In Elisabeth Hobbes’ A Runaway Bride for the Highlander, the third part of Mills and Boons’ Lochmore Legacy, we’ve jumped back 300 years to 1513 – King James IV has just been killed in battle at Flodden, and the Scottish clans have suffered huge personal losses. Ewan, the second son of Lord Lochmore, now finds himself the new Earl of Glenarris, shouldering the burden of responsibilities for those on his estate. He is, by his own admission, a very different man to his father and brother before him – he’s been studying Law in Glasgow and reluctantly recognises that his life will now follow quite a different path. Whilst at Stirling for the coronation of the infant James V, Ewan encounters Marguerite, a young French woman. The attraction between Ewan and Marguerite is evident from the outset, but she is betrothed to Duncan McCrieff. As we know from the first two novels in the series, the Lochmores and the McCrieffs have been enemies for centuries. Events in 1513 take a dramatic turn when Marguerite, fearful of what her future marriage will entail, takes her destiny into her own hands and escapes from Stirling Castle by stowing away in Ewan’s waggon.
The enmity between the Lochmores and the McCrieffs that we’ve encountered in the Nineteenth Century novels, His Convenient Highland Wedding and Unlaced by the Highland Duke, threatens to spill over into real brutality in this century, and early on we realise that Duncan and Donald McCrieff will force Ewan to meet violence with violence. As with all of Hobbes’ novels, this romance is brilliant on the historic detail. Usually a writer of medieval romances, she has clearly done her research and brings Sixteenth Century Scotland vividly to life. We’re aware of the scale of loss and turmoil families have faced, and the growing feelings between Ewan and Marguerite are edged by the dark shadows of national violence and suspicion. However, this doesn’t prevent their relationship from being satisfyingly charged with unspoken desires – Hobbes never fails to deliver on the romance front too. Marguerite is a brilliantly determined woman who will not submit to a marriage to a man she finds repellent (Hobbes also reminds us of the dangers that marriage, and the subsequent and usually inevitable pregnancies, held for women in this century), and Ewan is a sympathetic and intelligent romantic hero. Their scenes together are a superb mix of sexual tension and a growing understanding of each others’ predicaments.
We also move closer to finding out about the mystery of the empty tomb which is at the heart of this series. With one book left in the Lochmore Legacy, I’m keen to find out just who the long-dead skeletons belong to – I’ve really enjoyed tracing these families, and Lochmore Castle itself, back through the generations, and I’m looking forward to reading the final instalment, Secrets of a Highland Warrior by Nicole Locke, set in the Thirteenth Century. This is an intriguing and very satisfying historical romance – highly recommended!