A Thousand Steps

A Thousand Steps
A Thousand Steps by T. Jefferson Parker

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

The Rock by Moncia McCarty- A Highland Guard Novel

New York Times bestselling author Monica McCarty continues her Highland Guard series in this eleventh steamy historical romance set against the sweeping backdrop of the Scottish Highlands.

The first time he caught sight of Elizabeth Douglas, Thomas MacGowan thought she was a princess. To the son of the castle blacksmith, the daughter of the powerful Lord of Douglas might as well be. When it becomes clear that his childhood companion will never see him as a man she could love, Thom joins Edward Bruce’s army as a man-at-arms to try to change his lot. If he’s harbored a secret hope that he could close the gap between them, he faces the cold, hard truth when Elizabeth comes to him for help. She might need the boy who used to climb cliffs to rescue her brother from the hands of the English, but she would never see the son of a smith as a man worthy of her hand.
The Rock (Highland Guard, #11)The Rock by Monica McCarty
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Rock by Monica McCarty is a 2015 Ballantine publication. I was provided a copy of this book by the publisher as an XOXpert, the official street team of XOXO After Dark.

This eleventh installment in the Highland Guard series starts off like a sweet fairy tale when Thomas McGowan becomes friends with Jamie and Elizabeth Douglas as children. Although Elizabeth was only six years old, she proclaimed that one day she was going to marry Thom. But, as they grew up, Thom’s feelings toward Elizabeth became clear to her brother. The two men argued and Elizabeth was sent away.

Why? Well, Thom is the son of a blacksmith and Elizabeth is a princess. The class distinctions were too great to overcome. But, Thom always believed in Elizabeth, always knew she would return and they would have their happily ever after.

Well, Elizabeth does return, but his plans and hers couldn’t be more different. Bitter, and angry, Thomas sets out to become a Knight and better himself. His goal is to show Elizabeth he is worthy of her. But, is she worthy of him?

The Highland Guard series is one the very best Historical Highlander series in my opinion. As I have stated countless times, the attention to detail is next to none. It's as historically accurate as is possible, is well written and researched. I have yet to read a book from this series that didn’t wow me.

But, I have to confess, I struggled with this one quite a bit. Elizabeth is the most obtuse protagonist I’ve encountered in a long while. I do understand the girl knew her lot in life and can even see how it was possible she never thought of Thom in a romantic way. She even admitted she was not the romantic type, and of course, she knew all along a marriage with him was impossible, so she never entertained such notions.

But, surely she knew he was in love with her! I know young women in those days were sheltered and naïve, but I felt she toyed with his feelings, led him on, and used him. Why else would Thom be so very positive she returned his feelings?

After Elizabeth stomps all over Thom’s heart, in almost the same breath, she actually has the nerve to ask if they can go back to being the best of friends, like they were before, as though people can turn their feelings on and off like a light switch. That’s the type of thing that made it hard to warm up to her. I was outraged by her insensitivity to Thom’s feelings.

Thom on the other hand is a romantic, but maybe he was deluding himself a little too, and was partly responsible, by setting himself up for a fall. He was aware she was a princess and to believe that when push came to shove she would disobey her brother, shirk her duty as a princess, and risk poverty to marry for love, was just asking for heartbreak. Yes, it sounds romantic, but logically, it seemed impossible. Still, of the two, I admired Thom the most. The man has principles, believes in himself, in love, in right and wrong, and well, if I had been Elizabeth, and found out Thom loved me, I would go weak in the knees, and I think being poor with Thom would be a much better fate that being rich, a trophy, and never knowing real love or passion. But, that’s just me and of course times were very, very different in medieval Scotland.

So, this couple puts us on an emotional roller coaster. Elizabeth puts Thom through the ringer, constantly drawing him into her snare, then pulling back, then begging to be forgiven, making Thom love her, then hate her.

So, does Elizabeth ever redeem herself and prove she is worthy of Thom? Well, for Thom’s sake, I will give her the benefit of the doubt. She does finally wake up and the course she takes is indeed very risky and could come at a very high cost to her, and is all done in the name of love.

