Top positive review
4.25 the chieftain finally wakes up stars
Reviewed in the United States on February 18, 2020
(***As a note, I am not sure why this title is classified as "historical erotica" - it is steamy, but I would def not categorize it as erotica***.)
In the first book of this series (The Guardian), 4 young boys visit the clan's elderly seer to be told of their fortunes hoping to hear of the great warriors they will become and the many battles they will win; instead, they are disappointed to be told their fortunes about.. of all things!... love and women. Connor, at the time a second son and thus not in line for the chieftain role, was told that his clan's future will depend upon his picking the right woman and that this woman would actually be the one to choose him.
Ten years later, Connor is the chieftain of his clan after his father and older brother were killed in the battle at Flodden, most likely by his father's greedy half-brother Hugh who claimed the MacDonald chieftain role for himself immediately following the tragedy until Connor received the tragic news and returned from fighting in France with his warrior cousins (Ian and Alex) and best friend/captain of the guard (Duncan). Since then, Connor has struggled to both stay alive after numerous assassination attempts and restore his clan to its former glory. Most recently, he has reclaimed a property taken by the rival MacLeod clan, and he has chosen to live there as the former family seat has too many ghosts of his childhood for him to wish to remain in those walls. Connor has left Duncan in charge of that property and placed Alex in charge of the seat to the north; thus, he has secured the castles, but he has not been able to completely rid the area surrounding his residence of their enemies. In addition, his uncle Hugh has become a notorious pirate who pillages, rapes, and plunders all that stand in his way of regaining the chieftain position... and Hugh continues to plot to rid himself of the nephew that simply will not die despite his many attempts. Though Connor has put off marrying for as long as he can, he is being pressured to forge an alliance that will keep his clan safe from its enemies and produce heirs to secure his succession.
Ilysa is the younger sister of Connor's best friend Duncan; when her brother and the other men went to battle in France and Connor's sister was wed to an Irishman, Ilysa assumed the duties involved in running the household. She has also been learning from the clan's elderly seer as she has some of "the gift"herself and is struggling to understand how to use it to protect those she loves. Upon Connor's return, her childhood crush on him is only intensified when she sees the type of man and leader he has become, but she knows as the daughter of his former nursemaid with no named father, she can never be considered to be his wife. So Ilysa does all that she can to care for the man who has taken on so much responsibility by maintaining a smooth running home, and when Connor moves to the remote castle the clan has just reacquired, Ilysa does not hesitate to go with him to get things established there until he finds a suitable wife to assume those duties. As her mother always instructed, Ilysa hides her looks behind ill-fitting gowns and wraps her hair in a kerchief so that she fades into the background and does not draw attention to herself, but when she interferes with Connor's plans (in order to save his life from a vision she had), he angrily dismisses her.
As the Gaelic saying goes, "the value of the well is not known until it goes dry;" when Ilysa leaves, Connor realizes nothing in his home or his life runs smoothly without her at the helm. When he encounters her a couple of weeks later sans the shapeless gowns and kerchief and sees her outer beauty shine as much as her inner does, he is floored. Though he wishes things were different, he knows he must put the clan's needs above his own happiness and marry for the alliance he needs to keep his enemies at bay. But what will happen when his heart refuses to listen to his head? Will he jeopardize his clan's future for a woman as his father and grandfather did before him? And once questions from Ilysa's parentage arise, will it save their future or lead to certain doom?
What I liked:
--- Likeable characters and getting to revisit characters from earlier books in the series
--- Quick-moving plot that kept me turning the pages until the wee hours with all the action and the culmination of the series
--- Steamy goodness!
What I didn't like as much:
--- Connor was kind of a jerk at first - it felt a little superficial that he mostly ignored Ilysa until she basically got a makeover and then was all gaga about her... I think the author's intent was to paint him as overwhelmed with responsibility to the extent that he did not think about women at all (he was celibate because he didn't want to have the illegitimacy problems his father and grandfather scattered about), but it felt like he went from 0 to 60 with lust and love for Ilysa after she came out of her shell
--- I wish that there was another book or novella in this one because there are a couple of characters that practically begged for their own HEAs... specifically Niall (Ian's younger brother - he has been in all of the books) and Lachlan who was a focus ancillary character in this book
Overall, this book edged out the others in the series in terms of my rating as it pulled most of the moving pieces together that had been in play from the start of this "quadrilogy." The story line was very engaging with lots of action, intrigue, romance, and (of course) a mostly satisfying HEA.
Plot --- 4.25/5
Main Characters --- 4.5/5
Supporting Cast --- 4.5/5
Steam Level* --- 4/5
Violence --- some battle scene violence (not too graphic)
Language --- not egregious
POV --- 3rd
*Note that steam level is not a rating so much as a how hot was it: 0/5 - clean; 1/5 - mild; 2/5 - sensual but nothing descriptive; 3/5 - now we're getting somewhere; 4/5 - yes please! ; 5/5 - they did EVERYTHING in this one, y'all