Saturday, September 20, 2014

Review: The Arrow

The Arrow (Highland Guard #9)

by Monica McCarty 


As King Robert the Bruce of Scotland plots to retake his English occupied castles, he needs the stealth and skill of his elite soldiers, the Highland Guard. Fearless and indomitable, no men are more loyal to their king, or cherished by the women they love.
 The talents of legendary marksman Gregor “Arrow” MacGregor are crucial now, as Bruce moves to reclaim his Scottish holdings. Gregor is considered the most handsome man in Scotland, and his fame as an archer is rivaled only by his reputation with the lasses as a heartbreaker. But when his infamous face is exposed during a covert mission, Gregor is forced to lay low. He returns home only to find a new battle waiting: a daring game of seduction involving his now very grown up and very desirable ward, Cate of Lochmaben.
 A born fighter, Cate was clinging to life when Gregor rescued her after a vicious English raid on her village left her mother dead. But five years later, the once scrappy orphan Gregor took under his protection has become a woman. Brave, strong, and skilled in warfare, Cate is determined to lay claim to the warrior who refuses to be trapped. The heat in his eyes tells her she has his attention . . . and his desire. But will Gregor allow his heart to surrender before danger finds them, and the truth of Cate’s identity is revealed?
Themes: Historical, Highlanders
Rating: 5 stars
Heat Rating:  
Returning to the highlands for another adventure of the Highland Guard and Robert the Bruce, The Arrow takes us on a journey through young love, deceit, passion and ultimate forgiveness.  I was thrilled to have a chance to read Gregor and Cate’s story before publication and discovered it was one of my favorite stories in the series.  Though I have wondered often about the past that haunted Arrow and was curious about the “ward” who continuously caused him trouble, I never imagined the story would be so amazing.  Getting to see all the other Guard members and their relationships with their wives, and of course hearing about children born, along with learning more about Robert the Bruce and his amazing rise to power, was a major draw for reading this story. Monica has yet to ever disappointment when I read one of her stories, and I have read everything she’s published, but with each new Highland Guard novel I find myself more amazed by the richness, imagination, and the utter flexibility of her mind as she creates these characters and the stories of their lives.  I will be sad to see this series end, but I know when it happens there will be something even greater coming after to keep us all entertained and enthralled.
Gergor’s story begins with him getting word from his brother, the steward of his clan, that his ward, Cate, has gotten herself into trouble once again.  While he has been restless for some time, he isn’t willing to leave his king’s side, until Robert insists he take the trek home and deal with his issues so he can come back full prepared to kick butt. Reluctantly he returns home, only to find that the young hellion that has driven him mad for years has grown into a beautiful and desirable woman, one that flaunts and flirts in an attempt to bring him closer.  Cate has lived with Gregor’s clan for years, since he rescued her from a certain death, but she has always been in love with Gregor, waiting months for glimpses of him when he returns home.  When he returns this time she is determined to have him as her husband and goes out of her way to show him that she’s a woman that can be his equal.  But even as their passion ignites, Gregor fights the attraction and tries to deny that they are obviously meant to be together.  With enemies circling around Gregor, Cate is pulled into the drama, but she risks her life  to avenge her mother’s death since Gregor obviously regrets his decision to be her mate. When the truth of her past comes to light, can she and Gregor find forgiveness and the love they both always needed in each other’s arms? Or will they forever be kept apart by their circumstances and their own stubbornness?
Gregor has always let his own past and the animosity on his father affect his every decision, so when he starts to lose focus and is no longer a perfect warrior, it becomes apparent that he needs some time to gain back his focus.  Though it is obvious he is normally a man who plays the field—and really most men back then wereeven after marriage—when he arrives back home and finds himself faced with the very uncomfortable desire for Cate he does not handle it very well.  I loved that he tried so hard to be honorable, but really wish he’d opened his eyes earlier to the hurt he was causing Cate at every turn, because he is just not the type of man to hurt a woman intentionally.  I hated that he also couldn’t find it in his heart to trust Cate, letting his past with women color his chance at a future with her.  When he does finally come around, he moves heaven and earth to win back her love and trust, but if he had just seen the true love she had for him from the beginning, it would have been much less heartbreaking all around.   Regaining his focus and finding a way to accept that he will not always be a perfect warrior, but will always be a great one, gives him back the focus he needs to protect not only his king, but also the woman that has stolen him heart and soul.
Cate is a special type of woman, one standing alone in a category no one has even seen at this point in history—an independent, free-thinking, and battle ready warrioress.  The trauma of her mother’s death has driven her to find every way to protect herself in the future, determined that she will never again be helpless to protect herself or others she loves, and to find vengeance against her mother’s killer.  The only bright spot in her life has been Gregor and the deep love that has developed for him, even though she knows he doesn’t see her the way she wants.  She’s watched him through the years, giving himself to others, and never once seeing the love she has for him as anything but a silly crush of a little girl.   Now that Gregor is returning home, she is going to seize the chance to make him hers with all her passion and determination.  As he finally begins to return her desire, she sees a chance for them to have a life together, but quickly learns that sometimes the demons in a person’s past can destroy them faster than any weapon of man.  That heartbreaking truth leads Cate on a reckless mission, one that I understand fully, but one that places her life into deadly peril, especially once the truth of her parentage is revealed.  But honestly, who doesn’t love a woman that will not only forgive the discretions of others, but their betrayals as well, and can still rescue herself from a killer that has haunted her for a decade and in the process save a kingdom and avenge the murder of her mother?  I want to be Cate when I grow up please.
The great Highland Guards have once again captured our hearts and minds in a tale of passion, betrayal, love, and redemption, all while giving you a glimpse into a richly fascinating culture and time and the lives of the men and women that shaped a nation.  Gregor is a man that has always measured his worth in his abilities as a warrior, never understanding that his loyalty, kindness, and willingness to give his all are the qualities that really make him a good man and a better warrior.  But Cate sees those traits and the greatness of the man, thankfully and her love if the one thing that can force him to overcome his demons and embrace the love and friendship that surrounds him.  Cate on the other hand has always understood the power of love and the fine line between it and hate, her own past showing her that once a man loses her faith, there’s little chance of going back.  She is a skilled warrior, one that many would overlook simply because she is a woman, but she proves again and again that she is a force to be reckoned with and that the heart of a warrior is his—or her—greatest strength.  While I found myself laughing and crying equally, the greatest part of this story is the true love between Cate and Gregor and the understanding of the flaws each of them carried, an understanding that had to be earned through hardship and adversity.  I cannot wait to see where this amazing group of people goes next and learn more about this culture that I come from, but can never learn enough about.  Keep the hits coming Monica and I promise to keep spreading the word about your greatness!

*eARC provided by publisher (via netgalley) for the purpose of an honest and unbiased review.  No compensation was provided. 

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