cover image The Striker

The Striker

Monica McCarty. Pocket Books, $7.99 Mass Market (464p) ISBN 978-1-5011-0870-9

The 10th book in McCarty's 14th-century Highland Guard series (after The Arrow) will please fans with a different perspective on prior events, but dysfunctional relationships may cool newcomers' ardor. As Robert the Bruce gathers elite warriors to free Scotland from English rule, Eoin "Striker" MacLeanfalls fast and hard for Lady Margaret MacDowell. Their passion leads them to marry in secret even though their families are about to end up on opposite sides of the war. Considerable chemistry leaps from the pages, but Eoin's secret Guard membership means he disappears for months at a time while Maggie is subjected to shoddy treatment by almost everyone around her. When his lack of trust in her leads Maggie to inadvertently betray Eoin while trying to protect him, events lead to a massacre where he is reported killed. The historic underpinnings and realistic events that cross many years are engrossing, but readers will swerve between sympathy and pity for Maggie even when the ambitious Eoin reappears, and anger and secrecy masquerading as love and passion keep the story from being easy to enjoy. (Dec.)