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**I received a free copy via NetGalley for an honest review.**
I really enjoyed this book! In particular, Ms. Blackwood did a great job developing the characters and the plot in such a way that neither got lost as the story progressed. There was a gradual romance with a past murder that has lead to a present-day revenge scheme. We also have an ailing father with an "evil" stepmother, as well as several delightful half sisters thrown into the mix. Quite a cast of characters!
When Niall Braewick was a young boy, his family was killed one tragic day when enemy clans attacked in order to take over his home and lands. Fast forward 17 years later, and Niall is a grown man who seeks revenge against the man now residing in his childhood home - the MacClaren. Elspeth is MacClaren's eldest daughter from his first marriage, and she is fighting to maintain her freedom while her stepmother tries to take it away. She meets Niall when he saves her and her sister from drowning. Thus begins the push of revenge for Niall's family against the pull of his love for Elspeth.
It's as close to "love at first sight" as I have read in a while, and it's written very well. Their love grows gradually, with Niall's acts of chivalry bolstering his crusade for Elspeth's heart. She doesn't fall too easily, but she sees Niall as a kind, honorable man who is leagues better than any of the men who have tried to court her. Niall is clearly fighting the attraction too, out of guilt, but he can't help falling for Elspeth's spirit and warmth.
The ending is a bit turbulent for me, although really, you can't expect much else with the circumstances being what they are. I always feel a heroine in that sort of situation should make it a bit harder for the hero to get back in her good graces, but I suppose Niall is worth it! Definitely recommend this book for fans of strong women and chivalrous Highlanders. Lily Blackwood is a great new author, and I am eager to read her next book!