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O Castle Gloom! thy dark defile Throngs not with Scottish story; On other towers, O proud Argyle Sits crowned thine ancient glory. But little have we of the past, As up the dell we ramble, To figure, floating on the blast, Thy banners, Castle Campbell! “Castle Campbell,” by William Gibson Near Castle Campbell, Clackmannanshire, June 1608
Elizabeth Campbell lowered the creased piece of parchment into her lap and looked out the small window, watching the hulking shadow of Castle Campbell fade into the distance with a heavy heart. No matter how many times she read the letter, it did not change the words. Her time, it seemed, was up.
The carriage bounced along the uneven road, moving at a painstakingly slow pace. Recent rain had made the already rough road to the Highlands treacherous, but if they continued like this, it would take a week to reach Dunoon Castle.
Lizzie glanced across the carriage and caught the furtive gaze of her maidservant, Alys, but the other woman quickly shifted her eyes back to her embroidery, feigning a concentration belied by the ill-formed stitches.
Alys was worried about her, though trying not to show it. Hoping to divert her questions, Lizzie said, “I don’t know how you can sew with all this bumping—”
But her words were cut off when, as if to make her point, her bottom rose off the seat for a long beat and then came down with a hard slam that rattled her teeth, as her shoulder careened into the wood-paneled wall of the carriage.
“Ouch,” she moaned, rubbing her arm once she was able to right herself. She glanced at Alys, who’d suffered a similar fate. “Are you all right?”
“Aye, my lady,” Alys replied, adjusting herself back on the velvet cushion. “Well enough. But if the roads do not improve, we’ll be a heap of broken bones and bruises before we arrive.”
Lizzie smiled. “I suspect it will get much worse. Taking the carriage at all was probably a mistake.” They would have to switch to horses when they passed Stirlingshire, crossed into the Highland divide, and the roads narrowed—or, she should say, became more narrow, as they were barely wide enough for a carriage even in this part of the Lowlands.
“At least we’re dry,” Alys pointed out, always one to see the positive side of a situation. Perhaps that was why Lizzie enjoyed her company so much. They were much alike in that regard. Alys reached down and picked up the letter that had fallen to the ground with the tumult. “You dropped your missive.”
Resisting the urge to snatch it back, Lizzie took it casually and tucked it safely in her skirts. “Thank you.” She could sense Alys’s curiosity about the earl’s letter, about what was taking them to Dunoon Castle so suddenly, but she wasn’t ready to alleviate it. Alys, like everyone else, would find out the contents soon enough. It would be no secret that her cousin the Earl of Argyll intended to find Lizzie a husband.
Apparently, three broken engagements weren’t enough. It was her duty to marry, and marry she must.
Her chest squeezed as the humiliating memory of her most recent broken betrothal returned to her in an unwelcome flash. The pain, even with the passage of two years, was still acute. “Elizabeth Monntach,” they’d called her. And she so eager for compliments that she’d “lapped them right up like a grateful pup.”
The humiliation still burned. Worse, John was right. She’d been far too eager, far too ready to believe that a handsome man like him could care for her for reasons beyond clan alliances and wealth. Her best friend had found happiness; she’d desperately wanted it, too. Enough to ignore what her gut was telling her—that beneath the handsome exterior was a man of weak character and strong ambition.
Hearing the man she’d given her heart to speak so cruelly of her would have been bad enough, but then it got worse. Much worse. She closed her eyes but could not shut out the memories of stammering. Of slipping in the mud. Of their mockery. “Her feet are as tangled as her tongue.” The sounds of their laughter still echoed in her head. She could almost taste the hot, salty tears that had burned in her throat and eyes. She’d wanted to crawl under her bed and never come out.
Only one man had helped her. She’d been too embarrassed to look at him, but she remembered the kindness—not pity—in his voice and the comforting strength of his callused hand. She frowned. Strange to think that her gallant knight had been a MacGregor.
She’d missed the chaos that had followed her departure from the pavilion, but later her brother had told her what had happened. Alasdair Roy MacGregor and his men had escaped right out from under his nose, and Jamie had been none too happy about it. What Jamie couldn’t understand was why the outlaw had risked discovery to come to her assistance in the first place. She didn’t know, either, but she would be forever grateful for his act of kindness.
