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    Surprisingly fun paranormal romance - with horror!

    While this is the third in the Dawn of the Highland Dragon series, this could be read as a stand-alone. While there’s some references made to the couples of the previous books, none of it is necessary to enjoy the story. Mild spoilers for the book below. Erik, one of the Loch Arach family members (and a dragon), has been sent away from the battle between the Scottish and English to find a treasure supposedly hidden by the Templars. As it’s apparently located on an island in the middle of the Atlantic, he’ll need a ship to get there. Luckily, he runs into Toinette (another dragon), who he was fostered with at Loch Arach, and now captain of the ship Hawk. While they were attracted to each other as teens, nothing more than a kiss happened before Toinette was sent away, and it’s been quite a long time since they’ve seen each other. This was not at all what I was expecting. I binge read the first two books in the series before this one, so coming off of Moiread and Madoc’s road-trip-style romance, I initially thought this would be another fun traveling story. Then things took a surprisingly decided turn sideways, and I realized . While I wouldn’t call any of Ms. Cooper’s books that I’ve read so far light reading – they usually have multiple layers, and have several philosophical and religious layers – this on was heavier than most. It quickly goes from “OK, this is weird” to “creepy” to “OMG WHY am I reading this at night???”, while at the same time exploring sacrifice, friendship, and understanding the price of both. “It’s all pride, as far as I’m concerned. Kings and crowns and banners—it’s all pride, it’s all stupid, and none of it’s worth a drop of my men’s blood.” I admired Toinette. Unlike the MacAlasdair dragons, who are Scottish nobles, Toinette grew up poor and English, and she’s on her own when she suddenly starts manifesting her dragon powers as a teen. Somehow, she manages to end up at Loch Arach, where she’s taken in and learns to control her powers. Even there, though, it’s obvious she’s not one of them, and when she’s eighteen, she leaves to forge her own life. And she does! She marries, is widowed, and then inherits the captaincy of the Hawk. Her crew respects her, and from everything we see of her, she’s a good and prosperous captain. While Erik owes his loyalty to his MacAlasdair family, Toinette’s family is her crew, and she knows it. One of my favorite parts of this book is the interactions between Erik, Toinette, and her crew, especially Marcus, her second in command. During a storm, Erik and Toinette are forced to reveal their dragon selves in order to save the ship and its crew, so threaded along with the rest of the plot is the crews’ reactions to, well, their captain turning into a giant fire-breathing monster. Each of the crew are distinct and well-characterized, and each have their own reactions to the dragons and being stranded on the island. And as a note, since I was not expecting this – this book reads as straight horror at times. It’s more of an existential horror rather than blood and guts-type, though there’s a bit of that, but this is a book I would most definitely NOT recommend reading before bed! While I’m only an occasional horror reader, I thought the quality of it was well-done, and the explanation behind it was fascinating, as well as keeping with the series’ fourteenth-century take on religion. Overall, while this was not at all what I was expecting, this was excellent. Recommended for anyone looking for an exciting paranormal romance with a large dose of horror! I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
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    Highland Dragon Master

    The Highland Dragon Master has readers joining in the fight against a curse in adventure that draws readers in and refuses to let go. Toinette an Erik are two very strong and compelling characters that make it easy for readers to get know them and become captivated by the story. The romance between Erik and Toinette progresses at a steady rate as it builds from their past, it has lots of sizzling sexual chemistry that heats up the pages and they must overcome the turmoil of a perilous situation that adds lots of obstacles and emotional distress which has readers empathizing with the couple as they strive for a happy ending to the nightmare. Suspense and anticipation builds throughout the story as Toinette, Erik and their crew sail right into the heart of an evil curse that would destroy their very lives. The adventure becomes full of danger and thrills that send chills down the reader’s spine as they try to discover just what they are up against and the path they must take to achieve that is full of surprising twists that keeps them on their toes and the readers guessing just what might happen next. Isabel Cooper brings her brilliant world to vivid life with well written words that paint vibrant images that make it easy for the reader picture each and every scene and makes it easy for them to become part of the fascinating world of her mesmerizing dragons and their companions. Her dragons always seem life like and fit into her time frame and the events so well that I can easily imagine them being real during that time period. Highland Dragon Master held me captive from the very beginning and I can’t wait to find out what the author has it store for us next.
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