Title: The Chieftain
Author: Margaret Mallory
Series: Return of the Highlanders, book 4
Genre: Historical Romance, Highlanders
Publisher: Forever (February 26th)
Source: Review copy from publisher
“Four fearless warriors return to the Highlands to claim their lands and legacies. But all their trials on the battlefield can't prepare them for their greatest challenge yet: winning the hearts of four willful Scottish beauties.
A Warrior's Heart
Connor, chieftain of the MacDonalds of Sleat, holds the fate of his people in his hands. Rival clans are plotting to take over his lands, and duty determines whom he will fight, trust . . . even marry. Seeking guidance, Connor turns to Ilysa, a young lass with the gift of foresight, who reveals an approaching danger-and a passion that burns only for him. But the warrior must make a powerful marriage alliance, and Ilysa's bloodline is far too humble.
With her powers to heal and see evil where others cannot, beautiful Ilysa dresses plainly, speaks softly, and loves her chieftain from afar. Yet when Connor finally stokes the embers of desire that have so long burned within her, Ilysa feels bliss unlike any she's ever known. Now as he is forced to place duty before happiness, Ilysa senses Connor is in grave peril. Can she find a way to prove she is the woman he needs by his side?”
The Chieftain is the fourth and last book in the Return of the Highlanders series by Margaret Mallory.
Connor MacDonald is tired of the attempts to his life and his rival clan trying to take over his lands. He has tried to postpone marriage to all cost but the time has come where he has to make an important alliance to protect his clan, the problem now is to decide to which clan he should marry.
Despite Duncan’s disapproval Ilysa decides to go with Connor to his new stronghold, Trotternish Castle; Ilysa knows her brother is right, people are going to talk about her living with Connor but she doesn’t care, she knows she needs to be with him to protect him as she has done before thanks to her gift of foresight. But when Ilysa does something Connor doesn’t approve he banishes her from his presence. Hours later he realized he was too harsh with her but it’s too late, she has left Trotternish Castle and is back with her brother at Dunscaith Castle. Ilysa is heartbroken, she knows she did something extreme but doesn’t regret it because she knows she saved Connor’s life.
The Clans’ gathering is approaching; all the different chieftains will meet in neutral territory. Connor will meet with his friends and clan mates there; Connor will also take advantage of the meeting to make the marriage arrangements.
Connor’s sister, Moira, is traveling with her husband Duncan to the gathering, she decides to bring Ilysa along, with the help of other clans women she gives a small makeover to Ilysa; after changing her dull clothing and fixing her hair everybody realizes Ilysa is a beauty that was hiding under ugly clothes.
Connor is in shock at seeing Ilysa, he can’t believe how beautiful she looks and the things she’s stirring in him. Connor begs her to come back with him to Trotternish Castle, his house is a mess because nobody knows how to manage it like her. Ilysa accepts. The gathering is successful, Connor starts proceeding for a marriage arrangement with another clan and Ilysa meets the chieftain of their rival clan, Alastair Macleod. Despite the hate her people feel for the man she realizes she likes him.
Days after their arrival to Trotternish Castle Ilysa and Connor succumbed to their passion and become lovers. Ilysa knows it won’t last, Connor must marry a woman that could bring security to the clan, and the only thing she can offer him is her love and devotion.
Connor is getting ready for a confrontation with the MacLeods, his friends will be arriving soon to offer support but a traitor in his house makes things more complicated for him, when Connor thinks everything is lost a very unexpected alliance it is formed.
I had been dying to read Connor and Ilysa’s story since the first time I met them in The Guardian (first book). Their story was one almost impossible because of their very different backgrounds and what was expected of Connor as a chieftain, but I’m happy to say that I really liked the solution Mrs. Mallory found for their situation situation, because it felt possible and realistic.
Connor is strong, smart and always trying to do the best for his people, even if that means he has to sacrifice his happiness. He has seen the mistakes his father and grandfather did and he wants to be better than them. He believes in justice and wants revenge from the MacLeods, but he’s neither a cruel man nor a vicious killer.
Ilysa is young but mature for her years. She loves Connor with all her heart but it’s conscious of their limitations, still she wants to be there for him every step of the way. She knows that while he needs her she will be there for him, even if it costs her her heart.
I really loved their relationship, they are friends before becoming lovers; they know they can trust each other because they behave with integrity, honesty and they don’t make promises they can’t keep. Their love makes them better persons and just the idea of not being together is too much to even contemplate. Knowing Connor needs to take a wife is heartbreaking but both work and live for the wellbeing of their clan.
Ilysa couldn’t be better for Connor and Connor for Ilysa, they balance and complement each other marvelously.
We also see characters from previous books like Duncan, Ian and Alex, we see where they are right now, how their families are doing and we also see that the future that awaits them is a bright and prosperous one.
New characters were also introduced, one that I really liked was Lachlan; he is a very strong character and brought enough conflict to the story to make it more enjoyable, as I said before I really liked him and if this wasn’t the last book I would have said that I hope to see more of him in future books, maybe a spinoff series…. Hopefully.
Sometimes you read a book and days after when you think about it it still brings a smile to your face, The Chieftain is one of those books. Mrs. Mallory did a great job closing all the loose knots in a perfect and harmonious end, where nothing felt forced or out of place but well planned and flawlessly executed.
I’m very sad to see this series come to an end but at the same time I’m very happy it ended in a very high note with this amazing installment. If you are a fan of historical romance and love highlanders this series is for you. The Chieftain can be read as a stand-alone but I recommend you to read these books in order. The chieftain and the Return of the Highlanders series will always have a special place in my heart.
My verdict: 4 ½ Stars
Other books in the series
The Chieftain (February 26th)
Other reviews Goodreads