Okay Lassie's and Laddie's, this is the last post for Day 2 of Highlander Week!
The talented author and seamstress, yes, I said seamstress because she makes her own historical/period clothing, Mary Wine is visiting today with a guest post talking a little history and the women of the Highlands. Make sure to stick around for a giveaway at the end!
I’m writing this on May Day, a very important holiday for my Highlanders. On May morn, young women went bare foot into the forest to wash their faces with morning dew…thus ensuring their beauty while young men wore crowns of greenery and joined the women for dancing around the May Pole. The tradition is older than Christianity and was widely practiced because the fear was that Old Man Winter would linger if the Spring was not welcomed in.
I love learning about the places I set my stories in. Scotland is a beautiful country. But I think what’s drawn me to its shores is the history. Like most kids, I learned about the history of the United Kingdom, working my way through kings like Henry the eight and on to James the first. I learned something of Scotland but never really went any further until I began studying ancient history. Now I loved the Greeks and Romans but it fascinated me to hear that the Celtic people were never conquered.
Hadrian’s wall really caught my attention. Did you know there were roman baths built into it? To me it was fascinating to learn that there were hot baths available in 130 A.D. Although the word ‘available’ probably isn’t the right one. Living under the rule of Rome wasn’t good unless you were one of the privileged few.
So yes, this brought me to Scotland. I began to study the people that Rome failed to conquer. These tribes dealt with Rome, the Vikings and England but they always managed to hold onto their own identity. One that is remarkable in my opinion. Their music is soul inspiring. When you begin to research the Highlanders, the first thing that I notice is how rough their land is. Carving out a living isn’t easy.
But hands down, the thing that draws me to the Highlanders is the women. It’s easy to become focused on the raw power of the warriors who are called Highlanders but their women were as strong as they were. These females ran the homes and dealt with the Highlanders. There are scattered accounts of just how bold these gals were and I actually enjoyed some of the English accounts most because the English were writing about how uncivilized the women were…but to me, it drove home how those Highlanders maintained such a strong hold on their heritage. It was due to having strong women by their sides. An army is only as strong as the support it has, or in this case the Highlanders were only as gold as their women.
Right…wrong or slightly off balance…that’s my take on it. I mean, after all…it’s the lore and myth I want to capture in these book but I always want to know there are men out there with noble hearts.
Highland Heat was a story born out of that ideal. Deirdre Chattan is a disgraced woman, to everyone but herself. She feel in love and placed her faith in the man seducing her…only to have that faith betrayed. But it didn’t destroy her. In Highland Heat, I wanted her to have her happy ending but it required a hero who wouldn’t let her turn him away.
I hope you enjoy the excerpt below and drop by my website and FaceBook page to say hello and check out my other books. But I hope you will all take a moment to walk outside and enjoy May!
Highland Heat- Special Excerpt
Available in massmarket paperback and e-book formats from SourceBooks and all booksellers.
There was no hint of weakness in his tone, and he moved forward, all his men doing the same. Deirdre refused to give way, standing her ground and tipping her chin up so she could glare at him. Quinton Cameron didn’t stop until his boots were touching the hem of her robes.
“I am nae impressed with ye, Laird Cameron. Tell me what ye seek, and stop insisting on going where ye know men do nae belong. I am no’ a liar.”
“I seek the queen, Joan Beaufort, and if she is here, I intend to find her.” His expression hardened. “I will nae accept yer word on the matter.”
Deirdre felt her eyes widen, but a moment later, she let out a hiss full of anger. Quinton Cameron swept her right off her feet, cradling her like a child in his arms as her father had done when she was half-grown.
“Put me down!”
He chuckled at her instead and carried her up the stairs through the open doorway and into the first chamber of the abbey.
“I warned ye, but I suppose I should nae be surprise that ye did no heed me. I noticed when I first met ye that ye are a true hellion.” He lowered her to her feet. Deirdre sent a vicious shove at him, but the man didn’t budge even a step.
The man smirked at her as his men swarmed around them and into the sanctuary. The nuns squealed and fled toward the yard. There were too many bodies trying to use the doorway, and Deirdre was crushed up against Quinton. He rocked slightly, but his arms came about her, protecting her from the surge of bodies.
“Take yer arms away.” Deirdre didn’t need to raise her voice, because she was pressed against the man from her ankles to her head.
“Well now, hellion, there isna anyplace else to put them, except between us.”
He whispered against her ear, a hint of enjoyment in his tone. She bristled but couldn’t push herself away from him with so many of the nuns trying to get past them. His arms wrapped all the way around her back, and she felt his hand cup her nape. She shivered, the contact jarring to her senses. It should have been. She should have felt only repulsion for his touch, but her body betrayed her as sensation rippled down her back, a sense of enjoyment that was deeply rooted in her flesh. He slid his hand up to grasp her thick braid where it was looped up beneath her simple linen hood.
“So ye have nae taken vows of any sort.” The full length of her hair told him she hadn’t taken any vows; if she had, her braid would have been cut to relieve her of vanity. “Now that I like knowing, hellion.”
There was a touch of heat in his voice that stoked a memory she had tried hard to banish from her mind. There had been a moment a year past when they had been just this close and the arrogant man had stolen a kiss from her. Passion flickered inside her, refusing to obey her order never to rise again. She growled at the disobedience of her flesh and shoved away from Quinton.
