Highland Scoundrel (Campbell Trilogy #3)

Highland Scoundrel: A Novel - Monica McCarty The 3rd book in the trilogy doesn't disappoint! In fact, it might be the best of the three. We finally find out what happened that caused Duncan Campbell to be branded an outlaw and banished from Scotland.Duncan is the illegitimate son, brother to the legitimate children, Colin, Jamie, and Elizabeth - all of whom we've met in books 1 & 2. Duncan is the oldest, and their father claimed him and made sure that he was educated, had money, and had a position as his chief guardsman. For a time, Duncan was even his cousin's head Enforcer - the Duke of Argyll. But when he was banished, Jamie took the position.The book starts with Duncan's return after 10 years and his attempt to get information from Jeannie Grant Gordon, the woman he thinks betrayed him. Duncan thinks that Jeannie made it looks as though he were responsible for an act of treason to cover up her father's treasonous actions... and perhaps to cover for the man she married, Francis Gordon, a marquess. He catches Jeannie swimming in a loch, naked, and we realize that Jeannie was once the woman he loved. Even though he overcomes her guardsman, more intent on watching the naked Jeannie swim than on guarding her, Jeannie surprises Duncan by shooting him in the stomach!Rewind 10 years.... we see Jeannie at King James' court with her father, Chief Grant of Feuchie. Duncan is there to secure Jeannie's father's word to join forces with the king, his father (Campbell of Auchinbreack), Earl of Argyll, and other prominent lairds in the impending battle with the Earl of Huntly. But Jeannie's father plays hard to get, and while he's there, Duncan and Jeannie find ways to be alone and fall in love. The problem is that Jeannie is the daughter of a laird - chief of the Grants of Feuchie; Duncan is a bastard son, even though he's acknowledged. Duncan has no hope of getting Jeannie's father's permission to marry. But Jeannie is determined that they'll find a way. The two get swept away by their attraction and budding love, and despite Duncan's best intentions, he and Jeannie end up sleeping together. While he loves her, Duncan thought of walking away before that; now that he's taken her maidenhead, he won't rest until they're wed.Except it's never that easy, is it? One complication is that Colin has gotten their father's permission and has made an offer for Jeannie's hand in marriage, which her father seems to accept. Duncan is furious, but he's not sure that Colin knew how he felt about Jeannie or what they were to one another. They tried to hide it from everyone. Did Duncan know? Their father is very sorry when Duncan approaches him to get his blessing and help; that's when Duncan discovers Colin's betrothal.But the biggest complication is that Jeannie's father is an ambitious man who tries to play both ends against the middle, always to his advantage. With the upcoming battle, he manages to do it in a way that will implicate Duncan, all having to do with a map of the battle against Huntly. Except that Jeannie's father has every intention of taking his men and deserting their battle position the moment begins, switching sides to fight for the Earl of Huntly and not against. Oh, and he knows that the Earl of Huntly has cannons... something that none of the opposition knows.And unfortunately, Jeannie sends an urgent message to Duncan - one whose wording ends up looking as if Duncan gave the map to Jeannie to give to her father the next day. Except that her urgency had to do with her discovering that she was pregnant with Duncan's child and knowing her father's promise to marry her to Francis Gordon almost immediately after the battle. Jeannie's hand in marriage is part of sealing the deal with the Gordons. Jeannie wants Duncan to run away with her right then - to leave the battle behind and elope. But she doesn't tell Duncan, because when they meet, she knows that he suspects that her father is up to something, and she's afraid that he'll find out that she overheard her father's intent. And she doesn't want her father to hang for treason.But when the smoke clears, Duncan's head is on the chopping block. All believe that he gave the information to Jeannie's father, because of their feelings for one another. When the map that Duncan had when he visited Jeannie is missing... and when gold is discovered in the tent he shared with Colin... well, that and Jeannie's note seem to point to Duncan. So Duncan flees Scotland, thinking that Jeannie betrayed him. She waits a month for him to return, because he promised he'd never leave her; Jeannie's sure that Duncan will come back for her and take her with him to the Continent. Except that he doesn't, and because she's pregnant, she feels she has no choice but to marry Francis Gordon.And so... Duncan escapes to the Continent and earns a reputation as the Black Highlander, gaining a reputation as a mercenary with is merry band and amassing a personal fortune. But he wants to return to his homeland, Scotland, and he wants to clear his name. Which brings us to the present.Jeannie has pushed all feelings for Duncan aside; it's important to her to protect her son's future. If she reveals he's Duncan's son, her son is only the son of a bastard and loses all titles, lands, and money and is branded an outlaw with his father. Jeannie knows how being labeled a bastard affected Duncan; she doesn't want that for her son. Even though Jeannie didn't love Francis Gordon, he loved her and treated her well, finding a way to hide her son's real conception and birth date and raising the child as his own. And together, they had a daughter later. But Jeannie still carries the guilt of not being able to love Francis, and she harbors the anger and resentment against Duncan for leaving her and thinking she betrayed him.Slowly the two put the pieces together, and slowly they give in to their love and attraction once again. But there are still missing pieces: Duncan doesn't know about his son, and they still don't know who was responsible for taking the map and planting the gold. Then there's also the mystery of what Duncan's father tried to tell him about his mother as his father was dying; why did it matter that Duncan find his mother? Duncan tells the story to Jamie, taking the chance that Jamie will believe him. Jamie has a reputation as a fair and just man, and it's well earned. He believes Duncan and Jeannie, and he sets out to help them. Elizabeth provides a bit more information, according to what she saw and knew at the time. And the missing pieces start to come together. As Jeannie and Duncan journey to locate the truth about his mother, the villains are closing in...Will Duncan realize that the boy is his son, despite how Jeannie's hidden his real birth date? What will he find out about his mother that could possibly make a difference? And is there a traitor close to Duncan, perhaps even in his own family?-----------------I enjoyed finally learning about Duncan and Jeannie. Sometimes the journey seemed long and tedious, but as I read, I realized that the author doesn't put in details that are meaningless. Everything and every clue truly leads to an important piece of the final puzzle. The question, as in the 2nd book, is whether Jeannie and Duncan can ever be together when it's all over. How can Duncan ever know and claim his son? And will the guilty be punished?I have to say that the punishment, when it comes, is most satisfying. It's easy to have an inkling of who's behind something; it's another to see justice done to someone who's so powerful and arrogant.While this book might have stretched the happily-ever-after (how they got there), it was still an enjoyable book and a great ending to the trilogy.