The Strongest Heart (The Clan Donald Saga)

Written by Regan Walker
Review by Deborah Cay Wilding

The Strongest Heart, Book 3 in the Clan Donald Saga, opens in 1386 when Donald of Islay succeeds his late father as Lord of the Isles. The island kingdom lying off the west coast of Scotland—including Skye, Mull and Iona—had maintained its independence throughout centuries of turmoil. Donald is determined to keep his titles, people and land secure despite threats issued from Robert Stewart, Duke of Albany, who is all too eager to rule the entire country. In a move that is both honorable and strategic, Lord Donald marries Mariota Leslie, heiress to the Earldom of Ross. Donald’s father had betrothed him, as a young boy, to the heiress. What’s more, her lands could prove an effective buffer against military incursions. Happily enough, love and devotion quickly get factored into the equation, even as the Stewart threat looms ever closer. When diplomacy fails, Donald musters an army to stake his rightful claim in a decisive battle of clashing sword and spear that secures his place in the annals of history as the Hero of Harlaw.

This is a story of Walker’s own family heritage, transported into the world of historical fiction to celebrate the Clan Donald. The author’s historical notes complement her fictional rendering of events, with the main characters painted in a sympathetic light that seems in keeping with the scant existing written record of dates and places. Oxford-educated Donald is judicious, honorable and, when need be, a fierce warrior. Mariota is a loyal, intelligent helpmate who bears several children, thus securing the future of Islay. The portrayal of Donald’s gentle, considerate courtship of her is particularly touching in an era when women were little more than pawns in a political game of land and power. For readers who have a love for the wildly rugged Hebrides, the romantic Highlands and Scottish medieval history, this novel is sure to please.