First, my apologies to Ms. Killion, who sent this book to me ages ago for a review. My Slump From Hell is a really terrible excuse, but it's the only one I have.
Highland Dragon is the author's second published book, and unfortunately was a bit of a slog for me to get through. It would be easy to blame my slump, but in reality it was the ol' Bad First Impression problem. After a bang-up prologue, the book started to sink thanks to the heroine. But more on her in a bit....
As a young lad Calin MacLeod witnessed his father's murder. His father made the mistake of falling for the beautiful Lena Kinnon, when she showed up at their home, already pregnant, begging for protection from her vile husband, Laird Baen Kinnon. Naturally Laird Kinnon (AKA The Beast) is none to pleased with his wife running out on him. Shortly after giving birth to their daughter, Akira, she is murdered, along with Calin, and several of his warriors. The only reason Akira escapes the same fate is because Calin sneaks out from his hiding place, spirits the child away, and vows that one day he shall marry her and unite their clans.
Fast forward, and Calin has decided the time has come. He shows up at the Neish household to claim Akira, only to learn she's been spirited away to a slave auction because she's "a witch." So off he goes to rescue her, so he can take her back home and wed her. Besides the small issue of her being kidnapped, the girl also has no idea The Beast is her father. When she learns that bit of truth, it's going to get very sticky indeed.
As I've already mentioned, the prologue of this story is fantastic. The problem comes when the reader meets Akira as a grown woman. Yes, gentle readers, we have one of those heroines. Sigh. Feisty. And not Good Feisty. No, Akira is Stupid Feisty. Instead of lying through her teeth at the slave auction to save her own neck, she "fights" back by opening her stupid mouth. Hell, even the child who was up for auction before her had the sense to LIE! Frankly, heroines with no sense of self-preservation deserve whatever happens to them, says me. Then of course, there's that added hoydenish touch that all feisty heroines have in historical romances - yep, the girl likes to climb trees.
I liked Calin a bit better, although he's one of those romance heroes who just won't come out and tell the heroine what the heck is going on until naturally she hears the truth from a third party. What is it with romantic couples that won't talk to each other?
My bad first impression of the heroine soured this story pretty early on for me, and it made the first half of this book a real slog. I never really felt like the author got a good handle on the conflict until after the couple finally has their wedding. By that point, the two villains (one the dreaded "other woman") start playing a more prominent role, and the conflict picks up a bit. By this point Akira morphs from feisty, to a bit of a Mary Sue - the kind of heroine who lacks self-confidence, and yet has everyone from the hero to small children eating out of the palm of her hand. But at least she stops climbing trees.
It's the villains and the derring-do-style action that picked up the second half of the story for me. One of the characters has a change of heart, and I'm not sure how believable it was, but it did make for compelling reading. The author also writes "hot" very well, so if you're a sucker for sexy medievals, Killion is an author to keep an eye out for on that front.
Also, of note, the author does employ the use of the brogue here. Readers tend to be very passionate on this issue. I generally can't stand it, but I will say that Killion at least employs it consistently, and it's easy to follow. I never had to stop and "think" about the dialogue, trying to decipher what the hell the characters were saying to each other. Also the epilogue is straight up Sunshine Care Bear Rainbows. I'm such a little hypocrite, that I actually sort of expect these in historicals (I tend to despise them in contemporaries though - go figure) and am OK with them. But certainly, this is another issue that readers tend to be quite passionate about.
All and all? This was a totally mixed bag read for me. The hero was OK, the heroine largely didn't work for me, but some of the conflict was interesting. If you're a squeeing fangirl for medievals, this one may be worth a look.
Final Grade = C-