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Highland Scoundrel by Monica McCarty

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Highland Scoundrel
Campbell Trilogy #3

Monica McCarty
Medieval Romance
Published in 2009

H/h - Duncan 'Dubh' Campbell/Jeannie Grant Gordon
Setting: Highlands, Scotland, 1608.

Read in Oct, 2011.
My rating:

                                                                    [spoiler alert]

Ah, quite disappointing ending of a great trilogy! And I thought Caitrina was the most annoying heroine but in comparison to Jeannie, she's a better option. Jeannie was so so irritating for the better part of the book, can’t even begin to tell you. Her loyalty to her traitorous father and husband was very applaudable but for that, what she did with Duncan was simply appalling!

So, this is what happened between Dancun and Jeannie 10 yrs ago. They met at king James’s court, both very young. Duncan is illegitimate We really never got to know much about him before because of his runaway status. Here we get to see the whole sordid history. Even being illegitimate and knowing he’d never be good enough, Duncan is his father’s right hand and a very able one at that. He’s at court to convince Laird Grant to be an ally against the Huntleys. Here, we get to meet a young and quite lighter Colin and their father, the then Earl of Auchinbrek. The Earl knew his eldest son is very capable of handling this situation, even though he’s only 21. Duncan was a great warrior in the making. In court, while looking for Grant, he sees his daughter Jeannie, a 17 yr old beauty with red hair and green eyes and falls instantly for her. It helps that the girl reciprocates. Jeannie, has always battled with the scandal her beautiful yet impetuous mother created when she ran away with an English lord and died in England. Since she looks much like her mother, Jeannie is compared to her often; mostly from her beloved father, whom she loves a lot. She’s here for a match, but doesn’t like meeting people because of the censures she’d suffered. She doesn’t like to think she has anything common with her mother. Anyway, she sees Duncan and is extremely attracted to his big physique, raven dark hair and gorgeous sapphire eyes. They dance around each-other for about two weeks. Duncan finally manages to convince Grant to help them but was seriously thinking of talking to his father about Jeannie. He knew there’d be trouble since he’s illegitimate but he’s willing to fight. Jeannie apparently doesn’t care about his illegitimacy. The night before he’d leave, Duncan asks Jeannie to meet him in secret. They swim in a loch nearby and you can guess, wet dresses and kisses led to making love. Duncan was sure he’ll marry her and Jeannie was willing too, she tells him she’d do something to convince her father.

When Duncan returns to Campbell Castle, his father is says no to this match. Duncan soon learns that Colin, who left a week ago, has already been there to ask for Jeannie’s hand. Since Colin is the heir, his father send a message to Grant and Grant agreed, which is also why he agreed to help them. Duncan is speechless but still tries push his case. His father hurts him pretty badly when he understood that the matter has already gone too far between Duncan and Jeannie, by reminding him that ‘he reaches too high’ and the match between them is out of the question. Duncan is kinda disillusioned. He’d always had his father’s side after his mother dumped him as a baby. His stepmother was just indifferent. But he’d always had his siblings’ love, shared a close bond with them. Seems like it’d change now. He vows he’ll find a way to marry her. In Grant’s place, Jeannie is waiting for Duncan to come up with the proposal. When they arrive, she sees Duncan is quite detached. She’s now confused, thinking about her mother. I mean if you already said ILU to each-other, how come now you’re so confused? So, I didn’t believe they were in love; it was just young infatuation and lust IMO. Anyway, when she finds a private time, Duncan tells her what’s going on. Jeannie decides to talk to her father, as she was scared to do previously. When they left for the battle, Jeannie is scared for Duncan as she watches them leave. Suddenly a rider, who was hidden in the woods, comes to the keep. She goes to talk to her father but eavesdrops. The tall, blonde man in none other than the 2nd son of the enemy, the Hunleys, Francis Gordon. It seems like her father is betraying Argyll and the others with the Huntleys. Also, he’s made a match between her and Francis. When Francis leaves, Jeannie tries to talk to her father but he’s furious. He threatens her that he’d lock her up. Jeannie panics and plans to somehow to meet Duncan to veer him away from the war. She sends a vague note to him to meet her in a nearby inn, goes there and waits.

