The Ranger (Highland Guard, #3)The Ranger by Monica McCarty

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It’s no secret that I love Monica McCarty’s Highlanders, but it’s a well deserved love. In fact I’d say Monica’s Highlanders started me on the road to becoming the Highland Hussy.

I will make this as spoiler-free as I can.

For those of you who haven’t read The Chief or The Hawk, this is a new take on our Highlanders, and a new take on Highland Warfare. Imagine “special ops in kilts.” Now that we all have that lovely image in our minds, (I know I’m imagining a Navy SEAL in a kilt, and yummmm)..I’m sorry, where was I?

After William Wallace was killed, Robert Bruce finally steps up to the plate and looks at what is best for Scotland. In this series, he finds the best warriors in Britain, and uses their specialties; so about a dozen men, all trained in different skills, but trained to work together. It’s not easy.

Arthur Campbell has a special skill of having heightened senses. He gets a feeling, he can hear things before others can, and he’s a damned good fighter. He is also deep undercover, part of the Highland Guard loyal to the Bruce, but on the surface, he’s working for the English. One night, Arthur accidentally saves a lass from an ambush by his men, and in doing so, seals his fate.

A year later, he is sent by the Bruce into his enemy John of Lorn’s castle as a spy. And finds out the beautiful lass he’d saved was his mortal enemy’s daughter! What happens next is such an intriguing, suspenseful ride that I almost wish it could also be marketed as a romantic suspense. Obviously it can’t be as simple as boy meets girl, they fall in love, happily ever after. Oh no, it has to be not only are they on opposite sides of the war, but they can’t even tell each other that much. Between the secrets, and the passion, and stress of remembering which side he’s really on, Arthur is trying his hardest to keep Anna at a distance. But her father has asked her to keep a close eye on him. In other words, she follows him around til the men are poking fun at Arthur. One of the hardest parts in the book for me to read was where Arthur saved Anna and her brother from an attack, only to find out he’d killed 9 of his own men. My God, how does he live knowing he saved the enemy at the cost of his friends’ lives?

At one point in the book, Anna has been utterly rejected by Arthur, who can’t let her get close to him, and she agrees to marry a former suitor and potential ally. Her father sends Arthur with her as a scout, and Arthur goes crazy with jealousy. One of my favorite scenes happens after Anna tells Hugh Ross she’ll marry him. I think that watching Arthur realize he’s in love with her was wonderful, but being an alpha male, he pulled the whole, “I can’t have you, but I won’t let anyone else have you either” crap and it drive me nuts!

Anna is blunt, caring, feisty and sweet. She is the perfect match for Arthur who just needs someone to love and understand him. That his solitary existence has been to protect himself from getting close to anyone, that he’s not a freak with unnatural abilities. He’s just a man who loves a woman so much he won’t do anything about it, so that when the war marches to her door, and her world falls apart around her, and she sees he’s betrayed her, that maybe it will save her a bit of hurt.

I loved the way Anna was able to see through Arthur’s exterior and love him despite his attempts at pushing her away. I loved how Arthur couldn’t let her marry Ross. And I loved how Anna handled the discovery that Arthur was a spy and her father had him tortured.

I urge you all to read the author’s note, because it’s so full of the real names, histories and clans that Monica McCarty uses in her series. It’s amazing how much true history is woven through this Highland Romance. I love how easily it is to visualize the descriptions and how realistic everything feels as you read.

With a name like The Highland Hussy, I get asked all the time which Highlanders are my favorites? Monica McCarty’s are always at the top of the list, which is saying something considering I should really be suggesting my Highlanders and my book.

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