She sensed that Jamie knew more about the man who’d helped her than he’d let on, but perhaps because he could sense her interest, he’d held his tongue, refusing to satisfy her curiosity about the gallant outlaw.
She’d put an end to the betrothal with John Montgomery immediately, too ashamed to tell her family the particulars. But when he’d been maimed in an attack not long afterward, losing an ear and part of his sword arm, Lizzie wondered if her family had discovered something on their own. She had not wished him ill but knew that nothing she could have said would have stopped her family from exacting retribution. They were much too protective of her. Perhaps that was part of the problem—the Campbells were an intimidating lot.
Lizzie had put the unpleasantness behind her and tried to forget, but sometimes, like now, it would come back to her in a vivid wave as if it had been yesterday. And when word spread that once again the Earl of Argyll was seeking an alliance for his oft-betrothed cousin, the whispering would start all over again.
She dreaded the conversation with her cousin, knowing that she would no longer be able to keep secret the extent of her foolishness with John.
Though her cousin Archie hadn’t come out and said marriage was his intent, Lizzie had read between the lines of his letter. She lifted the parchment to the window once again, the bold black scratches of ink revealing far more than what was written.
My dear cousin,
Summer is fast upon us. I request the pleasure of your company at Dunoon as soon as possible to discuss a matter of some import. As we discussed last winter, for your kindness following the death of the countess last year and your attention to little Archie and the girls, I’ve gifted you with a sizeable parcel of land.
Archibald, 7th Earl of Argyll
More land. How humiliating. Despite her cousin’s claim, Lizzie knew that her help following the death of the countess wasn’t the real reason for the gift. Archie obviously thought he needed to sweeten the pot to get someone to marry her. No doubt he was only trying to help, but her tocher was already one of the richest in the land; wasn’t that enough?
Her shoulders sagged. Apparently not.
Part of this was her own fault. Summer, she’d promised. Could it be June already? When her cousin had broached the subject of another betrothal all those months ago during the Yule celebration, the days were still short and the snow blanketing the moors of Inveraray Castle still comfortably deep. Summer had seemed so far away. There had seemed plenty of time to find a suitable man on her own. Plenty of time in which to fall in love.
After the travesty of her last betrothal, she’d vowed to marry only for love—what she thought she’d found with John. But it had been a foolish girl’s vow. A vow made when her emotions were still raw and tender from his cruelty.
Now, two years later, Lizzie had to be practical. At six and twenty, love probably wasn’t for her.
She sighed at her own foolishness. Even with reality staring her in the face, she could not completely shed the possibility from her mind. But it was well past time to give up that particular fantasy. She didn’t want to live her life alone. Taking care of her cousin’s and brother’s households would not be enough forever, and as much as she loved little Archie and the girls, the children were not hers. She wanted a home and family of her own—enough to accept a new betrothal brokered by her cousin.
She felt a twinge of regret, thinking of her friends’ happiness, then quickly pushed it aside. Her two closest friends, Meg Mackinnon and Flora MacLeod, had both been fortunate enough to find love with their husbands. Ironically, Meg had married Flora’s brother Alex. Meg had two young sons, and Flora had recently given birth to twins. Lizzie was happy for them, but it made her deeply aware of all that she was missing.
But as much as she wanted what her friends had found, she had to accept that she could not wait any longer for something that might never happen.
It doesn’t matter, she told herself, determined as always to make the best of every situation. I will make my own happiness. Arranged marriage or not.
“Is something wrong, mistress?”
Lost in thought, Lizzie hadn’t realized that Alys had been watching her again. She lifted a brow. “I thought you were embroidering?”
This time Alys would not be put off. Curiosity, it seemed, had finally overridden discretion. “You keep staring at that letter as if it’s an execution warrant.”
A wry smile curved Lizzie’s mouth. “Nothing as dramatic as that, I’m afraid.” The earl would be angry, but not with her.
“Are you worried about the travel with all those horrid MacGregors scurrying about the countryside?” Alys leaned across and patted her knee. “There’s nothing to worry about. My Donnan will see that we come to no harm.”
Alys’s husband was captain of the earl’s guardsmen at Castle Campbell, and she was fiercely proud of the formidable warrior.