After a hectic day, in his tent, Duncan reads the note which Colin gave him and rides to the inn. Jeannie doesn’t tell him clearly (something made me so mad) of her father’s treachery since she won’t betray him. She’s only thinking of Duncan (and her own interests) so she tries very vaguely to tell him there’s danger so that he stays away. Duncan won’t listen. He asks her over and over again about it but she doesn’t clarify. Then, when she saw she’s not getting her way, she distracts and manipulates him into making love to her throughout the night. Duncan leaves at dawn, but finds his dresses neatly arranged. Anyway, soon the Huntleys attack, Grant betrays and Agryll is defeated. Argyll’s mad angry and would find out who did this to him. After many discussions, Duncan fails to produce the map that was supposed to be their plan. Being an illegitimate doesn’t help so suspicions about him grew. They also find out he was out the earlier night, oh the poor guy. Jeannie, the next day, is angry at Duncan for leaving her (b*tch!) and feels betrayed that he didn’t side with her. I mean WTF? She goes back to her keep and waits for news. Soon her father comes back. She’s sure this time Duncan would come and ask for her hand (always living in her own happy world!). In the meantime, some gold was found in Duncan’s things so everyone now suspected it was Duncan, did it out of jealousy. It didn’t matter when his father fell saving Argyll, Duncan is the one who fought and hold everything back as long as he could, that he’d served Argyll loyally from a young age. Nothing matters, NOTHING! A desperate Duncan knows there’s no one to help him out and the woman he loves probably betrayed him, referring to their night together and her vague messages. Colin tells him to runaway, otherwise he’ll hang. Duncan manages to get into Jeannie’s room somehow at night and condemns her. She doesn’t acknowledge neither denies anything, then tries convincing him with her whining and illogical actions. When nothing works and Duncan finally leaves, she thinks oh, he just left me like that, maybe what we did was wrong etc. See how ‘me’ comes to her on every thought? You chose a side b*tch, your traitorous bastard of a father’s side, you didn’t think of him (his clan), wanted him to betray them (abandoning the war?) because of you, how can you even think this way? Before leaving, Duncan hears his father’s last words, when Colin went out to give them some privacy. He refers to the MacDonalds, Duncan’s mother and asks to find her in stilted words, with a lot of difficulty. Duncan shrugs it off and goes away to Ireland. Jeannie, meanwhile, finds out she’s pregnant so goes to the Campbell Castle to tell Duncan but learning that he’s gone, again, decides he’s betrayed her, left her bla bla and starts hating him. She marries Francis soon to save the child of its illegitimacy.

10 yrs later, Francis is dead for sometimes now. It seems like he’s been very kind and good to Jeannie but she never returned his affections. I knew she couldn’t, b*tch that she is! He knew of Jeannie’s pregnancy and hid it, took care of the son, Dougall, gave him his name and now he’s been fostered with the Campbells, not knowing that it’s his own clan. Jeannie could hide Dougall’s true age because of some convenient incidents back then and that he’s a bit small for his age. She has a daughter, Ella, with Francis. I did like Ella a lot. Her mother-in-law is very strict and has no lasting affection for her. Can’t blame her if you ask me! But the older woman loves her grandchildren, though not aware, like the others, of Dougall’s true identity. Jeannie’s been attacked (attempted abduction) by the MacKintoshs after Francis’s death, for a marriage. You know, her beauty and lands. Also, the Huntlys want her to marry someone of their own choice. She doesn’t care to marry ever. The news of Duncan’s return doesn’t help too. So as the goes for a swim, then was coming out of the lake, Duncan’s presence startles her and she shoots him. Yah she did and it was near fatal. She didn’t regret, at all, that he might die. She stood there watch him bleed and wanted him dead. CAN YOU FREAKEN BELIEVE IT? Duncan came back to clear his name, also knowing Francis died did something in his heart for him to return. He knows Jeannie can help him by telling him the truth or letting him investigate inside her keep. But, this was some welcome from the beautiful nude woman in front of him! Before it, he was thinking of their past, how it was to have sex with her and so on. I couldn’t believe after what happened, he could be so obtuse! Anyway, sometimes later, Jeannie realizes he might die. Note that she dressed and already called her men to arrest him. Duncan’s own men from Ireland, Leif and Conall also came to have a look. Jeannie takes Duncan in her keep to attend the wound. While attending, she kept thinking how he’s grown into a gorgeous man and how her body reacts to him, contradicting her other thoughts such as, how she doesn’t care for him, how he’s left her, how she’s scared he might do harm to her children (huh?) etc. She was pretty hypocritical in her thoughts about Duncan. She wants to f*ck him, as long as it’s convenient and doesn’t hamper her own plans, her clan, her father and husband’s treachery and her son! I could’ve overlooked the son part, had not the son in question been Duncan’s own, the fact she decided hid from him, no matter what. She can’t take the chance of him claiming Dougall. Later, though, I understood why. I didn’t know even if they marry, claiming Dougall would still make him a bastard. Odd rule, if you ask me!

