Highland Hawk by Lois Greiman is the latest in her Highland Brides series; an enjoyable installment with fresh characters, an intriguing setup, and a cover that has nothing to do with the hero or heroine. But more on that later.
Gypsy lass Catriona, along with her betrothed Rory and wicked grandmother Marta, is headed to the royal palace to perform for the birthday of the eleven-year-old King of Scotland, a young lad named James (the future James V, father of Mary, Queen of Scots) who really wants to have some fun instead of have his every move dictated by the royal guard. Haydan MacGowan, better known as the Hawk, arrives in time to save Catriona from some unscrupulous guards and escorts her safely into the palace. Cat’s performance for King James, however, is not her only reason for visiting: she is to deliver the young king to someone she knows only as Blackheart, someone she has never actually seen, but who demands James in exchange for the safe return of Lachlan, Catriona’s brother. With a traced drawing of Blackheart’s medallion in hand, Cat prepares to find his true identity before she has to betray King James.
Here lies the secret at the center of Highland Hawk – can Cat actually hand over the young boy she has come to love? And can she do so knowing that it would be the end of Hawk, to whom James’ life has been entrusted?
Catriona was beautiful and enchanting like many heroines – don’t believe that luxurious mane of gray hair on the cover – and she was also interesting. Aware of how she is viewed by men, she is nevertheless determined to win the one man who keeps refusing her. Her heart is torn between rescuing her brother and protecting James, not to mention the turmoil she feels regarding Hawk. Strong but never spunky, Catriona stands up for herself and goes after the man she wants.
Haydan is old. If there is one thing you learn from this book, is that he is old, decrepit, ancient. Or so he says about a million times, even though the studmuffin on the cover sure looked young and virile to me. His sense of honor is what drives him, his loyalty to his King (and the boy inside the monarch) unwavering as he wonders just what it is that Catriona is hiding from them all.
As for the secondary characters, the good guys were a lot more interesting than the bad guys. The boy-king, James, gives us a little glimpse at what early life might have been for all of those child-monarchs of long ago, and Catriona’s grandmother, Get-The-Hell-Out-Of-My-Way-Marta, has her share of hilarious moments.
While the set-up for the story was intriguing, the author squandered it somewhat in the first part of the book, where nothing substantial actually happens. There are repetitive scenes with James having some freedom from his royal guard, going on outings with Catriona and Hawk, repetitive scenes with Catriona’s grandmother “feeling” the evil when the palace guests are assembled, but never actually pinpointing who Blackheart is, and repetitive scenes with Catriona sneaking out of her room, only to be followed by Hawk. When the young king gets impatient at one point, I felt I had an ally in him.
If you are looking for a book where the action and plot move at a tight pace and you can’t even begin to imagine who the villain (or his accomplice) is, Highland Hawk may not be for you. But if you enjoy a character-driven story and like books with real historical figures in them, give this one a try.