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Once Upon a Tartan [NOOK Book]

Overview

"Burrowes delivers red-hot chemistry with a masterful mix of playfulness and sensuality." —Publishers Weekly


Honor or happiness—he can't have both.


Tiberius Flynn may be every inch an English lord, but smart, headstrong beauty Hester Daniels has no use for his high-handed ways--no matter how handsome, charming, or beguiling he is. They only see eye to eye in caring about the feisty little girl who is under...

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Once Upon a Tartan

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Overview

"Burrowes delivers red-hot chemistry with a masterful mix of playfulness and sensuality." —Publishers Weekly


Honor or happiness—he can't have both.


Tiberius Flynn may be every inch an English lord, but smart, headstrong beauty Hester Daniels has no use for his high-handed ways--no matter how handsome, charming, or beguiling he is. They only see eye to eye in caring about the feisty little girl who is under their protection.


Tiberius's haughty insistence that his wealthy estate in England is a better place for the child than her beloved, rundown Scotland home sparks Hester's fierce protectiveness, and the battle lines are drawn.


Praise for The Bridegroom Wore Plaid, a Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year:


"As always, Burrowes creates a character driven novel...The slowly simmering sensuality and the strong bonds of family hold readers' interest and hearts."—RT Book Reviews, 4 stars


"Will engage readers with emotion and sensuality...Burrowes has a talent for filling traditional romance situations with depth and the unexpected." —Booklist

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this charming sequel to 2012’s The Bridegroom Wore Plaid, Burrowes returns to the Victorian-era Scottish highlands for another cross-border romance. Tiberius Flynn, Earl of Spathfoy and heir to the Marquis of Quinworth, has been sent to Scotland to quietly retrieve his young niece, Fiona, from the MacGregor clan and bring her to live in England. Complications ensue when he finds himself reluctantly drawn in by both the delightful girl and her stepfather’s sister, Miss Hester Daniels. Soon he’s caught between competing interests and his own overwhelming sense of duty. Seeking refuge with her brother’s new family after jilting an unscrupulous nobleman in London, Hester believes the unexpectedly kind Tye is the perfect candidate for a harmless dalliance. While she means only to restore her confidence and move on, Tye refuses to accept an unhappy ending. Burrowes excels at intimate banter and seductive love scenes, and elevates her story with refreshing twists. Expert prose, likeable characters, realistic relationships, and believable complications create a pleasant and satisfying keeper. Agent: Steve Axelrod, Axelrod Literary Agency. (Aug.)
From the Publisher
"Writing this lush and lively deserves to be savored. Highly recommended. STARRED Review" - Library Journal

"Burrowes creates a powerful story replete with heartfelt emotion and rich characterization... An instant keeper. 4 ½ Stars, Top Pick of the Month" - RT Book Reviews

"Warmth, sensuality, and humor infuse Burrowes' writing, and fans of Suzanne Enoch and Sarah MacLean should enjoy this series." - Booklist

"Grace Burrowes weaves her magic with words... a memorable love story-excellent and exquisite. A Long and Short Reviews Best Book" - Long and Short Reviews

"This story, like a tartan, has many intricate lines of distinction woven through each chapter and once finished creates a beautifully warm feeling of happiness for the reader.
" - Gourmonde Girl

"A fabulous read, full of deep romance and family secrets. Loved it!" - Imagine a World

"[Grace Burrowes] has a way of luring you away for a few hours of utter bliss..." - BookLoons.com

"Grabs your heartstrings and doesn't let go... I will read anything Grace writes!" - Under the Boardwalk

"There is just something with Burrowes' romances that makes me want to read and read and not put them down... " - Book Girl of Mur-y-Castell

"Unique and quirky characters along with an uplifting romance make this a compelling historical romance you won't want to miss." - The Romance Reviews

Library Journal
★ 
When young Fiona MacGregor falls from a tree at the feet of Tiberius Lamartine Flynn’s horse, the Englishman is most assured that this venture into cursed Scotland is a bad idea. Yet isn’t Fee the reason for the 60-mile journey he undertook from Northumbria? She is his late brother’s daughter, and their father, the Marquis of Quinworth, has made a devil’s bargain with Tye to bring his granddaughter to England. Fee’s mother and stepfather are on a belated wedding trip, so removing Fee should be easy. But Fee’s Aunt Hester is in charge, and she’s already wary of the rather large gentleman claiming avuncular rights. Fee finds in Tye a new uncle who will dote on her and teach her very long words. Tye finds both the young and the older female suddenly objects of his lamentably hard-won affection. Perhaps his plan won’t be so simple to execute after all.

Verdict This latest series title from Burrowes (The Bridegroom Wore Plaid) presents another delightful clash of cultures and personalities as Hester puts it all on the line to redeem her self-worth and Tye meets his match in this passionate and obstinate woman. Writing this lush and lively deserves to be savored. Highly recommended.—Bette-Lee Fox, Library Journal
(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781402268700
  • Publisher: Sourcebooks, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 8/6/2013
  • Series: MacGregor Series , #2
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 416
  • Sales rank: 28,777
  • File size: 970 KB

Meet the Author

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Grace Burrowes' bestsellers include The Heir, The Soldier, Lady Maggie's Secret Scandal, Lady Sophie's Christmas Wish and Lady Eve's Indiscretion. The Heir was a Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2010, The Soldier was a PW Best Spring Romance of 2011, Lady Sophie's Christmas Wish won Best Historical Romance of the Year in 2011 from RT Reviewers' Choice Awards, Lady Louisa's Christmas Knight was a Library Journal Best Book of 2012, and The Bridegroom Wore Plaid was a PW Best Book of 2012. Her Regency romances have received extensive praise, including starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Booklist. Grace is branching out into short stories and Scotland-set Victorian romance with Sourcebooks. She is a practicing family law attorney and lives in rural Maryland.
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Read an Excerpt

One


When Tiberius Lamartine Flynn heard the tree singing, his first thought was that he'd parted company with his reason. Then two dusty little boots dangled above his horse's abruptly nervous eyes, and the matter became a great deal simpler.


"Out of the tree, child, lest you spook some unsuspecting traveler's mount."


A pair of slim white calves flashed among the branches, the movement provoking the damned horse to dancing and propping.


"What's his name?"


The question was almost unintelligible, so thick was the burr.


"His name is Flying Rowan," Tye said, stroking a hand down the horse's crest. "And he'd better settle himself down this instant if he knows what's good for him. His efforts in this regard would be greatly facilitated if you'd vacate that damned tree."


"You shouldn't swear at her. She's a wonderful tree."


The horse settled, having had as much frolic as Tye was inclined to permit.


"In the first place, trees do not have gender, in the second, your heathen accent makes your discourse nigh incomprehensible, and in the third, please get the hell out of the tree."


"Introduce yourself. I'm not supposed to talk to strangers."


A heathen child with manners. What else did he expect from the wilds of Aberdeenshire?


