Tuesday, February 28, 2017

#Review - Hot Target by Elle James

I'm loving the new Ballistic Cowboys series by Elle James. I could not wait to get my hands on Hot Target and started reading it as soon as it was in my hot little hands. This is yet another captivating story with drama, suspense, mystery, action, and romance. This book has it ALL!

Max "Caveman" Decker is ready to return to his team after being injured on a mission. Instead he's assigned to new task force in Wyoming. This guy is one that I would want in my corner if someone wanted me to disappear in a permanent way. He's smart, really good at his job, charming, and just a good guy. 

Grace Saunders has suffered a lot of heartache in her life. The poor lady thinks it is all her fault and there must be something wrong with her. She has a heart of gold and loves animals. Her love of animals is what puts her in the wrong time and wrong place to see some one murdered. 

Caveman was assigned to watch after someone else. Caveman and Grace end up working together after an encounter in the mountains. I quickly bonded with both Caveman and Grace. I loved Grace's attitude. She has just a touch of sass and a whole lot of Independence. It was interesting watching Caveman convince Grace to take him up on his offer of protection. That could have a little bit to do with the incredible attraction between them. The attraction leads to some hot passion with plenty of fireworks. 

The suspense in this book is breath taking. My heart was pounding as I quickly flipped pages wondering how these two were going to get out of danger. I won't tell you too much because you are going to want to grab up your own copy of Hot Target and start reading now! 

This is the second book in the Ballistic Cowboy series but stands on it's own just fine. I have read Hot Combat and it is just as awesome as Hot Target. I would suggest grabbing them both now. If you are an Elle James fan like me your going to love them both!

I was given the opportunity to read this fantabulous book and it is my pleasure to share my thoughts with you.

You may read more of my reviews on Elle James' work here

Amazon Buy Links:

Hot Target (Ballistic Cowboys) by [James, Elle]

Hot Combat (Ballistic Cowboys) by [James, Elle]

#GiveAway - HIS COWBOY HEART By Jennifer Ryan

Montana Men #6
By Jennifer Ryan

Guest Post by Jennifer Ryan 

Meet My Hero

Ford Kendrick is a genuine nice guy, trying to do the best he can for his family, ranch, and the woman he loves, even when he sends her away for her own good. It’s a sacrifice he’s willing to make for her happiness. But when she returns broken in heart and soul, he’ll do everything he can, even if it’s to just be the friend she desperately needs. Ford isn’t about to give up on Jamie until she’s well and happy again. His patience, unwavering dedication to her recovery, and steadfast resolve to push her to be better and give her a helping hand when things don’t go her way all help Jamie to overcome her obstacles. But it’s his love through the good times and bad that bring them back together.
He wanted to be the beacon in her life that brought her back from the dark world her memories sucked her into every second of the day. He wanted to give her everything they’d talked about and planned back when things were simple and easy between them. Now, just getting her to eat seemed a complicated maneuver to convince her he meant no harm and only had her best interests at heart.
She thought he pitied her. Not so. He admired her tenacity, but hated that her complicated past broke her down to the point her life became nothing but endurance.
She’d survived hell and come home, but hell followed her.
She couldn’t escape, didn’t know how, but she kept fighting. He’d help her. He wouldn’t give up on her. He wouldn’t let her suffer alone.

Ford isn’t the only hero in His Cowboy Heart. Jamie is a military vet. She’s risked her life for our country and to save her fellow soldiers. But it’s her inner strength, determination, and dedication to healing, even when she backslides, that prove heroes don’t have to be perfect, they just have to persevere.

About the Book: 

Bound by honor and by love…That’s a Montana Man.

Ford Kendrick has often
dreamed of the day that Jamie Keller would come home to Montana. After high
school, she needed to leave—and he, duty-bound to rescue his family’s ranch,
pushed her to go. The Army made Jamie a hero, but Ford still sees the gorgeous,
loving woman who lit up his whole world.

Every day since she left, Jamie has longed for Ford. One glimpse confirms it:
the sexy, dangerous-looking cowboy left a hole in her heart that nothing else
can fill. Yet the battle scars she bears—inside and out—won’t let her trust
anyone enough to get close.

Ford wants to bring Jamie back to the life they dreamed of building. But locked
somewhere in her memories is a dark truth that threatens her safety. It’s a
battle Ford won’t let her fight alone, not when he’s determined to keep her by
his side, now and always… 

Releasing Feb 21, 2017

Avon Books

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About the Author: 

Jennifer Ryan is the New York Times USA Today bestselling author of The Hunted, McBride, and Montana Men series. She writes suspenseful
contemporary romances with outrageous plot twists, deeply emotional love stories, high stakes and higher drama. Her stories are filled with love, family, friendship, and the happily-ever-after we all hope to find.

Jennifer lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and three children. When she finally leaves those fictional worlds, you’ll find her in the garden, playing in the dirt and daydreaming about people who live only in her head, until she puts them on paper.

#Review - Hometown Cowboy by Sara Richardson

Hometown Cowboy is the first chance I have had to read Sara Richardson's work. I am extremely impressed with her work. I love cowboy stories. There is just something about their charm and good guy attitudes that you can't help but fall for. 

Jessa Mae Love has the worst luck when it comes to men. She just doesn't seem to have any luck when it comes to finding Mr. Right. So for now she has sworn off men. I found an instant bond with Jessa. I admired her love of family, friends and animals. She is continuing her Dad's legacy with an animal rescue shelter. 

