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Book CoverSandy M’s review of Captured by the Highlander (Highlander Trilogy, Book 1) by Julianne MacLean
Historical Romance published by St. Martin’s Paperbacks 1 Mar 11

This is my first book by Julianne MacLean. I’ve got a good portion of her backlist in that TBR mountain I sometimes refer to. That’s because a number of friends like her books, so I’ve taken their word and purchased her books when opportunity allows, and she’s giving me in this trilogy those sexy, alpha Scottish warriors I love to read. On top of that, I’ve been in the mood for a Highlander read. I think it’s been a month or so since I’ve read one. So with all of that going for this book, what happened?

First, the beginning of the book is terrific. Duncan MacLean, aka Butcher of the Highlands, has silently broken into an English fort to gain his revenge against the officer who raped and murdered Duncan’s fiance. Instead of the man he expects, he finds Lady Amelia Templeton, the murderer’s fiance. Not getting the revenge he’s planned on, Duncan absconds with the woman to draw her man out to finally make sure he gets what he deserves.

Up to this point I’m engrossed in the story. Then little things begin to emerge which pull me out of it – dialogue doesn’t sound authentic, has a modern feel to it more often than not or sometimes doesn’t fit the characters; I don’t feel much chemistry between the hero and heroine once their relationship begins to change; and I don’t like the fact that Duncan’s change at the end of the book is more from a push from Amelia than it is from his belief and soul that the change needs to be made. And these are the major issues for me. There’s a number of smaller ones that combine with these which turns this book into one big mess.

I read Scottish historicals mainly because of the heroes. Duncan is one of those heroes. At least in the very beginning. Then there’s several times Ms. MacLean tries to portray him as hard-hearted toward his enemy, which Amelia initially is, and also arrogant, but he comes off more as a brute in the former instance and a plain old braggart in the latter. I also read these stories for the feel of Scotland, descriptions of the country itself in either peacetime or war.  Either way, the eras usually written about are brutal, men protect what is theirs, fight for God and country. All of which Duncan says at one time or another and is definitely the way he lives, but Amelia constantly throws her beliefs about killing and violence at him, forcing him to look at himself as he’s never done before. But this is all near the end of the book, and it’s more to satisfy her because she’s unwilling to be with him any longer because of the way he lives. And this is suddenly a new Duncan who’s now making an appearance in the story. Have no idea where he came from and I don’t like him much because his character is now forced, no longer the man I’ve known for a few hundred pages.

As far as chemistry, or the lack thereof, between these two, it just doesn’t flow smoothly. Duncan is telling Amelia to shut her mouth or lose her life, she’s threatening him with the full force of the English military. Very strong, negative emotions. Then on the next page are thoughts of touching, kissing, making love and all that goes with it. It just doesn’t make sense this early and in these circumstances with the feelings they have for one another at that point. Okay, there can be lust, but I still don’t feel it works at this particular point in the book. It’s too fast, especially when both of them are having similar thoughts. There’s no gradual turning of feelings due to event. That comes later and, therefore, makes those feelings less than they should be because they’ve been there in one form or another all along. Suddenly Amelia is in love, but I never feel what it is that changes for her, why her feelings change; it’s surely not the violent man she’s been traveling with and learning about. And she never tells the man about her love. In between, she’s still questioning him and his violence, suddenly forgetting the love she’s just admitted to herself.

There are a couple of things that did work for me, which is what keeps my review grade from being rock bottom. It’s not until about 140 pages in where Duncan explains about his past, his parents, how he was raised, the dichotomy of his life as a result. This is the first true insight into either character and I’m glad it’s Duncan since I like him more than Amelia. There never really is any insight into Amelia along the same lines – she just spouts the same litany about violence and killing, never letting up – until the end when she realizes she’s been wrong treating Duncan like she has, if you want to call that an insight.

The biggest twist in the book I never saw coming. I really can’t say anything about it because it gives too much away, but right up until it happens – we find out the same time as Amelia does – I had no clue. Maybe I was too caught up in all these other things that I did miss some clues, but have no idea now. All I know is surprise and excitement hit, along with some hope that things might be changing and the story will begin to get better. Alas, the surprise and excitement don’t last long, but it’s nice to have it for a bit anyway.

Even with all this that doesn’t work for me, I do want to read the next book, Angus’ story, Claimed by the Highlander. He has so much emotion roiling around inside, he’s got a betrayal on his conscience that doesn’t bode well for him, and, thus, a pretty tortured soul, and I am intrigued. So I’m willing to try one more time to see whether Ms. MacLean’s style and writing will work for me.

SandyMGrade: D+


Lady Amelia Templeton would rather die than surrender to a man like Duncan MacLean. He is the fiercest warrior of his clan—her people’s sworn enemy—and tonight he is standing over her bed. Eyes blazing, muscles taut, and battle axe gleaming, MacLean has come to kill Amelia’s fiancé. But once he sees the lovely, innocent Amelia, he decides to take her instead…

Stealing the young bride-to-be is the perfect revenge against the man who murdered Duncan’s one true love. But Lady Amelia turns out to be more than a pawn of vengeance and war. This brave, beautiful woman touches something deep in Duncan’s soul that is even more powerful than a warrior’s fury. But when Amelia begins to fall in love with her captor—and surrenders in his arms—the real battle begins…

Read an excerpt.

Other books in this series:

Book Cover