I have to be completely honest and say that I didn't love this one as much a the other books in the series, but it turned out to be an enjoyable read, although it did take me a long time to warm up to Elizabeth, and even then it was grudgingly, but the writing and historical details are top notch as always, and I was engaged in the story, and although Thom is kind of the new kid on the block, he saved the day, and the story for me. I really liked him and am happy I got to meet him and was happy he got his happily ever after.







An undercover warrior and her sworn enemy play a seductive game of cat-and-mouse in New York Times bestselling author Monica McCarty’s sexy new Highland Guard novel.

Joan Comyn swore allegiance to Robert the Bruce the day she witnessed England’s barbarous king torturing her famous mother, Scot patriot Bella MacDuff. Now the mysterious beauty slips into men’s hearts like a specter and entices England’s most illustrious barons to unwittingly divulge their secrets, then shares them with her king. Known only as the Ghost even among her Highland Guard brethren, Joan has become the most wanted traitor in England.

The man determined to uncover her identity poses her biggest threat yet. Alex Seton once stood with Bruce but now fights for the enemy. Though Joan knows she must avoid the handsome warrior or risk discovery, his knightly chivalry touches a place in her long since buried. When his suspicions grow apparent, Joan realizes she must do everything in her power to stop Alex from revealing her mission and convince the powerful fighter to join forces with the Highland Guard once more. But as the ultimate battle in the great war approaches, will Alex choose love or honor?
What do you get when you mix a legal career, a baseball career, motherhood, and a love of history with a voracious reader? In my case, a Historical Romance Author.

Like most writers, I’ve always loved to read. Growing up in California there was always plenty to do outside, but all too often I could be found inside curled up with a book (or two or three). I started with the usual fare: The Little House on the Prairie series, The Chronicles of Narnia, The Hobbit, Watership Down, Nancy Drew, and everything by Judy Blume. Once I cleared off my bookshelf, I started swiping books from my mom. Some, like Sidney Sheldon’s The Other Side of Midnight, probably weren’t the most appropriate choice for a pre-adolescent—although they were definitely illuminating. I can still remember the look of abject horror on my mom’s Catholic-girl-face when I asked her what a virgin was. After that rather brief conversation, she paid a little closer attention to what had disappeared off her book shelf, and steered me in the direction of Harlequin and Barbara Cartland romances. I was hooked. I quickly read through the inventory of the local library and was soon buying bags of romances at garage sales.

In high school, with the encouragement of my father (who I think was a little concerned about the steady diet of romances), I read over eighty of the Franklin Library’s One Hundred Greatest Books ever written—including Tolstoy, Confucius, Plato, and the entire works of Shakespeare. Some of them were tough going for a teenager, but the experience would prove an invaluable foundation for college. After reading War and Peace, I wasn’t easily intimidated.

For some reason Monica decided to go into writing and not fashion.

After graduation, I loaded up the VW (Jetta not Bus) and trekked down I-5 to attend the University of Southern California, majoring in Political Science and minoring in English (see why all that reading helped!). I joined the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority, and when I wasn’t studying or at football games, did my best to support the local bartending industry. Ah, the good old days.

With that kind of fun, four years of college wasn’t quite enough. So leaving Tommy Trojan behind, I traveled back up north to Palo Alto for three more years of study at Stanford Law School. Once I survived the stress of the first semester, law school proved to be one of the best times of my life—garnering me a JD, life-long friends, a husband, and an unexpectedly intimate knowledge of baseball. (See “The Baseball Odyssey” below).

Law School was also where I fell in love with Scotland. In my third year, I took a Comparative Legal History class, and wrote a paper on the Scottish Clan System and Feudalism. So I immediately dropped out of law school and went on to write Scottish Historical Romances…well no, not quite. You see, I always knew I wanted to be a lawyer. My father was a lawyer, I was a “poet” (i.e., not into math), and I love to argue. It seemed natural.

So I finished law school, got married, passed the CA bar, moved to Minnesota (with a few stops along the way), waived into the MN bar, worked as a litigator for a few satisfying years, moved back to CA, had a couple of kids, realized that a legal career and being a single parent for most of the year (due to husband's career) would be extremely difficult, and THEN decided to sit down and write.

And how did I end up writing romance? It’s not as divergent as it seems. What I loved about being a lawyer are the same things I love about being a writer—research and writing. The only thing missing is the arguing, but that’s what a husband and kids are for, right?

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.