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Sunday, March 29, 2015

ARC Review: The Scandalous Secret of Abigail MacGregor by Paula Quinn

The MacGregors and the Grants have been a part of my life for many years now. I've been following them for three generations through Paula Quinn's exceptional storytelling. The third generation's stories are told in the Highland Heirs series, the third book of which is The Scandalous Secret of Abigail MacGregor.

First, a bit of historical background is in order. The early 18th century was a turbulent era for Scotland. The exiled Catholic King James II had much support among the Catholic Scots. Known as Jacobites, they viewed James as the true king. This group of Scots were essentially at war with England and with the rest of their own country. At the time of Abigail's story, England was ruled by Anne, James' second daughter. Anne was widowed and childless, and the future of the throne was in question. This only added fuel to the rebelling Scots cause.

Now, a bit of fictional background can be added. In the second generation of MacGregor stories, there was Ravished by a Highlander - my personal favorite of all the MacGregor sagas. If you have not read Ravished, a slight spoiler follows. It tells the tail of Rob MacGregor and Davina Montgomery. As a babe, Davina was hidden away in an abbey to be raised Catholic by the nuns there. Hidden by her father King James II. Her existence was kept a secret in a time when Protestantism was on the rise and taking over the monarchy. In the story, Davina ends up with Rob MacGregor after he rescues her from her enemies. Davina turns her back on any claim to the throne, thereby giving them a lovely HEA. In the meantime Anne, the third daughter of James, grew up unaware of Davina's existence.

But, but by the time Abigail's story takes place, Anne has learned of Davina and the story begins with a letter from the Queen demanding Davina present herself in London, under threat of sending her soldiers. As Davina's daughter, Abigail is worried and anxious to protector her mother, so she plans to go to London instead. Abigail, who plans to be the next chief of clan MacGregor, has mad a bold decision and will not be talked out of it even by her father. She must do her part to keep her mother's secret safe and safeguard her family.

Abigail is escorted to London by General Daniel Marlow. Daniel is Queen Anne's right hand and her favorite. He is staunchly loyal to the queen and has proved himself in this regard by defending her against James' supporter. In fact, he is also known as the Jacobite killer. Is it even possible that the Jacobite killer and a Jacobite can travel all the way to London without doing injury to each other?

But Abigail and Daniel are both able to overlook their enmity, at least for the duration of their travel. So, even though Abigail is overly bold and outspoken and even though Daniel has nothing but contempt for her beliefs, the two get to know each other and become friends. Slowly. It begins as a lot of insults and bantering, but leads to more serious conversations and that is sweet and heartwarming. Their friendship deepens, but the constant reminder of their ideological and geographical differences prevents them from fully acknowledging their feelings. There are far too many obstacles to overcome and secrets to keep.

But isn't that what makes such a great story? I read this book knowing that Abigail and Daniel were destined for each other, but unable to fathom how it could possible work out. Maybe, if they both left everything behind and ran off to Spain. But then, that would not have been in keeping with their characters of a future clan leader and Queen Anne's defender. So, I was 'forced' to read the entire book to find out what would happen the way the author envisioned it.

It was not a hardship to finish the book, but rather a delight. There is so much more than a romance going on in The Scandalous Secret of Abigail MacGregor. There is betrayal on the road to London and treason in London. These are opportunities for Daniel and Abigail to display their bravery and honor. The Queen herself is the object of terrible treachery. The result of that treachery lands her in with a group of barbaric, uncivilized highlanders in a scene that is humorous but, at the same time, bittersweet for the Queen.

For those that are stickers for historical accuracy, I would say that The Scandalous Secret of Abigail MacGregor is fiction. Dancing around a few facts does not rewrite history but it does add depth and relevance to the story. And in my case, spurred me to read more about the real Queen Anne. For example, I found out that, in real life, she did like to drive her one-horse carriage in a reckless manner, just like she did in her fictional life.

I was thrilled to be able to read and review The Scandalous Secret of Abigail MacGregor. As always, Paula Quinn writes a truly fabulous tale filled with adventure and intrigue and mostly with romance. Her characters are profound and her writing is passionate. This books stands alone, but is also part of a wonderful group of three series of books spanning the generations of an extraordinary group of highlanders. (MacGregor, Children of the Mist, and Highland Heirs) If you want to start on the series, The Scandalous Secret of Abigail MacGregor is a great place to begin. Or if you've already enjoyed any of the books in these series, The Scandalous Secret of Abigail MacGregor is one you will want read soon!

**ARC provide by Publisher**

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