Elaine Coffman’s first book in the Graham Clan series, The Highlander, is a very adventurous read, and I can’t wait to meet the rest of the family.
Sophie d’Alembert is French royalty on the run. The granddaughter of the Louis XIV, she’s been betrothed to the Duke of Rockingham, a loathesome creature. And so she flees her home and the arranged marriage only to have her boat crash in a storm. She washes up nearly naked and freezing on the shore. Tavish Graham finds and rescues the woman suffering from exposure and, shocked to discover her alive and knowing she cannot survive the ride back to Graham castle, takes her to his brother who is hunting at the family lodge.
James Graham, the Earl of Monleigh, has come to his grandfather’s home to rest and have some time to himself before going back to his duties. James has decided it is time to marry and having no other possibilities, decides he will marry his neighbor Gillian. Then his brother interrupts his solitude with a cold and naked woman. When James meets Sophie, he does not buy her loss of memory and does not trust she is not a French spy. He takes her into his home anyway, to care for her. He decides to let her stay at least until she gets her “memory” back.
Sophie is not suffering from amnesia – just as James suspects. She simply does not want to go home and be forced to marry Rockingham. She tells James very little about herself and uses her lack of memory to stall so that she can device another plan, all the while waiting to see if James will turn her over to the French authorities. James knows that Sophie is not telling him the whole truth but allows her to stay with him anyway, mainly because he feels an attraction to her he has never felt with any woman. Sophie tells James she remembers being a lady’s maid or a governess. He accepts this answer because if Sophie is a commoner, he can keep her for his mistress and still marry Gillian.
They spend some time alone at his grandfather’s cabin becoming friends and exploring their feeling for one another and eventually become intimate. James decides that he will keep Sophie at his side and take her home to live with him as his mistress. He knows she is lying to him about her identity and decides not to press the issue because he likes spending time with her and suspects if her true identity came out, he would not be able to keep her.
But things do not quite go as he planned. Upon returning home, he realizes that he cannot mistreat Sophie by having her openly live as his mistress. Consequently, he tells his family that she was a shipwreck survivor who is staying with them until her memory returns. At this point, the action revs up as secrets are revealed and the best laid plans go astray. The rest of the book moves along quite quickly as Sophy’s identity is revealed. James must make tough decisions about his future: will he spend it with the woman he’s supposed to marry, or the woman of his heart?
The Highlander is a very fast-paced novel. Much of the action in the first quarter of the book is all about the sexual tension between Sophia and James and the rest of the book is about Sophie’s past becoming a part of her present and how she and James deal with it. The problems I have with this book have more to do with plotting per se. It’s a plot in particular that was troublesome for me – I’m not fond of the amnesia plot, particularly when faked. Also, I hoped for more dialogue between the characters that would have cleared up some of the misconception, allowing an earlier resolution. I guess that means my final problem is padding.
James and Sophie’s story in The Highlander of finding love and learning to trust the one you love is one not easily forgotten. With a touch of mystery and intrigue, Coffman hooks the reader into her newest series and this reviewer waiting on her next story due out next November, Let Me Be Your Hero.