What do we want? Hot Scotsmen and women who can defend themselves! When do we want them? Now! Where can we find them? In this book!
Book: A Protector in the Highlands by Heather McCollum
Read before: No
Ownership: E-ARC provided by NetGalley for fair review. All opinions my own.
(Trigger warning: though no rape takes place in this book, there are several flashback scenes where sexual coercion and assault happen. I felt this was handled well as part of the plot, but your mileage may vary.)
Lady Scarlet Worthington has fled England for the safety of her sister’s home in Scotland, where she helps to run a school for young ladies. She doesn’t only teach etiquette and dancing, though – she also teaches them self-defense, having had some very bad experiences of her own. She clashes with the brooding (and quite frankly, grumpy) Aiden Campbell, who hates all English people, but particularly English women. However, there’s something about Scarlet that he just can’t resist…
This is the second book in the series, and though, like a lot of romance series, the sequels are tangentially linked and can stand alone, I felt like I would have benefited from having the backstory of the first book, as there are a lot of references to the plot of it. I enjoyed this enough that I will read the first book, but perhaps a summation of the backstory would help get over that early confusion for readers who pick this up cold. It doesn’t spoil the book not to have that context, as it all becomes fairly obvious, but it would have enriched the story for me if I had known about the prior events.
Aiden and Scarlet had some really nice banter going on, and I liked that they shared a lot of quiet moments, even though the plot has a lot more adventure than some romance novels, with plots, treason, wolves, midnight flights on horseback, secret passageways and more. I did giggle at the repeated description of how broad Aiden’s shoulders were (like, how large can he physically be??), but on the whole, thought he made a good hero. I didn’t feel like we got to know much about either of our characters outside their immediate situations, but there was so much going on that I think that kind of worked. The action never really lets up, so I found myself racing to the end just to see how it would all turn out!
I liked the way in which Scarlet became her own protector, and I was rooting for her to get her comeuppance on the man who had abused her before. As I said above, your personal opinion may differ, but I thought it was good to see her not only recover from her abuse, but also proactively seek to prevent it happening to any other girls. I liked how fierce she was. I also liked that although Aiden wanted to protect her, he understood the importance of Scarlet having her own power.
Overall, this is a good, pacey read, even if it’s not as deep and emotional a love story as it could have been. The hero and heroine have plenty of chemistry, and it’s exciting enough to keep you engrossed until the end. Four out of five cats.