A Marriage In Middlebury | Enter Anita Higman’s Double Kindle Fire Giveaway & RSVP for “Tea for Two” 12/12 Facebook Party!

Cover Rating: 5 Stars*****

Blurb:

One decision changed both their lives . . . but will love win in the end? Charlotte Rose Hill enjoys a comfortable life serving up country delicacies, uniquely blended teas, and matchmaking advice for her quirky, devoted customers. The only thing lacking is someone to share it with. At eighteen she denied Sam Wilder’s marriage proposal after his family convinced her to walk away from their relationship. They both moved on . . . or so she thought. When Sam walks back into her life more than a decade later, Charlotte is surprised that her heart still quickens. But is it because of his presence? Or because of the presence of Sam’s new fiancée? A second chance at love doesn’t happen often, but their past may keep them apart. Is it too late for Sam and Charlotte?

You can Purchase it here: Amazon * B&N * BAM * CBD * Deeper Shopping

About the Author:

Best-selling and award-winning author, Anita Higman, is the author or coauthor of thirty-five books for adults and children. She has recently been honored with a 2013 Inspirational Reader’s Choice Award and is a two-time finalist in the 2013 Selah Awards as well as a finalist in the 2013 Cascade Awards. She holds a BA in the combined fields of speech communication, psychology, and art. Anita loves good movies, exotic teas, and brunch with her friends.

You can find Anita here: Website * Facebook * Twitter

 

~My Review~

Charlotte Rose Hill spends her days blending special teas for the town of Middlebury at The Rose Hill Cottage Tearoom and one thing she has discovered is you can’t change the past no matter how much you would like to. When Charlotte was eighteen she gave up the one thing she loved most. Sam Wilder was her one true love and all she wanted was to marry him and have a family but Sam’s father forced her to give him up because of her lineage by threatening to expose a family secret to the whole town of Middlebury. In order to save Sam’s relationship with his father, Charlotte walked away without telling Sam why. Now, nineteen years later, Sam is back in Middlebury with some news of his own–he’s getting married–and Charlotte is devastated. Her feelings for Sam are still just as strong but she knows she must do the right thing and keep her feelings a secret. But can she stand by and let the love of her life marry another?

Sam Wilder was heartbroken all those years ago when Charlotte walked away from him and he still doesn’t understand why. But life moves on and his upcoming wedding is proof of that. Moving back home to Middlebury seemed like the right thing to do but now, after seeing Charlotte for the first time, he’s not so sure. All of the old feelings he thought were locked away for good are now haunting his every waking minute. Sam made a promise to his fiancé but how can he marry one woman while still loving another? When secrets start to come out and lies unfurl will their lives change course or are they destined to be apart?

Marriage in Middlebury is my second book by Anita Higman and I knew I wouldn’t be disappointed. Middlebury is portrayed as a quaint little town, one that I would love to live in, and I like that. I can relate to a story more when I love the setting. I want to talk about the characters also. Charlotte has such a loving, forgiving spirit. She is a giver and seldom a taker and she handles every situation so well. With finesse even. I would inspire to be like Charlotte. The whole town loves her and she is forever thinking of others above herself. Charlotte is the persona of everything good and wholesome. I love that. Sam is a real great guy too. Always seeing the good in people and extending a helping hand. You can’t help but love Him. But there are other characters that you will love and that make this story complete. Pastor Wally, Mr. LaGrange (an atheist alcoholic), Justine Yule (the town hobo?), Nelly (Sam’s cook) who had the cutest way of saying things, and Meredith Steinberg who is a modern day “Mrs. Miracle” matchmaker. Middlebury is a place for romance and it’s definitely in the air. The characters are so endearing and the story is so well written that I couldn’t help but love it. If the story wasn’t wrapped up so well I would suggest a series. It has a Debbie MaComber quality to me and, if you like wholesome small town romances, you will love this book!


Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for my honest review. The opinions expressed are mine and mine alone. I received no monetary compensation for this review.

My Rating: 5 Stars*****

*Tweetables*

Tweet Me Please!: “God must love dust. He created us.”

Tweet Me Please!: “My dear, if there is a God… I see him in your face.”

Tweet Me Please!: “Better to be slain by God than reign as queen on Satan’s throne.”

Q & A: I ask the question and you answer with your own personal thoughts! 🙂

Charlotte owned a Tearoom where she blended her own special teas and also served food. Have you ever been to a Tearoom? How was your experience?

Anita Higman is celebrating the release of her latest book, A Marriage in Middlebury, with a double Kindle Fire giveaway (one for you & one to give away!) and a “Tea for Two” Facebook Author Chat Party on December 12th.

http://goo.gl/msCQJx

One winner will receive:

  • A Kindle Fire for you AND a friend
  • A Marriage in Middlebury by Anita Higman (one to keep and one to give away!)

Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on December 12th. Winner will be announced at the “Tea for Two” Facebook Author Chat Party on December 12th. Invite your friends and connect with Anita for an evening of book chat, prizes, and an exclusive look at Anita’s next book!


So grab your copy of A Marriage in Middlebury and join Anita on the evening of December 12th for a chance to connect and make some new friends. (If you haven’t read the book, don’t let that stop you from coming!)

Don’t miss a moment of the fun; RSVP today by clicking JOIN at the event page. Spread the word — tell your friends about the giveaway and party via FACEBOOK or TWITTER. Hope to see you on 12/12!

Stones for Bread by Christa Parrish – Win a KitchenAid Mixer!

Blurb:

A solitary artisan. A legacy of bread-baking. And one secret that could collapse her entire identity.

Liesl McNamara’s life can be described in one word: bread. From her earliest memory, her mother and grandmother passed down the mystery of baking and the importance of this deceptively simple food. And now, as the owner of Wild Rise bake house, Liesl spends every day up to her elbows in dough, nourishing and perfecting her craft.

