The Ghost
Monica McCarty     

Genre: Scottish Historical Romance
Series: Highland Guard
Book: 12

An undercover warrior and her sworn enemy play a seductive game of cat-and-mouse in New York Times bestselling author Monica McCarty’s sexy new Highland Guard novel.

Joan Comyn swore allegiance to Robert the Bruce the day she witnessed England’s barbarous king torturing her famous mother, Scot patriot Bella MacDuff. Now the mysterious beauty slips into men’s hearts like a specter and entices England’s most illustrious barons to unwittingly divulge their secrets, then shares them with her king. Known only as the Ghost even among her Highland Guard brethren, Joan has become the most wanted traitor in England.

The man determined to uncover her identity poses her biggest threat yet. Alex Seton once stood with Bruce but now fights for the enemy. Though Joan knows she must avoid the handsome warrior or risk discovery, his knightly chivalry touches a place in her long since buried. When his suspicions grow apparent, Joan realizes she must do everything in her power to stop Alex from revealing her mission and convince the powerful fighter to join forces with the Highland Guard once more. But as the ultimate battle in the great war approaches, will Alex choose love or honor?

Other books in the series:

I think I have to preface this review by saying I’m not a big fan of medieval/Scottish romances. That said, I’ve made exceptions for Kris Kennedy and Margaret Mallory. I absolutely love their stuff.

I read The Ghost coming off my first Outlander bingeing weekend. Jamie Fraser.  That should explain everything. After being introduced (reintroduced really) into a time period before 19th century England and the Scotland Highlands, I was super ready for more.

From the beginning, I was hooked. I completed it in the span of 24 hours. I read it in between my own writing and until I fell asleep last night. Then I woke up early to continue reading. You get the idea.

The Ghost is the 12th book in McCarty’s Highland Guard series. This was the first one I’ve read, though definitely not the last. So I was coming blind into a well-established series with characters series readers are familiar with. But don’t let that stop you because Joan and Alex’s romance easily stands alone.

Alex Seton is a great hero. He’s truly the knight in shining armor; knight by title and chivalrous by nature. He was once one of the Highland Guards until a near-tragic incident made him switch to fight on the side of their enemy, the English and King Edward. Actually, his reasons were less straightforward than I make it sound. I’ll just say his heart was in the right place. Call it idealism and naivety. That’s the way I saw it.

Joan Comyn is the daughter of the heroine, Bella MacDuff from The Viper. Her mother’s imprisonment shaped the woman she’s become. After being stripped of her legitimacy and inheritance, she now serves as companion to her cousin. She’s also a member of the Highland Guard and the spy named Ghost. Joan is beautiful (distractingly so) but cunning, resilient and shameless (in a good way). She has to be given what she has to do. She’s also been linked to many men and has gotten quite the reputation. But is she really the seductress most believe her to be? Hint: Not so much, though she isn’t a shrinking virgin.

I enjoyed all those qualities about her. Did I think she took risks that made me squirm? As in, No Joan, don’t go in there--and certainly not with him? Yep, that does happen. But she’s a spy and how else is she supposed to get information from the men who hold the information she needs?

I love that the attraction between her and Alex is explosive and immediate. It gets even better when things kind of fall apart immediately when he learns about her reputation. Fighting the attraction is a good thing, especially on the part of the hero. And Alex fights it. This is Bella’s daughter, a woman he cares for deeply.  He can’t be attracted to her. And Joan quickly realizes who Alex is. A traitor. A man who turned his back on the Highland Guards and his country.

As you can tell by now, the conflict here is great. So much push and pull. So much denying and eventually succumbing. And it’s just the right amount to keep you reading even when you should have been asleep hours ago.

I will say this, there are a lot of characters’ names and relationships it took me a fair amount of time to grasp. And sometimes I had to go back to figure out who was on whose side. But it wasn’t a big deal at all. Kept me on my toes and involved.

The other reason I so enjoyed this book was because while there was intrigue and suspense, there weren’t any gory fighting scenes. When I was watching Outlander, I fast forwarded through those. In a book, I pretty much skip them. If you’re okay about hearing about the suffering that occurred after the fact, and written with a certain amount of distance, this is the book for you.

You’ll meet with many of the characters from prior books. Lots of children and, of course, happy marriages. Throughout the book I was always wondering about Joan’s relationship with her mother. Kind of broke my heart that Joan didn’t choose to go and live with her mother and her stepfather Lachlan.

McCarty does a great job pacing the story. I felt it took the right amount of time for Alex and Joan to fall in love and get together, and were together the right amount of time before disaster strikes, and then when their relationship goes through its greatest test. I especially loved their journey—what they learn about themselves. Poignant stuff.

All in all, a great book. It’s a good thing there’s a nice long backlist for this series. I have a lot of catching up to do.  

~ Beverley