Lance Cortez is a good guy. He just has a few relationship issues due to things from his past. He has sworn off marriage and commitment. He's busy training for his final year as a bull rider on the rodeo circuit. When he needs a little help he ask Jessa to help him out. 

Lance and Jessa discover there is smoldering mutual attraction developing. The attraction isn't going away no matter how hard they try to fight it. It's always interesting when the characters fight their attraction then watch the fireworks explode when they just can't help but give in to the passion. Lance and Jessa are great together. They have a few major obstacles to over come. There is a secret that just might tear this new relationship apart. 

I LOVED this book. I was just going to read a few chapters and enjoy a nice hot bath. Before I knew it my water was a bit cool and I was reading the last page of the book. This is one of those books that just would not let me set it down until I seen just where all those interesting sparks, secrets, and family drama were going. 

This is my first book by Ms. Richardson but it certainly will not be my last. This is part of the Rocky Mountain Riders series and I will be keeping a close eye out for the next book in this series. I can't wait to see what this talented author has in store for the rest of the Cortez family. 

If you love a good cowboy story with an interesting story line, romance with the right amount of steam, family drama, lasting friendships, and charismatic characters you need to grab this book right now. I think you will enjoy it. I know I certainly did. 

I was given the opportunity to devour this fabulous story and it is my great pleasure to share my thoughts with you. 

Hometown Cowboy (Rocky Mountain Riders) by [Richardson, Sara]

Amazon Buy Link

#GiveAway - HOMETOWN COWBOY By Sara Richardson

Series: Rocky Mountain Riders, #1
By Sara Richardson


In the New York Times bestselling tradition of Jennifer Ryan, Maisey Yates, and B. J. Daniels comes the first book in Sara Richardson's western contemporary romance series about bull-riding brothers.


Jessa Mae Love is done with relationships. No matter how tempting he might be, she cannot—will not—fall for a man like Lance Cortez. The outrageously handsome cowboy is practically a living legend in Colorado, as famous for riding bulls as he is for breaking hearts. What would a big-time rodeo star like him see in a small-town veterinarian who wears glasses, rescues animals, and cries when watching rom-coms? Turns out, plenty.

Raising bulls, riding the circuit, and looking after his ailing father—Lance never stands still for long. Yet Jessa catches his attention, and the more she tries to resist him, the more he wants her. When she agrees to move to the ranch to keep an eye on Lance's dad, Jessa tells him they have to keep it professional: no flirting, no sweet talk, and definitely no kissing. But with Jessa now living under his roof, that's easier said than done . . .

On Sale: February 28, 2017
Publisher: Forever
Mass Market: $7.99 USD
eBook: $5.99 USD





Sara Richardson grew up chasing adventure in Colorado's rugged mountains. She's climbed to the top of a 14,000 foot peak at midnight, swum through Class IV rapids, completed her wilderness first-aid certification, and spent seven days at a time tromping through the wilderness with a thirty-pound backpack strapped to her shoulders.

Eventually Sara did the responsible thing and got an education in writing and journalism. After a brief stint in the corporate writing world, she stopped ignoring the voices in her head and started writing fiction. Now she uses her experience as a mountain adventure guide to write stories that incorporate adventure with romance. Still indulging her adventurous spirit, Sara lives and plays in Colorado with her saint of a husband and two young sons.


#GiveAway #Interview - IF THE DUKE DEMANDS by Anna Harrington

Series: Capturing the Carlisles: Book 1
by Anna Harrington

Please use the Rafflecopter  below to enter for a chance to win one of  10 copies of IF THE DUKE DEMANDS! 

Interview with Anna Harrington: 

Crystal: I am so excited to host  Anna Harrington today! Welcome Anna! I'm thrilled to have you here! What are you currently working on?

Anna:  I’m currently working on revisions for book 2 in the new Capturing the Carlisles series, WHEN THE SCOUNDREL SINS, which is Quinton’s book, and finishing the first draft of book 4 in the series, HOW THE EARL ENTICES, which is about Ross Carlisle, cousin to the brothers. I’m also excited to announce that I’ve written my first Scottish novel! A MATCH MADE IN HEATHER is a novella that’s going to be part of a box set out later this year from SMP Swerve titled SAY YES TO THE SCOT. And at some point this spring, I’d love to be able to find time to sleep!

Crystal: Where did you come up with the idea for either your current release or your current WIP?

Anna: My current release, IF THE DUKE DEMANDS, is the first book in the new Capturing the Carlisles series. The Carlisle brothers were introduced in HOW I MARRIED A MARQUESS, mostly as comic relief, but all my readers loved them so much that my agent talked me into giving them their own series. The idea came from twisting a traditional trope on its head. Instead of the hero being happy to be a peer, what if the *last* thing he wanted was to be a duke? And then I paired him off with the most impossible woman in the world for him—Miranda Hodgkins, the flighty girl next door who causes (unintentional!) trouble everywhere she goes and who is madly in love with Sebastian’s brother Robert. All I had to do then was put the two of them in a room together and let the sparks fly!

Crystal: Do you have a favorite snack that like to munch on while writing? If so would you mind sharing what it is with us?
Anna: I cannot write without a cup of coffee at my fingertips. And peanut M&M’s! I can’t count the number of sticky revision spots that chocolate and Starbucks has gotten me through.

Crystal:When you are not busy writing wonderful stories to keep us lucky readers entertained, what do you like to do? Do you have a hobby?