Duncan still wants Jeannie with every pore of his being. It irritates him (and me) yet he can’t do anything about it. He’s posing as a guard send by her brother, as they planned to appease her mother-in-law. I loved his introduction and exchanges with Ella a lot. I wish there were more of those. But Jeannie isn’t happy about him ‘captivating’ her daughter (a 7 yrs old) like she was by him. I mean what was her problem? If you read her thoughts about Duncan, God it all felt so odd! They were almost always bordering on negative, sometimes rather creepy yet his manly body doesn’t deter her from remembering their time together so long ago! It’s like her husband never existed! The man, even though a traitor, was totally forgotten which, somehow, I didn’t approve of.

Duncan gets a fever from the wound and fell very ill. The healer calls Jeannie at night to have a look. When she’s there, she’s suddenly feeling nauseated, thinking of her husband, who also died of a sword wound and later, fever. Then you know what, she actually thought if she lets Duncan die, it’ll solve all her problems! OMFG! B*tch! I don’t care that she took it back just afterwards, how awful and immature. She NEVER grew up from her 17 yrs self IMO, until the very end. When he’s finally ok, Duncan kept asking Jeannie to help him and she ALWAYS kept saying no; at first her supposed hatred for him, then when they finally kissed, for Dougall and of course, her father and her husband. Duncan tries looking through her castle, once finding a priest’s hole [ref: this keep being a place for the Templar Knights]. There he actually found some messages with indistinct wording and that map he lost. It kinda proves her husband was involved. Jeannie, meantime, found him out and kept thinking, oh he betrayed me again! How dare he search my castle! Bla bla bla (Me? wanna kill her!) Duncan shows her the map, yet she kept denying any involvement of her husband. Even when she was being such a b*tch, he still kept seeing her ‘beauty’. Good lord, I was so annoyed at him for this that I seriously decided to dump him with Jeannie because I can’t recommend anything about her other than her external ‘beauty’. But they do kiss, you know and she lets him touch her too. She can’t help herself then but in her mind (sometimes even on his face) she kept vilifying him and hurting him in return. This went on for a long time. Duncan kinda suspected there’s something holding her back. He asked around about her son’s age but was disappointed. He knew the daughter is too young to be his. He didn’t like knowing how angelic Francis Gordon was, as Jeannie kept slapping those on his face with every opportunity. I hated when she kept whining to herself oh I should’ve loved Francis but I couldn’t react to his lovemaking bla bla. Whatever, b*tch!

Then one day, Duncan and his men went to hunt when Ella goes missing. She wanted to go with them and having her mother’s beauty and stubborn streak, nothing could deter her. Duncan found her and brought her back later. But in the keep, everything is in awry, Jeannie is having fits. She dispatches almost all her guardsmen, in her mind she keeps praying that Duncan comes back soon because he’d know what to do. Then she remembers this place where Francis would take Ella and decides to have a look herself. When she does, the MacKintoshs again attack her. Duncan reached the keep only to find Jeannie’s been gone for sometimes now. But he finds her soon, fallen from her horse and MacKintoshs’ surrounding her. He goes berserk. How dare they touch what’s his! Hmm Duncan, what was that? Yours? Even after the way she treated you? Sorry but I can’t help but feel pissed! Anyway, he saves her and takes her back. She’s now grateful to him but still won’t help him. Then Duncan decides, his final chance, if Elizabeth’s letters are true, is with Jamie. Only if his brother doesn’t throw him in the dungeon on sight. Jeannie panics; no, not for him but for him finding out Dougall’s identity and forces Duncan to take her with him. On their journey, Duncan is tempted to shag some barmaid just to take off the edge Jeannie is setting but he doesn’t, how nice! I wished he’d find someone else, just to punish her and I would’ve danced with glee! One night, they make their stop at an inn. Some Campbell guardsmen were looking for him there and Jeannie ‘helps distracting’ them with her revealing gowns and flirtation. Oh now she’s decided to help Duncan, though he doesn’t appreciate this. How dare she flirts and shows her boobies around! (Me? Someone save me from this misery!)