"Tiberius Lamartine Flynn, Earl of Spathfoy, at your service. Had we any mutual acquaintances, I'd have them attend to the civilities."


Silence from the tree, while Tye felt the idiot horse tensing for another display of nonsense.


"You're wrong-we have a mutual acquaintance. This is a treaty oak. She's everybody's friend. I'm Fee."


Except in his Englishness, Tye first thought the little scamp had said, "I'm fey," which seemed appropriate.


"Pleased to make your acquaintance, Fee. Now show yourself like a gentleman, or I'll think it's your intent to drop onto hapless travelers and rob them blind."


"Do you think I could?"


Dear God, the child sounded fascinated.


"Down. Now." That tone of voice had worked on Tye's younger brother until Gordie had been almost twelve. The same tone had ever been a source of amusement to his younger sisters. The branches moved, and Rowan tensed again, haunches bunching as if he'd bolt.


A lithe little shape plummeted at least eight feet to the ground and landed with a loud "Ouch!" provoking Rowan to rear in earnest.


***


From the ground, the horse looked enormous, and the man astride like a giant. Fee caught an impression of darkness-dark horse, dark riding clothes, and a dark scowl as the man tried to control his horse.


"That is quite enough out of you." The man's voice was so stern, Fee suspected the horse understood the words, for two large iron-shod hooves came to a standstill not a foot from her head.


"Child, you will get up slowly and move away from the horse. I cannot guarantee your safety otherwise."


Still stern-maybe this fellow was always stern, in which case he was to be pitied. Fee sat up and tried to creep back on her hands, backside, and feet, but pain shot through her left ankle and up her calf before she'd shifted half her weight.


"I hurt myself."


The horse backed a good ten feet away, though Fee couldn't see how the rider had asked it to do so.


"Where are you hurt?"


"My foot. I think I landed on it wrong. It's because I'm wearing shoes."


"Shoes do not cause injury." He swung off the horse and shook a gloved finger at the animal. "You stand, or you'll be stewed up for the poor of the parish."


"Are you always so mean, mister?"


He loomed above her, hands on his hips, and Fee's Aunt Hester would have said he looked like The Wrath of God. His nose was a Wrath-of-God sort of nose, nothing sweet or humble about it, and his eyes were Wrath-of-God eyes, all dark and glaring.


He was as tall as the Wrath of God, too, maybe even taller than Fee's uncles, who, if not exactly the Wrath of God, could sometimes be the Wrath of Deeside and greater Aberdeenshire.


As could her aunt Hester, which was a sobering thought.


"You think I'm mean, young lady?"


"Yes."


"Then I must answer in the affirmative."


She frowned up at him. From his accent, he was at least a bloody Lowlander, or possibly a damned Sassenach, but even making those very significant allowances, he still talked funny.


"What is a firmative?"


"Yes, I am mean. Can you walk?"


He extended a hand down to her, a very large hand in a black riding glove. Fee had seen some pictures in a book once, of a lot of cupids without nappies bouncing around with harps, and a hand very like that one, sticking out of the clouds, except the hand in the picture was not swathed in black leather.


"Child, I do not have all day to impersonate the Good Samaritan."


"The Good Samaritan was nice. He went to heaven."


"While it is my sorry fate to be ruralizing in Scotland." He hauled Fee to her feet by virtue of lifting her up under the arms. He did this without effort, as if he hoisted five stone of little girl from the roadside for regular amusement.


"Do you ever smile?"


"When in the presence of silent, well-behaved, properly scrubbed children, I sometimes consider the notion. Can you put weight on that foot?"


"It hurts. I think it hurts because my shoe is getting too tight."


He muttered something under his breath, which might have had some bad words mixed in with more of his pernickety accent, then lifted Fee to his hip. "I am forced by the requirements of good breeding and honor to endure your company in the saddle for however long it takes to return you to the dubious care of your wardens, and may God pity them that responsibility."


"I get to ride your horse?"


"We get to ride my horse. If you were a boy, I'd leave you here to the mercy of passing strangers or allow you to crawl home."


He might have been teasing. The accent made it difficult to tell-as did the scowl. "You thought I was boy?"


"Don't sound so pleased. I thought you were a nuisance, and I still do. Can you balance?"


He deposited her next to the treaty oak, which meant she could stand on one foot and lean on the tree. "I want to take my shoes off." He wrinkled that big nose of his, looking like he smelled something rank. "My feet are clean. Aunt Hester makes me take a bath every night whether I need one or not."


This Abomination Against the Natural Order-another one of Aunt Hester's terms-did not appear to impress the man. Fee wondered if anything impressed him-and what a poverty that would be, as Aunt would say, to go through the whole day without once being impressed.


He hunkered before her, and he was even tall when he knelt. "Put your hand on my shoulder."


Fee complied, finding his shoulder every bit as sturdy as the oak. He unlaced her boot, but when he tried to ease it off her foot, she had to squeal with the pain of it.


"Wrenched it properly, then. Here." He pulled off his gloves and passed them to her. "Bite down on one of those, hard enough to cut right through the leather, and scream if you have to. I have every confidence you can ruin my hearing if you make half an effort."


She took the gloves, which were warm and supple. "Are you an uncle?"


"As it happens, this dolorous fate has befallen me."


"Is that a firmative?"


"It is. Why?"


"Because you're trying to distract me, which is something my uncles do a lot. I won't scream."


He regarded her for a moment, looking almost as if he might say something not quite so fussy, then bent to glare at her boot. "Suit yourself, as it appears you are in the habit of doing."


She braced herself; she even put one of the riding gloves between her teeth, because as badly as her ankle hurt, she expected taking off her boot would cause the kind of pain that made her ears roar and her vision dim around the edges.


She neither screamed nor bit through the glove-which tasted like reins and horse-because before she could even draw in a proper breath, her boot was gently eased off her foot.


"I suppose you want the other one off too?"


"Is my ankle all bruised and horrible?"


"Your ankle is slightly swollen. It will likely be bruised before the day is out, but perhaps not horribly if we can get ice on it."


"Are you a priest?"


"For pity's sake, child. First an uncle, then a priest? What can you be thinking?" He sat her in the grass and started unlacing her second boot.


"You talk like Vicar on Sunday, though on Saturday night, he sounds like everybody else when he's having his pint. If my ankle is awful, Aunt Hester will cry and feed me shortbread with my tea. She might even play cards with me. My uncles taught me how to cheat, but explained I must never cheat unless I'm playing with them."


"Honor among thieves being the invention of the Scots, this does not surprise me." He tied the laces of both boots into a knot and slung them around Fee's neck.


"I'm a Scot."


His lips quirked. Maybe this was what it looked like when the Wrath of God was afraid he might smile.


"My condolences. Except for your unfortunate red hair, execrable accent, and the layer of dirt about your person, I would never have suspected." He lifted her up again, but this time carried her to Flying Rowan, who had stood like a good boy all the while the man had been getting Fee's boots off.