Anna: Well, in addition to writing novels, I work a “day” job as a humanities professor, which I love! I get to share all the most beautiful art pieces in the world with my students, play them wonderful arias and symphonies, and open their eyes (and hopefully their minds and hearts) to the world. But that’s still work, isn’t it? So when I need a break from all work, I love to spend time in my rose garden. I talk to all my plants, which I think makes them grow better…and which helps to keep the neighbors away! I also love to fly airplanes and do volunteer work with children’s organizations in third world countries.

Crystal: Do you have a favorite background noise you like to having going while you write (TV, Music, kids playing)?

Anna: I love to listen to music when I write, but it can’t be anything I know or anything that has words. I like having it on as background “mood” music, so I’ll often play different types of music depending on what kind of scene I’m writing. Classical music for scenes that set up the plot or involve balls, musicales, strolls through the park, etc. Soundscapes for emotional scenes or country house stories. Jazz for love scenes. But I can’t concentrate if I know the song or can listen to the words—I find myself singing along and not getting any work done!



Miranda Hodgkins has only ever wanted one thing: to marry Robert Carlisle. And she simply can't wait a moment longer. During the Carlisle family masquerade ball, Miranda boldly sneaks into his bedchamber with seduction on her mind. Soon she's swept into rock-hard arms for the most breathtaking kiss of her life. But when the masks come off, she's horrified to find herself face-to-face with Sebastian, the Duke of Trent-Robert's formidable older brother.

Shocked to find Miranda in his bed, Sebastian quickly offers her a deal to avoid scandal: He'll help her win his brother's heart if she'll find him the perfect wife. But what begins as a simple negotiation soon spirals out of control. For the longer this reformed rake tries to make a match for Miranda, the more he wants to keep her all to himself.

On Sale: February 28, 2017
Publisher: Forever
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Price: $7.99 USD


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Her eyes narrowed as she took in that bit of dubious advice and contemplated what he asked of her, with a curious look of deep study and concentration. For a moment, her expression was damnably disconcerting as she tried to think up a compliment to give him, as if she had never truly noticed him before as a man. Which inexplicably irked him to no end. How could she have not noticed him before as someone other than the Duke of Trent, other than just a friend?
“What you’re asking of me is impossible.” She shook her head with a soft sigh of defeat. “Every man in this room knows the rank you hold, the power and influence you’re gaining in Parliament. As for the ladies, you should have seen the way they all watched you when you crossed the room to ask me to dance.” She shrugged. “What could I possibly add to what everyone has already told you about how wonderful you are?”
He stared at her, momentarily stunned speechless. What she’d just said was exactly the kind of compliment a man wanted to hear from a beautiful woman . . .
And he didn’t believe a word of it. When he saw her lips twitch with amusement, his eyes narrowed. “You are incorrigible.”
She laughed happily. “Perhaps.” Her eyes shined, and for a brief moment, she shifted closer, somehow rising up on tiptoes as she danced to bring her mouth close to his ear. “But it is all true, you know.”
Then she pulled back into her original position and looked at him shyly through lowered lashes even as the tip of her tongue darted out to wet her lips. The paradoxical effect of innocent seduction was mesmerizing, and for a moment, he forgot they were dancing in the middle of a crowded ballroom. For a moment, there was only Miranda. And the pull of her was undeniable.


Anna Harrington fell in love with historical romances--and all those dashing Regency heroes--while living in London, where she studied literature and theatre. She loves to travel, fly airplanes, and hike, and when she isn't busy writing her next novel, she loves fussing over her roses in her garden.

Extra author goodies:
Anna will be hosting a release party on Facebook, there will be giveaways, contests and guest posts from romance authors in addition to a special sneak peek at the end of the night.
If you can’t attend the Facebook party, or are just interested in learning behind the scenes information about Anna’s books, be sure to visit the “extras” page on her website for deleted scenes, insider info, and bonus shorts.


a Rafflecopter giveaway

#GiveAway - CHAIN REACTION By Tara Wyatt

Series: Bodyguard #3
By Tara Wyatt

Blonde. Beautiful. Talented. Alexa Fairfax is practically Hollywood royalty. But growing up in a family of legendary movie stars also puts her in the spotlight for danger. And after she discovers a plot more deadly than any movie script, Alexa desperately needs a bodyguard. A man like Zack De Luca. A true friend with a good heart, a protective nature-and the hard, chiseled muscles to back it up.

 Zack has always been wildly attracted to Alexa. But since he's training day and night to be an MMA fighter, he's afraid his gorgeous friend will only distract him from his goal. Indescribably sweet and irresistibly sexy, Alexa needs Zack to pretend to be her boyfriend after her life is threatened. Now this fighter-in-training will have to fight his own intense feelings-to keep their little charade from turning into a major disaster . . .