When they reach Campbell Castle, I liked reading the siblings’ reuniting. Duncan thought how his ‘little’ brother has grown. I was thinking, wasn’t Catarina pregnant in the previous book? Then how could she fly out the keep and down the stairs in her advanced pregnant state? No idea! Anyway, Jamie promises to listen to him and he does. Duncan gives him all the proofs but they both know it’s not enough. Meanwhile, Duncan tries to convince Jeannie of his feelings because he’s decides he still loves her, would always love her. She was watching her son fight, when Duncan comes out and her son is enthralled by his words and shows of gun and swordfight. Jeannie kinda feels remorse that this is how father and son should be but there’s nothing to be done. She can’t reveal it. When Dougall is gone, she goes to the armory to stack his bows but Duncan follows her. More talks and words exchanges, heated kisses and they almost end up doing it. Lord, sex scenes were hot in this book, just for Duncan yet I couldn’t enjoy them as I should’ve for my utter dislike of Jeannie. When Duncan asks Jeannie to tell him she wants him too, she hesitates. Duncan is hurt and leaves.

Outside he finds Elizabeth is here too with Patrick. When he held her, Jeannie not knowing it’s Elizabeth, is instantly jealous. *rolls eyes* Then, Duncan is being updated with the recent news, including Colin’s. They’re all worried for him yet know he’s made his bed. When Duncan hears that Colin might be in Inveraray Castle, he immediately feels that the last letter he sent to Elizabeth might fell into Colin’s hand. Which means, he knows of Duncan’s whereabouts and this might explain the guardsmen looking for him. Over and over Colin’s name keeps coming back on that day in Glenlivet. None of them wants to think of Colin as the betrayer but they know there’s every chance. It’s sad how their brother has changed over the years. It was sad for me because I felt, even as I ended the book, there should’ve been more from Colin’s POV. I mean why did he do that? We didn’t really know much about him in earlier books, he was always portrayed as the villain from the start. I felt there were much more than just jealousy of his elder brother’s accomplishments and dark anger. I saw that others were accountable for it too because, once his father actually said to him that he should’ve made Duncan his tanaiste (heir). What son likes to hear such thing? Then when they all were arguing in Glenlivet, whenever Colin tried to put forth a comment, no one seemed to care about his opinions. It must’ve been utterly frustrating. I felt no one gave Colin a chance to prove himself, which in return created this rash, hotheaded man.

Anyway, somewhere in between, Duncan and Jeannie finally decides to put it all behind, trust each-other and become lovers again. Jeannie encourages Duncan to look for his mother. He agrees after some persuasion from her (he can never deny her anything and after such great sex too!). In the MacDonalds’ place, he learns his mother, the old nursemaid died about the time when Glenlivet happened. He’s quite disappointed. He knows he resembles his father to a fault (except the hair, which is his mother’s), so when the old lady Anne MacDonald acts as if she’s seeing a ghost, he’s not surprised. Back in the inn, Jeannie and he make love and the words of marriage and love come out. He wanted her to run away with him before, which she denied for her kids but now, she would go anywhere with him. This time Duncan refuses and Jeannie blurts out about Dougall. Duncan gets very angry and goes out to cool his heels. Colin in the meantime, was trying to capture him and deliver to Argyll. He didn’t know that Jamie and Elizabeth is already on their way to Inveraray to convince Argyll. The next morning, Jeannie decides to pay another visit to Lady Anne as a maid confirms that some information on Duncan’s mother was wrong.

After that, there was quite a nice, big surprise for Duncan (thanks to Jeannie– ugh but true) and not so very big one for Colin as he tries to kill him and then Niall Lamont shows up... You can guess, if you’ve read the earlier books, what might’ve happened afterwards. I wished I saw some more interaction between Dougall and Duncan. It’s said that Jeannie wants Dougall to know of his identity, she doesn’t care anymore. I agree, Dougall has a right to know his father. In the epilogue, they are married finally but yet to tell him, so I felt I missed this union between the father and the son. I would’ve rated it a 3.5 had it been there but now it’s 3. I, again, loved the author’s note/historical facts. Always worth a read!

A picture of Castle Campbell...

Castle Campbell


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