But the simple life she has cultivated is becoming quite complicated. Her head baker brings his troubled grandson into the bakeshop as an apprentice. Her waitress submits Liesl’s recipes to a popular cable cooking show. And the man who delivers her flour—a single father with strange culinary habits—seems determined to win Liesl’s affection.

When Wild Rise is featured on television, her quiet existence appears a thing of the past. And then a phone call from a woman claiming to be her half-sister forces Liesl to confront long-hidden secrets in her family’s past. With her precious heritage crumbling around her, the baker must make a choice: allow herself to be buried in detachment and remorse, or take a leap of faith into a new life.

You can purchase it here: Amazon * B&N * BAM * CBD * Deeper Shopping

 

About the Author:


Christa Parrish is the award-winning author of three novels, including the 2009 ECPA Fiction Book of the Year Watch Over Me. When she’s not writing, she’s a homeschool mother of three wonderful children. Married to author and pastor Chris Coppernoll, Christa serves with him as co-leader of their church’s youth ministry as well as serving as a facilitator for a divorce recovery ministry. She is now also slightly obsessed with the art of baking bread.

You can find Christa here: Website * Twitter * Pinterest * Facebook

~My Review~

 
Liesl McNamara was a bread maker by trade but it was more than that. Making bread was a family tradition that was passed from generation to generation. She learned to make bread at the hands of her mother and grandmother, Oma, from the time she was a little girl. When she found her mother dead at the age of only thirteen, Liesl closed herself off from the world eventually turning to bread making as an escape from the memories that haunted her. Now, years later, she hides from the past in her bake house, Wild Rise. Because her apprentice sends in an application for the TV show Bake-Off, Liesl sons finds herself in the middle of production with some hard decisions to make. But a little girl and her father have worked their way into her life and heart and Liesl has to decide if she is willing to let go of the past and look toward the future.
Seamus Tate is the new flour delivery man for Wild Rise bake house. After his wife walked out he found himself as a single father trying to raise a six year-old alone. When his daughter, Cecelia, becomes attached to the bakery owner he soon finds himself becoming attached to her as well. Liesl has worked her way into his heart and when his mother becomes ill and needs constant care Seamus has no choice but to return to Tennessee. Is his love enough for Liesl? Can she give up the one thing she has always used as a balm to her wounds? Or will she give up the only true love she has ever known?
I’m not exactly sure how I feel about this book. I love the traditions ingrained in Liesl’s family. The bread making that was passed from generation to generation is something to be admired because it brought a closeness between Liesl, her mother and grandmother. Bread making was their solace and that is a beautiful thing. There are a lot of descriptions on bread and bread making all throughout the story. So much so that I feel like bread makers will be more likely to get the most out of the story. I loved her mix matched “family” though. They are described on page 211 like this, “…odd, growing Wild Rise family of immigrants, high school dropouts, nerdy engineers, flirty artists, fundamentalist farm girls, and everyone else.” This is such an accurate description and you can’t help but love the characters. Xavier and Tee especially. It also covered an issue that is seldom discussed and that is, self-inflicted pain. Kids often inflict pain upon themselves as a way of dealing with the problems going on in their lives. In Liesl’s case she would beat her legs with a hairbrush until she was black and blue. I feel it’s a problem that should be addressed more and I give a thumbs up to Christa Parrish for bringing it to light.
I am a romance junkie at heart, though, and I feel like the one thing I love took a backseat to everything else. The romance between Liesl and Seamus was slow in developing and I really like that but I wanted to read more about it. I wish it had been woven into the story more often. Seamus was such a sweet, teddy bear of a man and I would like to have seen more of him. Also, all throughout the book the story would just stop and there would be a section connecting Jesus, the Bread of Life, to the bread we consume daily and then the story would resume where it left off. While I completely agree with this theological concept, it somehow seemed misplaced for me. I’m still struggling with how to classify this book as well. Is it romance, self-help or women’s fiction maybe? I’ll let you be the judge. I also feel like there was a loose end. I like my books all tied up in neat little packages but I felt like there was a loose thread left hanging. If you are a romance junkie like I am, while you might like the sense of family this book evokes, you may not love the story as a whole quite as much. However, if you are a bread enthusiast I do recommend it as you will most likely love it because it has a lot of references to and instructions on bread and bread making and it also includes several recipes.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for my honest review. The opinions stated are mine and mine alone. I received no monetary compensation for this review.

 

My Rating: 3 Stars *** 

 

 *Tweetables*

 
 
 
 
 

 

Q & A: I ask the question and you answer with your own personal thoughts! 🙂

 
Bread making was a beloved tradition for Liesl’s family that was passed down from generation to generation. It was something that drew them closer and gave them a special bond. What traditions do you cherish in your family?
 
 
 
 

~Giveaway~

 

Christa Parrish is celebrating her fourth novel, Stones for Breadwith a KitchenAid Mixer giveaway.

#StonesforBread KitchenAid Mixer Contest #ChristaParrish http://bit.ly/1aBTNz9

Easy steps to enter:

1. Follow Christa Parrish and TNZ Fiction on Pinterest.

2. Then Pin the Stones for Bread book cover (below), the contest graphic (above), or both, and link to this post (using this URL: #StonesforBread KitchenAid Mixer Contest #ChristaParrish http://litfusegroup.com/campaigns/stones-for-bread-by-christa-parrish).

3. Then fill out THIS SHORT FORM to let us know. (There are also some additional ways to earn extra entries, as well as an option for non-Pinterest users. It’s true—people like that do exist!)

Questions? Email info @ litfusegroup dot com.

Winner will be announced on 12/9 on Christa’s Facebook Page.

