1263: On Scotland's western shore, the village of Somerstrath prepares for the joyous wedding celebration of Margaret MacDonald, the laird's daughter. But a dark storm of bloodshed and betrayal is closing in, as a merciless band of Vikings threatens the Highlands. Margaret is determined to hold the MacDonald clan together and to locate her abducted younger brother. But can she trust the noblemen from King Alexander's court, who insist that only by adhering to a betrothal conceived for political gain will she find safety? Or should she put her trust in an imposing half-Irish, half-Norse warrior? Gannon MacMagnus alone offers her hope of reuniting her family and vanquishing the barbarous Norsemen who would continue to rob her people of their God-given right to determine their own destinies. In whom should Margaret entrust the fate of the rugged, magnificent land she calls home?
I've had On a Highland Shore in the TBR pile for quite some time. I must have read a good review somewhere and added it to my pile but then I forgot all about it. One of these days I was looking for a medieval and since this one is set in the 13th century I thought it might be a good time to try it.
I am quite happy that I did, I found an interesting and complex story set in Scotland, a love story but also a story of political alliances, social customs and the clash of different nationalities.
Margaret MacDonald is a young girl from a powerful family. She is betrothed to the man she loves and doesn't seem to have many problems in her world. She knows she does not have a perfect family but she loves her parents and her siblings and trusts that she will have a happier marriage than her parents. When she was young, however, a wise woman predicted that she would have to choose the right man to spend her life with or death would follow. When she discovers her betrothed in the arms of one of her friends on the eve of her wedding Margaret's happiness comes tumbling down. She asks her father to break her betrothal but he is adamant, in fact, everyone else is, that the political alliance is more important than her pride and that she will eventually get over it.
Margaret is sent to court to think of her future but while she is away her father's land is attacked and her family killed except for her small brother who seems to have been taken prisoner along with other young boys. Words of the attack spread and warriors arrive to help. Margaret's brother is now the new head of the family but his immaturity and reckless personality soon leads him to clash with the newcomers. Among them is Gannon Magnusson, an Irishman of Viking descent whose looks make most people distrust him the beginning.
Faced with a betrothed she doesn't want but that her brother keeps wanting her to accept and Magnus whom she feels attracted to the more she gets to know him, Margaret starts thinking about the old prophecy and what it might mean.
What I really enjoyed about this story was that both Margaret and Magnus were sensible people, they did not rush to give in to their feelings, they got to know each other first and even after they realise how they felt about each other they were still hesitant to act on them if Margaret couldn't be free of the other man. Then I liked how the author managed to show how political alliances and war decisions are made with no regard for the common people, it's the wealth that raiding brings that matters and for that others may turn a blind eye to violence and murder. Unlike other medieval romances On a Highland Shore does not romanticise the period overmuch and I think that is one of its most strong points.
The romance was well done and it felt quite real to me but there is also a concern with presenting the social and political aspects of that society. After finishing it I thought there might be at least a sequel about Margaret's sister. I know that Givens has another book in this series but it seems to be set a few decades after this one finishes, does anyone know if she ever wrote any more in this series?