Highland Spy (Mercenary Maidens Series) by Madeline Martin
Overview by Publisher:
Ariana Fitzroy has lost her family and her fortune. The fight for survival leads her to the shadowed card games of court where she discovers she has quite a talent for slipping cards into her favor. While the winnings are enough to sustain her at present, they will not last forever…
Connor Grant, trainer of the fallen women from the English court and personal assassin to the king, is just as broken as the women he trains. After losing his own land and all his people in a brutal attack from a trusted friend, he has no choice but to rebuild any way he sees possible—even if it means going against everything he’s ever believed in.
After catching Ariana cheating at cards, Connor has a new trainee to instruct at one of the king’s many confiscated castles. In the dilapidated ruins, he discovers Ariana is more than she appears and falls in love with her incredible tenacity and dedication—a love that is challenged by Connor’s chance at reclaiming the inheritance he once lost and has sought so desperately to regain.
This story is one of second chances, of realizing a strength where only hopelessness once resided—a story of rising above the bad hand one has been dealt into a life of accomplishment and love.
This is a new series from Madeline Martin. She is a relative new comer to the historical romance genre and garnering attention for her amazing stories set in the Highlands of Scotland.
This story is a really interesting premise – high born ladies who are alone or in trouble are recruited to be trained as spies for King James. It is a given that royal courts were places filled with gossip, intrigue and politics, so it’s a realistic premise that women on the fringes of society would be targeted.
Ariana is one such woman. She is recruited by Connor and taken deep into the Highlands to train to be a spy. I found the training regime fascinating. Exercise is never really covered in historical romance novels, unless the hero is practicing his swordplay. In this book, the women are fit and fierce.
Ariana takes her training seriously. She realizes that she has been given a second chance in life and puts her full energy into her new role. At first she views Connor as a saviour, but eventually they develop an easy relationship and friendship. They begin to plan missions in accordance with the King’s commands.
What works well in this book is the premise. It’s so unusual but so plausible at the same time. The Highlands were at times lawless under England’s rule, clan chiefs and politics taking precedence. I can’t count how many books I have read that are based in the Highlands that didn’t have spying happening between clans – but it was all men. The missions and the strategies Ariana and Connor employ are fascinating and keep the reader very engaged.
The relationship between the two is developed slowly, which adds authenticity to the plot and the emotional response the reader has. Ariana has suffered much in the past. Alone in the world, it would be natural for her to lean on Connor for strength. However, that was not why they develop a relationship. When Ariana arrives at their stronghold, she is painfully thin and weak. Attraction is the last thing on Connor’s mind. Rather, it is through their conversations, interactions and common purpose that they find each other.
This book works because it’s so original and refreshing. Madeline Martin doesn’t waste words. So often, there can be paragraphs between dialogue from authors so eager to spell out everything to readers. Thankfully, that is not the case with this book. The plot is really well developed and precise. The plot is complicated, full of twists and turns. I found myself tense while reading because I was dying to know what was coming!
If you haven’t read Madeline Martin yet, you need to check out her work! This is the first book in an exciting new series!