When I first heard about the new Mills and Boon continuity series, a set of four novels working their way back through time to tell the story of two warring Scottish clans, I was fascinated by the idea. Each written by a different author, the stories making up The Lochmore Legacy work back from the Victorian period to Medieval Scotland, focusing on sets of key relationships as the overall narrative unfolds. At the heart of the quartet is a mystery, established in Preston’s novel when Flora McCrieff discovers a skeleton hidden in an abandoned turret of her ancestral home. In amongst the bones is a brooch, an object which exerts a strange hold over the young girl. ‘The surface was decorated with a plant she recognises – a thrift, with its tuft of leaves and its distinctive flowers aloft on slender stems. Two swords crossed at the centre in an X, with the letters R and A at either side.’ Later, as a young bride married off to a stranger in order to bring in much needed money to her family’s depleted coffers, she realises that there’s a connection between her brooch and her new home, Castle Lochmore.
The central relationship in Preston’s novel, between Flora, the daughter of an earl, and Lachlan McNeill, a self-made business man with a social conscience, is all that a reader of historical romances could want – a taciturn, handsome hero with secrets he must try to hide, and an intelligent young woman who is forced to make a new life for herself with a husband she barely knows. Both Lachlan and Flora are essentially good people who have found themselves alone, and the development of their relationship is handled skilfully by the author, so that the reader is rooting for its success.
Preston, usually known for her Regency romances, has clearly done her research, and the period details are fascinating (an aging Chopin makes a brief appearance). The impact of the Clearances are still rippling through all levels of society, and Preston highlights the vulnerabilities of women and the working class in this highly hierarchical world. Lachlan and Flora are a breath of fresh air in a society bogged down by tradition.
This is a marvellous romance which sets up tantalising clues for the mystery still to unfold, and which also features a series of strong, resilient women who take their lives into their own hands at the first opportunity. I’ll be honest – this is what has surprised me about more recent historical romances – they’re far more interesting in terms of their treatment of women’s lives than perhaps I had previously given them credit for. Flora is not just beautiful – she is also clever and resourceful, and the reader is desperate for her worth to be recognised. I really enjoyed this novel, and I’m looking forward to finding the connections in the next in the series, Unlaced by the Highland Duke, by Lara Temple.
His Convenient Highland Wedding – Janice Preston 21 March 2019
Unlaced by the Highland Duke – Lara Temple 18 April 2019
A Runaway Bride for the Highlander – Elisabeth Hobbes 30 May 2019
Secrets of a Highland Warrior – Nicole Locke 27 June 2019