On Sale: February 28, 2017
Publisher: Forever
Formats: Mass Market
Price: $7.99 (mass market)
Add to Goodreads


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She leaned her back against the door and shut her eyes, her face ghostly white. Her hands shook as she adjusted the strap of her purse on her shoulder.
Frowning, Zack shoved his hands into the pockets of his jeans and headed toward her. She smiled weakly when she saw him, her lips twitching up for a second, but the smile didn’t reach her eyes. Her fingers curled around the strap of her purse, her knuckles going the same shade of white as her face. Something hot and protective tightened his chest, and for a crazy second, he wanted to reach out and pull her into his arms, to promise her that, whatever it was, she’d be okay.
Instead he stopped a few feet in front of her, his hands still in his pockets. “Alexa? You okay?”
Her eyes met his, and she sucked in a shaky breath. “I...Oh God.” She pressed her hands to her face and let out a soft sob, her shoulders trembling.
Zack yanked his hands from his pockets and pulled Alexa into his arms, cradling her against his chest. She felt so tiny, so vulnerable. She barely reached his shoulder despite the fact that she had heels on.
“What happened? Did someone hurt you?” he whispered into her light-blond hair, so fine and soft under his fingers as he stroked the back of her head. So help him God, if someone had hurt her, he would make them bleed.
She pulled back, just enough to look up at him, and he noticed the mascara smudged under her eye. He left his arms around her. It would’ve felt wrong to take them away.
She shook her head slowly, her bottom lip caught between her teeth. “I...don’t think...I can’t.”
“Do you want to go outside? Get some fresh air?” Maybe if she calmed down a little, she’d be able to tell him what the hell had her so...It was more than upset.
The poor girl was fucking spooked.
She hesitated a second before nodding. Without a word he tucked her under his arm, shielding her from the view of the other party guests. He led her down a hallway off the foyer and into the garage, where a side door led into the quiet, dark backyard. The noise from the party filtered out through the open windows, mingling with the soft gurgle of water from the pool. A cool spring breeze rustled the palm fronds and teased Alexa’s shoulder-length hair around her jaw. She brushed it aside as he led her to a stone bench off to the right, their backs to the house.
For several moments they just sat, Alexa sniffling and staring blankly at the still water of the pool. Zack stroked a hand up and down her back, hoping to comfort her in some way. He’d spent the past year as a bodyguard honing his protective instincts, and they now came to life, alarm bells ringing through his skull. Something was very, very wrong.
When she finally spoke, she surprised him with her question. “Who’s the party for? Sierra was cagey about it on the phone earlier.”
Zack glanced back at the house. “Oh. Uh, for Taylor and Colt. They got married in Vegas last weekend.”
Alexa’s head whipped around. “What? But didn’t they just get together?”
“They’re crazy.” She shook her head, but he could hear the smile in her voice.
“That’s what I said.”
Gently, she laid a hand on his arm, the tips of her fingers warm against his skin. “Are you okay?”
Fuck, she was so sweet. He was supposed to be comforting her and finding out why she’d suddenly burst into tears, and she was worried about him because his ex-girlfriend had eloped.
He laid a hand over hers, allowing himself the luxury of tracing his thumb over her delicate knuckles. “I’m fine. Just surprised, like everyone, I think. You gonna tell me what’s wrong?”
She sighed heavily. “I don’t even know where to start.” “Beginning’s usually a good place.”

She scoffed out a laugh. “That would take too long.”
He turned to face her. “Did someone hurt you? What happened, Alexa?”
A tremble coursed through her, and he wished he were wearing more than a T-shirt and jeans so that he had a jacket or a sweater to offer her. But he didn’t, so instead he pulled her close and tucked her against him. “Please tell me. I want to help.”
She swallowed thickly and looked up at him, meeting his gaze. “I...I think my dad’s a murderer and that I might be in a lot of trouble.”
Excerpted from CHAIN REACTION by Tara Wyatt. Copyright © 2017 by Tara Wyatt. Reprinted with permission of Forever. All rights reserved.  

The Series: 


Tara Wyatt has been making up love stories ever since she fell head over heels for the Backstreet Boys almost twenty years ago. Winner of the Unpublished Winter Rose Award, Linda Howard Award of Excellence and the Heart of the West Award, Tara lives in Hamilton, Ontario with the cutest dog in the world and a husband that makes all of her heroes look like chumps.

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#CoverReveal - Finding Fulfillment By Lynn Burke

Finding Fulfillment
Found by Fate 3
By Lynn Burke

Jade Matthews may be young, but she knows what she wants in a man--someone mature and kinky, a man who shares her deepest desires to have her pregnant and barefoot in the kitchen and submissively compliant in the bedroom.
Archer Brennan aches to unleash his dark side on the too-young grocery bagger, with her pert pony tail and glossy lips that makes him yearn for a taste. With an ex-wife and a messy divorce threatening to destroy his pursuit of happiness, he binds himself to one rule -- hands-off Jade's tight body until his divorce settlement is final.
A submissive must obey her Dom, but some rules were meant to be broken, and when one misstep threatens the dominant lawyer's life, will Jade defy Archer's hands-off decree or lose the only man capable of fulfilling all of her dreams?
Publisher: Roane Publishing
Release Date: May 22, 2017
Keywords: Erotic, Romance, BDSM

About the Author: 

Lynn Burke is a full time mother, voracious gardener, and scribbler of spicy romance stories. A country bumpkin turned Bay Stater, she enjoys her chowdah and Dunkin Donuts when not trying to escape the reality of city life.


#SpotLight - A HIGHLAND RUBY Brenda B. Taylor

Brenda B. Taylor

She must choose between a life of adventure with the man she loves or a settled, secure life with her betrothed. Flora Vass forced Gavin Munro out of her heart and mind until he returned to Scotland after an adventurous five years in the New World. Gavin leaves no doubt he returned to make the bonnie Flora his own and intends to fight for her. Flora's betrothed, Iain MacKay, and Gavin's brother, Chief
Andrew Munro, have other plans. Andrew needs her to marry the MacKay and bring peace between the two clans. Iain MacKay desires an heir. War with England looms on the horizon, forcing Flora to make crucial decisions.

