The Maiden's Defender by E. Elizabeth Watson
Book Two of the Ladies of Scotland series
Publisher: Entangled Amara
Publication Date: November 27, 2017
Rating: 5 stars
Source: Purchased Kindle copy
Summary (from Goodreads):
Training men to be ruthless soldiers is a skill at which Highlander Teàrlach MacGregor excels. He can kill three men with nothing but a sword and a couple of daggers. After he rescues a ward of the king, the beautiful Lady Madeline Crawford, the fierce warrior begins to yearn for a cottage of his own in the Highlands, with the sweet, delicate Madeline as the mother of his bairns.
Madeline begins to see a side of Teàrlach that nobody else has witnessed. The strong silent Highlander takes her to her first fair, teaches her to read, and bestows upon her a passionate kiss—her very first. But Madeline is informed that she is betrothed to another with the blessing of the king, making her and Teàrlach’s love forbidden.
Teàrlach, the famed fighter, vows to make Madeline his even if that means bringing down her corrupt warden, and Madeline knows that she must defy the king if she hopes to claim her Highlander.
What I Liked:
It's been a while since I really enjoyed a book - for some reason, this year has been a difficult reading year for me. Nothing appears to be holding my attention. I'll start a book and then set aside and it'll probably stay abandoned. I saw this book on sale a few weeks ago, for $0.99, and I was curious because of the cover (it's gorgeous!). But when I saw that the story features some of my favorite tropes? It was a no-brainer. The Maiden's Defender is the first book I've read in weeks and it was so wonderful, the perfect book to get me out of my reading slump.
This is the second book in the series, and it features Teàrlach and Maddie. Teàrlach has been hired by Laird Moreville to train soldiers. Teàrlach is a skilled warrior and a fourth son of the MacGregor clan's laird, and he wants to make a name for himself. He doesn't plan for Lady Maddie, who is Laird Moreville's ward under the King. He doesn't expect to fall for this sweet maiden, who is shy and a little naive but so clever and spirited. He doesn't expect to have to escort her to her wedding to Laird Moreville's son. Maddie doesn't want to marry John de Moreville - she'd rather stay in her rundown home and live a simple life. She never expected to fall for Teàrlach MacGregor. But when the time comes to marry John de Moreville under the King's command, Maddie knows she must choose: duty, or love?
I've not read the first book in this series, nor have I read anything else by this author. So I didn't know what to expect in terms of writing style, prose, world-building, etc. The author penned this story beautifully! The story's structure is a great combination of delightful meandering (in the beginning) and rising tension (in the second half). Her writing is well-crafted without nothing to detract the reader's attention. It's clear that the author has good working knowledge of the Highlands and Scotland in general, at least enough for this twelfth century novel.
I love several tropes of this book, which ended up being what prompted me to buy the book (besides the fact that it was $0.99 at the time - on sale). I LOVE the burly warrior/gentle maiden trope. I know it is somewhat of an "old"/outdated trope, and perhaps not always viewed as the most feminist of tropes. But I love it. It IS feminist; not all girls are rough-and-tumble fierce warriors. I love the girls of quiet strength, whose silent resilience is her strength. And I love the strong, surly warriors who are also sensitive and honorable. This trope is quite possibly my favorite in romance novels. The book also featured a fairly good slow-burn romance - it was so sweet!
Maddie is a wonderful, admirable heroine. She is definitely one of quiet strength and silent resilience. Her gentle nature is a strength, as is her resilience. She was mistreated by her father for years, and indirectly mistreated by Laird Moreville for years, yet she found ways to survive and her spirit remained unbroken. She is one of the strongest heroines I've come across. She isn't a sword-wielding, world-saving, trouser-donning heroine; yet she is equally strong, in her own way.
Teàrlach is such a sweetheart. He is a big, burly, quiet, broody Highlander, with years of experience as a warrior and hired sword. He can move like a shadow despite his tall frame, and he is incredibly skilled with most weapons. But he also has a soft, honorable heart. He takes care of Maddie when her leg is sprained. He ensures that she receives proper resources and visits her every week. Honestly Teàrlach wasn't even trying to court her, but he was the perfect suitor in every way. Teàrlach is the embodiment of an excellent alpha male: he's masculine and viral and whatnot, but also sensitive, honorable, loyal, caring. He has so many good traits but he isn't a cardboard cutout.
The romance is so sweet, and steamy too. I loved watching Teàrlach and Maddie fall in love. It was so obvious and so adorable to watch. The author spent a lot of page time ensuring that readers could witness the blossoming relationship. There is no insta-love here. I loved every romantic second of their "courtship" (it wasn't technically courtship but you know what I mean!). I loved the care that Teàrlach took to keeping Maddie's good name and reputation intact. But I also loved when Maddie made some decisions for herself and threw caution to the wind! You go, girl.
There were a few steamy scenes in this book, not very many, in fact I think there was only one "long" one, but the author did a great job of creating good chemistry and building tension. The romance was sweet, but sexy too!
The climax of the story takes a heartbreaking turn, and then a joyous one, and then heartbreaking, and then wonderful. It's a roller coaster of an ending! But worth it in every way. I actually liked how the author took a somewhat unconventional way to get to the expected HEA. Don't get me wrong, Teàrlach and Maddie get a fantastic HEA and I love it so much. But there was a little bit of heartbreak before they arrived at this HEA. Worth it!
As you can see, I really enjoyed this book. I wouldn't have come across it had Entangled not put it on sale, so thank you for that, Entangled!
What I Did Not Like:
Nothing to knock off stars, but the author could have thrown in one or two more ~steamy~ scenes! Maybe more tension-building scenes, and at least one more long one. That would be my only complaint. Teàrlach and Maddie had such great chemistry, it was almost a shame not to see more clashes between them!
Would I Recommend It:
If you like historical romance novels, I really recommend this one. It's set in the medieval Highlands (1191, if I remember correctly), and it has the sweetest romance. Not to mention the alpha warrior/sweet maiden trope. And an excellent HEA. And a slow-burn romance. Love it!
5 stars. I am a huge fan of this book! The alpha male/sweet maiden trope was the main draw for me, and of course the gorgeous cover. However, I will be looking out for future books by this author. She has me intrigued!
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