Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Review: Highland Rebel by Judith James
Highland Rebel begins with the introduction of Jamie Sinclair. He and the kings men are fresh from a small battle against a Scottish clan that they were the victors of. Right away a bit of Jamie's character is laid out for us: He's not a loyalist and will shift his allegiance and religion depending on what better serves him at any given time. His current mission for the king, he took not out of any particular loyalty, but because the king promised him an heiress for a wife, which would grant him the means to live the leisurely life of nobility that he craves.
Jamie simply wants to complete his mission, return to England and get his reward, but the surprise introduction of a spitting mad Highland heiress named Catherine Drummond puts an unforeseen kink in his plans. First mistaken for a young man, Catherine was taken prisoner after the skirmish. The men soon find out that the would be boy is actually a woman. Jamie knows what will happen to her now that she's been caught and on a whim arranges a hasty marriage between he Cat, who is none too pleased with the arrangement and fights Jamie tooth and nail.
When the first sounds of rescue come in, Cat escapes her prison and reconnects with her family. Jamie sets off to find his missing bride and get their marriage annulled so that he will still be able to marry the bride the king has chosen for him, but is taken captive by Catherine's clansmen in the process. This heads into a story of ups and downs, twists and turns, and angst. Oh, the angst!
Cat often referred to as "Hell Cat" by Jamie is a headstrong woman who would have been her father's successor had she been born a boy. She's good in battle and fights alongside her clansmen, she's smart and capable of handling whatever is thrown at her--all good makings of a clan leader. But as it is, Cat has to constantly prove to those around her that she is capable of being the leader her father once was.
Jamie would best be described as a rouge. Most of the decisions he makes are self serving. He's also troubled as a result of a bleak upbringing. Jamie's only goal in life is to rise from mediocrity into something more, by any means necessary.
Something that stands out about Highland Rebel is that it reads not like many modern historical romances. I'd describe Ms. James writing style as vintage -- and I mean that in the most complementary of ways. The story has a rich, historical feel, the characters are well drawn, their emotions are palpable. The action travels across the European landscape in a sweeping, epic way, bringing with it triumphs and loss.
Jamie and Cat make an interesting pair. Their interactions range from quiet and amicable to tense and resentful, but something that always prevails is their mutual respect for each other. Jamie sees Cat as an equal in a time when women were no such thing. This is shown best in the scenes where Jamie teaches Cat how to disguise herself as a man so that she could venture out with him into places where no women would ever be allowed. At the same time, they are two very different people and because of that are quite incapable of reading each other. This, of course, leads to misunderstandings abound--my only complaint-- but to balance that out there are also lots of meaningful moments between the two.
As a whole, Highland Rebel was a highly enjoyable read and reread. Yes, I read it twice! Grade A.
Visit Judith James here. Read an excerpt for Highland Rebel here.