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Highland Bride: The Secret Clan    by Amanda Scott order for
Highland Bride
by Amanda Scott
Order:  USA  Can
Warner, 2003 (2003)

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* *   Reviewed by Rashmi Srinivas

The magical beings of the Secret Clan are back once again to stir up mischief, create chaos and aid Cupid in his work. In the previous two volumes in this series, Molly and Fin Mackenzie (Abducted Heiress), and Elspeth and Patrick McRae (Hidden Heiress), were happily paired off. This book is about Barbara McRae, Patrick's dynamic sister introduced in the second book of this series.

Barbara 'Bab' McRae is annoyed when her brother removes her from the hectic gaiety of court and orders her home to the Highlands. The Chisholms kindly agree to take her as far as their home at Dundreggan where Patrick is supposed to meet her. But their traveling party is attacked and Bab kidnapped by Francis Dalcross, dastardly son of the newly appointed and hated Sheriff of Inverness-shire. Francis claims to the legendary 'Sionnach Dubh' - the Black Fox, who helps the Scots in their times of need. But things take an abrupt and somewhat comical turn when the real Black Fox comes to Bab's aid and teaches Francis a lesson. Bab, of an adventurous bent of mind, is more fascinated than shaken by this whole kidnapping business and is utterly charmed by the mask-clad character whom she always believed to be nothing but a myth.

At Dundreggan, Bab dreams of the kiss the Fox bestowed upon her and longs for more of the same. At the same time, she finds herself indignant at and vexed by Sir Alexander Chisholm, her host's only surviving son. Alex's lethargic ways, his aversion to exercise, his dandyism - all serve to give Bab a very poor opinion of him. Meanwhile, things are churning in the Secret Clan. Bumbling Claud is back, torn between Lucy and Catriona, with his mother, the inimitable Maggie Malloch, keeping a close eye on the whole situation. As the Sheriff and his son increase their atrocities, the Black Fox emerges to repeatedly save the day. And to Bab's delight, this legendary creature seems to return her own fascination. However, she's in for an unpleasant surprise when her marriage is arranged with Sir Alex! What will Bab do? Will she choose love over duty, or vice versa?

Amanda Scott delivers another unforgettable Scottish story, sizzling with danger, dazzling with romance and vibrating with action, in this latest in the Secret Clan series. It is set in the 1500s and brings the strange lochs and mysterious glens of the Highlands to life against a background of turmoil and danger. Though not as politically oriented as the first two books in the series, this episode does highlight the Roman Church's attempts to outlaw pagan Scottish festivals and rituals. In Ms. Scott's Black Fox readers can recognize elements of Zorro, the Scarlet Pimpernel and other such legendary heroes. But he somehow manages to develop an identity all of his own. Bab is fiery, fearless and formidable - one of the pluckiest heroines ever. Sir Alex is charming and his skill at getting things done without the least exertion is amusing indeed.

The magical beings are as naughty as ever, lightening up the pages with their pranks and impishness. Many intriguing details of the fine arts of fencing and hawking are given. The pace is quick and the crisp dialogue, interspersed with appealing Scottish brogue, helps hold readers riveted. All in all, Highland Bride is not to be missed, and I'm looking forward to the fourth book in September 2003, The Reiver's Bride.

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