“No, it’s not the travel,” Lizzie assured her. They were well protected by a dozen guardsmen, and not even the outlawed MacGregors would dare attack the Earl of Argyll’s carriage. Besides, they were still in the Lowlands, well away from the Lomond Hills, where the proscribed clan was reputed to have fled following the battle of Glenfruin.
Even as news of the atrocities committed by the MacGregors at Glenfruin spread through the Highlands, it was hard for Lizzie to reconcile the man who’d come to her aid with the band of ruthless outlaws who’d perpetrated a massacre on the field of Glenfruin. In this, however, she was alone in her family. Her cousin had been charged by King James to bring the MacGregors to justice for their crimes and for the past few years had made it his mission. A mission in which her brothers Jamie and Colin had joined. It was only a matter of time before the outlaws were all hunted down.
Posted February 8, 2009
In 1606 Patrick MacGregor and his cousins are on their way to Inveraray Castle, home of their enemies the Campbells, who under the King¿s decree have outlawed their clan; Alasdair wants to win the archery contest. They stop at a tavern where they hear John Montgomery, brother to an earl, talk derogatorily about his plan to wed the Campbell mouse Stammering Elizabeth Montach to forge an alliance; besides he says she is wealthy and owns land. To John¿s chagrin, as he and his pals discuss his pathetic fiancée, Elizabeth enters the tavern hearing the derogatory comments. She slips as she walks out so Patrick although he knows to do nothing helps her up; he exposes himself to her dangerous brother the bloody Henchman before they escape with a diversion they created. <BR/><BR/>Two years later, Lizzie is on her way by coach to Castle Campbell where her family wants her to marry; the only man who ever showed her kindness was a MacGregor, but he is an outlaw. The MacGregor outlaws attack her coach, but Patrick realizes Elizabeth is inside and keeps her safe. He risks his life to insure she arrives at her uncle¿s castle safely. She assumes he is not a MacGregor, but her brave champion. As they fall in love, she learns who he really is, but vows to marry him anyway. He loves her but his clan must come first.<BR/><BR/>This is a terrific Scottish Highlands historical romance due to the deep support cast who insure the feuds remain ignited, which in turn leaves the lead couple as star-crossed lovers in which each side¿s kin wants the blood of the other. Fans will enjoy this fine tale as Patrick wants to kiss his Lizzie, but must dodge her brother who wants him dead because he is a MacGregor.<BR/><BR/>Harriet Klausner
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Posted December 30, 2011
Its a wonderful, exciting, suspencefull book filled with a lot of conflick but through all of the ups and down love is the lucky winner in this battle between to opposing forces and the 2 lovers who struggle through family fudes, revenge, duty, honor, and hate so that they can be together and come to terms with the present and past.
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Posted November 16, 2013
Posted April 15, 2013
Posted April 1, 2013
I love this book for a couple reasons. I love the never ending suspense and it is well writen. Also i am part of the Campbell clan and am proud to be so :)
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Posted June 20, 2012
Posted April 2, 2012
Patrick MacGregor is a hunted man living on the edge. With his land stolen and clan outlawed, Patrick and his MacGregor clansmen have been forced into hiding—blame for which Patrick puts squarely on the shoulders of the hated Campbells. Patrick will stop at nothing to save his clan from destruction, and marriage to Elizabeth Campbell, whose quiet beauty he’d admired from afar, just might be the answer. Arranging an attack seems to be the perfect means to win the trust of the protected lass, but soon Patrick realizes that it isn’t just his life at stake if she discovers the truth of his identity, but something he’d thought lost long ago—his heart.
Elizabeth Campbell has never done anything reckless in her life. Shy and dutiful, Lizzie has always tried to do the right thing—even suffering through the humiliation of two broken engagements without complaint. But behind the serious façade is a passionate woman fighting to get out. So when a handsome mysterious warrior rescues her from an attack, Lizzie boldly asks him to stay. Seduced by his kiss and mesmerized by the edge of danger that surrounds him, Lizzie succumbs to the promise beckoning from behind his shadowed gaze, believing she’s found the perfect man. But soon Lizzie wonders whether in risking her heart, she’s lost everything.