"I have wonderful hair, just like my mama's. My papa says I'm going to be bee-yoo-ti-full. My uncles say I already am."


"What you are is impertinent and inconvenient, though one can hardly blame your hair on you. Up you go." He deposited her in the saddle, bracing a hand around her middle until she had her balance.


"Oh, this is a wonderful adventure. May I have the reins?"


"Assuredly not. Lean forward."


He was up behind her in nothing flat, but that just made it all the better. Flying Rowan was even taller than Uncle Ian's gelding, and almost as broad as the plow horses. Having the solid bulk of an adult male in the saddle made the whole business safe, even as it was also exciting.


He nudged the horse forward. "Where I am taking you, child?"


Fee could feel the way he rode, feel the way he moved with the horse and communicated with the horse without really using the reins.


"Child?"


"That way." She lifted her hand to point in the direction of the manor, feeling the horse flinch beneath her as she did. "If you go by way of the pastures, it's shorter than the road."


"How many gates?"


"Lots. Papa has a lot of doddies."


"Has your upbringing acquainted you with the equestrian arts?"


He didn't even sound like a priest. He sounded like nothing and no one Fee had ever heard before. His voice was stern but somehow beautiful too, even when he wasn't making any sense at all. "I don't know what equestrian arts are."


"Do you ride horseback?" He spoke slowly, as if Fee were daft, which made her want to drive her elbow back into his ribs-though that would likely hurt her elbow.


"I don't have a pony, but my uncles take me up when I pester them hard enough."


"That will serve. Grab some mane and don't squeal."


He wrapped that big hand around her middle again, and urged the horse into a rocking canter. The wind blew Fee's hair back, and it was hard not to squeal, so delightful was the sensation of flying over the ground.


"Hold tight." This was nearly growled as the man leaned forward, necessitating that Fee lean forward too. In a mighty surge, the horse leapt up and over a stone wall, then thundered off across the pasture in perfect rhythm.


The sensations were magnificent, to be borne aloft for a timeless moment, to soar above the earth, to be safe and snug in the midst of flight.


"Do another one!" Fee called over her shoulder, even as the horse bore down on a second wall.


They did three more, cutting directly across the fields, leaving the cows to watch as the horse cantered by, the placid expressions of the bovines at such variance with the utter glee Fee felt at each wall.


When the man brought his horse down to a walk at the foot of the drive, she leaned forward and patted the gelding soundly on the shoulder. "Good fellow, Flying Rowan! Oh, that was the best! I will write to everybody and tell them what a good boy you are." She lapsed into the Gaelic, too happy and excited not to praise the horse in a more civilized language than the stilted, stodgy English.


Behind her, she felt the man's hard chest shift slightly, and she fell silent.


"Mama says it's rude to speak the Gaelic when somebody else can't."


"I comprehend it. Is this your home?"


"I live here. Aunt Hester lives here too, but Mama and Papa are away right now."


"Shall I take you around to the back?"


He was scowling at the manor as he spoke, as if the house wasn't the most lovely place in the world, all full of flowers and pretty views.


"Here comes Aunt Hester. I expect she'll want to thank you."


Fee felt Rowan's owner tense behind her. It wasn't that his muscles bunched up, it was more that he went still. The horse beneath them went still too, as if both man and horse understood that the look on Aunt Hester's face did not at all fit with Fee's prediction of impending thanks.


***


A female thundercloud was advancing on Tye where he sat his gelding, the little girl perched before him. Beneath his hand, he felt the child's spine stiffen and her bony little shoulders square.


This particular thundercloud had golden blond hair piled on top of her head, quite possibly in an attempt to give an illusion of height. She wore an old-fashioned blue walking dress, the dusty hems of which were swishing madly around her boots as she sailed across the drive.


He'd always liked the sound of a woman's petticoats in brisk motion, they gave a man a little warning-and something to think about.


"I bid you good day." He nodded from the saddle, a hat being a hopeless inconvenience when a man rode cross-country. "Spathfoy, at your service."


Some perverse desire to see what she'd do next kept him on the horse, looking down at her from a considerable height.


"Hester Daniels." She sketched a hint of a curtsy then planted her fists on her hips. "Fiona Ursula MacGregor, what am I to do with you? Where have you gone off to this time, that a strange man must bring you home at a dead gallop, over field and fence, your hair a fright and-" The lady paused and drew in a tremendous breath. "Why are your boots hanging about your neck? What have I told you about running off barefoot, much less when you're in the company of horses, and when will you remember that we eat meals at regular hours, in a civilized fashion, and what do you expect me to tell your dear mother about this latest escapade?"


When she fell silent, Tye was somewhat taken aback to see the lady's eyes shining, quite possibly with tears.


"I am sorry," said the girl, hanging her head. "I went to visit the oak, that's all, and it was a fine afternoon for singing in a tree, and then I jumped down, but I landed wrong, and this fellow came along on Flying Rowan. I didn't mean to hurt my foot, but we had such fun galloping home, didn't we, sir?"


She turned around to spear him with big, pleading green eyes, leaving Tye feeling resentful, and perhaps... oh, something else too bothersome to parse at the moment.


"There now," he said, smoothing a gloved hand over the child's crown. "A very nice apology, and that should be an end to it. The child can't be blamed for my horse's loss of composure when finding himself beneath a singing tree. If anybody should be apologizing, it's Rowan here."


This was a ridiculous speech, attributing manners and morals to a mute and consistently self-interested beast, but it served to soften the lady's ire. Her hands dropped from her hips, her breath left her in a gentle sigh, and her expression became one of exasperated affection. "Did you come a cropper, then, Fee?"


"She wrenched her ankle," Tye said, swinging down. He was pleased to note that when standing, he was still a good deal taller than Miss Daniels, but then, he was a good deal taller than most everybody. "I'm happy to carry her inside, where some ice and a tisane might be in order."


Before Miss Daniels could summon a servant for the task, Tye lifted Fiona out of the saddle. The child obligingly perched on his hip, batting those guileless green eyes at her aunt while a groom came to take Rowan.


Gordie had had such eyes, though the lack of guile was far more genuine in the child than it had ever been in the man.


"If you don't mind carrying her," Miss Daniels said, "I would be obliged. Fee is getting quite grown-up."


"She means I'm too heavy."


"You are a mere bagatelle." He shifted her to a piggyback position. "Lead on please, madam. The bagatelle has to be in some discomfort."


But the girl did not complain, which was interesting. She settled in on Tye's back, resting her cheek against his nape. "I like being a bagatelle. Do bagatelles sing?"


"This one does, and she chatters," Tye said. "Incessantly." Though she was also at the braids-and-pinafores stage of her development, so he limited his rebuke.


"I know what that means. I'm trying to make small talk. Why do we call it small talk? It's the same size as other talk, at least other talk inside the house. Is there such a thing as large talk?"


