The Highlander's Crusader Bride: Book 3 in the Hardy Heroines series Kindle Edition
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Told from dual third person perspectives (Caelen and Arbela) THE HIGHLANDER’S CRUSADER BRIDE is a stand alone story line that follows the marriage of convenience between half-Armenian, half Scot Arbela MacLean, and Laird Caelen MacKern, leader of Clan MacKern in the Western Highlands of Scotland. Death and disease has ravaged the MacKern Clan, and with it comes the struggles to feed and support the numerous bodies within the Keep. To add insult to an already suffering Clan, Laird MacKern’s former father in law seeks revenge against the Laird for the untimely death of his daughter, Caelen’s first wife, plundering small herds and burning down the outlying crofts. Enter Laird Donal MacLean, who offers up his twenty year old daughter Arbela MacLean in exchange for provisions, repairs and additional security. What ensues is the marriage of convenience between the independent and warrior-trained Arbela MacLean, and Laird Caelen MacKern, and the potential fall out as Laird MacGillonay demands custody of Caelen’s only son attacking the Clan and the woman with whom Caelen is falling in love.
Arbela MacLean is half-Armenian, half-Scot, and royalty by birth, but our heroine is unlike any of the Scottish woman Caelen has ever met or seen. Warrior trained in both the defensive and offensive ways of war, the head-strong but beautiful Arbela is a one-woman army unto herself. Darker skinned with an attitude to match, Arbela will become the victim of racist slurs and savage attacks that accompany her marriage to a Scottish Laird. Five years earlier Caelen MacKern’s wife died leaving our hero a single father with a one-year old son. Discouraged by his first marriage Caelen vows never to remarry as he battles to maintain control of his struggling Clan. A marriage of convenience will aid in the resurrection of the MacKern Clan but a marriage that is doomed to fail as both Caelen and Arbela refuse to accept anything beyond a marriage in name only.
There is a large ensemble cast of secondary and supporting characters. Not everyone is true to the MacKern Clan-there are traitors in the midst, some closer than others. The introduction of Bram MacKern softens our heroine’s heart as she grows to love the child as her own.
The relationship between Arbela and Caelen begins as an arrangement. Arbela had no plans for marriage; and Caelen refuses to enter into a marriage with another unhappy wife. Their unwritten agreement to keep separate lives is quickly extinguished when their palpable sexual attraction is heightened by threats against the people they love. The $ex scenes are intimate without the use of over the top, sexually graphic language and text.
THE HIGHLANDER’S CRUSADER BRIDE mixes historical facts with fiction creating a wonderful story line about two people pulled together by circumstance and love. There are moments of betrayal and devotion, hatred and friendship, discrimination and acceptance, romance and love. The premise is entertaining, revealing and engaging; the characters are real, colourful and charismatic; the romance is passionate and slow to build. Cathy MacRae adds another dimension to her Hardy Heroine’s –a series of strong, independent and beautiful women who find the courage to live and love.