking only to help the soldiers of one side of the war. Geordie is a big oaf but you kind of love him anyway. Obviously, he is injured and that is causes great pain, so he is cranky and takes it out on Akira, because, well, she is there.
I was worried that Geordie was going to keep Akira as a ‘dirty little secret’. After she slept with him, I was worried he would treat her like a kept woman. While that would solve LOTS of her problems (she could learn to read, her family could get out of their terrible circumstances, etc) it wouldn’t be love. The first 1/2 of the book felt very slow to me. I think because I was expecting Geordie to keep her a secret or at least downplay what they have, I was skimming to get to some action that might confirm my suspicions. There is still the tension from the redcoat soldiers searching for them but I was afraid once that threat had passed, Geordie would screw things up royally. Honestly, he kind of does by saying things that are just not well thought out and by not considering Akira’s feelings. This doubt in the hero kept me from fully investing in the story, honestly. I will fully admit that I was perhaps being judgmental and projecting on Geordie, so keep that in mind!
- POV: 3rd
- Tears: no
- Trope: secret identity
- Triggers: none
- Series/Standalone: stand alone
- Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »no « Hide Spoiler
- HEA: View Spoiler »yes but I still wasn’t 100% happy about it; however, it is historically accurate as to WHY he couldn’t marry her, so I will concede that « Hide Spoiler
Old school Jude Deveraux, May McGoldrick, Julie Johnstone…then you will probably like The Highland Duke!
Curled under Geordie’s arm, Akira finally stopped shivering. All around them rain splashed. Everything was soaked and their little alcove smelled of horse—not a horrid smell, but not one she’d choose for her boudoir, either. If she had a boudoir.
She chose to ignore the voice in the back of her head telling her it wasn’t proper to allow a strange man to put his arm around her shoulders and offer her warmth. But there was something in the way Geordie looked at her that made her feel all warm inside and, moreover, protected. Aye, he’d been in a great deal of pain—was still in great pain—but since he roused from his last bout of unconsciousness, he’d behaved admirably. He’d brought the horse under control, figured out where they were, and formed a plan to take them to someone he could trust to provide her with an escort home.
With darkness, the air grew colder. Clutching her fists under her chin, Akira curled into Geordie’s heat. He smoothed his palm along her outer arm, his touch soothing.
When he turned his lips toward her, his warm breath skimmed across her forehead. “Try to sleep.” The gentle burr of his voice imparted all the more comfort.
But she couldn’t get too comfortable; she must to do her duty. He was still her patient. “I’m the healer. I should be telling you to do the same.”
His hazel gaze drifted to her mouth, and he grinned.
“Very well.” He pulled his arm away, but not before running his fingers across her back. Blessed tingles spread over her skin as if she’d been caressed by feathers. Oh, heaven help her, his touch was unbelievably sublime. If only she could ask him to run his fingers back and forth again—just one more time.
She reached for the hem of his kilt, then quickly snapped her fingers away. What had she been thinking? True, she’d applied the salve before, but that was when he was mostly unconscious and definitely before he’d put his arm around her shoulder and smiled at her like a…like a…brawny Highlander.
“Have you gone shy, lass?” he asked with a hint of humor in his deep brogue.