Book Review: “Shield-Maiden: Gambit of Blood” by Melanie Karsak

Hello!

I am still impressed with myself on what I was able to accomplish in the month of July. I started off in the best of indentations, but then I got sick, and I did not read for like five days in a row. I wasn’t very happy about it since I had successfully read every single day the previous month, so what really surprised me was getting to 30 books on my 2022 goal, and I finished not one, but TWO series!

After I completed “The Road to Valhalla” series, I knew I wanted to give the spinoff series another shot. I’ve sort of read the first five pages of the novella back in December, but I wasn’t into reading about the Vikings at that time, and so to be able to get back into the story of Ervie, was almost like full circle, well it will be once I get through the novella itself, which is next but knowing me, I’m probably already done with it by the time this post goes up. I have done reviews on novellas in the past, but I’ve decided to not do one of “Winternights Gambit”.


An orphaned descendant of Loki.
A princess without a kingdom.
A shield-maiden plagued by the shadows of Valhalla


Born to rule two jarldoms, Ervie should of had a life of ease. But fate has not been kind. Her parents’ jarldoms destroyed in the wars of a previous generation; Ervie is set adrift in the world. Taking refuge in the lands of the famed King Gizer, Ervie finds a temporary retreat from her aching sense of loss. But when Gizer’s warband is summoned to defend one of his staunchest allies, the journey promises more than just battle for Ervie.

As it turns out, the Norns have been weaving.

Once, Ervie’s parents were considered the most powerful practitioners of Norse magic in all of Scandinavia. That same magic has been sleeping under the shield-maiden’s skin. Soon, this descendant of the trickster god will find herself on a path to reclaim what was lost…and follow her destiny.

Fans of Vikings and The Last Kingdom will relish The Shadows of Valhalla series. This sweeping Viking historical fantasy retells the story of the second legendary heroine named Hervor—called Ervie by those who know her well—the inspiring shield-maiden from the Norse Hervarar Saga.

Readers of The Road to Valhalla series will love this next-generation tale in a beloved Viking world.

taken from Goodreads.

The one thing I am still kicking myself about, is that I should have waited at least a day after I finished with “Under the Dark Moon” to begin this book. I was not in control of my emotions so any mention of Hervor, Hofund, Svafa, and even Sigrun, made me cry again 12 hours later! I was an absolutely idiot but, in a way, I knew this book would have some of the beloved characters mentioned in that series. I just underestimated my thoughts at the time and after I finished one chapter, I made myself stop and take a break from it all but was right back in within a day or two later.

Ervie. Princess of Reindeer. Daughter of Blossoms.”

For this story, we follow Princess Hervor or Ervie as she prefers to be called; although I think she may accept her namesake and the legend of the shield-maiden Hervor later on, but we’ll see about that. Anyways, Ervie is very far from home, after the death of her mother Blomma, she left her twin brother Prince Loptr and grandfather King Hofund in Grund behind to escape all of her reminders. You could see her pain a mile away and it hurt you as the reader just as much Ervie in a way.

Four years later, she’s found a place among Kind Gizer and Queen Kára’s brood of boys: Dag, Bjarki, Kettel, Gauti, Thorir, Wigluf, and only daughter Eyfura in Skagen. She fights on the battlefield with the same brutality and stamina as the brothers and claims her prizes humbly. She doesn’t just have a good relationship with Gizer’s kingdom, but with her cousin Prince Angantyr, son of Prince Heidrek of Grund and Princess Helga of Jutland, who was originally called Prince Heidrek at the end of “Under the Dark Moon” The name change fits him well, but he isn’t as loved by his grandfather King Harald, but then again you can’t quite blame him for it. He was mostly cared for by Lady Svafa and this time she got to keep her memories. However, by the time we see these characters, Svafa is very blind and old, but she radiates love and joy to everyone around her.

“What lies deep in the Myrkviðr, a dark place where none of these daring warriors dare to enter?”

