Conner and his mother, Catriona, are very close. He watches one night as she circles the fire chanting and cursing his father, Donald Gallach Chieftain of the MacDonalds, for betraying her. A friend, Anna, comes upon the scene and begs her to take the curse back. Catriona swears her husband will pay when she leaves him for another man. She leaves her children with Anna to look after them as the children always stay with the father, the Laird. She sneaks out one night never to return alive. One day a galley returns with her drowned body, Donald turns his wrath on his son and speaks for him to never be in his sight again. Conner and his sister Moira grow up with Anna's children Duncan and Ilysa.
1516 - 20 years later....
Conner is now Chieftain of the MacDonalds. His father and step brother are dead. Duncan has married Moira. Conner asks Duncan to stay at Dunscaith while he travels to Trotternish Castle to hold his lands firmly out of the hands of the MacLeods. Ilysa, who has the sight, goes with him to help run the household. The clan's future depends on Conner wedding the right lass and he plans on looking into several clans to find the best alliance. On the way out, they stop by the old seer, Tearlag. She tells him that his lass will pick him and to look to the fairies.
It seems nothing but treachery lies in wait for him at Trotternish Castle. Ilysa keeps seeing visions but can't understand them. Lachlan is sent in to gain the trust but kill Conner. She keeps seeing good in Lachlan but also sees a darkness that she begs him to let go of so the good can come through. Each day brings Lachlan closer to putting his allegiance with Conner and pulling back from what he was sent to do. Ilysa has been in love with Conner forever and he just can't seem to see past his nose. She continues to speak to him of her visions but he refuses to listen so she locks him up for several days to prevent him going to his death. He is furious with her when she releases him and speaks of sending her away. He later changes his mind but finds her gone and he feels the loss. They meet again at a gathering where Conner has gone to make plans for a marriage alliance. She has changed from the drab clothing and into beautiful gowns and he's amazed at her transformation. He falls hard but keeps talking himself out of it. The gathering is where Alastair Macleod comes into play. He finds Ilysa alone outside and makes a discover about her that he keeps to himself but watches over her none the less to Conner's dismay.
There are several attacks that happen, one that severely wounds Conner, and they are all coming from information from someone within his own walls. As he lay wounded in the woods, he dreams of a fairy dancing around a fire chanting only to awake the next morning with the strength to make it home. Conner and Ilysa are drawn to each other so deeply that they let their hearts take over and this only brings heartache to both when his intended arrives. Before the final confrontation between the MacDonalds and the MacLeods, he follows her to the fairy glen and watches as she dances and realizes that it was she he saw the night of his wounding. He then watches as she meets with Alasdair who has walked into the light of the fire. He refuses to ask out right what happened and jumps to conclusions that it is she who is betraying the clan. The final confrontation is smack full of sit on the edge of your seat suspense as Ilysa brings the MacDonald and the MacLeod together in a small kirk for a truce that neither find they can ignore because of their love for her.
My heart felt warmth as I read the epilogue. I enjoyed watching their love come to fruition and talk about HOT!! I loved the mystical parts of this story. Tearlag and Ilysa and their sight, the fairy glens and the chants..... the ghostly sightings and the legends surrounding them all call to my heart. Scotland is full of lore and Margaret Mallory does an excellent job of bringing it to life. She left me aching to walk the fairy glens, graveyards, and hills with standing stones.
* Reviewed by Leah Weller*
Review copy provided by publisher
Return of the Highlanders series