Publisher: Bethabara Press
Pages: 207
Genre: Historical Romance

Buy Links:


He watched her through the grey mist, walking
along the shore of Cromarty
Firth. The hood of her arisaid covered her bonnie
russet locks, but he imagined them bouncing with each step she took. She came
every morn, sometimes with the wee curly-headed laddie in tow, but now, she
walked alone. His heart beat a fast rhythm like a lad watching his first love.
How foolish to be hiding behind a rock when he could speak to her, hold her
hand, and look into her dark eyes.
Gavin gathered courage and stood to
his full height when Flora walked past the rock where he hid. “Flora,” he said
in a quiet voice. She continued to walk, not hearing him above the moaning
Quickly, he took a place beside her,
then grabbed her arm. She screamed as she turned to face him. Her eyes widened
with fear, she tried to jerk her arm free, then beat his chest with the fist of
the other hand, and kicked his shin with the toe of a pointed boot.
Gavin jumped from the boot’s path,
but kept her arm secure. “Stop. ‘Tis I, Gavin.” She stopped kicking and the
free hand went to her mouth while she studied his face. A small squeak emerged
from between full red lips. He watched her lips for a moment, then bent to
place a kiss on the inviting mouth. She became rigid with no response.
He released her arm then backed
away. She continued to stare as though he were a stranger, and he very well may
be to her now. After all, five years in the wilderness of the New
World can change a man beyond recognition.
Flora’s hand raised for an instant
then came across his face with a stinging blow. He rubbed at the burning cheek.
“How dare you,” she screamed above the wind. “You left me. You left me.” She
hit his chest with both fists now.
Gavin grabbed her wrists, bringing
her close. “Stop. I only want to see you, be near you once more. May I walk with
you? Just a short distance?”
Flora stared. Her brown eyes larger
now with surprise or mayhap shock. She stopped struggling and rested her head
on his chest. A seagull called overhead and waves lapped against the shore of
the firth. Gavin pushed the hood of her arisaid back, stroking her hair while
wrapping an arm around her slender waist. The russet locks felt soft to his
fingers. They smelled with the sweet fragrance of heather and salt air, just as
he remembered and dreamed. The mist had damped one small curl so that it clung
to her neck. He touched the softness of her skin where the curl lay. They stood
for a long time. Flora now seemed reluctant to move and Gavin did not wish to
spoil the moment.
Finally, she stepped back and looked
into his eyes. A line creased her fair brow. “Why did you come back? I made a
life without you.”
“I wanted to see you and the lad.
Andrew sent a message while I was still in Barcelona
waiting for a ship to the New World.”
Flora searched Gavin’s face. “You
look older, tanned, hardened.”
“Aye. I’ve been living in a
wilderness, defending myself from the wild natives and animals. Searching for
gold while starving for food. Takes a lot out of a mon.”
“I am betrothed to a fine mon. One
who loves and wants me and my bairns. I wanna have you back, Gavin. You left me
carrying your bairn. I wanna have you back.” She beat his chest once more.
Tears spilled over to her cheeks.
He grabbed her wrist. “I understand,
Flora. I understand. I’ll leave you alone, I will. But I do want to see my
son.” He kissed each tear-filled eyelid, then her cheeks, and not being able to
resist the temptation, her tempting lips.
Flora didn’t resist and, when the
kiss grew more passionate, responded. Her arms went around his neck, her body
melted into his so her warmth reached his very soul.
She pushed away. “Why did you go
without a word?”
“I dinna ken. I canna explain why.”
He lied, not exactly an untruth, but an exaggerated one.
“Well, I ken. You fancied yourself
to be in love with your brother’s wife. Now what are you gonna do about that?
They’re happily married with a bairn of their own and another on the way.”
Flora’s eyes flashed then she turned away, watching a crab crawl away on the
Gavin grabbed her hand so she faced
him. “I was wrong. I dinna love Maidie, ‘twas you I carried in my heart. I ken
that now.”
Flora snatched her hand away. “I
must go. My bairns are waiting. Phillip is readying for work in the fields and
Ishbel is attending Gavy. Aye, I named him for his da, but call him Gavy.”
“I’m keen to see him.” Gavin didn’t
want to beg, but he would if necessary.
“I live in Leslie Manor no’ far from
Fàrdach Castle.
Laird Andrew provides well for your son. He pays me a good wage as nanny for
his bairns.”
“What of Phillip?”
Flora smiled with the mention of her
oldest child. “Phillip is growing like a weed and favors his da so much I hurt
to look at him. He helps with the land and sheep on the estate and trains with
Laird Andrew’s slaugh.”
“A fine lad, indeed.” Gavin
hesitated. “And what of my brother, the Laird of Fàrdach Castle?” An image of
his brother popped into mind. Would Andrew welcome him back to Fàrdach
Castle after all these years? Gavin
doubted he would receive a warm welcome.
“The Laird of Fàrdach Castle grieved
for his lost brother and tanist, but he’s happily married and in good health.”
Flora gazed into his eyes. “I must go. You’re welcome to visit Gavy, but only
visit, naught more.”
Gavin returned her gaze. “Aye, I’ll
visit, naught more.”
With a nod of her head, Flora
replaced the hood of the arisaid, turned, and walked in the direction of the
house, not far from where they stood. Gavin watched until she took a path from
the shore to the manor, his heart heavy with rejection. He didn’t expect, but
hoped for more. Maybe she would turn back and accept him into her life once
again. He watched, but she didn’t look back. Now the task of facing his
brother, Sir Andrew Dubh Munro, Laird of Fàrdach Castle.


