The Raider (Highland Guard #8)
After consolidating his gains against the enemy English, King Robert the Bruce of Scotland sends his best soldiers to fortify the lawless borders. These legendary warriors of the Highland Guard let nothing come before king and country - except the calling of their heart.
Of all Bruce’s elite warriors, Robert “Raider” Boyd is the most formidable. A true patriot whose bare hands are a deadly weapon, Robbie is the fierce enforcer of the Guard, and his hatred of the English has been honed to a razor-sharp edge. But vengeance proves bittersweet when his enemy’s beautiful sister falls into his hands and he finds himself fighting temptation - a battle he badly wants to lose.
Lady Rosalin Clifford barely recognizes the rebel prisoner she saved from execution six years ago. Though her girlish ideals for fairness have matured into a passion for justice, Rosalin believes she betrayed her brother when she helped this dangerous man escape. Now her traitorous act has come back to haunt her. But she can’t deny the longing this tormented warrior ignites in her, or deny the passion that turns sworn enemies into lovers. Is the gentle love of a true English Rose enough to free Scotland’s most brutal warrior from a path of vengeance - before it’s too late?
Themes: Historical, Highlanders
Rating: 4.5 stars
Returning to the war-torn but still beautiful wilds of historical Scotland, Monica McCarty reminds us of the power of love to overcome all things, be they long standing feuds, world-changing wars, or the simple misunderstandings of two different cultures. The Highland Guard series has become one of my favorite all time historical romance series, for several different reasons, but the most important being the ability of the author to always amaze and keep her stories fresh, no matter how similar the heroes may seem; McCarty has a way of keeping any likenesses from directing the story and gives as unique and varied a plot to each story as each character has themselves. I have been looking forward to Robbie’s story for a long time, but never imagined it would be quite as heart-breaking, world-changing, or mind-blowing as it turned out. There is so much rich history and vivid detail to the stories that you can feel yourself sinking in until you are immediately transported to the world of Robert the Bruce and his amazing Highland Guard. If you haven’t jumped on the McCarty bandwagon yet, I can only say I feel a little sorry for you. :)
Raider is the story of two people, from different sides of the war, both looking for a way to keep their families and friends safe, and neither willing to concede that perhaps the only way to do that is by simply walking away from the fight. Robbie Boyd has fought for Scotland in different guises for over a decade, losing his entire family and many of his friends to the battles and raids led by the English. This has understandably led to an INTENSE hatred of all things English. When aided in escaping the treachery of the English, Boyd finds his help in the most unlikely of places—a young girl that has released him from prison, who tugs at his heart and his memory for the next half decade. The tide of war has changed since that fateful night and he is determined to do his duty to king and country by ensuring the borderlands are safe from raiding and a truce is acquired. Finding an unlikely trading asset in Rosalin Clifford, he knows immediately that she is more than meets the eye. When the truth comes to light for Robbie, that Rosalin is his young savior from all those years ago, he is conflicted about keeping her as a hostage, mainly because keeping her close but resisting her charms is something even his lauded control might not be able to handle. When they find themselves becoming closer and closer, neither of them can deny the connection forged six years earlier in the unlikeliest of places, a connection that is becoming stronger than steel and just as unbreakable. As incidents around them become more heated, can their love exist without total trust or will they lose the hope of a future that only surrender can provide?
Robbie “Raider” Boyd, the man known as the strongest in all of Scotland, was a surprising character in all. I knew from previous stories that his determination to win at all costs was growing into a darker place in recent years, seeing how that one fact of nationality forces him to overlook any goodness in a person was terrible. I always liked Robbie, but seeing him dealing with Rosalin was certainly eye-opening, and not in a good way. While it was obvious he wanted Rosalin, even cared for her, he fought those feelings so strongly that I swore he would never accept. Seeing him strike out again and again at those around him, be they friend, lover or even fellow Guard members, reminded me of a wounded bear, unsure how to make the pain end, but unwilling to accept anyone’s help to solve the problem. While he was sexy all the time, my favorite scenes were the tender moments of caring, or even the more passionate moments where Rosalin is his entire focus and his entire reason for existing. He made me cry right along with Rosalin as he denied their relationship or even worse when he went out of his way to hurt Rosalin as a way to push her away. In the end he was brave enough to stand up for what was right, but not without having to have his entire world taken from him and being shown just how empty his life really is without love.
Rosalin, sweet Rosalin; I can say with all certainly, she surprised the hell out of me. Even having read the blurb for the story, I was thrilled and amazed when sixteen year-old Rosalin went against her powerful brother and even the interests of her country to free Robbie and his men from an unfair imprisonment, not even knowing the full story of just how unfair it really was. Several years later, coming face-to-face with the man she released, terrified that she made a grievous error; she nonetheless is determined to not allow his darkness to put her or her family into peril. Repeatedly she challenges Robbie and his men, even wins several battles with her wits, but she never once allows herself to forget the danger she is in. Though it is buried deep, she never once forgets that warmth and sweetness she knows exists somewhere deep inside Robbie, tenderness that flashes through in small amounts in the most unexpected of times. Rosalin was an amazing character, full of sass, independence, and a determination to match even Boyd’s, with the soft underbelly of a woman that has been in love with a man who has changed so much as to be almost unrecognizable to her in the intervening years. Watching her spar with, challenge, and ultimately win over Robbie and even his friends, we see a side of a woman that is defiantly way before her time. She looks for the goodness in others and once they have her trust she fights with everything inside her to make others see that goodness as well. I wanna be Rosalin when I grow up!
From the very beginning of this series, I (and many other readers) have been salivating for Robbie’s story. He is just one of those characters that jumps out and grabs your heart and mind and refuses to let go until he has had his say and found his HEA with the woman of his heart. Rosalin is obviously his perfect mate. Just as strong-minded and willful, Rosalin matches Robbie at every turn, using her goodness and light to overcome the shadows lurking in his heart and soul. The passion between them is evident from the very moment they learn the truth of their identities and escalates to some very interesting interaction when they are in private. I couldn’t see how McCarty was going to overcome the differences between them and allow them to have a future, but I can say for sure that the ending came as a surprise that left me crying and laughing with equal measure. Boyd is one of those men that are so set in their ways, even though they have strayed from their original nature, that only something as drastic as a bomb going off (figuratively of course since we are in the 1300s people!) can push them off their charted course and allow them to change and grow. Rosalin is that bomb, in the shape of a sexy, sweet, sensual woman. It was sad to see all the strife going on in the world during that time, but knowing that there was a least a bit of goodness on both sides, though neither side could see it in the other, shows me that the war might not be pretty but in the end the world will balance out. McCarty is a master of historical fiction as far as I’m concerned, weaving tales of romance, danger, and drama into the historical facts and even myths that shaped a great nation and culture. I love reading anything she writes, but she did a beautiful job with Robbie and Rosalin's story and it is one that I will be returning to again and again. I was saddened by a loss of one of the guardsmen, but I’m hoping that will resolve itself soon. I am already dying for Gregor “Arrow” MacGregor's story to come out so I can see just how the most handsome man in Scotland will fall to one his perfect match. Bravo Monica, Bravo.