"Vonda Sinclair never fails to entertain you with a page turning adventure and a sizzling romance. With her vivid imagination you’ll find her characters and story flows excellent together. This book is part of a series but they are all standalones.
I read the all three books in this series now and really enjoyed them, but this one has turned out to be my favorite of them all. I was engrossed with the story and romance between the hero and heroine, I just couldn’t turn the pages fast enough to see what was going to happen next. I hope that Jessie will one day get a story and Robbie too. There are so many great characters in this series I can see the author making it grow years to come. I highly recommend this to any romance reader." Laurie - Bitten By Paranormal Romance
Thanks so much, Laurie!!
Also for the last couple of days, My Brave Highlander has been on the Historical Romance and Historical Fiction Bestseller lists at Amazon! Woohoo!! :)
Here is an excerpt of the first scene...
This story takes place in Scotland in November 1618.
Dirk MacKay urged his horse into a gallop along the narrow, muddy road that led from Draughon Castle toward Perth. Praying he wouldn't be too late to see his father alive one last time, he squinted against the cool, misty rain stinging his eyes.
The meager light of dawn hidden behind thick, leaden clouds provided little illumination. Greenish-brown hills dotted with grazing sheep and rolling beige grain fields sped by on either side of the road. Tulloch carried him closer to the thatched-roof stone crofters' cottages situated before a small wood of bare-limbed trees. A faint white mist hung over the massive River Tay, hidden amongst the bushes in the distance.
Dirk hoped he'd slipped away before his two friends knew what he was about. They would insist on going with him and he couldn't allow them to make such a sacrifice.
Lachlan was recently married and a newly titled earl and chief. He would be daft to accompany Dirk on a dangerous trek through the snowy Highlands to the edge of the earth, leaving his wife and clan to fend for themselves.
Although Robert "Rebbie" MacInnis, Earl of Rebbinglen, was a Highlander with naught to tie him down, Dirk wouldn't put his life in danger, either.
It wasn't simply the severe cold weather of the north that made Dirk worry over his friends' safety. A murderer lurked amongst his clansmen… a murderer who wanted Dirk dead, and wouldn't bat an eye at killing one of his friends, as well. He shook his head. Nay, he'd done the right thing by not asking Lachlan or Rebbie to risk their lives by traveling with him to Durness.
The three of them had been near inseparable for the past few years, but Dirk needed to handle this on his own. He'd been living in limbo for twelve years, and now it was time to return to his real life… to follow his destiny.
Behind him, quick, rhythmic hoof-beats pounded the road and spattered through puddles. A sharp whistle pierced the chill, wet air. Dirk glanced back to find a dark-haired, black-cloaked man following him.
"Damnation." How had he known? Dirk slowed his horse, then halted and turned to face his approaching friend. Tulloch, snorting at the interruption to his gleeful run, danced about beneath him. "Whoa, lad," Dirk said, trying to calm the horse.
When Rebbie drew up and stopped beside him, Dirk asked, "Where are you going?"
"A better question is where are you going? You left without a word. Luckily, I heard the floorboards creaking as you slipped past my chamber this morn. Does it have aught to do with that missive you received last evening?"
"I'm in no need of help," Dirk said, skirting the disconcerting question.
Rebbie's black brows lowered. "Even if you did need help, you're likely too proud to ask for it. What's happened to cause you to slip away like this?"
"I must return home without delay." And, nay, it was not pride that kept him from asking for help. There were some things a man must face on his own.
Rebbie tugged on the reins of his fidgeting, temperamental bay. "Why?"
Gazing north, Dirk observed the mist-cloaked, brownish mountains in the distance. He would have to travel far beyond them to reach home. "An urgent family matter."
"Of what sort?"
"Damnation, Rebbie. Must you always ask a thousand questions?" Dirk hated the way his chest tightened every time he thought about the loss he might face once he returned to the castle where he grew up. The regret. The fear. If he hurried, he might still have time to see his father alive. "'Twould take too long to explain it now. I must be on my way."
Rebbie's frown deepened and his steady gaze grew darker. "How far are you traveling?"
Dirk hesitated, unsure whether he wanted to blurt out the truth. His friends thought he was someone he was not, but 'twas time to face facts. 'Twould no doubt spawn numerous other questions from his inquisitive friend. But there was no point in lying anymore. He was coming out of hiding and taking the bull by the horns—for a certainty, his life would be in danger once he reached Castle Dunnakeil.
