I am always fascinated by Hannah Howell’s beginnings. She begins most of her novels with dialogue or action. The readers are hooked from the start, because we want to know what is happening. In Highland Conqueror she began with this statement, “Stop staring at me.” Who is saying this and why? Where are these people? We later find out that 6 men are chained to a wall deep in the bowels of an English keep. Questions start to fester in your mind, why are they in the dungeon, what offense did they commit, whose dungeon is it, etc.? Since nothing is revealed by the first page, we are enticed to turn the page.
Then we learn why they are there. Sigimor, a Scottish Laird came in response to an urgent message from Lord Peter Gerad, an English Marcher. The year is 1473, and we know how much the Scots hated the English. Why would a Scot come to the aid of an English Lord? Sigimor was trying to repay his debt to the man who saved his life. Unfortunately they had arrived too late, because Peter was dead, and his successor had the Highlanders thrown in the dungeon where they awaited death in two days.
The passage of time is always explicitly expressed in all Mrs. Howell’s novels. The reader is never left to wonder how much time has passed. I also like her use of the Scottish dialect (maybe because I sometimes use Bajan dialect in my stories as well). We know that some miracle will happen to save them, because Sigimor had this thought, They needed more than a plan to get out of this bind. They needed a miracle. We just don’t know how it will be accomplished, so we continue to turn the pages.
What happens next is love at first sight (Romeo & Juliet), or at least “lust” at first sight. The main characters: an English Lady and a Highlander are attracted to each other, but feel they must fight the attraction. What better way to create conflict, and grow that attraction, but to put them in constant contact with each other? Both parties fear for their lives behind the English walls. The successor is after both of them, as they race their way over English and Scottish lands to Sigimor’s holding. The story is engaging and exciting as they leave England behind with a baby boy. Who’s baby? You will have to read the book to get that information. I promise you will not be disappointed.
I give this novel 5 stars for an original and interesting beginning, great sex scenes, horse and foot chases, fighting sequences, great plot, a crazy irrational villain, dialogue, descriptive scenes, believable characters, comedic scenes, and letting the story slowly unfold. Hannah Howell’s books are written in series, but they can be read as stand alone pieces, and you will never feel that you have missed any valuable information. She weaves characters from other books into her current ones, and all you feel is the love and camaraderie between her past characters.