I voluntarily reviewed an Advance Reader Copy of this book.
Kaid MacLeod couldn’t protect his clan from an unimaginable slaughter that killed his father and took the lives of many of his people. Wracked with guilt, he knows retaliation will only bring more death, but his clan thirsts for revenge and all seems lost…until Kaid discovers his nemesis’s betrothed will be traveling through Scotland. Abducting this innocent woman will give him the leverage he desperately needs to end the continuing massacres and bring peace to his clan. Though he is loath to do so, it's the least bloody solution he can see.
Delilah Canterbury has been striving to make her own way for a long time. One of many children, with no money or noble blood to fall back on, Delilah dreamt of joining the court of King James. After her beauty earned her one tender night with the king, he spurned her on a whim, causing her to lose not just her chance at a better life, but her reputation. In dire straits, her life was saved when she was taken in by a group of female spies and taught their deadly skills. Now, testing her prowess, she is disguised as Lady Elizabeth, daughter of a well-known noble, betrothed of a Scottish laird, and a target in the war between clans.
Kidnapped by Kaid, Delilah's mission as a decoy is near completion, but when she finds herself attracted to the very man she's supposed to deceive, will Delilah lose control and risk her very life in the process? Will finding out who Delilah really is be Kaid's undoing, and that of his entire clan?
Highland Ruse by Madeline Martin focuses on the story of Delilah, another kick-ass mercenary, who seriously put men to shame with their skills of weaponry and espionage.
All of the main women in this series have a past. Becoming a mercenary does not come cheap. Each with their heartbreaking stories of suffering and tragedy. Delilah’s is that of any women from that period (or honestly all periods of time) who finds herself being brushed aside by a man of power after he gets what he wants. While it is not a unique backstory, it does make you feel compassionate towards her character, and makes you want to offer solidarity. Her naivete makes her stronger in the end.
The nightmares make him weak…
The character that really stood out in this story was Kaid. His nightmares about the slaughter of his clansmen was truly horrific. It proves to be his greatest weakness that causes him to have panic attacks. Similar to PTSD, really. I liked that as a Laird of a Scottish clan, he was still so vulnerable. Drug addiction is rarely focused on in books with this type of setting and I liked that aspect of it. It might have been easily overcome (Delilah has a major role) but it was still an enjoyable part of the story.
Kaid’s and Delilah’s romance was hot and sizzling with the hint of insta-attraction. However, it was Delilah’s sense of duty that would cause the true contention in the story.
The villains of the story are pretty straightforward, with most of the action happening towards the end. I wasn’t feeling too invested in them however, I wished they played a bigger role in the dialogue and suspense.
Overall, it was an enjoyable installment to the series. It can be read as a standalone.
See my review for book 1 in the series, Highland Spy here.