The first Act of this story was huge, it’s actually the bulk of the plot itself but I really think there were a lot of filler information as well. I understood the reason why Melanie included so many familiar characters, especially Prince Heidrek, as they are all needed, and they become reasons for Ervie to find herself in Myrkviðr. When she makes her way there, the forest is dense, but she finds it inviting at the same time. When we get to this section, Ervie started to remind me of Yrsa, and her bears and cave on the ledge. By the time we enter this phase, we hit 65% overall and I became fairly worried on how much information would be available for everyone. I still think there were missed opportunities on while King Ormar and Audr were training Ervie and why the King chose not to discuss the invasion of The Huns with Audr and Ervie.

The biggest surprise of the whole thing was the entrance of Prince Hlod as that was a brilliant twist to not only Ervie’s storyline but what could ensue for King Hofund, his heir Loptr, and also Prince Angantyr, as there is even more news about King Harald and his family. Once this was revealed to the reader, you are instantly wondering how it will all play out, and I will say, I understood why so much material was in the beginning, but I still say there were some that did not belong there at all or yet.

Have you read the first book of this spinoff series, “Shield-Maiden: Gambit of Blood” yet? I’d like to know your thoughts about it in the comments section below.

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Book Review: “Shield-Maiden: Under the Hunter’s Moon” by Melanie Karsak

Hello!

It is time to discuss my thoughts on the second book of “The Road to Valhalla” series by Melanie Karsak. If you have yet to check out how this whole journey started, click here, and you might want to skip this post, so you don’t see any spoilers.


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When the gods play in mortals’ lives, the only certain outcome is uncertainty. Especially when that god is Loki.

In the course of a night, I found out my entire life was a lie. Now, Yrsa, Eydis, and I will set off to recover Tyrfing. I must leave Dalr—and the dream I’d shared with Hofund—behind. Eydis is sure the gods have plans for me. I hope she’s right. For on the distant island of Bolmsö, the last of my father’s line is besieged by enemies, and only the blood of a berserker can make things right again.

taken from Goodreads.

Once I finished the first book, it didn’t necessarily take me long to get into the sequel. The one thing I was a bit worried about was the sheer number of pages it had compared to the other but then I got over it and was able to enjoy the continuation of Hervor’s story.

Some people have never experienced feeling unconditional love from their families, even in the same case as Hervor, as her mother does in fact adore her truly, but she has never been of sense and mind up until the end of the ‘Howling Moon’ and so she has relied on other people for care and protection but now she knows the truth of her parenteral side and she intends to make it known within herself but to others as well. You could look at this in the same way of Jon Snow finding out about his heritage on season six and seven of “Game of Thrones”.

Although the plot is based around Hervor proving herself worthy of others around her, you still have the comical side with characters like Eydis and newcomer Utr. They were a nice separation of the serious events happening all over.

“The gods have surely brought you here, Hervor.”

There was one part of the story, and everyone was getting ready for an upcoming battle, and there was a tiny scene that puzzled me because I wondered if it was plausible for this character–who is fictional I know–to actually know and understand the measures it took on the battle itself. Eydis had explained that she had received a vision of a certain Trojan horse that was moved into the other side’s camp, however it was not hollow on the inside, and everyone was massacred once the ruse broke.

The story of the horse was featured in Homer’s Odyssey and although it is still unclear whether or not the horse even existed, they time the war between Greeks and Troy to be around 1194 to 1184 BC. If you are even more curious to learn about the myth, you can click here. After finishing my research, I went to look into the sagas of Hervor and I found that her story is placed sometime in the 13th Century BC, which is fairly close to the story of the horse, so with that, it seemed like a clever way to connect both sides of history into this series.

Despite all of this, I realized as I was searching for everything that I was just like Hervor in this book. It can be difficult to decipher between myth and truth. There were a lot of speculations who Hervor’s father was in the beginning and it has been interesting for me to wonder about the these two settlements; the Vikings were brutal warriors and ruled the waters with axes, shields, and sheer strength in their bodies plus knowing they will be drinking in the halls with Odin in Valhalla as they dead on the battlefield wasn’t a bad passing, whereas the Greeks lived in massive cities of concrete buildings and sophisticated armor with swords and horse drawn chariots. I mean, certain parts of history do have a way of repeating itself.

I never meant to doubt Melanie’s information or overall work, but from the moment I read that paragraph, I found it odd but then of course I let it fester in my head as I continued reading and knew I would eventually look everything up to my curious heart’s content and that’s what happened. I feel better and pleased to learn more about how our ancient selves lived, and thought you, if you are like me and love history, would appreciate the insight too!

