Highland Conquest

Sons of Sinclair #1
April 28, 2020
Entangled Publishing (Amara)
Available in: Paperback, Audio, e-Book

Highland Conquest

Cain Sinclair has a plan. In order to finally bring peace to his clan, he will wed the young female chief of their greatest enemy. Only problem: capturing her and forcing her back to Sinclair castle doesn’t exactly make her want to sayyes. Ella Sutherland may be clever, passionate, and shockingly beautiful, but what she isn’t iswilling.

Every attempt Cain makes to woo her seems to backfire on him. A gift? The kitten practically claws his eyes out. A competitive game of chess? Even when he wins, he loses. It seems the only time the two ever see eye to eye is when they’re heating up Cain’s bed. Still, the only thing Ella truly wants is the one thing he cannot offer her: freedom.

But when Cain discovers she’s been harboring a secretone that could threaten both clans’ very existencehe’ll have to decide between peace for the Sinclairs or the woman who’s captured his heart.

Each book in the Sons of Sinclair series is STANDALONE:
* Highland Conquest
* Highland Warrior
* Highland Justice

“I brought ye some food. Are ye well?” Cain called.

“Leave it outside the door,” she yelled.

“I also have a gift for ye, Ella.” His frown relaxed. “Are ye in need of assistance?”

“No,” she said, and he could imagine her snapping gray eyes trying to skewer him through the oak. “What I need is to be released from Girnigoe and for you to leave Clan Sutherland alone.” She may as well have asked to have wings to fly.

“I will not bother ye,” Cain said. “I want only to deliver my gift and your food.” And for ye to surrender long enough to marry me. He had boasted to Gideon he could convince her within the three weeks that the banns were posted. And he would see the challenge won. He had changed into a fresh white tunic and clean kilt after bathing, and the key to the door sat tucked into his sash.

As if reading his mind, she yelled again. “Do not pretend that you don’t have a key to the door.”

What did that mean? Of course he had a key. “Do ye want me to come in with my key?”

“Do what you want, Sinclair. Leave the food and gift or use your key. I will not be letting you into my cage.”

Needles pierced his head, startling him so that he bumped his forehead into the frame of the door. “Blast, ye wee beastie.” Enough of this. Leaving the cat to cling to his head, Cain fished the iron key out of his sash and jammed it into the lock. The kitten flexed her other paw, jabbing him with more needles. The key turned, and he pushed the door inward.

Ella stood wrapped in the blanket from her bed, warmth from the fire filling the small room. She watched him warily. “My gift is misbehaving,” he said, his teeth clamped together as he tried to force a smile. It felt like a grimace. Cain bent his knees to lower enough so that he could walk through the small doorway with the kitten hissing on his head. The tray wobbled slightly as he entered, but he kept his gaze on Ella’s face.

Her glare melted into a look of surprise. For a long moment, she stared at the two of them. Cain waited, and the kitten pricked his scalp again, making his eye twitch as he tried to hold his smile. Walking forward, he set the tray on a small table near the hearth. “A gift for ye, Ella. The kitten is the smallest of her litter and has weaned from her mother. The other barn cats are not letting her have as much food, so she needs a protector, someone to make sure she eats.”

“I…I suppose I can watch her…while I am here. You said it is a her, a girl?” Ella moved closer, and the smell of the floral soap Merida had given her floated from her wet hair that was twisted up in a bathing sheet.

“Aye, and as ye see, she has spirit.”

“And she is scared to death, way up there on top of a giant,” Ella said, chastising him with a frown. Tucking the blanket tighter around her, she walked to him, dragging the length behind her like a cumbersome train. “Bend,” she demanded and reached high to disentangle the kitten from Cain’s head, her arms shaped with slender muscles.

“Here sweet thing,” she whispered. “Let me take you away from the big bad Sinclair.”

Cain bent his knees so she could pull the cat from him, its paws and claws extended wide. “Ye know, the kitten is also a Sinclair,” he said, watching her bring the ball of black and white fluff to her face, touching her nose to the cat’s little white one.

