“They say,” said the girl, “that people disappear up there. And I heard that the lady doesna’ ever grow any older.”
“The lady?” William asked.
“Lady MacAlasdair. She lives in the castle, and she’s been there years, but she stays young and beautiful forever.”
In the Scottish Highlands, legend is as powerful as the sword—and nowhere is that more true than in the remote village of Loch Aranoch. Its mysterious ruler, Judith MacAlasdair, is fiercely protective of her land—and her secrets. If anyone were to find out what she really was, she and her entire clan would be hunted down as monsters.
William Arundell is on the trail of a killer. Special agent for an arcane branch of the English government, his latest assignment has led him to a remote Highland castle and the undeniably magnetic lady who rules there. Yet as lies begin to unravel and a dark threat gathers, William finds himself drawn deeper and deeper into the mystery of the Highlands…and the woman he can neither trust nor deny.
He prays she isn’t the murderer; he never dreamed she was a dragon.
Source: ARC from Sourcebooks Casablanca via NetGalley
This book is an enjoyable mix of late-Victorian historical, wild fantasy dragons and paranormal investigations. William Arundell has spent most of his life cleaning up mystical goings on and tracking down magical killers, so when a ghost shows up with tales of murder in the Highlands, he’s eager to go and catch the killer. The problem is that things on Loch Arach are far less simple than he anticipated. The village is isolated, the castle is surrounded by ancient forest, the people are not inclined to talk and the lady herself is full of mystery – and has the kind of strength and beauty that William finds hard to resist.
When the deaths and demons start piling up, William knows he has to get closer to Lady MacAlasdair. It’s just possible she might be the suspect he’s looking for, but if she isn’t… well, spending time with the lady might bring him answers to questions he didn’t even know to ask.
A story melding history and dragons? How could I resist! I’m not always the biggest fan of historical Scotland tales, but this one is well told and quite fun. Loch Arach is full of interesting locals who aren’t simple clichés and the lady herself, Judith, is suitably strong willed and imperious without being overbearing. She has an interesting history and I loved seeing how her long years and increased strength had shaped the course and choices of her life. She definitely has more than her share of pride, and a wee touch of arrogance too, but I liked that she never let it lead her into foolish choices. She’s smart and bold and will do everything she can to protect her ancestral lands.
As for William, I loved that he’s never put off by Judith’s strength – both before and after he discovers her secret. He never once thinks she’s unwomanly or strange because of the power she has and the strength she wields. He might have a few thoughts about societal manners, but they’re soon overcome and I enjoyed the way the two grew gradually closer and learnt to trust each other. William’s no fool either, and although at times it felt like his investigations were pretty slow, he is smart enough that I could believe he’d work things out eventually.
However, I thought the villain of the piece was too obvious from the start, and for a book with Dragon in the title, actual dragon time was sadly short. The pace is gradual, giving the romance time to blossom, though even that is taken at a steady pace. The only thing that did feel slightly rushed was the climax of the villain plot. For a bunch of characters who never assume anything up to this point, afterwards a lot of assumptions seemed to be made and other things were left a little more open than I might have liked.
On the whole, though, this is an enjoyable historical tale with plenty of paranormal goings on. If you like Scottish romances or enjoy a good Victorian paranormal, you will probably enjoy this. Just allow for the steady pace and try to pretend the mystery is more difficult to solve than it actually is. In all it left me curious about the rest of the series – I think I’ll have to investigate more.
Night of the Highland Dragon is out June 2nd!
Visit Isabel Cooper for more details.