Have you read ‘Under the Hunter’s Moon’ by Melanie Karsak yet? If you have, what were your favorite parts of it?

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Blogmas : The Christmas Song Tag

Hello!

So, I’ve had this post in my drafts for basically a year and when I saw it I thought I had won the jackpot until I opened it and there was absolutely nothing written in it besides the title… A part of me felt like a fool but then again I thought I could use it to my advantage. I looked through other blogs that include holiday tags and I ended up finding the actual link that I was going to use in the original post so I get to do what I should have done last year or whatever.

There weren’t any rules to the actual tag, other than add some friends and letting them know about it, but let’s face it, nobody does that anymore. If you do, you’re a godsend! Anyways, I’m tagging anybody but if you want to do this on your blog or Facebook (because that would be cool and different!) save the questions for safekeeping and title it so hopefully you’ll remember better than I! I am leaving the original link that will send you to Hailey in Bookland’s YouTube channel.


“You’re a Mean One Mr. Grinch”
Name a villainous character you couldn’t help but love.

My first thought was Constantine from The Bratva’s Heir by Jen Henry and Sophie Lark, because I was really iffy about him in the beginning and honestly the scene in the sex club still has me bothered to say the least. However, there was Kage from Ruthless Creatures by J.T. Geissinger and between these two dudes, I was honestly more fearful of Kage. These mafia boys can be really intense and draw out all kinds of emotions and hotness… but that’s not what you’re asking though!

“All I Want for Christmas is You”
Which book to you most hope to see under your Christmas tree?

Oh god…. now this is a question because I hope there quite a bit of books under our Christmas tree but if we’re talking about my own tree, I would say, the Celtic Blood series by Melanie Karsak. This was the second series I’ve ever finished and I really hope Santa can get the four books so I can stack them up on my bookshelf next to my bed as a reminder of the accomplishment like I did with Jenny Han’s To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before trilogy. I also hope I can talk my sister into bringing back my print copy of the first book too.

Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer”
Name a character that overcomes major obstacles and learns to believe in themselves.

Speaking of the Celtic Blood series, Cerridwen overcomes a LOT especially from the beginning of Highland Blood and really doesn’t end when the books stop–although I do want to point out that she is allowed to relish in many, many things through the entire series, but nothing really affects her badly until the start of book two and she becomes somebody different, and I’m not talking about the raven either! She grows from the young girl to a stronger person after what she’s been through in a quick ascend.

The second character has to be Dahlia in What Passes As Love by Trisha R Thomas. She is the daughter of a slave owner but lives in his house with her paternal grandmother and half sisters, they all treat her like a slave but is very loved amongst the family. However, it’s the fact that she’s forced to balance both affects of herself, things take one heck of a day out, where she meets the Ross brothers and everything takes a turn for the worst.

“Santa Claus is Coming to Town”
Which character do you think would be on the top of the naughty/Nice list?

As I’ve said above with the first question, with all of the mafia books I’ve read in the last few months, I think it’s fair to say they might be pretty high on Santa’s naughty list but that’s just my opinion. I can’t choose just one for the top spot though!

For the nice list, we have Lady Madelaine of the Celtic Blood series as she has a very sad story in Highland Raven and she’s such a fragile character throughout but whenever she’s around Cerridwen, Tavish and the ladies of the coven, she flourishes into this friendly person and you hope something good comes her way.

“Frosty the Snowman”
Which book just melts your heart.

The first book that came to me was Kennedy Fox’s This Is War about Viola and Travis. I really fell in love with the enemies to lovers type of story. It was cute and very sexy, but I wouldn’t say it “melted” my heart.

I have to say that belongs to Auschwitz Lullaby by Mario Escobar. This may seem strange for anyone on here, because I didn’t share the actual review on my blog, but I did post it on my Facebook and Instagram. Anyways, it’s a story about a woman who’s life goes upside down when she, her husband and their children are sent to Auschwitz II in 1943. The book is heartbreaking but it does show how the Nazis treated the gypsy families in and around Germany. They were prosecuted just as much as the Jewish communities. You don’t hear much (or I didn’t at least!) about the Romani camps, and one thing I thought was even more interesting was, the youngest child Adelia is said to be around three years old and I thought this was somewhat strange as the Nazis would send the elderly and babies into the gas chambers if they thought they wouldn’t be able to do any work, so how is it she survived the selection process?

