Review: Legend of the Highland Dragon by Isabel Cooper

legend of the highland dragon by isabel cooperFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genre: historical paranormal romance
Series: Highland Dragon #1
Length: 329 pages
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Date Released: December 3, 2013
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, All Romance

The MacAlasdairs are not like other men.

Descendants of an ancient alliance, they live for centuries, shifting between human and dragon forms. Some wander the earth; some keep to their lands in Scotland. And Stephen MacAlasdair, the newest lord of the family, must go to London to settle his father’s business affairs. He brings an object of great power and greater darkness. He finds an enemy from his past, whose wrath is still living and deadly. And he meets an ally he’d never have expected.

1894 London, doesn’t provide an easy life for women of the lower class, but Mina Seymour has managed to work herself up to a position as the secretary of a famous scholar. When a tall, dark Scottish stranger demands to see her employer, Mina is irritated; when MacAlasdair’s departure leaves the professor worried, she’s suspicious. Determined to figure out the situation, she investigates further – and finds a world and a man she could never have imagined.

My Review:

I didn’t really get a whole lot of sense of Legend, Highlands or even dragons when I read this story, and I still had a terrifically good time.

no proper lady by isabel cooperI picked up this series because I absolutely, totally adored Isabel Cooper’s No Proper Lady (reviewed here) and wondered what she do with something that had a few more expectations set for it. The answer is that she blew most of the expectations away.

The hero is really the heroine, and she’s not a dragon. What Mina Seymour really is is a self-made woman who is determined to lift herself and the rest of her family, out of London’s East End poverty.

It’s 1894, even if a slightly alternate 1894, and there aren’t a lot of ways for a woman to earn a decent (in both senses of the word) living. Ambitious and self-taught Mina has become the personal secretary, assistant, majordomo and door warden for an eccentric scholar who also has a few secrets up his sleeve.

For one thing, one of his “old friends” is a dragon. And one of his old enemies is a demon, or at least consorts with them. His old friend Stephen MacAlasdair has come to London to chase the demon, and to warn his friend. It’s somewhat of a shock to everyone involved that while the scholar has aged quite normally in the intervening 30 years since they first encountered that demon, Stephen, as a nearly immortal dragon, still looks to be in his mid-30s.

MacAlasdair refers to Mina as his friend’s Cerberus, the guardian at the gates of hell. The description turns out to be truer than anyone imagined. She’s really trying to keep hell from coming in, not out.

The story is in Mina’s unquenchable desire to find out what is going on, and protect her employer and friend. In that pursuit, she delves into matters that everyone is trying to keep secret. Not just that Stephen is a dragon, but that his enemy is employing supernaturally nasty means to get back at everyone who wronged him.

So we start with Stephen needing to protect Mina (which is true, as a normal human she doesn’t have the wherewithal to kill demons and half-formed hellspawn) But Mina doesn’t sit idly by – she participates in the investigation and ultimate confrontation every step of the way. Much of that investigation relies on Mina’s ability to blend into her surroundings, and on her knowledge of London’s East End.

They do fall in love, but it takes time and effort on both their parts. Stephen has to accept Mina as an equal partner, and Mina has to let go of her unwillingness to rely on others, and on more than a few preconceived notions. They grow towards each other while solving a diabolical problem.

The emphasis in this story is on finding the killer, and saving everyone from his predations. That the hero and heroine find each other is the icing on a marvelously fun cake.

Escape Rating B+: There’s lots going on in this story. It is an alternate Victorian era, and feels steampunk-ish without exhibiting many actual steampunk trappings. It could be labeled as urban fantasy in an older city than normal. It’s also a story where the case to be solved takes center-stage, and the delightful romance flows from the situation, rather than being the main point.

For a book about Highland dragons, Stephen does not turn into a dragon very often. A dragon flying around London would be rather noticeable, and he has some fears that Mina won’t accept him in his dragon form, except when it’s necessary to save her life. That Mina has some dragonish tendencies herself (minus the actual dragon form) helps them reach towards each other. Mina is not a missish heroine, not at all. And that’s a good thing that makes it easy for readers to identify with her.

The case to be solved is different because the jerk decided to associate with demons to get his revenge. What he is getting revenge for is the kind of criminal behavior that any over-privileged and under-conscienced rich bastard might have indulged in. The demon-flavoring adds spice and more paranormal elements.

highland dragons lady by isabel cooperIn addition to Stephen, there is another dragon, his seemingly lazy brother Colin. I have a feeling that Colin’s laziness is a cover for much stronger stuff. In this book, he provided some of the extra muscle and comic relief, but I’m looking forward to seeing what he is really made of in the next book, The Highland Dragon’s Lady.

As much as I enjoyed The Legend of the Highland Dragon, I hope that in the next book we find out more details about that legend.

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