Enough of the nuns had made it into the yard now, allowing her to step back from him, but he took the opportunity to stroke her back and sides as she moved, his hands open, the fingers sliding over her curves with unmistakable experience. There was a flicker of enjoyment in his eyes, which irritated her, because she discovered that she liked knowing he found her body pleasing.
Another betrayal from her flesh…
“What promises I make are none of yer concern, Laird Cameron. I live here, so ye’ll be keeping yer hands off me.”
“Is that a fact, Deirdre Chattan? Ye are nae a sister with that thick hair still long enough to cover a man’s chest. Ye’re a woman who is still searching for her place. Maybe ye have found that today.”
She snarled beneath her breath, “ Ye’re a Blackguard to suggest such a thing while standing on holy ground..” It was a curse, but she didn’t care if he cuffed her for daring to insult his noble person. She tossed her head in the face of his displeasure. “Just because ye think me a fallen woman does nae give ye the right to touch me in plain sight of others. I took a lover because he promised me his name. I was nae a whore for hire.”
“I never labeled ye such a thing, Deirdre. Ye might be surprised to learn what I think of a woman who is bold enough to follow her desires instead of cowering in front of those who tell her what to do.”
There was a hint of approval in his tone, but she forced herself to ignore it. The last time she’d followed such impulses, she had disgraced herself and her clan.
“Stop using my name. We are nae familiar with each other. One stolen kiss does nae make ye anything more than a man I loathe.”
“Careful, lass, I think I enjoy the sound of that challenge more than either of us should.” His attention settled on the fabric covering her hair.
She gasped and then sputtered, because she didn’t care for how weak sounding her response was. “Have ye no honor?”
She was insulting him now, and her attack didn’t miss its mark.
He stiffened and hooked his hands into his wide belt. The thick leather circled his waist, binding the pleats of his kilt in place. Above his left shoulder, the pommel of his sword gained her attention.
“Weapons are forbidden inside the sanctuary.”
He frowned. “So are cursing and lying, Deirdre Chattan.”
His voice dipped low as he spoke her name, and there was a challenge lurking in his eyes that sent a quiver down the backs of her legs. She decided to focus on why the man was there so she might see him on his way that much faster.
“No one lied to ye here, Laird Cameron. Ye assume the queen is here, but ye never asked.”
His knuckles began to turn white. It was an odd little hint at what the man was truly feeling. She certainly couldn’t gain much by looking at his face, for he was showing her nothing but a stone-solid mask.
“I am seeking Joan Beaufort, queen of Scotland.” He spoke through gritted teeth, betraying his frustration. “Is she here?”
A few of his men stood near his back. They tilted their heads so they might watch her face and gauge her true reaction to their laird’s question.
Deirdre scoffed at him. “Yer men are already swarming through the sanctuary. It’s too late to ask now.”
She could hear the muffled protests of the priests and the nuns who had been in the inner chambers of the abbey. Out in the yard, there was the stomping of the horses and the conversation of the members of the holy order as they tried to comfort each other.
Quinton snorted. “But ye did nae answer the question, which makes me suspicious of ye.”
Deirdre glared at the man responsible for shattering the peace. “Ye and yer men are acting like hell’s army.”
He should have been insulted. Instead he chuckled. “If I were a Viking, I’d no have allowed ye out of me arms quite so quickly. A true Norseman ravishes first and takes the plunder after he has sated his primary desire.”
That challenge returned to his eyes, flashing brightly as heat twisted through her belly. It was such an unexpected response that her hands moved to cover her lower body, the instinct to protect herself too strong to ignore.
“Enough out of ye.” She shook her head. “I’m nae impressed, I assure ye. Only more disgusted by yer lack of respect for this holy place and the way that ye know ye should be behaving.”
His lips rose into a smile that showed his teeth. “But I am impressed with ye, Deirdre Chattan. Ye are too much woman for this abbey, and I am very displeased to be so burdened with finding our queen, because it does nae leave me any time to enjoy yer fiery spirit.” His smile faded as his eyes darkened, and a promise lurked deep inside them. “A true pity that is, I’m thinking.”
“Well, stop yer thinking when it comes to me. It’s naught but a waste of time.”
He chuckled. “Aye, but a pleasant one, and I’m spending too many hours trying to keep our Highlanders from fighting one another nae to take the opportunity to enjoy something when it stands directly in front of me.”
The man had the audacity to reach for her face, but she slapped his hand before he touched her. The sound bounced off the stone walls, and he chuckled once again.
“A true shame, for I’d enjoy seeing what ye thought of me inviting ye to ride off with me, Deirdre.”
“I’d curse ye, and that is a promise, yer lairdship.”
He chuckled but it was a dark sound full of promise. “That makes me even sorrier that I cannae devote any time to discovering how to make ye purr for me.”
Her mouth dropped open in surprise when she heard such brazen talk in the doorway of the abbey. Two of the nuns crossed themselves in the yard when they overheard him.
Find out more about Highland Heat and the rest of The Highlander Series here.
Mary is giving away two personalized copies of her latest release, Highland Heat!
To enter just comment answering this question:
What is your favorite place for a historical romance to be set in? England, Scotland, Rome, Ireland? Somewhere else?
Make sure to leave an email address with your comment, open Internationally except to the Middle East or Egypt (where these novels are illegal, who knew?). Giveaway will end at 11:59pm on May 21st.