Review – The Chieftain by Margaret Mallory

I really dug Margaret Mallory’s last release, The Warrior, so I jumped at the chance to read The Chieftain, the final book in the Return of the Highlanders series.

Cover image, The Chieftain by Margaret Mallory

The blurb, courtesy of the publisher:

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?

So, here’s the thing. I’m not usually into stories that skeeter anywhere near the wallflower-who-gets-a-makeover-and-then-everyone-discovers-that-she-was-totally-hot-all-along trope. Those stories always seem to reinforce classic stereotypes (you must be pretty to get an HEA) while smugly pretending to reinforce the idea that there’s beauty in everyone. I mean, come on:

Also, Freddie Prinze, Jr. is in two of my top-5 Most Terrible Movies I Have Ever Seen. (Anyone else remember Head Over Heels?)

There are hints of that makeover trope at work in The Chieftain, but the overall story was compelling enough to make me overlook that detail.  It pretty much comes down to Ilysa.  She’s a strong, hardworking, capable, loyal character who trusts her own judgment and isn’t afraid to go up against Connor when he’s being pigheaded (which, let’s face it, is almost all the time).  She saves the day, several times over, and eventually (perhaps a little too eventually) Connor learns to value her as much as she rightly values herself.

I loved pretty much everything about Ilysa, but Connor was a little more difficult to like, mostly because Ilysa was so obviously awesome, and it seemed to take him FOR-EV-ER to notice.  Also, Connor suffered a bit — as far as I was concerned — in comparison to the moody, broody Lachlan and his deeply conflicted self.  I have my fingers crossed that he’ll get to star in an upcoming book.

That said, this book is a delight to read because of its plot and pacing.  The story is chock full of plot development, but the plot is perfectly balanced with enough character development to keep a reader like me happy, and it’s all perfectly paced.  The result is a fun, quick read that is utterly entertaining.  I highly recommend this book, Freddie Prinze, Jr. notwithstanding.

The Chieftain was released on February 26, 2013 as a mass-market and e-book by Forever.  If you’re interested in learning more about the book, click on the cover image above to visit the book’s page on Goodreads.  To learn more about Margaret Mallory, visit her website.

*FTC Disclosure – I received an e-galley of this book from Forever via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.*