Flora ducked behind a grass-covered
dune to hide from Gavin’s view. She peeped over the grassy slope to gaze in the
direction of the beach. He still stood, watching her. She turned quickly toward
the house and didn’t look back. Her stomach churned and thoughts of him swirled
in her head. He still raised a passion within the depths of her being she could
not deny. Why did he come back? He should have stayed in the savage New
World and never returned to Ferindonald. Life was complicated
enough without the luring charm of Gavin Munro. He would certainly be around
often to visit his son. What will Iain think?
The large manor house sat far enough
away from the firth that high tides did not intrude upon the land, but close
enough for a good walk along the shore when one’s heart ached and needed
solitude. Flora often walked the shore
of Cromarty Firth looking for
dolphins, listening to the water lapping over rocks, and tasting the salt air
on her tongue. She bathed in the firth on warm summer days, feeling the
refreshing water on her skin.
She often took the bairns on an
outing. They enjoyed wading and chasing the sea gulls. Sometimes they found
pretty shells she took home, cleaned, and added to their collection. Other
times she walked with Iain, while they made plans for a life together. Her
life, if not the exciting one she knew with Gavin, had taken a quiet, peaceful
turn with promise of a secure future. Now, he had returned and her insides felt
like the firth during a storm with crashing, violent waves smashing against the
Flora saw the eye of her small son
pressed against a crack in the large iron-studded oak door. When he saw his
mother, Gavy opened the door wide and ran out to meet her, grabbing her long
wool skirt then hanging on. She bent down to rub the small head full of russet
“Mam, Mam, you left without me,” he
“You slept and I dinna wish to wake
you.” Flora removed his hands from the cloth and picked him up. He was heavier
than she wanted to carry, and immediately put his feet back on the ground,
taking his hand instead.
Gavy looked around Flora’s skirt, “I
see Phillip.”
Flora turned. Her oldest son ran
toward them with something awry from the looks of him. He barely nodded in her
direction then ran into the house. She followed, dragging Gavy along by the
hand. Phillip’s footsteps clicked on the plank flooring and then ascended the
spiral staircase to his room on the second story. She released Gavy’s small
hand once inside and gave it to Ishbel, the housemaid, who dropped the bundle
of heather she carried. Flora followed Phillip to his room. The heavy door
stood ajar, so she entered without knocking.
Her son, in the process of belting
his father’s claymore over his young shoulders barely acknowledged her when she
approached him. “What are you doing, Phillip? You have nae business with your
da’s sword.”
Phillip jerked away and continued
securing the large leather scabbard over his shoulder. When he insisted, she
had let the young lad keep the claymore in his bedchamber, but he had solemnly
promised not to use it except to practice with the slaugh.
Flora grabbed for the claymore
again. “What are you doing?
“MacIntosh reivers burned a haystack. While we were trying to douse the fire,
they stole ten head of cattle. I’m going with the chief to find them and get
the cattle back.”
“Och, I give nae permission for you
to go with the slaugh.” Flora held to
the billowy sleeve of his léine.
“I dinna need your permission. I am
of age, thirteen years.” Phillip’s dark head shook. His cheeks, already ruddy
from exertion, reddened even more while bright brown eyes flashed.
Flora could only stare at her son.
Thirteen summers and he thought himself a man. The heaviness of his father’s
sword weighed down upon his shoulder. He practiced with the Munro cateran, but only with small dirks and
bows, not with large claymores or the deadly falchion.
“I forbid you to go. You’re too
young to take on such a task. The chief wanna allow it.” She grasped at
Phillip’s sleeve when he brushed past her, but to no avail. Her son rushed
through the open door. She followed calling to him, “Phillip you’re too young.
The chief will forbid you to go.”
Flora watched Phillip’s back as he
descended the spiral staircase, rushed through the great hall, and out of the
door. Gavy whimpered when his brother strode by without acknowledging him.
Phillip fancied his wee brother, and delighted in teasing the lad, rumpling his
hair, and telling him stories of ghosts and fairies. Flora rushed to the yard
as Phillip entered the stables. She could say or do naught to stop him, so she
stood, waiting until he galloped by on a garron. They owned no war horse, and
would never own one if she had her way.
She would not give her son up to
fighting. Maidie, her friend and wife of the Munro chief, Laird Andrew,
insisted her son, Sven, study the law. He would train as a barrister and live
in a burgh. Sven would never see battle and fighting. Flora wanted the same for
Phillip. Her sons were as good as Maidie’s. They should have the same
Flora dashed back into the house and
found Ishbel. “I’m going to the castle. Look after the bairn.” Crying, Gavy
reached for her. Flora pressed a kiss on the plump pink cheek, then turned to
leave. Mayhap if she could get to Fàrdach before Andrew left with his cateran, she could stop Phillip.