She huffed out a sigh while Tye followed Miss Daniels into the house. The dwelling was a tidy Tudor manor that looked to be laid out in the typical Tudor E, gardens overflowing with flowers all about the place and even in window boxes on the upper stories. The mullioned windows were sparkling, the gravel walks tidily raked, and the terraces neatly swept.


Which was... not disappointing, exactly, but not what Tye had been expecting.


"I hope this isn't too great an inconvenience," Miss Daniels said as Tye carried his burden into a cozy library. "I'll ring for refreshment as soon as we have Fee settled."


"May I have some refreshment?" the child asked.


Miss Daniels frowned at the girl clinging to Tye's back like a monkey. "You nipped out before breakfast, Fee, and missed luncheon. No doubt you pilfered some scones, but you'll make a pig of yourself at tea and ruin your supper entirely."


"I'll have one sandwich. Just one. Please, Aunt Hester?"


Tye had no doubt the winsome green eyes were working their wiles over his shoulder, but really, an active child couldn't go all day on a just a few scones.


"We might take our tea in here," Tye said, shifting the girl to seat her on the sofa. "It's a pleasant room with a nice view of the back gardens."


"Oh, very well." Miss Daniels looked unhappy with her capitulation, but moved off to speak with a footman at the doorway. Tye looked about, spotted a hassock, and moved to place it before Fiona. He tossed a throw pillow onto the hassock and pointed.


"Get your foot up, child. It will help contain the swelling."


"But then it won't look horrid enough."


"And it won't feel quite so horrid either. Besides, you've already winkled tea and crumpets out of your aunt, and that after playing truant the entire day. You ought to be ashamed of yourself."


God in heaven, he'd sounded just like his father.


"You should not have used foul language."


"I should not-" He closed his mouth. The impertinent little baggage was right, though foul language was a simple enough pleasure in a life where pleasure was otherwise in short supply. "I do beg your pardon. I was overset."


"You were not." She grabbed a green-and-black tartan blanket from the back of the sofa. "Grown-up men don't get overset, though they do get soused. Aunt taught me that word, but I'm not to use it around company."


He stared at the child. Treated the little minx to a gimlet gaze that had settled overspending distant relations without a word.


She winked at him. "We're even now."


"The tea tray will be along shortly," Miss Daniels said, sweeping back into the room. "Won't you have a seat, Mr. Spathfoy?"


She betrayed her Englishness with the lapse-it was a Scottish title, after all, and a Scottish courtesy title at that. Her lack of familiarity with it confirmed suspicions originating in her proper southern speech and pretty company manners.


"I beg your pardon, Miss Daniels, I am the Earl of Spathfoy." He waited with some interest to see how she'd react to her faux pas.


"I do apologize, my lord. Shall we be seated?"


No blush, no stammering, no glancing all around or scolding him for not initially introducing himself properly.


Seeing no alternative, Tye sat, taking a wing chair flanking the sofa where the Duchess of Singing Trees reclined in grand estate. Miss Daniels took a second wing chair and turned a considering look on her niece. "I'm going to have to send a note to Uncle Ian at least, Fee. He might wire your mama and papa."


"Will they come home to see if I'm alive?"


"They will come home when they've completed their journey. They hardly had time for a wedding journey, so you must not begrudge them their travels this summer." She shot the child a speaking glance, as if visually reminding the girl not to argue before company.


Though Tye would enjoy seeing the two of them go at it. His money would be on the girl. "Where are they traveling?" he asked, mostly to break a growing silence.


"All over," Fiona said, slumping back on a dramatic sigh. "First Paris, then Berlin, Munich, Vienna, Venice, Florence and Rome. Madrid and Lisbon, then home again. I had a cat named Florence once. She ran off with a handsome marmalade fellow named Beowulf."


"This will be quite a journey." And quite a convenient development, given Tye's plans.


"Mary Fran and Matthew have been married a year," Miss Daniels said. "Their first priority was establishing a home here, near Mary Frances's family, but she has longed to see some of the Continent, and I was available to stay with Fiona while they traveled, so here we are."


She gave him a bright, false smile, and it occurred to him that he was in the presence of a Poor Relation. Miss Daniels was young, pretty, not sporting a ring on the fourth finger of her left hand, and by rights ought to be in London, trying to flirt herself up a decent match.


Instead she was here in Aberdeenshire, during the only months that location boasted pretensions to decent weather, idling away her youth with a child who sang to trees. A bleak prospect indeed, but a penniless female was at the mercy of the rest of her family.


"Have you written to your parents, Fiona?" He put the question to the child, though making polite conversation with the infantry was not a skill he'd ever aspired to.


"I write to them every other day, but that's mostly so Aunt Hester can say I've practiced my penmanship." She regarded her propped foot. "I miss them."


Such a plaintive expression accompanied this declaration that Tye felt an unwelcome urge to comfort the child. Very unwelcome.


"We'll stay busy," Miss Daniels said. "The weeks will pass quickly, and then they'll be home."


"And then at Christmas, we'll have a new baby!" As melancholy as the girl had been an instant ago, she was that gleeful with news of her coming half sibling. "I hope it's a boy so I can teach him how to fish and make mud pies."


"Fiona." Miss Daniels put a wealth of repression in three syllables, and Tye was intrigued to see the lady was blushing hotly, right up her neck and both cheeks, which was almost as interesting as the news that Fiona's mother was again on the nest.


Within one year of marriage, no less. The woman was nothing if not an easy breeder. The food arrived before Tye could dwell on that unhappy subject, and Miss Daniels launched into a recitation of all the books Fiona might read while allowing her foot to heal. A chambermaid appeared with a bowl of ice and a set of towels, and Miss Daniels interrupted her litany of books to make a fuss doctoring the child's ailing foot. Tye used the time to fill the pit in his stomach with scrumptious ham-and-cheddar sandwiches and a delectable array of small tea cakes.


"You enjoy a hearty appetite, my lord."


He pause midreach toward the last chocolate tea cake, wondering if that was censure or amusement in Miss Daniels's voice. She was nibbling on a tea cake too, and while he watched, the pink tip of her tongue peeked out of the corner of her mouth to lick a dab of white frosting from her lip.


"The fresh country air and a tidy little gallop have left me peckish. Then too, I have been traveling for some time." Though the fresh country air was also addling his brain if he'd taken to staring at a decent woman's mouth.


"Were you in Florence?" That from the child, who was reaching for another sandwich. He met her gaze and realized she knew damned good and well she was exceeding her own stated limit of one sandwich.


"I have been in Florence, though not recently. A lovely city, if hot." And somewhat unfragrant, like many of the European capitals, including-emphatically-dear old London towne.


"My uncle Asher is in Canada." The girl took a bite of her second sandwich. "He went there when I wasn't even a baby, but I love him. My uncles are the best."


The child's words were a providential opening. Before Miss Daniels could nibble more frosting, before the child could cadge a third sandwich, Tye decided it was the only opening he was likely to have, and it was past time he presented himself honestly.