“Feliz Navidad”
Choose a book that takes place in a country other than your own.

All of the five books I read written by Melanie Karsak takes place in and around Scotland. The Celtic Blood series is centered in Scotland hence the “highland” part of each title but as much as I adored Cerridwen in the CB series, Boudica felt so much different for me. I never knew anything about the real ladies that lead to the inspiration of these books–Cerridwen is actually Lady Gruoch of Scotland and she married to Gillacoemgain of Moray, which produced a son Lulach, and after the death of her husband, she ended up marrying Macbeth and later became his Queen.

“It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year”
Which holiday themed book do you use to spread the Christmas joy?

I actually haven’t read any holiday themed books as of yet. I do have two on my Kindle though; they are: Finding Love At The Christmas Market by Jo Thomas and Christmas In The Scottish Highlands by Donna Ashcroft. These are both contemporary fiction whereas the book I am currently waiting on is Riding His Sleigh by Cameron Hart and I am pretty sure this is just straight up erotica, at least I hope it is! I found it on Instagram as a preview and by the time this post goes up, I should be able to finally get my toes on it.

“Sleigh Ride”
Which fictional character would you choose to spend the holidays with (doesn’t have to be a love interest!)

The first character that popped out at me was Boudica’s sister Princess Brenna as it is mentioned in the book, Queen Of Oak that she loves Yule (which is the pagan equivalent to Christmas!) and I found that whole chapter very interesting. Honestly, I thought all of their big holidays like Beltane, Litha, Lughasadh, and Samhain were all fascinating! It was another element in the CB series that I thoroughly enjoyed learning about too. I love learning more about how different cultures both past and present celebrate the changing of the seasons!

“Baby it’s Cold Outside”
Which book that you didn’t like would you sacrifice to a fire to warm yourself up in the cold?

Honestly I think that’s a little harsh!

I only had two books (so far) that I have absolutely hated and they are: Highland Queen by Melanie Karsak and Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard. I know, I’m still shocked by both of these books since I adore their series, but they each had elements that never sat well with me. For example, Highland Queen never quite ended, for the last of the series, it seemed like a bad cliffhanger, but sadly there were more things like the meeting with the goddess Scotia in the beginning was never resolved and the conversation between Sidhe and Cerridwen about the reason about given the Seelie gloves was left out entirely too.

Now with Glass Sword, I think the main reason why I did not enjoy it was because the events of collecting other reds just dragged on with each page/ The middle of it was massive and so boring! It also had the opposite effect to Highland Queen as the end of it was very exciting and thrilling, but I also feared how I would think about Winter’s Cage later on too.

This is a late addition, because I literally forgot all about it! I had a chance to listen to the audible version of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland a couple of months ago and I just couldn’t enjoy it as much as I tried to, and it still drives me crazy! I hope this doesn’t happen to every classic I decide to read later on in the future.

Do you hear what I hear”
Which book do you think everyone should read?

I will be doing a Top 7 of the books I read this year towards the end of December, but I think this book should be on every royalist bookshelf or e-reader in the future.

For anyone who has thoughts about Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s choice to step away of being senior members of the royal house and be a “normal” family, should look into Before Wallis: Edward VIII’s Other Women by Rachel Trethewey. It will give you an insight into the mind of a royal, despite the different times, as they find their spouse and what they will do for love. The former king was an enigma of sorts, and it was so interesting to see how dealt with life as a senior royal in the 20th Century.


All right, well I think that is everything! I actually had a lot of fun coming up with my answers for this tag, and I apologize if you were hoping I would talk about other books than the ones I read this year. I tend to do it this way every time and it helps me make the decision of what I truly loved the most or hated in some cases. I hope you enjoyed what I had to say in this post.

Top 5 Favorite Reads On My Bookshelf

Hello!

