When Highland Lightning Strikes
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Pages: 118
Goes Well With: Fresh-baked bread and a bowl of broth

The Scottish Highlands are a dangerous place in the early 1500s. Angus knows this. His brother died in the Battle of Flodden, but now his town is rebuilding, and it’s time to choose a new laird. Will the elders choose Angus? And will Angus choose a bride from women thronging the event? Unfortunately, a drunken Angus is no great prize, and the lairdship’s still in question—as is the beautiful Shona’s future. She’s caught Angus’s eye, but perhaps she has no wish to marry anyone.

Author Willa Blair offers a convincing look at a small Scottish town, the process of rebuilding, and the relationships between warring and peaceful clans. A new hall might unite the people once it’s finished, but for now, strong men, “perched like ungainly birds on a limb, ... haul [wooden beams] up and into place” while bairns stare wide-eyed and lasses watch “the flex of arms, backs, and legs.” Shona is doing more than just watching, of course, but she keeps her secret quietly while readers slowly guess.

When Highland Lightning Strikes is a pleasing blend of Celtic history, romance, and gently paranormal mystery. It’s a tale of moving forward when the world all around falls apart and of moving on from battle—a task as hard as moving on from grief and moving toward love. Trust is a gift warily given in this world, and it’s hard earned. Politics is a cruel game. And accusations are easier made than forgiven.

The author fills these pages with characters who feel real, are pleasingly attractive and flawed, and who dance through each other’s feelings with natural mistakes and confusion. Their generosity toward others binds the protagonists together, and their love for each other grows enjoyably more clear as the story progresses. The sense of life holding more than can be observed is pleasingly pervasive without being overwhelming. And a well-timed love scene crowns the tale, keeping physical and emotional descriptions beautifully in balance.

A well-balanced story with strong, handsome men, gently powerful women, and a cool sense for history, When Highland Lightning Strikes is a good read for a long lunchtime or for two or three short snacks.

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