 

The Mighty League, Vol. 1: The Terrible Taunting Storybook APP – Review

I know what you’re thinking–“This is a BOOK review blog!”. Yes, I review books, all kinds actually, but when Jodi Murphy asked me to review her app there was no question about whether I would do it. You see, Jodi’s son Jonathan has Aspergers Syndrome and, having physical limitations myself, I tend to have a heart for others that have limitations as well. Jodi “created GCB to give my son who has Aspergers Syndrome and others like him a voice via children’s stories we make into apps.” (Direct quote). What is Asperger’s Syndrome? Asperger’s syndrome, also called Asperger’s disorder, is a type of pervasive developmental disorder which involves delays in the development of many basic skills, most notably the ability to socialize with others, to communicate, and to use imagination. And, as the person gets older, their ability to communicate can actually worsen. So, in order to help raise awareness, here I am. Below you will find all of the info on the app followed by my review. If this can help just one person out there I’ll know I’ve done something good. 🙂

DESCRIPTION | The adorkable JMan and his plucky hedgehog sidekick, Mr. Redge are the unstoppable, secret superhero team who save a classmate from the poking pranks of Dr. Evil Touch! Join this quirky duo on their quest to stop a bully, make the school playground a peaceful place, and more importantly, make a new friend who likes crime fighting, capes and karate, too. Discover JMan’s hidden notebook on each page about what it’s like to be an Aspie.

ABOUT THIS APP | This INTERACTIVE storybook app is based on the real JMan, Jonathan Murphy, and his REAL LIFE adventures growing up with ASPERGER’S SYNDROME. Written by his sister, Molly Murphy, and narrated by Jonathan, the story is told by someone who sees his world from a very unique perspective. It promotes SELF-ACCEPTANCE, AWARENESS, and an UNDERSTANDING for others who are different.

You can purchase it here: iTunes * Amazon * Google Play

Priced at just $3.99 and for children Ages 5-11

Website

 
 

~My Review~

 
First of all, anytime a family comes together to raise awareness of a disorder or any type of illness I think it’s a good thing. And, when they actually do something to help others that have a disorder or illness, I believe their voice should be heard as well. The Murphy family is doing just that. This app is just the coolest thing. It has the cutest graphics and songs that make you want to move to the beat. You can adjust the volume of the music as well as the volume of the narrator (Which, by the way, is Jodi’s son Jonathan! Cool right?). It has the words to the story (The stories are written by her daughter, Molly) written on the screen so you can follow along as Jonathan narrates. But the best thing of all is the person playing the app can record their own voice and narrate the story themselves! Do I think this gives people with Asperger’s a voice like it’s intended? Absolutely! I also think it will help anyone with developmental delays and not just Asperger’s alone. If you have a child with developmental delays I hope you will try this app. I think your child will love it and benefit from it as well. I also want to mention that once you finish the book it takes you to the App store so you can buy more stories but, the best part is, there are several stories that are FREE! You can believe I will be recommending it.
 
Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for my honest review. The opinions stated are mine and mine alone. I received no monetary compensation for this review.
 

My Rating: 5 Stars *****

Dear Mr. Knightley by Katherine Reay – Win a Kindle Fire HDX & An Austen-Themed Prize Pack!

Cover Rating: 4 Stars ****

Blurb:

Samantha Moore has always hidden behind the words of others—namely, her favorite characters in literature. Now, she will learn to write her own story—by giving that story to a complete stranger.

Sam is, to say the least, bookish. An English major of the highest order, her diet has always been Austen, Dickens, and Shakespeare. The problem is, both her prose and conversation tend to be more Elizabeth Bennet than Samantha Moore.

But life for the twenty-three-year-old orphan is about to get stranger than fiction. An anonymous, Dickensian benefactor (calling himself Mr. Knightley) offers to put Sam through Northwestern University’s prestigious Medill School of Journalism. There is only one catch: Sam must write frequent letters to the mysterious donor, detailing her progress.

As Sam’s dark memory mingles with that of eligible novelist Alex Powell, her letters to Mr. Knightley become increasingly confessional. While Alex draws Sam into a world of warmth and literature that feels like it’s straight out of a book, old secrets are drawn to light. And as Sam learns to love and trust Alex and herself, she learns once again how quickly trust can be broken.

Reminding us all that our own true character is not meant to be hidden, Reay’s debut novel follows one young woman’s journey as she sheds her protective persona and embraces the person she was meant to become.

You can purchase it here: AmazonB&N * BAM * CBD * Deeper Shopping

About the Author:

Katherine Reay has enjoyed a life-long affair with the works of Jane Austen and her contemporaries. After earning degrees in history and marketing from Northwestern University, she worked as a marketer for Proctor & Gamble and Sears before returning to school to earn her MTS. Her works have been published in Focus on the Family and the Upper Room. Katherine currently lives with her husband and three children in Seattle. Dear Mr. Knightley is her first novel.

Find Katherine here: Website * Facebook * Twitter * Blog * Goodreads

~My Review~

 
 

Samantha Moore had had a rough childhood with an abusive father, a drug addict as a mother and moving from foster home to foster home. Then she found herself at a Grace House, a home for wayward and orphaned kids, and under the supervision if Father John. Sam had always lived in her books and, being a fan of Jane Austen, she often quoted her characters as a way to hide her true self. When Father John suggested her as a scholarship candidate to the Dover Foundation she refused because she wanted to do things on her own and on her own terms. After failing to do exactly that she contested the grantor of the scholarship to ask for a second chance. It was granted under one condition, that she write letters detailing her progress to his pseudonym–Mr. Knightley.

Sam soon finds herself pouring out her feelings to someone that started out as a stranger but is soon a trusted friend. With Mr. Knightley she can share her deepest, darkest secrets, her fears and her desires, and even a true love. With a new set of “parents”, new friends, a college degree and a new love blossoming in her heart, Sam is finally coming into her own and putting the fears of the past behind her. To her own amazement she is shedding her Jane Austen persona all while bearing her soul to one man and giving her heart to another. Can Sam have the life she has only dreamed of? Could this really be real or is she only a character in one of her beloved novels?