"Your uncles are the best?"


Fee nodded emphatically. "The very, very best. Especially Uncle Ian, because he looks after all of us-he's an earl-but all my uncles are capital fellows."


"It's fortunate you feel that way, because I myself am among their number."


***


Hester had taken their guest for a Scot at first, in part because of his glorious size. He appeared to enjoy the breeding of many a Scot, a cross of dark Celtic good looks with Viking scale and muscle.


He inhabited his body like a Scot too, comfortable and rangy, at ease with both his proportions and his strength. Watching him ride across the pastures, she'd envied Fee, thinking at first that Ian had perhaps cantered over for a surprise visit and was treating his niece to a taste of adventure.


But then he'd spoken, and that voice... Spathfoy should be a mesmerist, with a voice like that. The English public school consonants were present, all crisply started, neatly executed, and cleanly finished off, but in the vowels there lurked something... more. Something suggestive of foreign antecedents and earthy inclinations. She could listen to that voice like a lullaby.


Except... he formed words, not just spoken music, and he'd said something extraordinary.


"I beg your pardon, my lord. Did you just pronounce yourself to be among Fiona's uncles?"


"I did. I am the older brother of Fiona's late father, and very pleased to make my niece's acquaintance."


The great beast of a man was lying-not about being Fee's uncle, but about being pleased. He even sounded beautiful when he lied-beautiful and believable. Oh, he'd done the proper thing and made sure Fee got safely home when she'd hurt her ankle, but the proper thing and the convenient thing were sometimes separated merely by the intention motivating the same act.


"Fiona would make her curtsy to you, I'm sure, but for her indisposition. I don't suppose you were merely in the area and calling upon a relation?"


Fiona shifted amid her pillows. "I don't know you. I know my uncles."


"I have been remiss in not calling before, but I reside primarily in London, which is some distance away." He looked directly at Fee while he spoke, and this, Hester realized, was part of his... not charm. He wasn't in any case charming, but part of his attraction. He had moss-green eyes, startlingly green, fringed with long, dark lashes. They imparted a sensual air to an otherwise austere countenance, and suggested the truth of the man was in that voice, in the caress and lilt of it, rather than in the stern features.


"You are here now," Hester said, though she was wishing it were otherwise, and that probably showed in her voice.


Fiona peered up at his lordship. "Why are you here now?"


For an instant, something flickered through lordly green eyes, impatience, maybe, or resentment. Or-a remote possibility-surprise, that a little girl would not remain silent and passive in the presence of this titled uncle.


"I am addressing a previous oversight. I'd written to Altsax of my intent, but he has apparently gone traveling with his lady. I will call upon Lord Balfour at the earliest opportunity in Altsax's absence."


"Papa doesn't use the title." Fee was frowning a particularly worried frown, and Hester could only imagine what was going through the child's mind.


She passed her niece the last tea cake and served up a reassuring smile with it. "After such a trying day, Fiona, you should probably rest for a bit. Would you like a book?"


"Robinson Crusoe, please." The please was an oddment, an indication of tension caused by Spathfoy's bald announcement, and the choice of story was the mental equivalent of reaching for a favorite doll.


Hester got down the book, noting that Spathfoy had gone quiet, probably the better to plan his next broadside.


"My lord, may I request a turn in the garden on your arm? The day is lovely, and Mary Frances takes great pride in her flowers." The request was as polite as Hester could manage, but her temper-her blasted, perishing temper, which had never been a problem until this self-imposed banishment to Scotland-was threatening to gallop off with her manners.


"But of course." He rose to his impressive height, looking handsome and proper. There wasn't a single crumb on his breeches, and his hair looked artfully windblown, not as if he was given to pelting over fences willy-nilly.


Hester led him to the gardens, lecturing herself all the while about decorum, Highland hospitality, and making good first impressions. When Spathfoy inquired as to whether "the child" had a governess, tutors, or music instructors, she did not wallop him across his arrogant cheek.


She limited her wrath to a mere ladylike tongue lashing, but she made as thorough a job of it as momentary inspiration and vicarious maternal instinct could muster-which was very thorough indeed.


***


Where a prim little bit of poor relation had stood before, a raging tempest now boiled.


"What on earth can you be about, my lord, to come barging in here, misrepresenting yourself to all and sundry, insinuating yourself into the child's good graces when she's all alone and without her parents? You broke bread with that girl before you revealed yourself to her. And you've yet to explain why Fee's paternal family could turn their collective English backs on her for years, then show up here, without invitation, and trespass on the child's peace. Do you know how much upheaval and change she's gone through in the past year? Moving, acquiring a stepfather who loves her, losing the only home she's known, and parting from the family in whose care she has thrived? And then you, you gallop onto the scene, as if you have some right to make inquiries regarding Fee's care and well being..."


She ranted on quite impressively. Blue eyes were commonplace, and Tye had never been particularly partial to them-never noticed them, in fact, but these blue eyes were capable of sinking galleons, so effectively did they fire off indignation and protectiveness.


He was impressed, and he allowed the lady to rage on in part because he was impressed, but also because, as a member of Fiona's extended maternal family, Miss Daniels was entitled to her tantrum.


"Perhaps madam might permit me an edgewise word of explanation." He did not allow this to be a question.


She folded her arms over a bosom rendered impressive when heaving with ire, and turned her back on him-a telling shot. "Make it a good word, my lord. Fiona's father was a disgrace, and his family's behavior has only confirmed that his character ran true to his breeding."


A splendid insult, but enough was quite enough.


"And how is any of this your concern, Miss Daniels? As I understand it, you are the younger sister of Fiona's newly acquired stepfather. You are no relation to the child at all."


She turned to face him, somehow glaring down a rather determined nose, though she was a foot shorter than Tye. "I am her physical custodian at present, my lord, and I love her."


Clearly, this irrelevance was a decisive argument to the woman, and just as clearly, Tye was going to have to reassess the situation. A serving of contrition leavened with charm was called for-on his part.


"You are quite right to be indignant on Fiona's behalf, though I had expected to have this discussion with Altsax, or possibly with Altsax and Balfour. Shall we stroll a while, or would you prefer to sit?"


She blinked at the choice. "It matters naught to me."


He offered her his arm, a strategic bit of manners. She took it gingerly and let him lead her down a path among the roses. "Fiona's mother does take her gardens seriously, doesn't she?"


"Her name is Mary Frances."


He let a silence form, one intended to ease hostilities and allow him to size up his immediate opponent-because they were opponents. He'd take on all the indignant aunts and doting-if absentee-stepfathers in Scotland, if necessary, to accomplish his ends.


"And is Mary Frances happy with your brother?"


Something shifted in the woman's demeanor. "They are besotted." Her admission was grudging and maybe wistful too.


"I concluded as much, owing to the brevity of their engagement. When a man has a title, though, these things become a priority."


She dropped his arm. "These things? These things, such as marrying the love of one's life, speaking vows with the person who can help one to face life's hurts and wrongs with courage, the person in whose love and trust one can repose one's entire heart?"


