Winter is a time for snuggling before a warm fire with a cup of hot chocolate and cookies. In the Highlands of Scotland winters are harsh. The castles and houses of old Scotland were dreary, cold. Darkness stayed upon the land with a short time of daylight. In A Highland Pearl, Andrew and Maidie had a burning love, keeping their hearts warm and setting their emotions on fire.
Just in time for Christmas shopping, A Highland Pearl is now available in ebook format. An ebook copy of the novel will be awarded to a commenter.
A sweet romance blossoms amidst feuding and war. With her reputation at stake after being accused of practicing witchcraft and hated as a member of a rival clan, Maidie considers leaving Clan Munro and returning to the home of her birth in Clan Cameron. Fierce battles, a tragic encounter, and a handsome clan chief compel her to make crucial decisions in this haunting romance set in the16th century Highlands of Scotland.
A Highland Pearl, is the first novel in the Highland Treasures series. The story takes place in 1508 A.D. Scotland when clan chiefs ruled the highlands. Loyalty pledged to a clan chief meant provision and protection for the clansman, but in return rents were paid to support the chief and his family and service in the chief’s army was required of each able-bodied man. Within the walls of the great castles, intrigue and mystery reigned. Clans vied for land, livestock, and power. Fighting and reiving or stealing were prevalent, yet a gentler side with passion, love, romance, family and faith permeated the life of the Highlanders. A Highland Pearl tells about all aspects of life in the Highlands of Scotland.
Excerpt from A Highland Pearl
The night air felt cold on Maidie’s face as the couple emerged from the warm castle keep. The moon’s silvery beam illuminated the bailey silhouetting a guard on the battlement. Andrew moved her arm to encircle his and then led her to a walled enclosure not far from the door they had exited. Maidie’s heart beat faster. They stepped through the arched opening in the wall to a moonlit garden emanating with a heady smell of roses mixed with herbs. Maidie recognized the odor of several of the herbs growing within the enclosure. Maybe she would be able to replenish her healing remedies here in the castle garden. She would ask the chief.
Andrew led her to a stone bench under a rose arbor covered with a few remaining white roses awash in the moonlight. He released her arm, but stood close as Maidie picked a blossom and smelled deeply of the fragrance. She had not smelled such roses in a long time. They reminded her of home and the garden of her father’s manor house. A wave of nostalgia passed through Maidie and she shivered. Andrew noticed the shiver.
“Are you cold? Do you wish to go inside?” he asked turning Maidie toward him and looking into her eyes.
“Nae, M’Laird, I’m only thinking of my home and the rose garden there.” A thought of her mother flashed across her memory.
“This is your home now, Madam. May I call you Maidie?” She could not see the silver of his eyes, but felt their intensity on her.
“Aye,” she whispered.
“Thank you. Please call me Andrew. Let’s dispense of the formalities, since you will be living here.” He smiled. “I hope you will come to love and cherish this home as much as the one you left.”
She turned her eyes away from his piercing ones. “That was the home of my childhood, M’Laird, I canna forget it.”
He released her arms. “Sit with me for awhile. Let’s not talk of the past but of the present and future.” He motioned toward the stone bench.
Maidie took a seat on the cold stone. He sat beside her with his large frame crowding closely. She could feel the warmth of his body, and listened to his steady breathing. His thigh rubbed against hers. In the intensity of the moment, she forgot about the home of her father, as heat and nervousness replaced the nostalgia. He sat quietly for awhile, took her hand, and once again placed her arm inside of his.
“Are you cold, Maidie? Your hand is like ice on my arm.” He covered her cold hand on his warm one. “Tell me what you think of living here among Munros. Do you hate us as your kin seem to?” He turned to search her face in the moonlight with dark veiled eyes—the strong jaw outlined with a silver thread.
“I loved living with my husband among his kin while he lived. I made good friends in the village.” She tried to see his reaction, but could see only the darkness. “Or I did have good friends in the village. They seem to hate me now.”
“This hatred will vanish soon. I have plans for bringing peace among our clans. I also, hate war and fighting. My heart yearns for peace so that our wee ones can grow up to know their das. We canna put our whole hearts into becoming a prosperous clan if we are always called upon to fight, and others are stealing our cattle.”
Maidie heard the sincerity in his voice. “Aye. Peace is the only way to prosperity. I pray for peace every day.”
“Thank you for your prayers, Maidie.” He patted her hand. “They mean more to me than I can tell you. Do you pray for me?”
“Aye, I pray for all of your family.” She turned to look at his profile, stark in the dim moonlight.
He turned toward her, his face close. “My family needs your prayers, ‘tis true, but I need you to pray especially for me. There are things that must be settled and some hard decisions to make. Sometimes, I almost believe there is a God to hear, especially when one such as you comes into my life.”
Maidie whispered, “Aye. I will pray you come to believe. God is the only one who can help with your hard decisions.”
He stared ahead. They sat without talking for a time, then he asked while continuing to look out over the moonscape, “What pleases you, Maidie? What gives you joy?”
She answered immediately, “My son. He is my heart. I take great pleasure in him.”
“I can see that you do. He’s a fine lad, he is, and will grow to be an even finer warrior with the proper training.” She could see an upward curve to his mouth, but she did not like his statement.
“Nae. I mean, I’m hoping Sven will be educated.” Her voice caught in her throat.
He turned toward her again, without a smile. “A fine lad such as Sven should be taught to read and figure. The skills will serve him well someday, but he should also be able to defend himself. To do that, he must learn the skills of a warrior. This is a hard and cruel world, sometimes, Maidie. You ken such. A man must defend himself and his family.”
Suddenly, before she could answer, he rose and pulled her to stand. “Come. ‘Tis getting colder.”
She hesitated but ventured to question, “I would ask you M’Laird, before we go from this lovely garden, if I may replenish the healing herbs I lost?”
“Too many questions still remain unanswered. I shall think on the matter.” He placed her arm in the crook of his, then escorted her from the fragrant garden.
The great hall of the keep felt warm from the fires. The smell of food and the bodies of twenty or more people lingered in the air. Everyone but the servants had retired. Angus remained at the head table, talking with a member of the chief’s luchd-taighe. He turned to watch Andrew and Maidie make their way up the stairs. Maidie tried not to look at Angus, but could not help noticing the sinister expression on the physician’s face.
Andrew led Maidie to her chamber. He nodded toward Tavish who stood beside the door, then opened the door for her to enter. Sven lay in the bed dressed in a nightshirt. He played with a wooden man holding a sword. Nellie stood beside the fire and curtsied when she saw them.
“Sven will be in safe keeping here in the castle. No need to worry about his welfare,” the chief said. “You will also be safe, and I want you to replenish your remedies. The castle garden is at your disposal.”
Maidie felt a lump form in her throat. “Thank you so verra much. I canna express my gratitude, but how will Angus feel about me intruding upon his territory?”
“No need to worry about Angus. He has plenty of work to keep him busy.” Andrew smiled, took her hand and brushed the back of it with his warm lips. “Thank you, Maidie, for saving my life. Oidhche mhath, a nighean mhaiseach.” He turned and left the chamber, closing the door behind him.
Maidie stood for a moment smiling at the closed door and rubbing her hand. She put the back of her hand to her lips where the warmth of his kiss lingered. “Good night to you, my handsome chief.”
Maidie turned to her son and watched him play with the miniature warrior. Living in the castle would not be good for Sven, but what could she do? She needed to find a way to leave soon. Her father was an officer in the Cameron chief’s sluagh, but only a few combatants dwelt in his home. At least in her father’s house, Sven would not be exposed to so much fighting.