Series: Highland - Murray Clan (Book 21)
Lady Triona McKee's life is under desperate siege. The marriage she thought would answer her dreams has left her struggling alone to provide for her people, while an arrogant kinsman prepares to take her land. But one look into the cynical green eyes of her cousin's boldest knight warns Triona that even a promise of help is just as dangerous. . .
Betrayal taught Sir Brett Murray to make protecting others his only life. Still, the growing desire he can't help but feel for this entrancing widow makes him long to earn more than her trust. But in trying to save all she cherishes, he can't see how an honor-scarred knight can stay in her world and her heart. . .unless he risks everything to prove his love is now and forever always. . .
Another fantastic entry into the saga of the Murray family. Triona is barely holding on to her land two years after the death of her husband. A neighboring laird is determined to take her lands by fair means or foul and she is running out of options. When her cousin Arianna arrives on her doorstep, escorted by several knights, she may be looking at salvation, but at what cost to her heart.
I love Hannah Howell's heroines. There isn't a wimp among them, and Triona is no exception. Her late husband had been a cold man, uninterested in anything having to do with the land itself, leaving her to do what was needed. Triona has no intention of tying herself to a man even worse than the one she'd had. Her cousin's arrival with five knights gives her the opportunity to get the help she so badly needs. She isn't sure how much of her trouble she should confess, as she doesn't know what their attitudes are toward women in her position. It doesn't help that she's attracted to Sir Brett, a distraction that she can't afford.
Sir Brett and the other knights can see that there is something very wrong going on at Banuilt. There is a definite lack of the men needed for a proper defense, and they are determined to find out why. As they pitch in to help Triona, the trouble that she's in only gets worse as her neighbor steps up his attempts to get the land and Triona herself. Brett finds himself attracted to her in a way he hasn't been attracted to a woman in years, ever since the death of the woman he loved and the child she carried.
Both Triona and Brett had issues that made them determined they would never marry. Triona had been married off to one man who only wanted her for the dowry she brought with her, and was being pursued by another who wanted her land. She wishes to remain independent. Brett has refused to consider the idea of marriage because of the guilt that he feels over the death of the woman he had loved. He blames himself because she was murdered on the way to meet him to elope. While he has no intention of marrying, he has no problem with the idea of seducing her into his bed.
Triona is intelligent and strong and has earned the loyalty of the people she leads. She has never experienced the passion that can happen between a man and a woman and at first is reluctant to risk losing the respect of her people for a brief affair. I loved seeing her embrace the idea of doing something for herself, even though she knew there was no chance of a future between herself and Brett. He had made it clear he would be leaving when her troubles were resolved.
Brett is an honorable man who will not allow himself to give false hope to Triona. He has given up the idea of happiness for himself, feeling that he doesn't deserve it. But the more time he spends with her, the more often he finds himself thinking of the possibility. Her strength and independence are attractive to him, and he develops great respect for her ability to care for her people. I loved the friendship that developed between them first, before they took the attraction that also grew and gave in to it.
As they got closer, Triona found that her heart was getting involved, even though she knew that Brett would be leaving. When it was all done, she wanted him to stay, but couldn't bring herself to ask, or tell him how she felt. She was heartbroken when he left as he said he would, because she had wanted to believe that he had feelings for her and would stay. Brett felt that he had nothing to offer her, and didn't want to be another man who would gain by marrying her. Instead of telling her of his plans, he walked away leaving her to think he didn't care. I loved that he was sensitive to the issue, but he sure messed up by not talking to her. He had some real work to do when he came back in order to get her to even listen to him. He still managed to leave out some important information, but finally managed to get it all right in the end.
I liked the fact that Brett and the other men didn't simply take over when they arrived and found out that there were problems. Triona was always completely involved, listened to, and her opinion and desires consulted. I think it helped that Brett and the others were accustomed to strong women, so listening to her was not something that felt odd to them. Of course, there are times when her independence creates problems, and the final confrontation comes about when she tackles a problem her own way. She knew that she was going against everything Brett had told her to do, but she had her reasons. She also had the intelligence and presence of mind to find a way to help with her own rescue.
I loved seeing the way that they all worked together to end the threat to Triona and her clan. The neighboring laird was definitely a piece of work and certainly deserved everything that happened to him. Some of the things he did were beyond terrible.
The dialog between Brett and Triona was great. The respect was there from the beginning, and the friendship grew quickly. But it was when they grew closer that the conversations turned really fun, with some great heat under the words. I loved the way that Brett was so clear with her about how much he wanted her, and how much he liked her as a person.
There were also plenty of fun parts involving other people. The conflict between Brian and Arianna was heated, but you could easily see the love they had for each other. I loved seeing Triona point out to each of them where they'd gone wrong. It was also fun to see the two of them as they worked their way back to each other. Triona's conversations/confrontations with various priests were hysterical, especially the one during the final confrontation.
One of my favorite characters was Triona's little girl, Ella. She can be very sweet and I loved seeing her wrap Brett around her tiny fingers. But she is also intelligent, curious and full of mischief. I loved her "research" into why pigs roll in mud. She also plays a big part in her mother's rescue at the end. I really hope that she eventually gets her own story, because I can see her leading some man on a wild adventure.