I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
“Cinaed Mackintosh is my sister Isabella’s husband. I can’t let you do it. I’ll not let you kill him.”
Highland Jewel is the second in the Royal Highlanders series that follows three women. In the first, readers learn that Isabella's husband was killed by British soldiers as they ransacked their house thinking it was a den of traitors. While the first is more of an after the fact, this story brings us back to the beginning and follows Isabella's sister Maisie. We learn about the build up to the impetus that led to the three women (the daughter of Isabella's husband) having to run for their lives. While I wouldn't say it would be absolutely necessary to read the first before this one, like I said, this story gives us the background story glossed over in the first, having knowledge about Cinaed (Isabella's love interest) would certainly help as the connecting thread between the series is not only the women's connection but the tumultuous time period in Scotland and how Cinaed is tied up in it.
Lieutenant Campbell was far too bossy and interfering for her to harbor any illusions about.
Niall is the brother of Maisie's bestfriend Fiona and comes into the picture as he rescues Maisie during a public protest that gets broken up by British soldiers. Niall was a solider in the Black Watch, so Maisie is distrustful of him at first but Niall does a sweet job of breaking down her walls. He listens to her and admires her will and mind, which her family has no idea about as they just look upon her as a pretty empty headed girl. I was a little confused by Maisie and Isabella's relationship as I thought they read to be closer in the first but here we see them as pretty distant and not knowing one another at all. Maisie purposefully keeping her actions, like starting a chapter of the Female Reform Society, from Isabella didn't competently feel true to me. As Fiona becomes the catalyst for angst between Niall and Maisie and they are kept apart, I missed that friendship, too.
The back of their hands brushed. Her fingers were cold, his hand was warm . She wondered what it would feel like to entwine her fingers with his, to absorb the heat.
The majority of the story takes place in the past, with going back to explain how Maisie is at the place she is and why she distrusts Niall. Around the 60% mark is where the story catches up and we get to the present time. I liked this as it helped fill in a lot questions I had and we get to actually see Maisie and Niall fall in love. However, I did think the romance took somewhat of a backseat to the political drama going on. The authors do such a great job melding true history with their fictional story. The intrigue with Cinaed, the Scots wanting freedom, spy rings, and a Queen, were absorbing. The placement and tie-ins with the three women are very well done and although you have to pay attention and keep some characters straight in your mind, I thought how everything and everyone was brought together was inspired.
He stared into her face, and for the first time, Maisie felt like he was seeing her, who she really was. Not the outer shell of a young and reasonably pretty woman. And she saw him too. Niall Campbell was a man who wasn’t intimidated by talk of equality or of women fighting for their rightful place in society.
This series is shaping up to remind me of Grace Burrowes' Captive Hearts and Marsha Canham's Highland, the historical intrigue can eclipse the romance at times but it's interesting and still highlighted with sweet and sexy moments. I can't wait for Morrigan's story, the daughter of Isabella's husband, and to read about her hardened heart captured by a hero.
What duty did a man owe to a king and a government that had forgotten the people, he thought. Not only forgotten. Conspired against, stealing their rights under the pretense that their actions were for the good of all.