When I first opened this book I have to admit I was skeptical. A book made entirely of letters? My first thought was, “How can this possibly meet my expectations?”. Even though I have read such greats as The Wednesday Letters by Jason F. Wright and The Prayer Box by Lisa Wingate I still had reservations. Those books had such great story lines and the letters were a PART of the story, NOT the story itself. So as I delved into this story I did so with a little skepticism. Have you ever done that? Read a book that you had questions about but, once you read it, were so glad you did? That is exactly what happened. A third of the way through I knew I had chosen well, halfway through I was in tears, three quarters of the way through I was literally giddy (did I say giddy? Yes, GIDDY!) at the prospect of how the story was going to turn out every time I picked the book back up to start reading again. I have read tons of books in my life and, although I have seen times I didn’t want to put a book down, I have never felt giddy at re-entering a story. The way Sam bared her soul to Mr. Knightley just tore at my heart. I felt every heartache and disappointment she went through. I felt every loss and rejection and rejoiced with every happy moment Sam experienced. And when she finally found love, which she desperately deserved, I was ecstatic! It takes good writing to bring out those kind of emotions and in the form of letters? Excellent! If you love a story with depth and feeling, a story that makes you feel like you’re a part of it, you’ll love Dear Mr. Knightley. And, I must add, it’s a DEBUT novel! Which obviously means I have many more books to look forward to from Katherine Reay. I was SO pleased with this book and I recommend it HIGHLY!

 Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of the book from the publisher for my honest review. These opinions are mine and mine alone. I was in no way compensated for this review.

My Rating: 5 Stars *****

 

*Tweetables*

 
 
 
 
 

Q & A: I ask the question and you answer with your own personal thoughts! 🙂

While writing her letters, Sam was writing to a pseudonym (A fictitious name). She had no idea who the recipient was or anything about them and that made it easier to be truthful about herself and dig deeper into her life and past. Do you think you could bare your soul completely to a stranger under these circumstances or would it have to be someone you know very well?

 
 
 
 
 
 

Debut author Katherine Reay is celebrating the release of her delightful novel, Dear Mr. Knightley, with a Kindle Fire HDX giveaway, a fun Favorite Austen Moments Pinterest contest, and an Austen-themed Facebook Party.

dearmrknightley-400

One winner will receive:

  • A Kindle Fire HDX
  • Dear Mr. Knightley by Katherine Reay
  • Handmade Austen-themed items (scarf, mug, bracelet, and necklace) 
Two ways to win! Enter today by clicking one of the icons below or participating in the Pinterest contest (see banner below)—or BOTH! 



But hurry, the giveaway ends on December 3rd. Winner will be announced at the “Dear Mr. Knightley” Austen-themed Facebook Author Chat Party on the 3rd. Join Katherine (and Austen fans) for an evening of book chat, prizes, and an exclusive look at Katherine’s next book.

So grab your copy of  Dear Mr. Knightley and join Katherine on the evening of December 3rd for a chance to connect and make some new friends. (If you haven’t read the book, don’t let that stop you from coming!)

Don’t miss a moment of the fun; RSVP today by clicking JOIN at the event page. Spread the word—tell your friends about the giveaway and party via FACEBOOK, TWITTER, or PINTEREST. Hope to see you on the 3rd!

For Love or Loyalty Book 1, MacGregor Legacy by Jennifer Hudson Taylor – Blog Tour & Review

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old…or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today’s Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Abingdon Press (November 5, 2013)
***Special thanks to Jennifer Hudson Taylor for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Jennifer Hudson Taylor is an award winning author of inspirational fiction set in historical Europe & the Carolinas. She provides keynotes and presentations on the publishing industry, the craft of writing building an author platform & social media marketing. Her debut novel, Highland Blessings, received a 4 1/2 star review from RT Book Reviews and won the Holt Medallion Award for Best First Book. Jennifer’s work has appeared in national publications, such as Guideposts, Heritage Quest Magazine, RT Book Reviews, and The Military Trader. Jennifer graduated from Elon University with a B.A. in Communications/Journalism. When she isn’t writing, Jennifer enjoys spending time with her family, traveling, visiting historical sites, parasailing, horseback riding, cycling, long walks, genealogy and reading.

Visit the author’s website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

One conquest could destroy her, but avenge his family.

Scotland to Carolina, 1760

Malcolm MacGregor vows to free his family and exact revenge against Duncan Campbell. When the opportunity arises, Malcolm decides to use Duncan’s daughter as the bargaining price. Lauren Campbell is the perfect answer, until she begins chipping away at the bitterness in Malcolm’s heart and changing everything. Her bold faith and forgiveness ignites guilt he would rather avoid and a love he doesn’t deserve.

Lauren Campbell never expected to discover such a caring and protective man behind the façade of Malcolm MacGregor’s fierce reputation. When they arrive in America, things turn against them, and Lauren finds herself in a fate worse than death. Now Malcolm has the dilemma of freeing the rest of his family or rescuing Lauren, but time is short and with little means, he needs a miracle

Product Details:
List Price: $14.99
Series: The Macgregor Legacy
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Abingdon Press (November 5, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1426714696
ISBN-13: 978-1426714696

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

A feeling of foreboding crawled over Malcolm MacGregor like a colony of insects picking at his skin. He gripped the reins as he inhaled the crisp March air, but it burned his lungs with the residue of tainted fire. A cloud of dark smoke hovered over the wee village of Inverawe—home. Fear coiled inside Malcolm’s gut as he urged his mount forward.

His brother kept pace beside him. At a score and four, Thomas was two years Malcolm’s junior. He favored Malcolm with the same stubborn chin and broad shoulders from hard work.

Distant moors lined the overcast sky. Morning fog hovered over the glen, blending with heavy smoke. As they drew near, their eyes stung and the burnt smell accosted them until they coughed. Keening scraped his ears like a tormented bagpipe.

They reached the stone huts, packed with dirt and straw roofs. At least the village homes weren’t on fire, as he originally feared. Piles of furniture and personal items burned in front of each hut. Sad faces and weeping echoed from every direction.