Gavin turned away and started toward
the castle. His heart felt heavy like a rock in Cromarty Firth. Flora spurned
him. She was promised to another, betrothed to another man. He came back to
Ferindonald to see her, but she no longer loved him. Although she would not
have him, he must see his son at all cost.
Fàrdach castle loomed before him. A
large band of Munro warriors, some mounted and others on foot, were assembled
on the grassy meadow outside of  the
castle wall. Calls and war whoops rose from the horde. Those ahorse rode away
to the west in a cloud of dust. The warriors afoot followed closely behind. Reivers must be about, with Andrew
leading his slaugh to fight.
Hopefully, he would not have to face
his brother this day. He could gauge the mood of the castle servants and
occupants then decided if he should stay or go before meeting Andrew. Gavin
fell in with some of the tenants making their way to the castle with their
quarterly rents. One woman who had a chicken under her arm gave him a
suspicious eye. The woman looked familiar. She may have been a neighbor of
Flora’s in the village of Drumainn.
The chicken squawked when Gavin walked by. The woman turned her gaze toward him
and searched his face.
“Sir Gavin, is that you?” she asked
in amazement.
“Madam.” He touched his forehead in
a salute, then walked on quickly.
The woman walked faster as if to
follow him, so he quickened his gait. He could hear her calling to others. “Sir
Gavin’s home. Sir Gavin’s home.”
Calls traveled down the line of
tenants entering and leaving the castle. Soon a small crowd gathered, following
Gavin through the castle gates and under the portcullis. The guard in the gate
house called then waved. He recognized the man and returned the greeting. Those
within the outer bailey stopped their work or activity to welcome him home.
Some gathered around. Small children tugged on his great plaide until it sagged
beneath the thick leather belt. He tugged back, trying to keep some semblance
of order about his person. The crowd followed him through the bailey, over the
drawbridge covering a deep moat, then into the quieter inner yard. Guards
called from the catwalk on the curtain wall. He saluted and returned the
greeting. The great iron-studded oak doors of the keep opened. The chief of
Clan Munro stepped out.
Gavin pushed his way through the
crowd, jerked his plaide from the hands of a small, dirty-faced boy, and
approached his brother. Andrew looked the same, but older with deeper lines on
his brow and around his grey eyes. His raven hair hung in the usual warrior
braids to the broad shoulders. He had trouble keeping the wry strands out of
his eyes if not braided. The chief’s lips pursed into a firm line, then turned
up on the edges with a broad smile. Without a word, he moved forward to embrace
Gavin who returned the embrace with relief.
Andrew pushed away and studied
Gavin’s face. “Welcome home, Brother. I thought you lost to Ferindonald
“Andrew. Good to be home. To see
you. I figured you led your warriors and wanna be here.”
“The business of chief sometimes
keeps me at my desk and ledgers instead of chasing thieves with my men. I’d
rather be out with them any day.”
Gavin returned his brother’s broad
smile. “You seem to be unchanged except for deeper wrinkles, and do I spot a
few grey hairs among the ebony?”
“Aye. More than a few grey, I’m
afraid.” Andrew gave Gavin a pat on the shoulder. “I sent Alan with the slaugh. Only a small band of reivers
pestered us. Alan was elected tanist when you left Fàrdach. Come inside to
greet my family. The ruckus you caused has them all aroused and curious.”
Andrew motioned for Gavin to go ahead.
Gavin stepped inside to the great
hall of Fàrdach. Nothing much had changed. The same boar and stag heads looked
down from around the claymores, broadswords, axes, lances, and targes. Maybe a
few more weapons had been added. Andrew seemed ready for a mighty fight.
Reivers must be plaguing Ferindonald with their stealing and looting. Servants
spread bundles of dried heather across the flagstone floor, filling the hall
with a sweet aroma. They stopped and nodded toward Gavin with broad smiles.
Shafts of light streamed through the small keyhole windows, causing dust motes
to dance on the air. A large grey, shaggy hound lumbered up to Andrew who
reached down to scratch the dog behind the ear.
“’Tis no’ the same hound with all
the pups the bairns played with?” Gavin asked, eyeing the huge dog that stood
up to his brother’s waist. “Seems like I remember a brown and white dog.”
“Nae, the hound and all her pups
went out to tenants who needed good rabbit dogs. This large, lumbering thing is
a gift from Maidie for my birthday of thirty years.”
“How does Maidie fair? And Sven?”
Gavin brought himself to ask.
“She fairs well, and gains in beauty
within and without each day.” Andrew smiled, showing white teeth through his
salt and pepper beard.
Gavin’s heart skipped a beat with
the mention of Maidie’s beauty. Her memory still held a special place in his
heart, although he gave her up to Andrew five years before. He felt
self-conscious, covered with road dirt and unshaven. He bathed in a cold burn
three days ago and scrapped his beard with a dirk, but now stubble covered his
face. The men turned toward the stone spiral staircase to watch two women
descend. One held the hand of a small dark-haired lassie. The other, wearing a
gown of blue silk clinging to her comely form now large with child and a thick
braid of golden hair hanging down her back, held the hand of a blonde
curly-headed lassie. Andrew’s smile grew brighter. He walked toward the group,
taking the younger blonde bairn in his arms.
“Come family and greet our brother
who returned to us this verra day.” Andrew said, bringing the group to Gavin.
“This bonnie lassie is my daughter, Andrina.”
Gavin stroked the small fair hand.
The bairn smiled. Her blue eyes sparkled, and he saw Maidie’s bright eyes
smiling at him, then she buried her pretty head on Andrew’s shoulder. Her
father patted the small head with a gentle, loving touch. He reached for
Maidie’s arm, drawing her forward. Gavin swallowed a large lump forming in his