She spoke in flights and poems, and made no sense to him.


"I was referring to the need to secure the succession, to populate one's nursery. Procreation of legitimate offspring, that sort of thing."


She visually walloped him, smacked him hard, a good, cracking blow that no doubt would have left his cheek smarting mightily had she used her hand instead of those blue eyes, that nose, and a posture reminiscent of an outraged angel. "Fiona is legitimate, no thanks to your dashing scoundrel of a brother."


He did not touch his cheek, though it was tempting. "I did not mean to imply otherwise."


"Yes, you did. Dripping gentlemanlike condescension, using sly innuendo and subtle hints, you insulted my niece and her mother. If I were a man, I'd call you out."


He took two steps to stand right next to her, since the upper hand had to be reestablished, manners be damned. "Dueling went out of fashion thirty years ago."


And this entire conversation had blundered into something very like an argument with a lady, which Tye could not in his entire adult memory recall ever having engaged in before. It was almost... arousing.


"You're in the Highlands, my lord." She closed the remaining distance between them and stuck that arrogant nose in his face. "We settle our differences here in as expedient a fashion as necessary."


"And this is Highland hospitality? Railing in the garden at guests who come in good faith, guests who take tender care of injured children like, like a Good Samaritan?" Ah, that was gratifying, to flourish the biblical term and see her righteousness falter.


"Fiona would not right this minute be watching her ankle swell up with pain if your blasted horse hadn't necessitated that she jump down from a dangerous height. Good Samaritan, indeed."


Tye was formulating a riposte to that inanity when a quavery voice sang out over the roses.


"Why, Hester, we have a guest. Always so nice when friends come to call. Perhaps you'd introduce us?"


A Lilliputian in a purple turban advanced on them, if such a doddering progress could be called an advance. That turban bobbing along was all Tye could make out at first, until stooped shoulders and a frail personage came around the corner of a bed of roses. She leaned heavily on a thick, carved cane that looked to be more counterweight than support, and her face had the papery smooth transparency of great age. Her smile was sweet and slightly vague, but her green eyes bore more than a spark of intelligence.


"My dear girl," said the old woman, "you must introduce me to such a handsome fellow. Merely beholding him adds years to my life."


Old women could be great flirts. Tye had learned this startling fact while lurking on the edge of many a ballroom. They could also be powerful allies to their favorites, having connections that went back to Mad King George's day, and a knowledge of family history-family secrets-that went back even further.


He turned his best, most enchanted smile on the old dear. "Miss Daniels, I agree. you must introduce us this instant, that I might pluck for the lady a rose worthy of her attention lest she continue to bedazzle my feeble sight with her smile."


Miss Daniels heaved a great sigh conveying nothing so much as long-suffering.


"Lady Ariadne MacGregor, may I make known to you the Earl of Spathfoy, though I can't recall the man's name if he deigned to part with it. Your lordship, Fiona's great-aunt, possibly great-great, and a woman not to be underestimated. Fiona intends to grow up to be just like her. I warn you solely out of a sense of pity for helpless creatures."


"Oh, now, Hester. You'll have the man thinking you've no manners." But being a flirt, Lady Ariadne extended her hand to Tye for a gentlemanly bow, which he bestowed in lingering, adoring fashion.


"Spathfoy is the title for the Quinworth heir, am I right? And how is your dear mother, my boy? She was such a pretty girl. And you must call me Aunt Ree. Everybody does-I insist."


A slight trickle of unease percolated through Tye's vitals. He let the lady retrieve her hand and kept his smile in place. "My mother fares well." As far as he knew. He offered Lady Ariadne his arm, though it was about the equivalent of offering his arm to little Fiona, so tiny was his new, honorary aunt.


"I saw you galloping over the fields, Spathfoy. That black of yours looks like a handful."


And when she wasn't flirting or gossiping, an old woman might talk horses and hounds as well as many a squire. Tye relaxed his guard and prepared to move very slowly toward the house. "Flying Rowan is young, and he needs to work the fidgets out regularly, but his sense of distance to a jump is faultless, he has tremendous bottom, and he has a good heart."


"He has potential, then." She stopped and craned her neck to peer up at him. "My late husband-my second late husband-often remarked that a man will choose his dogs to complement his personality, but his horse must be a direct reflection of him."


He wasn't going to go near that sally-he rode a gelding, for pity's sake.


"And what of his cats, Lady Ariadne? On what basis does a man choose his cats?"


"Cats?" She twitched a little straighter as they meandered along. "Cats are like women, Spathfoy. They do the choosing. Come along, Hester. We must inform the staff we'll be providing hospitality to a guest." She stopped again, as if thinking, talking, and moving forward at the same time exceeded the energy she could muster in one moment. "How long can you stay, my lord? I'm sure Fiona will want to get to know her uncle, particularly when you will one day be the highest ranking among them all."


***


Hester watched as Aunt Ree hobbled and swayed along on That Man's arm. While her body was frail, Aunt's hearing was remarkable, as was her eyesight. Without doubt, she'd overheard that unseemly disagreement Hester had undertaken with the earl.


Of Spathfoy, which Aunt had recognized as being an heir's courtesy title, and if the courtesy title was an earldom, then the man's father was a marquess at least, or-Merciful Powers, deliver me-possibly even a duke.


No wonder he had arrogance to spare and condescension oozing from every syllable. Hester considered lingering in the garden to cool her temper then discarded the notion.


Aunt Ree had joined the household to provide proper chaperonage for Hester, while Hester had joined the household to look after Fiona in her parents' absence. They formed a little parade of the cast-off and inconvenient females of the family, put in train to keep their eyes on one another.


And if anybody required supervision, it was Aunt Ree in the presence of a handsome and unsuspecting man. With a reluctant nod to duty and decency, Hester plucked herself a bud from a Bourbon rose, treated herself to a whiff of its fragrance, and made her way into the house.


She caught up with Aunt and her escort outside the library doors.


"His lordship tells me our Fiona has wrenched her ankle, Hester. I can sit with the child while you alert the housekeeper to our good fortune. Spathfoy says he's at leisure." Aunt beamed a guileless smile at the man. "He can stay with us for quite some time. Isn't that marvelous?"


Marvelous?


Marvelous! To have such a great, arrogant, interfering, argumentative excuse for a-


But Aunt was aiming her smile at Hester, communicating a more immediate message than how marvelous his lordship's company was going to be.


Hester smiled right back at Aunt Ariadne. "I'll confer with Mrs. Deal. I'm sure she'll be as happy as I am at the prospect of his lordship staying with us." She tossed a curtsy in the direction of His Marvelousness and ducked down the stairs to the kitchen before his two-inch inclination of a bow was even fully executed.


Aunt had known Spathfoy was Fiona's uncle, and there was some warning for Hester in that final observation-Spathfoy was the most powerful among Fee's uncles.