Malcolm’s throat constricted.His chest tightened in a mixture of compassion and fear for his family. He maneuvered his horse between the huts heading toward the center of the village, seeking the home where he had grown from a lad into a man. Engulfed in flames, itblazed to the sky.

“Mither an’ Carleen . . .” The words fell from Malcolm’s swollen tongue, stalling in the air as his thoughts shifted to their youngest brother, Graham. At only twenty, the lad would have done aught to protect the women in their absence.

“Malcolm, ye’re back!” Heather strode toward him, her eyes red and swollen. Words stalled upon her tongue, increasing his anxiety as he waited for her to collect her emotions and continue.

“What happened?” Malcolm asked, pulling his horse to a stop and dismounting. It was an effort to keep his voice calm, but he tried for Heather’s sake, though his insides quaked.

“‘Tis the worst.” Heather succumbed to tears, shaking with grief.

“What is it, lass?” Malcom shook her hoping to force her out of her temporary stupor.

“Where’s Mither an’ Carleen?” Thomas strode toward them, his voice betraying his fears.

Heather sobbed, falling against Malcolm’s chest. On instinct, his arms slipped around her.He looked up, his eyes questioning the rest of the villagers approaching with sorrowful expressions.

“The Campbells were here.” Roy strode foward, his red eyes weary with similar grief—his right eye swollen and his lip cut. Even in his late fifties, Roy was healthy and robust. It would have taken several men to bring him low. “They took Iona an’ Carleen.”

“Took them?” Thomas gave the elder man a look of disbelief. “Where?”

“How long ago?” Malcolm pressed Heather into the arms of her mother who came up behind her. He turned back to his horse and prepared to mount.

“Nay! There’s too many o’ them. Sixty or more.” A strong hand grabbed his shoulder. “Listen to me, lad. Ye canna help yer mither an’ sister if ye’re dead.”

“I’ve time to catch them if I leave now.” Malcolm pulled away. More hands grabbed him. He didn’t want to fight his own kinsmen, but they wouldn’t deter him from his mission. He had to act now before it was too late.

“Let me go!” Thomas yelled, fighting a similar battle.

“I’ve got ’im, Da.” Strong arms belted around Malcolm’s neck and jerked him backward, cutting off his air. Malcolm coughed. He swung his elbow into Alan’s ribs.

“Argh!” Alan relaxed his hold, but didn’t let go.

“Listen to reason, lad. The rest o’ us are too auld an’ wounded to be fightin’ ye.” A fist from another angle slammed into his jaw. “But fight ye, we will, if it’s the only way to save yer life.” Roy’s voice echoed over the multiple hands and arms keeping him down.

Never had the villagers fought him like this. More dread pooled in the pit of his stomach as he realized there had to be a reason for their adamancy. What had they not yet told him? They were right. How could he and Thomas expect to best sixty or more Campbell men? This feat would require his wits, and he wasn’t thinking, only reacting.

“All right.” He clenched his teeth, willing his body to relax against their resistance. “Tell me why I shan’t go after them. It does not make sense to lose precious time.”

Following Malcolm’s example, Thomas also surrendered.

“Duncan Campbell came to collect the rents,” Roy said. “But he arrived with an army of warriors. He did not come hither on business as he claimsHis purpose was to cause trouble an’ he chose yer family to be the example.”

“They were not supposed to come for another fortnight.” Malcolm jerked away from Alan who sported a bloody lip, already swelling, and a long sword gash upon his arm. Malcolm frowned. Only the Campbells would have been carrying broadswords. Blood soaked Alan’s sleeve, probably more so from his skirmish with Malcolm. Guilt lacerated Malcolm’s emotionally scarred heart. How long must they go on living like peasant pawns for the Campbells’ entertainment?

“They did all this over unpaid rents?” Malcolm lifted his hands in disbelief. “We took the cattle to market an’ we now have the rent. ‘Tis all for naught!” His voice cracked as he ran a hand through his hair. A deep ache twisted his gut.

“Listen to Da.” Alan wiped the back of his hand across his lip. “We need a plan. The Campbells want us to come after them in a mad rage. They have the king’s favor an’ all the wealth they need. We canna fall into their trap again.”

“We can gather more MacGregors an’ break into Kilchurn Manor.” Thomas walked over. The others stepped aside to let him through. “We’ll get Mither an’ Carleen out.” “We canna abandon them.”

“‘Tisn’t that simple. I wish it were.” Roy rubbed a wrinkled hand over his weathered face with a broken sigh. “Even if we gather more MacGregors from other parts of Argyll, we may not be strong enough to break through Duncan Campbell’s forces. He has too many allies. If we succeed an’ bring them home, how will we stop them from coming again?”

Roy and Alan stood still, watching Malcolm and Thomas as though they would tackle them again if need be. More villagers crowded around. All of them looked like a sorry lot, the men having been beaten, the women wearing expressions of grief and sorrow. Soot layered their faces, arms, and clothing.

‘Tis possible they have taken them to a debtor’s prison,” Mary MacGregor maneuvered around her husband and son, “since yer mither did not have the rent money.”

“If that is the case,” Malcolm said. “They will have to release Mither an’ Carleen once I pay the rent.”

“Duncan raised the rents again, plus he’s charging interest,” Mary said. “He took our furniture an’ burned what he did not want.” Tears filled her eyes. “William an’ Graham are young an’ foolish to try to fight them. They killed William this day. How many more do ye think we can stand to lose?”

“An’ Graham?” Malcolm staggered at the news. He closed his eyes, rubbing his brows. William and Graham were inseparable. Had Graham suffered the same fate? Heather broke into more weeping and Malcolm’s chest tightened. The lass had been sweet on their youngest brother as soon as they could walk. Now he understood the extent of her grief. “Where is Graham? Did they take him, too?” Malcolm clenched his fists at his sides, attempting to calm the rising tide of anxiety. “Is he alive?”