We have a single, skinny bookshelf in my nephew’s playroom. I’ve always wanted to do a tour of it but I haven’t found a way to do it as a blog post and make it so that it’s fun and unique. The majority of the books are mine, while my poor nephew has like three! It’s a little sad but I don’t have any more room in my own bedroom to have proper shelves for them. I have a smaller one next to my bed but I don’t have any more room for anything really. Anyways, for today, I wanted to talk about my favorite books featured on the shelf and at first, as I was coming up with this post, it seemed like an easy conquest, when in reality it was the opposite but still I got it all done for you!

I’ve added a link to the reviews I’ve done in the past on the pictures listed below, so, if you want to check them out, all you have to do is click the photo. Be aware though, they could contain spoilers so please keep that in mind beforehand! It was extremely hard to list all of these books because I really love them all the same, or so I thought…I still hope you enjoy all of the books and maybe you will find your next favorite too..


5. “Origins” Stefan’s Diaries Vol. 1 by L.J. Smith, Julie Plec & Kevin Williamson

I do remember buying this book because from the moment I saw Julie promoting it on Twitter, and I was curious to see a written form of Stefan Salvatore’s origins, If you want a more detail look into the life of both Stefan and Damon on the day Katherine arrives to their home in Mystic Falls, VA, and turn them into murderous vampires, this was make you smile in a very odd way!

If you are like me and desperately miss the entire show (and The Originals too!) then reading the entire collection could be something you should consider someday. I have only read to the second book, but there are five more books afterwards “Bloodlust” and I think Julie wrote a series about Klaus too, correct me if I’m wrong in the comments, but they all seem great stories for the fall?

4. Children Of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

I did buy it mainly on how it looked without a dusk jacket. I saw it on all of my favorite BookTube channels, There are not very many books that can match or even look close enough to their majestic jackets, but when I started reading it, and I was thoroughly into the story of these characters. I saw everything as I was reading and I still have Zélie’s dark skin and white hair in my brain. The most interesting part is, I cannot tell you how much this book pops into my head nowadays! This entire summer had me thinking about Zélie and Princess Amari, and what could happen for everybody involved in the next phase, so that means I should make a point to get the second book in the series soon or else it’ll just keep coming up to me at all hours..

3. The Stone Girl by Alyssa B. Sheinmel

This is still one of my favorite reads after nine years of reading it.

This book tells you of a story of a young woman who can do anything she wants in the world but she doesn’t see her natural beauty. She has anorexia and is bulimic, and it is a very sad story underneath this interesting person. I’m still kind of bothered on why I wanted to read it in the first place, but I think it is purely to remind me that not everybody is happy with their bodies, and everyone has different struggles with seeing beauty within themselves.

2. Me Before You by JoJo Moyes

I know this one still freaks a lot of people out, but it actually started out innocently enough as I wanted to know what all the fuss was about with the film. I knew there was an able-bodied actor for the role of Will Traynor and thankfully a year or two before, I made a vow to read the book first and if at one time the main character was “normal” and became disabled after having cancer or was involved in an accident, it was easier to tell myself, this can happen (and I know a lot of people who have experienced it firsthand!) and once I finished I could find the right words to tell everyone in both the book and disabled communities my views on it.

What I didn’t expect was being absolutely taken by the story of Louisa or Lou as she likes to be called instead. How she was in this book was so amazing and very educational too. For someone who had no experience taking care of a person with a very serve physical disability, she had a lot of spunk in her. This was one of my favorite qualities in her, she could hit back on Will’s depressing wit. Despite the fact that she wanted to help his family change his mind about committing medical suicide, and you realize that Will holds all of the cards for her. The story isn’t necessarily about him, it is on her, at least that was the way I saw it at the end.

1. Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

All of the books listed in this post are truly amazing, but nothing compares to Victoria Aveyard’s “Red Queen” for me. I absolutely adore the story of Mare Barrow, the poor red who had the same abilities as the elite silvers.

It’s interesting, I remember before picking this up at Walmart back in 2016, and thinking it was about a vampire queen. It wasn’t until I read the blurb on the back that I realized I was a bit wrong there and I think I almost put it back on the ledge but something about it intrigued me and I finished with it a week after I bought it! I was thoroughly impressed and a bit surprised by everything mentioned in the book. One of my favorite scenes was when Mare tries to escape out of the castle and as she heads for the window, she has guards coming at her and she makes a run for it and manages to lean back and skid underneath the men and for some odd reason this scene is so vivid in my mind and pretty much sealed the deal on my doubts and expectations.

