- Title: The Recruit: A Highland Guard Novel
- Classification: Adult Fiction
- Genre: Historical Romance
- Mass Market Paperback: 432 pages
- Publisher: Ballantine Books (October 30, 2012)
- ISBN-10: 0345528417
- ISBN-13: 978-0345528414
Mary of Mar knew what it was to be betrayed. To love someone who didn't return your affection. To suffer heartbreak and sorrow. To have no say in what transpired with regards to your life. To have no control over it whatsoever. Her husband had left her and their son to the mercy of England's King Edward while he had left to go fight for Scotland's King, Robert the Bruce. John said they'd be safe where they were, but it was only by luck that she and her son had managed to escape the King's wrath, although not completely. For her husband's treasonous crimes against the crown her son had been taken away when he was just 6 months old and raised in King Edward's household. If someone was to ask where her loyalties lie, she'd have said with her son. So while she considered Scotland her true home, her present home was where her heart (her son David) was which was England.
When her husband was finally captured and hanged for treason, she decided she never again wished to be at the mercy of another a man. So she did what she could to hide her beauty and not draw attention to herself. She dressed down in plain clothes and hid her hair, something she considered one of her best features, behind a veil. She hoped that by doing so she'd not draw the attention of any man or, more specifically, the King who had the power to marry her off against her will. Her plan had worked for three years and then she met Kenneth.
Kenneth seemed to be a mirror image of Mary's former husband. He was handsome, dashing, and had a way with the ladies. He'd never had a long term relationship with a woman in his life, but when Mary first comes across Kenneth in rather a compromising position, well, there is just something about Mary he just can't seem to resist. Perhaps the man who can't resist a challenge sees Mary's drab and demure facade as just that--a challenge?
This was a highly entertaining read and I will definitely need to read the previous books in the series. This is the 6th book in the Highland Guards series, but I didn't feel lost by jumping into this series at such a late stage. Enough information was provided to let me know what was going on, but leaving me wishing I had the full story from the previous books in the series under my belt.
Mary was such a fun character. When we first see her she is twenty three years old and the type of woman who needs someone to lean on, and wishes she were more like her twin sister who is self assured and self confident. As the story progresses, we see her transform into someone who manages to support herself and who gains the self esteem and self confidence she was previously lacking. While she still isn't fully free of male dominance due to the time period she lives in and the hold King Edward has by holding her son, she feels more free than ever before.
Kenneth is heir to an earldom and wishes to become part of King Robert's Highland Guard. He's come to the Highland Games in the hopes of accomplishing that task through proving he's got what it takes to be part of the Guard. When he first meets Mary, he doesn't realize who she is and that makes the story so much more fun and entertaining. For Mary is King Robert's former sister by marriage, and the woman King Robert wishes Kenneth to marry. Mary has been commissioned by King Edward to be part of a truce delegation because of her familial connection to King Bruce. It is King Edward's hope she can spy on King Robert and, if possible, persuade him to return her son's Scottish lands. Mary isn't in the market for a husband, but the thought of a tumble with the man does entice her.
I enjoyed the merry chase Mary led Kenneth on, and how this is a little bumpier than most romances. I got a kick out of how seemingly clueless Kenneth initially was about his true feelings for Mary. He figured after a little time with her that his feelings for her would fade as they had with all the other women he'd encounter. I liked how Mary was able to see past her fear that she'd end up in another loveless marriage which would leave her once again lonely and wanting so much more. I additionally loved how she didn't cower to Kenneth and stood her ground when they disagreed. Plus, I loved the story that went on alongside the romance where Kenneth attempts to gain his place on the Highland Guard.
Why is the book called The Recruit? Well, it's because Kenneth is the new 'recruit' for the Highland Guard and he's earning his place on the team with his first mission. His mission is to infiltrate the enemy camp, earn their trust, and find out what King Edward's plans are so they can counter them.
Overall, I gave this one 4 1/2 out of 5 roses. I loved the, albeit loose, connection to historic people and events. It's great to learn a little bit about history, and books like Ms. McCarty's inspire me to look up events I previously had no knowledge about. I loved the way the relationship between Kenneth and Mary started off with a strong physical attraction but grew into something much more. On the Lisarenee Romance Rating Scale, this one gets a STEAM rating--too hot for a fan, but you still have a handle on things. You should use extreme caution when reading a book with this rating in public. People may inquire as to why you looked flustered and flushed. (I know it left Mary that way. lol)