“Aye, but barely,” Roy said. “I’m sorry, Malcolm. We tried to fight them, but there were too many . . .”

“Take us to ‘im,” Thomas said in a gruff voice, moving to stand beside Malcolm.

“Greg and Colin are tendin to ‘im. The Campbells beat him bad an’ hung ’im on a tree.” Roy’s voice faltered. “To make an example out o’ ‘im.”

“By the neck?” Malcolm followed Roy and Alan to their hut. Fear clawed at his heart and gripped his lungs, stealing the breath from him.

“Nay,” Alan said. “With his arms spread out. We think both shoulders are dislocated.”

They stopped before entering Roy’s hut. “They left us only one bed, so that is where we put ’im.” Roy held up a palm and shook his head. “Prepare yerself, lads.”

Malcolm bent through the threshold and blinked, allowing his eyes to adjust to the dim candlelight. Their small huts contained no windows for daylight to filter inside. He walked across the dirt floor to the tiny bed. Graham’s long legs hung over the side. His height matched Malcolm’s at six-four. Among the three brothers, Thomas was the shortest, shy of them by a couple of inches.

Colin looked up from where he hunched over stitching a wound in the lad’s side. Greg cleaned his bruised face from the other side. Neither of them spoke as they concentrated on their tasks.

Both Malcolm and Thomas dropped to their knees. Thomas groaned and gulped back a threatening cry. Malcolm searched for his voice, but it lodged in his throat as a sickening pain clutched his soul and wouldn’t let go. They stayed that way for several moments, trying to make sense of it all.

Colin cleared his throat. “The lad fought bravely, like a Highland warrior if ever I saw one.”

Graham disliked fighting. Unlike the rest of them, who thrived upon the sword, Graham had preferred his wits to outsmart the wretched Campbells. He held out in stubborn pride believing forgiveness and reason would bridge the great divide between the Campbells and MacGregors. Today, he had discovered the truth and his faith had almost cost him his life.

“Is he . . .” Still unable to say it, Malcolm laid a hand on Graham’s chest. A faint heartbeat pulsed beneath his palm. Malcolm closed his eyes in relief.

“He passed out from the pain when I reset his shoulders back into the sockets,” Greg said. “As soon as Colin stitches his side, we’ll bind his ribs.”

“At least he’s alive,” Thomas said, shaking his head in disbelief. “I always teased him about being the bonny son. Now look at ’im. I fear he won’t ever be the same again.”

“Graham was never vain.” Malcolm gripped Graham’s limp hand. “I worry ’bout the lad’s spirit an’ his broken ideals. He will blame himself for not saving Mither an’ Carleen. No doubt, he will feel naïve he ever thought reconciliation with the Campbells was possible.”

“Aye, ’twill take him a while to recover,” Thomas said with a sigh. “Did Mither an’ Carleen see what happened to ’im?”

“Nay,” Colin shook his head. “The Campbells split up. Scott Campbell took them away, while his father stayed behind to cause more damage.” Colin rubbed his eyebrows and sat back. “That one has the heart of the devil, he does.”

“I shall get revenge for our family an’ the whole MacGregor Clan. The Campbells have wronged us for two centuries. They have tried to wipe out the MacGregor Clan, an’ here we survive against all odds.” Malcolm raised a fist and growled. “This time, I care not what it takes.” Malcolm turned to Roy. “We shall send a scout to Kilchurn Manor to see if Mither an’ Carleen are being held thereand the nearest debtor’s prison. We will move our family to Glenstrae under the protection of the MacGregor Clan Chief.” He shoved a hand on his hip and rubbed his eyebrow, fighting the onslaught of a headache and too much regret. “Should have done it a long time ago after Da died.”

“Ye were but a wee lad.” Roy shook his head. “Do not do this to yerself. ’Tisn’t yer fault.”

“Aye, ’tis time. I’ve tarried long enough. I almost lost my family because of it.” Malcolm glanced down at Graham, fear spiking inside him. He hoped it wasn’t too late.

* * *

“Where ye going?”

Lauren Campbell jumped with a start, throwing a hand over her hammering chest. She placed a finger across her lips to shush her sister of ten and two. A quick glance around the busy kitchen assured her no one paid them any attention. Cook put away uneaten food, while the rest of the servants cleaned up where the Campbells had broken their morning fast.

“Do I have yer word to say naught?” Lauren peeked at her sister’s wide brown eyes, curious as Blair twisted her lips into a mischievous grin.

“If ye take me with ye.” Blair nodded, her sandy, brown hair slid over her face. She brushed the long strands out of her eyes with an impatient sigh.

“I canna.” Lauren shook her head, biting her lower lip as she placed biscuits in a basket. “’Tis dangerous where I’m going.”

“Where?” Blair sidled up to the counter beside Lauren, excitement building in her tone.

“I’m going to the ancient castle of Kilchurn.” Lauren’s heart swelled as her sister’s eyes widened in admiration.

“All alone? Ye know Da would not approve if he was home.” Blair lowered her voice to a whisper. “He will be angry if ye do not take cousin Keith.”

“Keith is studying to take orders next week and will give his first sermon.” Lauren whispered, touching the tip of her sister’s nose and grabbing a block of cheese. “I canna interfere with the Lord’s work. Besides, Kilchurn Castle is part of our estate. ‘Tisn’t as if I’m leaving the grounds.”

“But ye’re leaving Kilchurn Manor,” Blair said.

“’Tis only a short ride.” Lauren covered the basket with a cloth and tucked in the edges. She paused, considering her sister’s hopeful expression.

“I want to go, please.” Blair linked her fingers as if she was about to pray. She wore the Campbell plaid over a dark blue dress and frowned with a sulky pout as she crossed her thin arms. “Lauren?”

“Run along and get ready. Meet me at the stables,” Lauren said. “I shall see that your horse is saddled and ready.”