After five years, I can officially say I am almost done (depending on when this post goes live) with the second book in the series, Glass Sword and the review will publish Friday morning, and I am hoping to start on the third book by the end of the month if everything works out the way I am hoping it would. I would love to complete this series before the end of the year as well, but I’ll be proud of myself on that accomplishment whether that part happens or not though.


Now I have one more thing to say before I let you go!

I do love the “To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before” series by Jenny Han, but I do not keep those books on this shelf. They are located in my bedroom; I am hoping to store all of my beloved books, whether they are part of a series or standalones it doesn’t matter, so I can be reminded everyday of my accomplishments. Of course, this also means my dad will have to build me actual shelves on my wall someday because I have quite a few that I’m done with and want store them all together and I’m really running out of space on the floor so we need to go up for this project.. Also, do you have any advice on how I can get rid of the price stickers? They are seriously annoying and would love to have them removed from the beautiful covers. I am open to hear everyone’s suggestions at this point!

What are your top five or ten favorite books on your shelves? What makes them different than the others?

Book Review: “Highland Vengeance” by Melanie Karsak

Hello!

It is finally time to talk about the third book in the Celtic Blood series, by Melanie Karsak. If you would like to check out what I had to say about the other two books, they are Highland Raven and Highland Blood. This post will include some spoilers down below, so in case you want to read the entire set (it’s free on Kindle Unlimited right now!) you may want to ditch this review!

Now that we have that out of the way, let’s get started on discussing what went on in Corbie’s next stage in life.


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Scotland, 1032

Everything Gruoch loves has turned to ash. With Gillacoemgain gone, Gruoch rides north with her newborn son and a broken heart. While she desperately clings to hope, Gruoch’s new alliance with Macbeth proves more challenging than she ever anticipated. Only her unexpected reunion with an important person from her past offers solace. All may yet be well, but the raven’s wary eyes cannot help but notice clouds gathering on the horizon.

taken from Goodreads.

There were a lot of things I absolutely loved about this book, but it was definitely bittersweet!

When we come to this book, you see the cycle of being a woman of medieval times and I instantly felt horrible for her. However, she isn’t a young girl anymore; she was the raven, a widow, mother of two beautiful babies and she really took control of her life. She returns to Cawdor with only Lulach and they begin on this new journey, and the first thing she does is make the decision to seek out Macbeth instead of her cousin Duncan (for obvious reasons!), and although it was strange to choose the man who may have killed her husband, there would have no way in hell of going with option #2. Unfortunately, this marriage isn’t exactly the happiest for her but I liked the fact that she basically said, forget it! I don’t want no part of this anymore and focused her attention to raising Lulach as the successor of Moray.

“This is the sad reality we must accept. I am Gruoch, Daughter of Boite and Lady of Moray. I am the mother of Lulach, son of Gillacoemgain. You must know me as such.

On top of that, we see a familiar face come back into her life. As much as I really liked Gillacoemgain and how he treated her as both a woman and wife, especially since history has a way of showing the worst in men and when it comes to the line of succession, alliances have to be made and sometimes they don’t work out as you will see in this one, but it was nice to see another person so devoted to Corbie come back into her life. This person is a supporter of Macbeth with Jarl Thorfinn of Orkney, as they will lead the northern party against the king and Duncan.

The only thing I had an issue with was what happens starting on Chapter 42, because Melanie jumps through the years and we are told that they will be a war near the end, we are only centered around the final battle. Corbie joins everyone on the field and embraces the dark goddess, her magic and the raven for this one moment, and she was such a badass! I was proud of her throughout these books, but this was everything to me! She was finally able to get their revenge and it was so glorious!

As we enter the final book, I am slightly unsure of what could happen and basically everyone else close to her. She becomes Queen, but she only has this title because of Macbeth. I think she will have to make some even harder decisions about what she wants for not only herself but children too. I already know I will be crying because I know there will be more deaths and they are going to be hard on my heart as much as Corbie, but I’m ready to finish her story before the summer is over.

Have you read this book or any of the others in the Celtic Blood series? If you have, which one is your ultimate favorite of all time? What were thoughts after finishing “Highland Vengeance” too?