Night of the Highland Dragon
Author: Isabel Cooper
Judith MacAlasdair has been many things in her centuries of existence: sister, daughter, soldier, and sailor. As a dragon shifter, becoming a wife was never something she allowed herself to consider. But, when terrible events start happening in her village, she can’t help but be intrigued by the handsome, guarded detective who arrives to investigate.
Thanks to his many years with the cryptic and secretive D Branch, William Arundell is no stranger to horrors some people are capable of in their pursuit of power. Nor is he so green as to be swayed by the charms of an attractive woman who also happens to be a suspect. Yet, there’s something about Lady Judith MacAlasdair that he finds dangerously irresistible.
Having liked the first two stories in this series, in large part because of the strong female characters introduced in each one, I was very happy about Judith, the sister of the trio of MacAlasdair siblings, getting her own story. This one is just as exciting as the others, if not more so, and it easily satisfied my love of mystery and suspense. But, although I enjoyed reading Night of the Highland Dragon a great deal, I was left with mixed feelings about a few things.
We first meet William Arundell, who I was pleased to find out wasn’t a strapping 25 year old who rushes blindly into the fray and somehow manages to save the day despite impossible odds. William is in his mid-40’s, fit, and highly intelligent. He is also aware of both his strengths and shortcomings, and is unshakeable in his determination to do his duty to the covert agency he’s pledged himself to. He’s both determined and adept, and was quite believable as a paranormal investigator.
It is Judith, however, who kept drawing me into the story. She is a study in extremes, especially given the time period the narrative is set in. As a woman of the Victorian era, she is supposed to be subordinate, yet never flinches in her responsibility for the entire village. She has faced battle firsthand as a soldier and sailor, and still bears the repercussions and memories of the experience. She dresses and carries herself as a proper lady (mostly), yet accepts the need to explore her own desires without an abundance of dramatic hand wringing. She can also do serious damage in a brawl. She is strong, inside and out, and is probably my favorite character in the series.
As a tale of suspense and intrigue, Night of the Highland Dragon worked very well. The list of potential villains was substantial enough that it took me a while to formulate a guess as to their identity, much less feel confident about it. Additionally, the inclusion of other elements, both magical and supernatural in nature, complimented the ever-present sense of history and lore. All of which combined to make our heroes’ suspicions of dark things watching from the shadows all the more believable and sinister. In this regard, Judith and William are a highly effective team, bouncing questions off of one another, and using the other’s knowledge and experience to bridge gaps in their own.
Romantically, however, I wasn’t quite as convinced. William’s dedication to his task is admirable, to a point, and his wariness of Judith understandable. But, I felt that he betrayed her when he didn’t have to do so. Judith is equally conflicted—caught in a persistent battle between her own sense of duty, an inevitable worldliness gained over centuries of living, and the expectation of womanly propriety. Yet, she embraces her heart’s demands sooner. That lust precedes love in their case is delicious and naughty in a “carpe diem” kind of way, which I was also glad for. Still, one of William’s most winning traits is simply that Judith loves him. And even though he came around eventually, I just couldn’t entirely accept that he truly deserved her.
Like the other novels in the Highland Dragons series, Night of the Highland Dragon is suspenseful and romantic, with just enough humor tucked in unexpected moments to keep the narrative from seeming overly weighed down. Judith, in particular, is a wonderful protagonist, and I was glad for the ending she got after everything she’d been through. William, too, was a likable character, as were several of the secondary characters, and Ms. Cooper kept me guessing throughout much of the story. Overall, I’m very sorry that the series has come to an end, and I’d love to revisit these shifters somehow in the future.
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.
Release Date: June 1, 2015
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Series: Highland Dragons #3
Genre: Paranormal Historical Romance
Format(s): paperback (352 pages), e-book
Book Source: NetGalley
Night of the Highland Dragon (Highland Dragons #3)