When a Warrior Woos A Lass by Julie Johnstone
Highlander Vows, Entangled Hearts, #6
December 18, 2017
Reviewed by Sheena
Favorite Quote: “I sleep best in yer arms, as ye now do in mine.“
Lena MacLeod is a young widow traumatized by the cruelty and abuses of her slain husband. For the past two years, she’s lived cloistered and protected by her brother’s and their wives clan. Never far removed from her memories of her evil husband’s treatment, Lena is unable to forge relationships or even bear to be touched by members of the opposite sex. She lives her life as a wallflower and is beside herself with anxiety when she realizes that she is about to be plucked by one of the most intimidating men imaginable, a lifelong friend of the family/clan, the warrior, Alex MacLean.
Alex is a young laird, a warrior to his core and committed to bachelorhood for the foreseeable future. Sure, he knows he must produce an heir one day, he isn’t in any rush to share his bed, given his night frights and uncontrollable flashbacks to a past where he was brutalized as a young man. Alex is honorable and loyal to his King, little does he know his fealty comes with unimaginable and dangerous strings that he can’t so easily disentangle himself from without endangering the lives of those he cares for most.
This novel is the sixth in the series and while I was able to navigate at a decent clip, I can’t help but think I’d buy into the storyline a bit more with a little more investment. There was a lot that confused me about some of the characters. The King for instance. His mandate that Lena is to be married and his manipulation that it be to Alex was awkward and perplexing. Context gave the impression that the King and Lena’s brothers and Alex were all chummy as children and remain close. Given the extent that Lena was supposed to be under his care and the respect her brothers should have garnered given their ties, it seemed odd that he would bend to marrying her off so fresh from her hellish experience with her late husband. I couldn’t help but think “dude, you are the KING??!!” several times. I get it, unfriendly factions and the threat of uprisings can influence any king, but it just seemed as if this king, in particular, wasn’t very Kingly, the extent of his power, pushing around his beholden childhood buddies. Most presently, pushing Alex to marry Lena and be his spy.
Alex is drawn to Lena and recognizes her patent fear of men. He shares an unexpected connection with her and though it takes him a while to realize it, he loves Lena and can’t bear to see her married off once again against her will to another man who may not take the care she needs to heal, another man who isn’t Alex. They marry and in one fell swoop are key players in the King’s dangerous ploy to ferret out a covert threat.
Poor Alex was put in one tenuous situation after another. He was emotionally coerced into marriage and forced to join the king in a scheme to feign betrayal in order to smoke out a disloyal clansmen and throughout the novel I found myself feeling pretty sorry for him. He is such a warrior with a heart of gold. Alex only wants to protect those he cares for and escape his own dark past. Lena was a good match for him. They each had demons to defeat, the only difference is Alex took on his and Lena’s demons and tried to shield her from his own. Lena longed to be his partner and sought every way to gain insight into what haunted him and held a piece of himself from her. I wish he had been more forthcoming with Lena, especially when it was apparent that she was becoming stronger than he gave her credit for time and time again. His reluctance to lean on her and trust her in return made their connection seem one-sided, less of a partnership and that bugged me, it was like a chink in Alex’s otherwise impervious armor!
The bulk of the plot was Alex ferreting out the would-be-betrayer to the throne, falling in love with Lena and finally coping and facing his past. All-together, I found the suspense surrounding his past to be way too drawn own. Naturally, one could guess almost immediately that he suffered all manners of physical and emotional abuses, but I didn’t like the constant reference to his trauma without ever really acknowledging what went down. Imagine figuring it out by chapter two, then go hundreds of pages later before it is properly confronted. Gah!
Aside from mild annoyances, I enjoyed this novel’s elegance. The romance was fresh and genuine. I liked that Lena was no victim and though she had her hang-ups, she didn’t let them define her, her confidence grew exponentially. When Alex finally realized his wife was a warrior in her own right, it was such a sweet full circle climax.
I appreciate this authors voice, Julie Johnstone is a new-to-me author and I’m interested in hearing more from her. This definitely wasn’t a fast read, but it was a solid experience that I’d recommend.