throat. She was more beautiful than he remembered. Married life and having
bairns agreed with her. He bowed.
Her blue eyes glowed. “Hello, Gavin.
Welcome home.” Then her eyes roamed over his dirty, disheveled clothing. “Seems
you’ve journeyed long and hard.” She placed her hand upon his arm. A chill ran
down his spine. “We’re so verra glad you returned home and hope your stay with
us will be a long one. I’ll have your old chamber made ready with a bath.”
Gavin could only smile and nod his
head at the lovely lady. His heart beat much too wildly to say more, so he
turned to look at the other lassie and her maid. “Hello, Nellie. You look well.
How is Briana?” He tried to take Briana’s hand, but she jerked back. Gavin
looked at Andrew. His brother shrugged his shoulders.
“Briana is leery of strangers these
days. Of a sudden she’s become shy, and clings to Nellie. I can hardly touch
her, myself.” Andrew made a sign with his hands to the lassie. She shook her
head then hid her face in Nellie’s dress. “Briana is learning to speak with her
hands. She learns quickly, but wanna speak around strangers. We are all
learning to talk to her with our hands. Sven is teaching the family and anyone
who wants to learn. He studied a book I brought from Edinburgh.”
Gavin turned to Maidie. “You must be
proud of Sven.” She smiled and nodded. He spoke to Andrew. “You have a lovely
family, M’Laird.”
Andrew placed his free arm around
Maidie’s shoulders. “Aye. These dear ones are the light of my life.” He gave
Andrina to her mother then planted a lingering kiss on Maidie’s lips. Gavin
wondered if his brother did that for his sake. Probably. Like a hound marking
his territory. “Come, let’s go to the tiltyard before Maidie gets you into the
bath. Several of the luchd-taighe
that dinna go with the slaugh are
practicing. They’ll want to bid you welcome.” Andrew took Gavin’s arm, turning
him toward the door.
He turned back. “Thank you, M’Lady
for being so kind. I shall look forward to a comfortable bed and hot bath. Both
have been few and far between these past five years.” Her lips, now rosy from
his brother’s kiss, parted in a smile.
The two men made their way out of
the keep and walked through a heavy door in the curtain wall of the inner
bailey that led to a broad meadow beyond. The large wolfhound followed at
Andrew’s heels. Several warriors dressed only in a great plaide held secure by
a broad leather belt practiced with claymores, broadswords, and bows. One rode
a horse toward a target and threw a spear at the center. The spear met its mark
with a thud. Two men wrestled within the center of a small group who cheered
for one or the other. Gavin smiled, remembering the many days he practiced with
the warriors. This sparring field felt more like home than any other place in
the castle or the whole of Ferindonald, except maybe the small box bed in
Flora’s black house in Drumainn Village.
Ah, remembering the reason he left seemed harder with each passing day.
Andrew’s voice broke through Gavin’s
revelry. “Have you seen your son?”
His brother’s unexpected words took
him aback. “Aye. That I have, Brother—from a distance is all.”
“You ken Flora is betrothed. He is
Iain MacKay, and a finer fellow you’ll be hard pressed to find.”
Gavin turned to stare at Andrew. Did
he think Flora would never love again? “So ‘tis Iain who won her heart. I
remember the first son of the MacKay being wild and rambunctious, always
looking for a way out of duty.”
“Iain’s gained in maturity these
past five years, and being the first-born will inherit his father’s title and
land. Flora could do nae better.”
“Did you arrange the marriage,
thinking I may never return to lay claim to my son?” Gavin felt a tinge of ire
rising around the idea of his brother arranging the marriage of his love to
“We dinna ken whether you lived or
died at the hand of savages. When nae word came from you year after year, I
began looking for a suitable mate for Flora and a da for your son.” The light
in Andrew’s grey eyes faded. A deeper line formed between his heavy brows.
“What would you have me do, Gavin? Keep Flora unwed and your son with nae da to
see to his raising? Phillip needs a father also.”
Of course the chief was right in his
decision. He had obligations to the members of his clan—to take care of their
welfare and keep them safe. Andrew made the only choice left to him in Gavin’s
absence. He found Flora a suitable mate and a father for Phillip and Gavy.
Flora’s and Iain’s love for each other did not matter, they could make a good
life together.
Gavin started to walk away, but
Andrew put a hand on his arm. “Brother, I expect you to abide by the betrothal
contract and leave Flora be. Make nae trouble for Iain.”
“What about my son? Will I be
allowed to see him?”
“Aye, with restraint. You gave up
rights to the boy when you left his mither.” The eyes of the two men met.
Andrew didn’t blink. Gavin knew his chances with Flora were nil.

About the Author:

The desire to write historical fiction has long been a passion with Brenda B. Taylor. Since elementary school, she has written stories in her spare time. Brenda earned three degrees: a BSE from Henderson State University, Arkadelphia, Arkansas; a MEd from Sam Houston State University, Huntsville, Texas; and an EdD from Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas; then worked as a
teacher and administrator in the Texas Public School system. Only after retirement could she fulfill the dream of publication.

Brenda and her husband make their home in beautiful East Texas where they enjoy spending time with family and friends, traveling, and working in Bethabara Faith Ministry, Inc. She crafts stories about the extraordinary lives of ordinary people in her favorite place overlooking bird feeders, bird houses, and a variety of blooming trees and flowers. She sincerely thanks all who purchase and read her books. Her desire is that the message in each book will touch the heart of the reader as it did hers in the writing.

Her latest book is the historical romance, Highland Ruby.


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