Monday, February 22, 2016

Highlander Undone- Connie Brockway

Highlander Undone- Connie Brockway
Mountlake Romance
September 15, 2015

Synopsis: While recovering at his uncle's estate from life-threatening wounds sustained in the Sudan, Jack Cameron- a loyal Scottish captain in the British army- is haunted by the words of a dying officer: one of Her Majesty's Black Dragoons is aiding the slavers they were sent to suppress in order to get rich. How will he find the traitor without alerting him to an investigation? Cameron finds a way while listening to the voices beneath his open window- particularly those of Addie Hoodless and her brother Ted, a famed artist commissioned to paint portraits of the Black Dragoons' senior officers.  Jack decides to pose as an artist to infiltrate the close circle of friends at Ted's studio to listen in on unguarded conversations of the officers. But this also means tricking Addie. And if his real identity is exposed, Addie's life will be in terrible danger.

With so many interesting books out there to read, it sometimes takes me a little while to get to even some of my preferred authors. Such was the case with Highlander Undone, which came out September 2015.  I always enjoy Brockway's books, and this was no exception.  She can always be counted on for wonderful, intricate characters and Jack and Addie now join those ranks.  Both have layers they try to keep anyone from seeing, past troubles and traumas as well as present conflicts.

Addie is finishing her year of mourning for her late, unlamented husband. I loved how she chose to go through the mourning not because it was "expected" or "the thing to do" for Society in general, but out of respect to her in-laws.  Sadly, we never meet the in-laws in this book, but based on Addie's memories they must have been good, kind people who had no part in forming the abusive monster that was their son. They actually warned a young, infatuated Addie not to marry him! But she does marry him, and regrets it. She believes ever soldier must be like her abusive husband- and considering that the soldier friends he always had around him were certainly like him, that's not as irrational as it could have seemed.

But it's also very inconvenient for the soldier who falls in love with her! Jack's sense of duty to both his men and his country pushes him to discover the Dragoon changing orders and profiting from the slave trade- both because he despises the stain to the military and equally because he despises the slave trade and was genuinely fighting to help people.  What I liked best in Jack was that there was never a moment in the book where he rationalized his undercover work and assumed that when everyone he was tricking found out, they would forgive him.  From the beginning he was sure everyone, especially Addie, would despise him for lying, but he still felt it was the only way to unmask the traitor.  I would have thought much less of him if he ever just shrugged and said everyone would understand, that he'd had no choice.

Brockway handles the subject of domestic abuse in a sensitive and careful manner, never describing specific memories that might be upsetting to readers who have been in similar circumstances while also never downplaying the seriousness of the subject. We see Addie develop from an abused woman who is sure she deserved everything her husband did to her into the confident and brave woman she must have been before her marriage.  She learns her own strength, and to trust her judgement and her heart.

A must read for Brockway fans and a great introduction to the author for newcomers!

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