Blair disappeared. Her footsteps pattered down the hall. Lauren chuckled and shook her head, knowing the child ran in haste. She hoped Blair would not tumble into one of the servants. With her basket of goods in tow, Lauren let herself out the side door and made her way to the stables.

It was a crisp morning, bright with sunshine and promise. Lauren loved the ancient relic of Kilchurn Castle now crumbling on the far side of Loch Awe. The short journey would take them less than an hour on horseback. On the days she walked the grounds, Lauren loved imagining what it must have been like centuries ago when the castle passed from the MagGregors to the Campbells through marriage.

Lauren entered the shaded stables. “Aidan?” Lauren called to the stable lad. “Are ye there? Blair are going for a ride.” No one answered. Strange. Lauren shrugged and stepped back, trampling on a pair of booted feet. A man’s hand clamped over her mouth, shoving a piece of cloth inside to silence her scream. Another hand pulled her by the hair and jerked her back against his hard body. Her basket of goods went flew over a nearby stall. The horse inside stomped and snorted.

“I took care o’ the lad,” said a gruff voice at her ear. “Just needed to get ’im out o’ the way. ’Tis Duncan Campbell’s daughter I want.”

Lauren’s heart pounded in her ears as she kicked behind her, but he slammed a fist against her temple. Pain sliced through her head. He wrapped an arm around her neck, cutting off her air, and dragged her into a dark corner.

“Lauren?” Blair called. Her footsteps came closer. “Are ye here?”

Closing her eyes, Lauren stopped struggling, praying God would spare her sister. The man breathed heavy at her ear, his grip intense. To Lauren’s relief, he appeared to be alone, and he did not go after Blair.

“Aidan?” Her sister sighed with frustration. “Where did everyone go?” She stomped out of the stables and back toward the manor.

As soon as Blair disappeared , the man slipped a knife to Lauren’s throat. “Go.” The blade nicked her skin as he pushed her forward, leading her out of the stables on the other side. The gag tied in her mouth made her jaw ache and dried her tongue. He dragged her into the woods where a horse waited.

Lauren tripped over a fallen branch, but he caught her and shoved her against a tree. Her bruised hip stung as he pulled her arms behind her and bound her hands. The man slung her over his horse and mounted up behind her. Between a dizzy spell and a wave of nausea, she caught a glimpse of his MacGregor plaid.

They rode toward Inverawe where Lauren often visited the poor and brought them food. Iona and Carleen MacGregor always welcomed her and shared their faith. Iona’s sons were not quite as friendly, but Graham was open-minded and kind. As the youngest, Lauren supposed he wasn’t as set in his ways as the other two. He was closer to Lauren’s age at twenty.

When they arrived at the village, Lauren wasn’t prepared for the devastation she witnessed. Ashes simmered in gray piles. Grief-stricken faces glared at her with hatred. Several people spit at her and one threw a rotten onion at her. The putrid smell made her stomach roll.

They came to a pile of rubble that should have been Iona and Carleen’s hut. Hot smoke still pumped from the smoldering remains. Lauren’s stomach tightened as tears sprang to her eyes. Her father and brother were supposed to arrive here and collect the rents. Surely, they were not responsible? Her heart ached, fearing it was the truth she wanted to deny.

Her abductor stopped at one of the huts, pumping smoke through the chimney. He grabbed Lauren by the arm and yanked her down. She stumbled to her feet, finding it hard to regain her balance. He pushed her toward the door as others surrounded them.

“Why did ye bring a Campbell ’ere?” a woman asked. “Do ye not think they have caused enough trouble?”

“Aye,” a man said. “The whole lot o’ them will come looking for ’er.”

“Malcolm! Thomas!” Lauren’s captor ignored them and banged on the worn wooden door. “Open up. I have Lauren Campbell.”

The door swung open and Malcolm’s tall form ducked under the threshold. He crossed his arms with a menacing scowl. “Colin, ye were supposed to find my mither an’ sister, not bring back a hostage.”

“Iona an’ Carleen were not at Kilchurn.” Colin’s words came out in a rush, as he tightened his grip on her. “But she was.”

“What are we supposed to do with her?” Malcolm pointed at Lauren, venom coating his tone. “This was not the plan.”

“We have no plan since they were not at Kilchurn,” Thomas said, coming to stand behind Malcolm. “Mayhap, she can be the plan. Who else is goin’ to be as important to Duncan?”

“She canna stay here,” another man said. “Her father will destroy the whole village lookin’ for her.”

“Aye, but she’s here now Mary MacGregorsaid. “The damage is done. Ye should best make the best o’ her situation. Could we exchange her for Iona or Carleen?”

Shock vibrated through Lauren. What had her father done? While the MacGregors had never been cruel to her, most were wary and reluctant to befriend her except Iona and Carleen. Now that the villagers had good reason to be seething in anger and resentment, she had no idea how far they would go in using her. She wondered if anyone at home had discovered her disappearance.

“What if he comes back an’ burns the rest o’ our homes?” a woman asked.

“Heather, he owns all these huts. If he burns them all, he canna rent them out.” Malcolm scratched his temple and glanced at Lauren. “Remove her gag. She may know something.”

“How ye plan to get ‘er to talk?” Colin asked, jerking at her bindings. The cloth fell from around her head, and Lauren spit out the other piece.

“Speak up, lass.” Malcolm stepped toward her, his height more like a tower than a mere man. “Where did yer da take my mither an’ sister? The sooner we find out, the sooner negotiations can begin an’ ye can go home.”

“All I know is that he intended to collect the rents and go to the harbor.”

“The harbor?” Thomas joined his brother, his palm up against the side of his head, pondering the possibilities. “Why would he do that?”

“Only one explanation,” an older man said, lifting a finger. All eyes turned to him. “To sell them. What else?”

The women gasped, some wept, while the men groaned and complained in outrage. Colin jerked Lauren by the arm and shoved her to the center. “We have one of their own!” She stumbled and fell to her knees. He pulled her hair. Fire burned her scalp. She prayed her neck wouldn’t break from the pressure. Tears stung her eyes. Lord, I thank you for sparing Blair.

