[BOOK REVIEW] Highland Crown by May McGoldrick (Royal Highlander #1)

Back in 2018 the lovely people over at St. Martins Press offered me the opportunity to read the Highland Crown. It’s the first book in a new historical fiction romance series by a then new-to-me author. At the time I was in the mood to read some historical fiction and a Scottish one in particular so this arc couldn’t have come at a better time haha.

I started reading it not long after that and wrote my review the day after finishing it. Because it was only January at the time of finishing it and the book releases today on March 26th, I decided to hold the review back until today, so I could share it on release day.

If you’re a fan of Historical romance fiction with Scottish settings and Highlanders, this is definitely a book you should add to your tbr and let me tell you why:

Inverness, 1820
Perched on the North Sea, this port town―by turns legendary and mythological―is a place where Highland rebels and English authorities clash in a mortal struggle for survival and dominance. Among the fray is a lovely young widow who possesses rare and special gifts.

WANTED: Isabella Drummond
A true beauty and trained physician, Isabella has inspired longing and mystery―and fury―in a great many men. Hunted by both the British government and Scottish rebels, she came to the Highlands in search of survival. But a dying ship’s captain will steer her fate into even stormier waters. . .and her heart into flames.

FOUND: Cinaed Mackintosh
Cast from his home as a child, Cinaed is a fierce soul whose allegiance is only to himself. . .until Isabella saved his life―and added more risk to her own. Now, the only way Cinaed can keep her safe to seek refuge at Dalmigavie Castle, the Mackintosh family seat. But when the scandalous truth of his past comes out, any chance of Cinaed having a bright future with Isabella is thrown into complete darkness. What will these two ill-fated lovers have to sacrifice to be together…for eternity?

Let me start by saying that I’m not super familiar with Scottish History – I do find it really interesting to read about and know some bits and pieces – but it felt like the authors did a lot of research and it really felt like they retold it in their own way as well. I loved the settings we visit. And all of this, in combination with the writing made this a really enjoyable read. It was fast-paced and the writing is quite beautiful, I have to say.

I really like the lead female character, Isabelle. She’s such a strong character. For one, she’s a physician, which isn’t really something a lot of woman have accomplished becoming in times like these. So I already love the fact that she’s managed to accomplish something huge like this. And everything that follows after the moment her husband gets shot and she needs to flee, proves how strong she really is even more so. There’s a lot being dumped into her path and she manages to handle everything quite well. I love how feisty and determined she is.

One thing Isabelle was certain of was that she’d done right. 
And saving this man had restored a vestige of the confidence she had in herself and her abilities. She still had a purpose to serve.
As powerless as she’d been feeling while her life collapsed around her,
she still had something valuable to offer. 

Cinaed is definitely swoon worthy material and I loved his development throughout the book. Seeing as how we meet him, as a stranded Sea Captain, to who he turns into at the end – no spoilers here, lol – it really has me excited to read more about him. I find him so interesting! And aside from the ‘part’ he has to play in all of it, he’s wonderful when it comes to his character traits. He’s so caring towards Isabelle, not afraid though to speak his mind as well, and still leaves her enough opportunity to be herself, instead of pushing her around what a lot of men back in the days did to their woman in these lands. So yeah, I really loved everything about him haha. He’s strong, he’s a fighter, he’s a lover. Gimme more!

Her eyes met his, and for the length of a heartbeat he lost himself in their rich golden-brown color. He knew so little about her, but beneath that serious exterior, there was a courageous woman he wanted to spend more time with.

There are soms twists present – well, one really – I didn’t really see coming and this huge one at the end, has me really curious and excited about the second installment. Like, really excited!! I can’t wait to see what’ll take place in the next one and what new path the story-line is going to take.

To me, it felt like the romance between Cinaed and Isabella wasn’t As well developed as I’d hoped for at times. I love these two characters together though – they remind me of Claire and Jamie from Outlander a Lot for example and they are #CouplesGoal – but I would’ve liked it more if the intimate scenes between the two would’ve been a bit more extended.

“We can say we’re married to fool other people, but we’re not,”
she asserted, daring herself to look his way.
“Of course, we are. We’re in Scotland. We need no clergyman to be married.”

He was every temptation and every hesitation in her face.
He was the first man who ever really looked at her.
The only man who every truly
saw her. 

It sometimes felt a bit rushed written-wise and in those moments I couldn’t get a good feel on the romance development though. To me, there could’ve been a bit more focus on the romance but that’s just the romantic in me that craves for romance haha. Overall, I think these two characters are a great match and I’m really excited to see their romance/relationship develop some more in the next installment.

He knew what passion was, but he’d never been schooled in love.
The possibility of finding the one person he could not live without,
the one whose pretense filled him up and brought him joy,
whose absence left him incomplete, had to be a miracle.
Cinaed was no romantic, but to feel this harmony of heart and mind
was to tread on the edges of all in life that was holy.
They’d known each other for only a short time,
but life was short, with no guarantees of tomorrow.
He wanted her in his life, traveling alongside him on whatever road lay ahead,
no matter how long they had.

Aside from the huge plot twist at the end, I have to say though that most of this story is quite predictable. There’s nothing wrong with that really, because it still was really enjoyable and fast-paced and all that, which is the most important thing to me; that the writing is good, that the characters are well-developed and that the story-line is interesting and it’s fast-paced. But it’s the reason why I couldn’t rate it 5-stars though so I just wanted to collaborate a bit on that.

I thought this was a good first book in a new series. It starts off quite strong, it’s a bit more calm in the middle so there’s room for character and story-line development and it ends really strong again.

It ends in a way that you want to continue reading – preferably right away haha – so that’s definitely a good thing. I’m really excited about the second installment and can’t wait to see how the story continues.

This is a book I’d definitely recommend giving a try if you’re into Historical romance fiction, like reading about Highlanders and if you’re a fan of Outlander. It has just the right amount of History, romance, plot and good writing. 

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