This was enough to give Hester pause at the foot of the steps. Fee had three, possibly four maternal uncles, each of them every bit as handsome and physically imposing as Spathfoy.


Connor MacGregor was married to a wealthy Northumbrian widow, one whom he was making wealthier still, if the family gossip could be believed. A man who commanded wealth had significant power in these modern times.


Ian MacGregor was currently styled Earl of Balfour, though family gossip also suggested an older brother thought dead in the Canadian wilderness might yet be lurking among the provincial pines. Ian also knew how to make an estate profitable, and his wife, Augusta, was both titled in her own right and abundantly landed.


Gilgallon MacGregor was sporting about London as husband to Hester's own sister, and if he wasn't exactly wealthy, he was canny, ruthless, and quick with his fists.


And Spathfoy was going to be more powerful than any of these three?


Than all of them put together?


"Mrs. Deal?"


A woman built roughly along the proportions of a plow horse looked up from where she was pummeling a batch of dough at the wooden counter. "Miss Hester." A great, toothy smile creased Deal's ruddy face. "Are we to be serving up another round of tea? Damned English do love their tea."


And Deal loved her work. She was more cook than housekeeper, since Mary Fran's notions of how to run a household left little room for delegation. Deal personified the old-fashioned Scottish notion of "family retainer." She served MacGregors, and the specific capacity mattered less than the resulting loyalty and mutual obligation.


"We don't need another tea tray," Hester clarified, "but Aunt Ree is inviting Lord Spathfoy to stay with us for a bit. We'll need to serve more than bannocks or scones for breakfast, because he's one of Fiona's paternal uncles." By Highland standards he was family, as incongruous as that notion felt.


"Ach, aye. If the English couldn't get a proper breakfast, they'd starve but for their tea. That lot knows nothing of sauces and subtleties. Which bedroom shall we put his lordship in?"


She smacked the dough down with particularly fierce enthusiasm, as if showing his lordship the error of English culinary failures was going to be the satisfaction of a life's work.


"Let's use the corner bedroom in the east wing. It boasts nice views of the garden, and the chimney doesn't smoke."


Deal nodded as she started separating the dough into long, thick sections. "Putting him in the guest wing will keep him out of everybody's hair. I suppose you'll be sending a note over to Balfour House?"


"Of course." Belatedly, Hester realized this was the mission Aunt had tried to communicate between all those smiles. "At once."


"You, Dinlach." Deal barked at the potboy, who was doing a desultory job at the main sink. "Tell Festus we'll want a rider over to Balfour soonest. Miss Hester needs to warn the earl that Lady Mary Fran's worthless former in-laws have come skulking about at last."


"Mrs. Deal, you shouldn't say such things."


Deal deftly braided the dough into a fat loaf. "Flynns is border English, which is the worst kind. They recall enough of their Scottish heritage to hold their whisky and reave what they want, but they've got English titles, and English wealth to protect them from the consequences. Ask auld Ree. She'll explain it to you."


Deal used a pastry brush to dab melted butter over each loaf in curiously delicate movements, while foreboding settled cold and queasy in Hester's innards.


"He's a titled English lord, Deal. He won't be stealing cattle, trust me on this."


Deal set the butter and brush aside. "I'm just the help, Miss Hester. Far be it from me to speak ill of a guest. Hadn't you best be writing that note?"


Hester headed back up the stairs, but Deal, plain-faced, phlegmatic, and loyal to her bones, had suggested a potential threat to the household coming from the most likely quarter.


A perishing son of a titled family, as if Hester hadn't suffered enough already at the hands of the very same.


***


Being the Earl of Balfour was a damned pain in Ian MacGregor's muscular backside-his muscular and, according to his wife, adorable backside. The title involved responsibility for family members both cantankerous and unruly, stewardship of difficult and rugged land, and a bloody lot of ceremony and pomp for which no self-respecting Highlander had much patience.


In other regards, though, Ian was a very, very patient man.


His countess pinched the part of him she found so adorable.


"You're teasing me, Husband. I am not in a mood to lollygag."


"Hmm?" He kissed her ear, then bit down on the lobe. "My hearing is a wee bit off today, most likely as a result of all that exercise our son gave his lungs before going down for his nap."


He plied her gently with his cock, listening for the telltale sighs, both audible and corporeal, that would signal that she was growing desperate. Augusta grew greedy and wonderfully passionate when she was desperate.


"You are teasing me, Ian. This is not well done of you. The baby will awaken, and then you'll wish you'd applied yourself with a little more-oh, my goodness."


He applied himself with a little more, not faster, just a trifle more. Too much more, and his self-discipline would go down in the flames of his wife's passion, but a little more, a few sparks on the dry tinder of her arousal, and she'd start up with those soft moans that inspired him to great feats of forbearance.


"My wife is given to chatter. I will kiss this tendency away."


He made her wait for even his kisses, running his nose along her jaw, then dragging his lips over each eyebrow. Beneath him, Augusta shifted her hips, catching him at a slightly deeper angle.


In their year of marriage she'd learned how to toss a few sparks of her own.


"So impatient, Wife. 'Tis a failing in you English. Always plundering when you could barter."


He eased a hand up and gently closed it over one full breast-very gently. Maddeningly gently. She sighed against his neck and bartered her luscious mouth right over his, an openmouthed, seeking kiss involving her tongue and his few remaining wits.


"Naughty girl. How I treasure you."


She sighed into his mouth, anchored a hand on his bottom, and then-oh, have mercy upon a poor married man-got her internal muscles into the negotiation.


"Lass, you mustn't-"


"Hush, laddie."


She offered him no quarter, just her luscious, loving body, her heart, and her very soul, and he gave her his in return.


And then... ah, then the cuddling, at which she also excelled, an attribute Ian privately thought was the influence of Scottish antecedents hanging a few branches back on his wife's family tree. Highland winters sorted out the priorities that effectively.


He tucked his sated wife against his side and hugged her close. "Could the little man be cutting teeth yet?"


"I certainly hope not. Mary Fran says that can presage months of intermittent misery for the child, and Fiona didn't start teething until she was six months old."


"So we have that to look forward to." He kissed her ear-it was a beautiful ear. "You are a wonderful mother, Augusta, never doubt it." She eased in his arms in some way, suggesting she'd needed the reassurance, but God in heaven, no baby was ever cosseted and cared for more conscientiously.


The entire family, the entire clan, seemed to dote on their son, and it warmed Ian's heart to see it.


"I want more children, Ian. I want a big family, and we've gotten a late start on it."


"And did you think I was exerting myself so manfully in this bed purely out of selfish motives, Wife?" He dragged her over him, so she straddled his hips and cuddled down to his chest. "If my wife wants more babies, then I will do my utmost to see her pleased in this regard. My marital devotion allows for no less."


She ran her tongue over his nipple. "Such generosity. What was in the note, Ian? You got very quiet after you read it."