Elizabeth Campbell, who has always secretly dreamed of having a large family, hasn't had the best of luck with her arranged marriages and unfortunately, her last one damaged her more than she would have liked. Patrick MacGregor, the chief of his broken clan, is struggling to reclaim what his family had fatally stolen away. Yet, Patrick is now falling for the enemy while working on a plan to gain lost property by hiding his true identity. When all is revealed, will both Elizabeth and Patrick find something they've both been desiring?
I find I'm reading this series backwards and I'm loving it. Book #3 was a nice surprise and Book #2 was even better!!! I loved how vulnerable Elizabeth came off. She's emotionally hurt, yet remains strong in character for her family. When she was betrayed by her third betrothed, Patrick (while on a secret mission of his own) was the only one to come to her rescue. Years later, he does that again and he really only wants what is best for Lizzie, even if that goes against his clans wishes. Patrick also shares the vulnerability characteristic since he has had a damaged past. While known family enemies, both blend perfectly together.
I love my male protagonists nice and hunky, but adding a little weakness really makes me smile. I enjoyed how Patrick doubted his actions while "courting" Elizabeth and how they both shared the knowledge that they were going against their families by being together in the end. It was a nice Romeo and Juliet twist, but each character was strong enough to carry the tale quite nicely. I found no flaws in the side characters, the all over concept flowed wonderfully, the story kept me entertained till the end, and I loved the history thrown in as well. I would highly recommend this book if you enjoy historical romances. Bring on Book #1.
Likes: I liked how Elizabeth wasn't a sensitive virgin, something very rare in traditional historical romances.
Dislikes: Nothing comes to mind. I thoroughly enjoyed the whole story!
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Posted February 29, 2012
Monica McCarty never dissappoints! I loved the story of Elizabeth and Patrick. The one thing I really like about all of her books is how all of the characters entertwine together from her other books and this one is no exception... a great read; I highly recommend it!!!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 12, 2011
Posted September 13, 2011
Posted August 8, 2011
Wasn't sure I wanted to read about Lizzie because she stuttered and stammered, I knew I would really feel sorry for her, but Patrick was great hero!!!!! The book was really really good from beginning to end!!!!!! You will not be disappointed in this second book. Love Love Love M. McCarty's romance novels!!!!!!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 28, 2010
Posted August 20, 2010
I Also Recommend:
As always with Monica's books, there is a little too much information, leading you through the book. And then she rushes the ending, making it not as romantic, and touching as it could be. I do like the stories though. The Cheif was nothing like the Highlander series it was awesome all the way around, I am looking forward to the 2nd one.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 7, 2010
I finished this book in roughly a day and was overall satisfied. The story was somewhat original with your typical romance cliches mixed in, still I rather enjoyed it and plan on purchasing other books in the series.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 8, 2010
I Also Recommend:
This book was GREAT!!! It's been a while since I've read a book that had me aching for more. I spent a total of 6 hours on Saturday reading this book from start to finish because I couldn't put it down. Maybe it's just me but I love to read about men in kilts (such easy access). Patrick MacGregor or Murray depending on which part of the story your reading is an outlawed highlander with the skills of Robinhood. In an effort to obtain his clan lands, he pretends to be a young man looking for a new place to offer his sword. While taking on his new role, he falls madly in love with Elizabeth Campbell. Needless to say, events lead up to the two characters making a mad dash for safety where they end up in the hands of their enemy (or one of their enemies). Do they get a Happily Ever After??? You'll have to read the book to find out!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 14, 2009
I just started reading Monica McCarty's books and I am hooked. Her writing and character development are exceptional. She does a great job of letting the reader see inside the character so that you know what they are feeling and thinking. The Highland Outlaw is my favorite! Patrick is such a great character. I can't wait until the next series!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
What more can you ask for? Monica McCarty's Highland books are the kind that you can not put down or read once. I want to see the Scottish countryside. McCarty's books are a great series to get wisked away with. They are filled with passion and romance. I hope she writes more.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 21, 2009
Posted May 10, 2009
THIS HAS BEEN MONICA MCCARTY AT HER BEST. ALL THREE (3) IN THIS SERIES ARE EXCELLENT! I READ THEM ALL IN JUST A VERY FEW DAYS! THEY KEEP YOU INTERESTED AND ALWAYS ON THE EDGE OF YOUR SEAT.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 23, 2011
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