The heavy blanket around Ella loosened, and she gasped as it fell to the floor. Stepping back, Ella tripped over the wool mass tangled around her feet. Cain’s hands shot out, grabbing her arms to keep her from falling backward. The kitten yowled and jumped from her onto the bed. The feel of him steadying her yanked back a long-ago memory. She had been young and smiling at the festival when he’d bumped into her, making her drop her bouquet of Scottish thistle.

“Thank you,” she said and frowned as if she wished she could pull it back, yanking out of his grasp.

“Ye are all wet.” Water drops sat along her collarbone, making him very thirsty. Och. What would the lass taste like? She clutched her arms over her breasts and squatted to grab up the blanket to hold before her.

“You startled me when you knocked.”

“And…” He looked from her to the tub and back. Water was pooled across the floor. “Ye fell in the tub?”

“No, well…yes. Somewhat. Not all the way.”

He took a quick mental inventory of the room. It was small, too small for his bulk, but it suited Ella. “Ye need a robe and another bathing sheet, a rug for the floor, and some rags for the water.”

She picked the kitten from the bed to hold before her, but the wee beast wiggled until Ella let her jump down to prowl about. “Do not forget a sgian dubh or mattucashlass,” Ella said and clutched the blanket up to the base of her throat. Even half drowned, she was bonny and brave. Although she had little defense in being alone and half dressed with him in a small room, she was not cowering or weeping in a corner. Nay, the lass was asking for weapons.

The side of his mouth tipped upward. “I will keep your request in mind.”

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Reviewed for Wit and Sin

Two strong, clever heads of opposing clans are the perfect match on and off the battlefield in Highland Conquest . Heather McCollum has kicked off her Sons of Sinclair with an engaging enemies-to-lovers tale.

Cain Sinclair was raised to be a conqueror. After the death of Cain’s mother, his father raised his sons to be the biblical Four Horseman, determined to see the Sinclairs rule a united Scotland. As the new chief of the Sinclair clan, Cain’s first order of business is to take over the holdings and people of their enemies, the Sutherlands. When he captures Ella Sutherland, the Sutherlands’ chief, Cain decides marrying her and absorbing her clan would be the best and most peaceful solution. Only Ella has no intention of submitting and giving away the birthright she’s held onto. It’s the perfect stage for a battle of wills, mostly because Cain and Ella are perfect for each other. If their clans weren’t warring, their love story would be a simple one. But duty and family are heavy burdens for each to bear.

Cain and Ella are strong, honorable characters who have their work cut out for them. Cain is trying to not only do right by his clan, but to live up to the legend his father wanted him to be. Ella was raised by a monster and has spent her life protecting others. Cain and Ella are easy to like and they have wonderful chemistry. Cain’s wooing and Ella’s escape attempts bring a liveliness and energy to what would could otherwise be a heavy book. There is a core of respect to the romance that I really enjoyed. And though Ella is Cain’s captive, there is expressed consent when things turn carnal. Everything about Cain and Ella’s romance worked and I was rooting for them to find a way to get their happily ever after. Both have hard choices to make throughout the story and sometimes the easiest road isn’t what’s best or what’s right for the one you’re coming to love and the people you hold dear.

Highland Conquest is the first book in the Sons of Sinclair series and I finished it looking forward to more. In particular, I cannot wait to see what Ms. McCollum has in store for the youngest brother, Bàs.

This book had great conflict between Cain and Ella from the start. Ella is captured and Cain plans to bring their two clans together by marrying her. She’s an unwilling bride and Cain decides he needs to woo her. His attempts don’t go well but as she sees different facets to Cain she does start to soften her stance. Ella is a strong character and has honed her own abilities as a warrior. I liked both of these characters and how Cain and Ella, but mainly Cain, had to grow and change to be together. I felt Ella was portrayed in a way that showed her vulnerability but also her strength. When Ella took actions that were risky, I found it refreshing that I understood why she was taking them, that she had skills, and also knew her limitations.

Cain’s brothers are interesting in their own right and I can’t wait to read their stories.