"I'm going home to Durness," Dirk said, feeling more like his true self than he had in years.
"Saints, man!" Rebbie exclaimed. His horse flicked his ears and turned in an agitated circle. "That's where you're from? I thought the MacLeries were from Strathspey."
"Aye." His mother's clan lived in that area and he had spent much time there. But his true name wasn't MacLerie. It was MacKay. He couldn't tell Rebbie that now or he'd ask a thousand more prying questions.
Rebbie waited for Dirk to explain, and when he didn't, Rebbie raised a brow. "Durness, aye?"
Dirk nodded, a sudden gust of wind whipping his damp hair into his eyes.
"Well, at least come back to the keep for a few minutes. Lachlan can provide supplies, food and wool blankets. In this weather, 'twill take a long while to travel to Durness."
"I'm well aware. My plan is to ride west, through Stirling, then head up the west coast by galley or ship. If the weather is decent, I can travel most of the way by sea." But the wind and rain, which had been near unnoticeable when he'd left Draughon Castle a quarter hour ago, was now turning into a gale.
"I'm coming with you," Rebbie said, his determined jaw hardening.
Rebbie was a proficient and skilled former soldier, up to any battle that might come their way, but the harsh Highland winter was a different matter, and so was the murderer. "Nay, I think it best if you stay here and help Lachlan."
"Och! 'Tis not safe for anyone, even someone so fearsome and trained as you, to travel that far alone. There are highwaymen, savage pirates and outlaws. Sometimes large bands of them." Rebbie's brown eyes narrowed, giving him the look of the pirates he talked about. "Come. Let's discuss it back at Draughon, out of this rain. Rushing off unprepared will be of little help. You need supplies. Extra wool clothing."
Dirk's stomach clenched with dread. 'Haps his friend was right. He'd planned to buy supplies in Perth or Stirling. But taking them from here might be more practical; he wouldn't have to waste time looking for the items he would need.
"Very well." It was still early morn. If they didn't tarry too long, they could make much progress today.
They quickly rode back to massive Draughon Castle with its four, round, gray stone towers and large rectangular keep. The guards at the black iron gates allowed them entrance to the high-walled, stone-paved barmkin. They circled around the side of one tower to the stables.
Rebbie swung down, his feet landing with a clunk on the cobblestones. "Prepare our horses, along with two more, for a long journey," he told the stable lad.
"Two more?" Dirk asked, dismounting. "Lachlan can't leave Lady Angelique and his clan."
"I ken it, but the two of us will need servants to care for the horses, run errands and such."
Dirk rolled his eyes at the coddled nobleman. "I have no servants. And the fewer in our party the better."
Rebbie waved him off. "We'll discuss it later."
The two of them proceeded around the side and up the front steps of the keep.
Once inside the expansive, two-story great hall, Dirk approached the massive burning fireplace near the high table to warm his back, while Rebbie sent his manservant, George, to wake Lachlan. Dirk ran his gaze over the large tapestries depicting Drummagan family history that decorated the walls. They reminded him of the ones at Dunnakeil.
Female servants lit candles and carried food up from the ground level kitchens, preparing for breakfast at the long wooden tables.
Rebbie and Dirk pilfered a couple of buttered bannocks while they waited.
A few moments later, Lachlan MacGrath-Drummagan, wearing a belted plaid, emerged from the narrow turnpike stairway. "Angelique is sick," he murmured for their ears only.
"What's wrong?" Dirk asked.
Dirk and Rebbie exchanged a concerned but curious glance.
"'Haps she is with child," Rebbie suggested.
"Aye." Lachlan gave a wee joyful grin. "I'm hoping that's what it is." His sandy-blond hair glinting in the candlelight, he glanced back at the stairs briefly, making it clear he wanted to be up in the bedchamber with her. Facing forward again, he asked, "What are you two doing? Looks like you've been out riding in the rain."
"Aye, Dirk is headed to Durness and I'm accompanying him," Rebbie said. "We need provisions and supplies, if you can spare them. Wool blankets, mantles and enough food for a sennight."
"God's teeth!" Lachlan's light brown eyes widened. "Why in blazes would you need to go to the far north?"
"I'm not entirely certain." Rebbie looked to Dirk.
My Brave Highlander copyright 2012 Vonda Sinclair