Tempest in the Highlands
The writing team known as May McGoldrick returns with the third volume of the Scottish Relic Trilogy, Tempest in the Highlands.
Miranda MacDonald is carrying a heavy burden. Her mother, Murine, was endowed with second sight thanks to a power-enhancing rune stone she holds, and a wicked privateer will do anything to lay his hands on it and finally claim the untold power it contains. But his luck is quickly fading; Ralph Evers, having killed Miranda’s father, is closing in on Miranda’s ill mother, and he doesn’t care who he has to eliminate to get the final runes that will give him untold power. Murine passes before he can find them, and Miranda takes charge of both the stones and her destiny, following her mother’s last premonition to the deck of a sea captain whom she must save, all the while dealing with her inherited visions.
Rob “Hawk” Hawkins is on a mission from King Henry. Well aware of the warmongering antics of Sir Ralph Evers, who has raised an army and gone rogue, Henry has ordered Rob to kill Evers on sight before he further complicates matters with the Scottish king. Rob knows that Miranda holds the key to Evers’ rampage and sails to find ger, but in the middle of the search his ship runs aground, and Hawkins’ life is saved by the cabin boy Gavin. Little does he know that Gavin is Miranda – though he soon gets a clue after seeing Gavin skinny-dipping. The twosome bond and spark up a romance, but will they manage to escape their desolate paradise and put down Evers for once and all?
Tempest in the Highlands is a somewhat lighter book than its predecessor, with a lot of sparkling wit and banter between Hawk and Miranda, even though the stakes get even more deadly and some pretty extreme foes arise to defeat them. Both characters have a wicked sense of humor and meet with a great deal of adventure within the short confines of this novella. If the previous book was an exploration of gothic melodrama, this one feels like an inversion of Treasure Island, with more romance, sex and Celtic mysticism. Here there be giants. Literally. And also invisible, undead warriors.
This story also reverses a number of problems I had with the previous book; our main villain arrives much earlier in the narrative as do the heroes and heroines of the previous volumes. Hawk and Miranda’s tale also gives resolution to the storyline about the powers plaguing Kenna and Innes from the previous volumes in a way that beguiles one into wanting to go back to read their stories.
Miranda is an excellent heroine – capable and dryly witty, caring but determined. Hawk, also determined, capable and occasionally sardonic, is her match in every way and comes to respect her while wishing to keep her safe. They have a relationship that builds well throughout the story from friendship thanks to her cross-dressing, and it’s fitting that their main conflict involves his inability to believe in the magic she experiences on a daily basis.
The narrative suffers a bit from its compact nature in the first quarter of the book. Months shoot by from chapter to chapter jarringly, and the shorthand that informs us of this feels a bit clunky. Also, after causing so much misery and being such a dangerous foe, the resolution to Evers’ evilness could have been expanded upon a little.
But overall, Tempest in the Highlands is an excellent adventure yarn with a couple that’s worth rooting for and provides a conclusion to the Scottish Relic trilogy and its three heroines in a way that feels worthwhile and satisfying.