Highland Dragon Master by Isabel Cooper
Erik MacAlasdair has to leave Scotland’s war with the English before his dragon side begins to see all humans as nothing more than prey. Sent on a mission by his clan leader to find an ancient artifact which might help stop the war, he reunites with Toinette, the lovely female dragon shifter he grew up with long ago. Now mistress of her own ship, Toinette accepts his commission, but getting stranded on a cursed island was never part of the plan.
Though it’s billed as a romance, Highland Dragon Master definitely isn’t your average shifter romance. Honestly, I felt as though the romance was more of an afterthought to the admittedly very intriguing paranormal plot, which verged over into horror at times when things got really spooky. Yes, there was a certain amount of physical chemistry between Toinette and Erik, and they worked well together to escape the island’s traps, but romance never seemed to enter the equation until some unexpected declarations near the end of the book. Despite getting both protagonists’ point of view regularly, there was never any real hint to the reader that they were emotionally involved.
This is a well-written book for the most part and the realities of life aboard ship and being shipwrecked were thoroughly researched. Although this is third in a series, there weren’t really any other characters from previous books to confuse readers who haven’t read the rest, and it can definitely be read as a standalone. Where things fell down for me was in the ‘magic’ system - nothing was really explained and there didn’t seem to be any hard and fast rules.
If you come in looking for a romance rather than a paranormal adventure, you’re going to be disappointed, and possibly a bit freaked out by the unexpected turn into horror things take. I’ll give it three stars - honestly, there’s too much wrong here for me to give it four.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book for review through NetGalley.