Highland Treasure is different from other Scottish romances that I have read, and I enjoyed the unique perspective. It takes place in 1753, after the second Jacobite rebellion, which in itself is not unique. What makes it different is that the hero is a Campbell who didn’t fight for Bonnie Prince Charlie – he was on the winning side. While I appreciated this premise, I found the relationship between the hero and heroine slow to develop. I thought it was worth it in the end, but this is not a book I would call fast-paced or sexy.
Mary Maclaine has just made a big mistake. Lord Ewan MacCrichton has been pressuring her to marry him for a year, and finally she has acquiesced. When they get to his home, however, she discovers that he only wants her because she has “the sight.” He believes she can find a lost treasure. He intends to rape her to make sure she will marry him. Before he can do so, Black Duncan Campbell arrives to question Ewan about the whereabouts of his brother’s murderer. His arrival creates the diversion Mary needs to escape. She brings two children from the castle with her, and one is injured while they are on the road. Duncan comes to their rescue and insists upon protecting Mary from Ewan.
Mary and Duncan are already well-acquainted. Mary was engaged to Duncan’s brother Ian, but Ian was killed. Both Mary and Duncan partially blame each other for Ian’s death. Mary does not like the idea of going to Duncan for protection, but Ewan is very determined to have her, and she realizes that protection is a necessity. Duncan takes her and the children to his father’s castle. It takes quite a while for them to really notice each other. Serena Caddell is also there, making trouble for both Duncan and Mary. Serena’s father and Duncan’s father have informally agreed that the two should marry. But Duncan can’t stand Serena, and he ends up proposing to Mary, almost on a whim. Mary agrees to marry Duncan, and they soon fall in love with each other. But there are still many obstacles in their path. Ewan still wants Mary to help him find the treasure, and he will stop at nothing. After their relationship is repeatedly tested, Duncan and Mary eventually become secure in their love.
This book has a lot going for it. The historical background is unusually rich and thorough, with many interesting details about daily life. There really was a Black Duncan Campbell in the eighteenth century, although naturally the author has fictionalized his life. If you appreciate a well-researched historical, you are likely to enjoy this book.
I also liked the characters. Mary’s psychic gifts are an interesting touch, but there is a lot more to her personality. Often psychic powers become the whole focus of a novel, but that doesn’t happen here. Duncan is also an intriguing character. He is extremely stubborn and dictatorial, and always sure that he knows what is best for everyone. It’s great fun to watch Mary get the better of him upon occasion. His growing attraction to Mary is evident to the reader long before it is evident to Duncan himself, which makes the scene when he surprises himself by proposing to Mary very amusing.
Duncan’s parents are both present at the castle, and their interactions with Mary, Duncan, and Serena really add to the book. Both his mother and father have distinct personalities. His mother is oblivious to any evil around her, and she talks constantly. It makes for some funny moments. Duncan’s father is as stubborn as Duncan himself. He is sure Duncan should marry Serena, and I enjoyed watching him gradually accept Mary.
While I enjoyed watching Duncan and Mary fall for one another, it did not happen quickly. This is not a book where the sexual attraction is immediate. The book is half over before they really even notice each other. If you need to feel sexual tension throughout a romance, you may spend the first part of the book feeling very impatient.
Another problem with Highland Treasure is that it is the second book in a series, after Highland Secrets. Many of the characters from the earlier novel are mentioned, and it was often difficult to keep them straight. I got the definite sense that I would have understood a lot more if I had read the other book first.
If you are a fan of Scottish settings, you could do a lot worse. Having the Campbells be heroes rather than bad guys gave the story a fresh slant for me, and I found the historical detail fascinating. If you are willing to be patient for Mary and Duncan to notice each other, you will be amply rewarded.