Review: The Recruit by Monica McCarty ★★★★

The Recuit by Monica McCarty
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: Highland Guard #6
Publication Date: October 30, 2012
ISBN: 978-0345528414
Page Count: 416
Rating: ★★★★
Review Copy: ARC
Reviewed by: Lynsey
Synopsis: Scotland’s King Robert the Bruce is retaking his kingdom from the invading English. To win, he’ll need all the grit and courage of his elite band of warriors, the Highland Guard, men who fight without fear and love without limits.   Fiery, aggressive, and bold, Kenneth Sutherland is a true champion—skilled with any weapon and driven to win. Now Kenneth is ready for his greatest challenge: joining Robert the Bruce’s secret army to fight among the elite. Kenneth’s best chance to attain that honor is by winning the Highland Games. Focused and prepared for victory, he is caught off guard by a lovely wisp of a woman—and a stolen moment of wicked seduction. Her innocent arousal and her shameless hunger fire his blood. He will win his place in the guard—and in Mary of Mar’s bed.   The ruggedly handsome hero-in-the-making stirs a heart that should know better. Mary vows that her surrender will be sport only—no promises, no heartbreak, just one night of incredible passion. Nothing, she swears, will persuade her to give up her hard-wrought independence and put her fate in the hands of another powerful man. But with every gentle touch and heart-pounding kiss, Kenneth makes her want more. Now Mary wants his heart. But is this determined champion willing to surrender everything for love?

REVIEW

An enjoyable read with great characters and hot sexy times.

McCarty has been a hit or miss author for me. I persevere simply because when it's a hit, it really hits! This was a hit despite one or two niggling irritations. More on that in a second.

This book is the story of  Kenneth Sutherland—a highland warrior already well on his way to becoming one of Bruce's phantoms, following in the footsteps of his late cousin. He's a charmer, a womaniser, too quick to anger, cocky and self-assured and absotively posilutely sure he will never, ever, not in a gajillion years, fall in love.

Pfft.

And then there's Mary—a widowed former child bride with a very sad back story. She was married off at a young age to a war hero who had no interest in her and who continued about his philandering ways right under her nose with nary a twitch of his conscience or a scrap of concern for her tender feelings. Ignored and unwanted, she lived a very lonely life. Her husband, when he was around, never saw her as an adult. Right up until the day he died when she was 23, he still thought of her as the nuisance child he'd been forced to wed. It was a loveless marriage (at least it was on his part), and to top it off, as was sometimes customary for noble children, her son was taken from her at 6 months of age to be brought up elsewhere. The pain of which Mary never emotionally recovered from.

(Side note: It's funny, actually, that there's been a bit of talk lately in the bookiverse about a 14 year old main character—Dani from Iced by Karen Marie Moning— and whether or not it's acceptable or appropriate for her to have way-too-old potential love interests. It's a subject that sets off all sorts of alarm bells with some readers. Alarm bells that sound like they're saying hinky hinky hinky. I haven't read Iced myself yet, but I'm aware of the discussions on the topic all the same. And then I pick up this book and see that the character was married at 14. MARRIED! And impregnated! The mind surely boggles. But it just goes to show how very much times and perceptions change.)

At the time our two characters meet, Kenneth is competing in the Highland Games and is surrounded constantly by a bevy of brain dead beauties. He's in the middle of copulating with one such female when Mary stumbles upon him in the stables and is transfixed.

This has got to be a first for me—for the heroine to see the hero banging someone else! How would you ever get that image out of your head?

Anyway. After a bit of persuasion, he also gets Mary into his bed. Since she's never known passion in the bedroom, she is unable to resist, but is adamant it will mean nothing and will never be repeated. She just wants some of what the other woman seemed to be enjoying so much.

What follows this is quite a messy relationship full of secrets, mixed-messages and an inability to commit which was nonetheless engaging and enjoyable to read. Because I like angsty, emotional story lines. I found it hard to get past my initial perception of Kenneth's character for a long time (can you blame me after that intro?) and he didn't help matters by his insistence that men can do whatever they want when married but women must be dutiful and faithful! I know it's the time it was set in and therefore more realistic that I would like to accept, but it's still annoying and off-putting for a hero to be that much of an arse.

However, I'd 99% forgiven him by the end of the book (which was quite an achievement, believe me) and I enjoyed their ultimate love story, and that's definitely what it became. I liked the action scenes, parts of the history and politics, and most notably, Mary's transformation, both physically and emotionally, from the mere shell of a woman she was at the start of the book, to the confident beauty who'd won the heart of a man who swore he had none.

4 Stars ★★★★
ARC provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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