Sunday, January 11, 2009

UNTAMED: MacKinnon's Rangers Series, Book 2 by Pamela Clare

Publisher: Dorchester
Date published: December 2008
ISBN 978-0-8439-5489-0
Historical Romance
Mass Market Paperback
Reviewed by Gina

Her mother dead when she was but a little girl, Amalie Chauvenet ventured from her convent home to Fort Carillon to be with her father, a Major with the French army under Bourlamaque. Despite her gentle and sheltered upbringing in the convent, she is determined to remain with her father at the Fort. When he is killed, she becomes Bourlamaque’s ward. In keeping with the Major’s wishes, Bourlamaque gives Amalie the choice of returning to the convent to take her vows or marrying the man of her choice. One man pursues her, relentlessly—Lt. Rillieux. Rillieux will stop at nothing to have Amalie and she turns more and more to the choice of taking holy vows.

With Iain MacKinnon being permitted to retire to his farm with his wife, Annie and their child, middle brother Morgan MacKinnon has taken charge of the feared MacKinnon’s Rangers. Stories of their deeds grow with each telling until the Highlanders are indeed larger than life. When Morgan is taken prisoner by Bourlamaque’s men, he is threatened, beaten and taunted with tales of how he will die in the Abenaki fires. Determined not to betray his brothers and his men, Morgan takes a pragmatic and practical approach to his death until he meets Amalie.

At first unwillingly attending to his wounds, Amalie begins to have feelings for the fearsome Highlander. She is torn between her desire for the revenge of her father’s death and the compassion she feels for the man, handsome despite the dirt, grime and blood that covers him. As her feelings grow she seeks a way to save Morgan’s life. It is at Amalie’s suggestion to Bourlamaque that Morgan be made a spy for the French that Morgan sees a way to freedom and a return to his men. Playing a dangerous game, Morgan gives Bourlamaque bits of information while spying on the French, all the while planning to take the information he has found back to the English. When he is caught by Bourlamaque compromising Amalie he is forced to wed the winsome French woman. The marriage puts him in the untenable position of choosing between his men and his wife. At the same time, the stakes of the game close in when he makes his move to escape.

I thought SURRENDER, the first book in Pamela Clare’s MacKinnon’s Rangers series was one of the best books I have read in a long time. UNTAMED rivals SURRENDER on all levels. Middle brother Morgan is the stuff of dreams. Handsome, loyal, fearless, caring and intelligent. Along with elder brother Iain and younger brother Connor he came to the New World to live when their family lost all in Scotland. Through his words, descriptions of his actions and the words of other characters, Ms. Clare introduces her readers to Morgan. She draws a man who is brave beyond compare and will not hesitate to do whatever is necessary to protect his own, including brutally killing an enemy. Ms. Clare builds multiple layers into her characters, endearing them to her readers. For instance, one of the most poignantly telling scenes is when the head of one of his men, Charlie, who died in battle is found. With great risk to himself, Morgan strikes Rillieux and then makes to bury the skull. When he is joined by Amalie and Bourlamaque and Bourlamaque bringing his priest to say the prayers, the moment is heart wrenching. Conversely, she pulls her reader’s heart strings when Morgan battles with himself not to make love to Amalie. He wants her with every fiber of his being and yet, because he is a man of honor, he holds himself back. When Amalie tells Morgan for the first time she loves him you feel the joy pounding in his heart. Ms. Clare tells a story that is emotionally satisfying and memorable.

SURRENDER and UNTAMED are stand alone stories and while they could be read out of order, you will want to read them in order. I am impatient for Connor’s tale and at the same time want to wait for it because I do not want this emotionally fulfilling series to end.

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