Thursday, June 10, 2010

Review: Highland Blessings by Jennifer Hudson Taylor

Highland Blessings by Jennifer Hudson Taylor
Genre: Christian Historical Romance
Pages: 299
Date Published: May 2010
Publisher: Abingdon Press
Source: I won a signed copy in a giveaway at A Pen for Your Thoughts. Thank you Shirley and Jennifer!
Rating: 4 of 5 stars 

Book Description (from author):
Highland warrior Bryce MacPhearson kidnaps Akira MacKenzie on her wedding day to honor a promise he made to his dying father. When he forces Akira to wed him, hoping to end a half-century feud between their clans, she struggles to overcome her anger and resentment. . .Yet her strength in the Lord becomes a witness to Bryce. But there is a traitor in their midst . . . and murder is the ultimate weapon.

The storyline of Highland Blessings is more complicated than the description suggests. Akira had been betrothed to Bryce's older brother Evan, who indicated he would not honor the betrothal (which was agreed upon between their fathers on the day Bryce's father died). Bryce wanted to honor his father's dying wish so even though Evan wasn't interested in marrying Akira, a woman in a rival clan, Bryce went onto MacKenzie lands to claim her for Evan. He shows up on a day that Akira was planning to be married, but had been left at the altar by her husband-to-be. So even though she is kidnapped on her wedding day, it isn't quite as dire as I first thought it would be when I read the description. The action is not random, and it wasn't altogether surprising to the people involved.

The proposed marriage between the MacKenzie and MacPhearson clans is a controversial one for members of both clans. Longstanding animosity between the clans had resulted in fighting and murder on both sides for generations. Akira and Bryce's fathers had hoped to forge peace through the marriage, and that is what ultimately motivates Bryce and eventually Akira in the weeks and months to come. When Bryce's older brother Evan dies, Bryce takes his place and marries Akira.

Their relationship takes time to develop, since they not only have to forge some kind of trust in each other, they also have to deal with their clansmen and their attitudes toward members of the other clan, who still see them as enemies. Akira's journey is aided greatly by her faith in God, and she leans on that faith to find a way to forgive and love the man who kidnapped her. She also finds hope that her situation could finally bring peace between the clans. Unfortunately, there seems to be a mysterious saboteur in their midst, who leaves behind a trail of murdered victims in his wake. It becomes imperative that they uncover the murderer before Akira is killed, or before he sparks war between the two clans.

This was a lovely book, full of suspense, mystery, and romance. I enjoyed the characters--Bryce could be stubborn and single-minded, but Akira could be stubborn too at times. Her ability to adapt to her circumstances and see the long-run benefits of what she first sees as a frightening and frustrating ordeal makes her a strong and intelligent woman. Rather than wallow in self-pity and fear, she looks at things realistically, and for that time period she exercises surprising control over her heart and her decisions, even when it looks like she doesn't have a lot of choices. Although she could have encouraged her clansmen to steal her back and prolonged the tension between the clans, she freely chooses to pledge her loyalty to Bryce in the interests of peace. She was willing to sacrifice her personal happiness for the safety of her family and her clan, but found that she could have happiness in that as well. Ultimately, she learns that what started as a kidnapping led her to the exact place where God wanted her to be.

I really enjoyed reading this book. Once I started it, I had a hard time putting it down and stayed up until the wee hours of the morning to finish it. If you like historical romance set in Scotland, you'll probably enjoy this one. Great setting, great characters, great mystery. I'm also excited to know that there will be a sequel to Highland Blessings, titled Highland Sanctuary, which is scheduled to release in October of 2011!

Related links:

Reading Challenges: Historical Fiction Reading Challenge, Christian Historical Fiction Reading Challenge, Medieval Reading Challenge


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