“They say,” said the girl, “that people disappear up there. And I heard that the lady doesna' ever grow any older.” - from the blurb for Night of the Highland Dragon
William Arundel arrives in Loch Aranoch to search for a killer. One of the first people William meets in Loch Aranoch is Lady Judith MacAlasdair. Lady Judith is the matriarch and protector of the community. Their initial meeting puts both William and Judith on guard against the other. With good reason. Both are hiding secrets.
As an agent of a secret government branch, William hunts demons and monsters. Sometimes they have a human face and sometimes they don't. Judith is a very old shape-changing dragon from a family of dragons. When local farm animals end up mutilated, William and Judith end up as suspects on each other's list.
So there is a mystery to be solved. When their efforts to solve the mystery in order to keep the people of Loch Aranoch safe put William and Judith together, respect grows. And so does attraction. This was an interesting romance. For most of the pages of this book, William and Judith remained at arms length but when they connected, their passion exploded. The relationship reflected the personalities of William and Judith.
When it came time to rate this book I started with a 4-star rating. But upon further reflection, there are three things that took this book from 4 to 5 stars for me.
The first is that it stands very well on its own even though it is the third book of a series. I don't feel like I missed anything, not having read the first two books. In addition, as near as I can tell, it does not give away much of the first two books in the series, which will make it worth my time to read them.
Second, the portrayal of a centuries old woman is spot on. Judith does not waste words and has keen insight into human nature. And she does not whine about the good old days or about the humans that surround her. She does not brag about her experience or assume she is superior. She is mature, matter of fact and faces life head on. In short, Judith is a wise old dragon woman. She just does not look old, so her actions belie her appearance.
The third and most important reason is that Isabel Cooper can write. Beautiful yet succinct. Observant and though-provoking. At times humorous. Ms. Cooper's voice is unique among the historical and paranormal romance writers that I read. Night of the Highland Dragon is the first of Ms. Cooper's books that I have read, but it won't be the last.
Night of the Highland Dragon combines a historical setting with fantasy and dark paranormal elements for a unique story of mystery, magic and romance.
**ARC provided by Publisher**