“What would Duncan do to save this bonny face?” An elderly woman bent to squeeze Lauren’s cheeks. The others came at her all at once with raised hands. Lauren closed her eyes, expecting a beating.

“Stop!” Malcolm’s firm voice sliced through the mob like a king. With the MacGregors scattered throughout Campbell lands that used to belong to the MacGregors, none of them had a clan chief.The exception was Glenstrae farther north in the heart of the Scottish highlands. Yet, no one laid a hand on her. They obeyed Malcolm out of respect.

“Let us think about our actions an’ how the Campbells might retaliate.” Malcolm lifted his hands and pointed in the direction of Kilchurn Manor. “As long as the lass lives an’ remains unharmed, we have something to bargain. None o’ us wanna worry ’bout being murdered in our beds at night or forced to flee to the hills again.”

Eyes widened, mouths dropped open, and heads shook back and forth in slow motion. Some of the villagers’ skin turned paler. They backed away from her.

“Duncan an’ Scott Campbell have a good head start. At this point, we would be guessing which harbor they went to an’ taking the lass at her word,” Malcolm said.

“Taynuilt Harbor is the closest,” Roy said. Lauren had heard one of the others call him by name. He was a middle-aged man who looked at her with so much malice her skin itched and burned. “’Tis on Loch Etive an’ leads out to sea.”

“Aye.” Malcolm nodded, rubbing the back of his neck. “First, I want to ensure Graham’s safety ’til he heals, as well as the villagers. I shall find her wretched father.” His boiling gaze landed on Lauren and their eyes met. If the good Lord hadn’t been holding her together, she might have crumbled in fear, but Lauren not only found the courage she needed, but managed to lift her chin and kept her peace. Later in solitude she would bear her burdensome fear to the Lord.

“Let us bring her inside while we tend to Graham an’ make our plans,” Malcolm said, turning to the others.

Colin shoved her. Lauren stumbled into Malcolm. He reached out a steady hand and gripped her arm. She assumed the action was only out of instinct, not for her welfare.

“What happened to Graham?” The words tumbled through her lips. Of all the MacGregor men, he had always been kind to her.

Malcolm paused, his lips twisting in anger. “Yer da ordered him beaten. They tied him to a tree, pulled an’ tortured him ’til his shoulders snapped out o’ the sockets. They murdered his best friend, William.”

Lauren cringed as her mouth drained dry and her stomach twirled. The temptation to deny his words frayed at the edge of her mind, as she followed him inside.

Malcolm directed her over to a large figure lying motionless on a small bed. A candle burned on a makeshift table beside him. She took small steps, her heart pounding into her throat.

“Graham?” Lauren leaned over him, taking in the sight of his bruised and disfigured face. The memory of his handsome features were like a vision. Graham didn’t respond. Deep sorrow filled her soul as she imagined what agony he must be enduring. “My . . . da . . . did this?”

“Aye,.” Malcolm’s tone dripped with bitterness. “I was not here, but they tell me he tried to protect my mither an’ sister—yer friends.” He emphasized the last words as if she had betrayed them herself.

“They are my friends,” she whispered, unable to wipe at her tears with her hands bound behind her. Bile rose to the back of Lauren’s throat, threatening to overcome her. Graham’s wounds would be branded in her brain forever. What would become of Iona and Carleen? She slid to her knees as grief wracked her body. Lauren had never been able to deny the emotional tug of compassion. While she wondered what was to become of her, Graham’s grave condition weighed upon her heart along with the spiritual state of the souls within her father and brother.

Lauren turned and tried to wipe her cheek on her shoulder. Malcolm strode toward her, his mouth set in a grim expression. She resisted the desire to cower and forced her muscles to remain still.

 

~My Review~

After having their name abolished by King James, the McGregor clan lived from day to day struggling to survive. The Campbells were a harsh clan and, being their tenants, the McGregors were at their mercy. When Malcolm McGregor returned home to find his younger brother severely wounded and his mother and sister sold as indentured servants by the Campbells he knew he would do whatever it took to get them back. Kidnapping Duncan Campbell’s daughter Lauren was the first step. Malcolm sets off with Lauren to find his mother and sister intent on using Lauren as an exchange for his mother. He never expected to fall in love with her and when Lauren sells herself willingly to save his mother he vows to save her or die trying.

Lauren Campbell was a woman of faith with a compassionate heart. That’s why she went to the McGregor clan’s home. To bring food and necessities to those less fortunate. Her friendship with Iona and Carleen McGregor was something she cherished. Malcolm’s mother, Iona, was like her own mother and when she found out what her father had done she was shocked and, though she was forced on the journey to find her against her will, she soon found herself falling for her captor. When they find Iona worn and tired at a plantation Lauren willingly gave her own self in exchange for the elderly woman. Malcolm vows to get her back and Lauren prays he can find a way. Will Malcolm save her in time or will Lauren succumb to the world of slavery?

I must admit that “Highland” books or books with a Scottish setting are not something I read very often but I was pleasantly surprised when I got into this story. I loved the entire plot from beginning to end and it kept me turning the pages to find out what would happen next. There were a few twists that just enhanced the overall story. I loved that Malcolm was a brawny guy but tender and loving. Lauren displayed amazing faith in even the most dire of circumstances. No matter what she was going through she turned to God without wavering. I also liked that the story brought forth the topic of slavery and indentured servants. The treatment they received was horrible and inhumane and this book described their conditions in an excellent manner. Overall I loved this book and if you are a fan of Scottish romances you will too. Even if you’re not I still recommend it.

 
My Rating: 4 Stars **** 
 

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Q & A: I ask the question and you answer with your own personal thoughts! 🙂

 Although I have never been, I have heard that Scotland is a beautiful country. Have you ever been? If so, what was it like? If you haven’t, would you like to?