He rested his chin on her crown and let his hands wander over the long, elegant bones of her back. "We've trouble, Wife. Spathfoy has made a surprise raid on your cousin's household, and we don't know what his motives are."


"Spathfoy?" Augusta paused in her teasing to peer up at him. "I don't recognize the title."


"He's heir to the Marquess of Quinworth, and older brother to the worthless, conniving scoundrel who took advantage of my sister and got her with child." He tried not to let his anger show in his voice or in his body, because Augusta was that perceptive, but Mary Fran had given the faithless bounder her virginity, and Gordie Flynn had given her nothing but pain and humiliation in return.


"Spathfoy lost a brother, Ian. That cannot have been easy."


"And he has Quinworth for a father, but what if he's showing up all these years later to snatch our Fiona away, my love? Mary Fran will be heartbroken, and Matthew will stop at nothing to retrieve the child."


Augusta's fine dark brows knit, which made Ian want to kiss them. He resisted this notion, because babies slept only so long, and he valued his wife's counsel.


"Maybe he's merely showing the colors, Ian. You can't assume because he's English his purpose is necessarily nefarious."


"Nefarious and English are synonyms in the Scottish lexicon, my love. The Flynns made it plain they considered the girl child of a handfast marriage little more than a bastard. They've never sent so much as a groat for Fiona's upkeep or a token for her birthday. I'm not inclined to trust Spathfoy's avuncular motives very far."


"Is his father perhaps ailing? That can shift a man's perspective on family matters."


Ian let out a sigh of his own. The topic was curdling any notions of further efforts to ensure the large family his wife sought, but Augusta was a good sounding board, and theirs was a marriage without secrets. "I'll ride over in the morning and get the lay of the land. Hester sounds like she's in quite a dither, though Aunt Ree will manage the man well enough I'm sure."


"You'll behave?" She rose off his chest to spear him with a look. "Charm at the ready, all Scottish good cheer to the fore? You can be very charming when you set your mind to it, Ian. I have your ring on my finger as a result of your charm."


"There was a bit more to it than that, my love."


"More, Ian?" She smiled a feline smile, feathered her thumbs over his nipples, and Ian barely had time to send up a prayer that the baby would sleep for at least another hour before Augusta was offering him more, indeed.


***


Hester had forgotten the pleasure of spending time with a man on his best behavior, particularly a handsome man with a gorgeous voice. If she'd known scolding a lordling would have this effect, she might have behaved very differently with her former fiancé.


Though it was irksome in the extreme to think she'd have to withstand Spathfoy's good behavior all on her own for the duration of an entire meal. Aunt had decided to take a tray with Fiona, which was probably as well, given the child's difficult day.


"I am sorry Lady Ariadne will not be joining us for dinner." Spathfoy offered his arm with all the courtly élan imbued by his breeding. "She gave me to understand she's something of a family historian, and I would love to hear the tales she has stored in her head."


"She's a treasure." Also a terror. "But her stories are not such as would flatter English ears."


He seated her at the table without replying, and he had the knack of even that.


A lady needed assistance taking her seat because she had to manage her skirts and petticoats, which involved two hands, generally, and that left the gentleman to manage the chair. Her brother Matthew was no good at it at all, usually catching hems under chair legs, or bumping the chair right into the backs of her knees.


Matthew was her brother. Spathfoy was... a pest. An elegant pest who'd bathed and changed for the evening meal, though even in informal attire, he exuded a kind of inborn grace that was not having a good effect on Hester's disposition.


"You might be interested to know I am half English, Miss Daniels."


He'd murmured that soft aside right near her ear as she'd fluffed out her skirts, and in addition to the impact of his silken voice twining through her awareness, she caught a whiff of his scent.


It was all she could do not to bat him away. He smelled of lavender and something lovely-attar of roses? Honeysuckle? She was still trying to dissect the incongruous sweetness in his fragrance when he took the chair to her right.


"Your mother is Scottish, my lord?"


"A Lowlander, but yes. I get my height from her side of the family. May I serve you?"


They were dining informally, with the food kept hot on the table in chafing dishes. This was how the household always dined, but Hester felt a pang not to have Fee chattering away on one side, and Aunt chirping along on the other. They were her family now, and she had quickly grown to love them.


His lordship was regarding her curiously, and Hester realized she'd let the conversation lapse.


"If you would do the honors, my lord. I am very partial to my vegetables. Have your things arrived from the inn at Ballater?"


"They did. I must say I was impressed with the quality of the accommodations. I take it Her Majesty's interest in the surrounds has done good things for the local economy."


He passed her a plate full of steaming food, but the portions were such as a large man might consume after a busy day in the fields-an interesting miscalculation from somebody Hester took to be very calculating indeed.


"If I eat this much, my lord, I'll not be able to rise at the end of the meal." She set the plate down in front of him and started serving herself. "And as for the local economy, the royal family is here but a few months a year, and that only in recent years. Deeside owes more to the fish than we do to the Crown."


"Fish?" He watched her serve herself and frowned at the portions she put on her plate. "Miss Daniels, you cannot thrive on such meager fare."


"There's trifle for dessert, my lord. Will you say the blessing?" An inspiration, to stick him with something as mundane as blessing the meal.


Her cleverness backfired. He was sitting where Fee usually sat, and out of habit, Hester reached out her hand when it was time to say the blessing. When her fingers closed around Spathfoy's, she was too dumbstruck at her blunder to withdraw her hand.

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 23 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 6, 2013

    Last June, I had the opportunity to read an ARC of ONCE UPON A T

    Last June, I had the opportunity to read an ARC of ONCE UPON A TARTAN by Grace Burrowes, Book #2 in the "MacGregor" trilogy. I won her book on Ella Quinn's blog and gave her book 5 stars. "Lady Eve's indiscretion" was the first book I have read that was written by this author! Again, Ms. Burrowes has written a beautiful historical romance of family relationships filled with intrigues. The first one in this series was THE BRIDEGROOM WORE PLAID, which I did not get the chance to read. It's an exciting Scottish-Victorian romance that I think Grace Burrowes's fans will love. It's the story of Hester who is a headstrong woman and the guardian of Fiona, who she loves very much and Tiberius, who believes that the child should be with him instead. This story is also about family bonds! Will he try to seduce her or will she? Will sparks flare between the two? You will need to read this story to know more details. Ms. Burrowes has written a romantic story filled with emotions, it's charming and funny! She is a very descriptive writer! I enjoyed her book very much! I like the style of writing of this author for her high drama in her stories. Revised review!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 14, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    Reviewed by Rachel Book provided by NetGalley for review Review

    Reviewed by Rachel
    Book provided by NetGalley for review
    Review originally posted at Romancing the Book

    As with most Grace Burrowes’ books (and I’ve literally been on a reading frenzy with her titles) I was totally captivated…

    Tye is probably one of my favorite historical heroes—EVER! The beginning chapters had me laughing out loud. His dry sense of humor is killer and really draws the reader into his no nonsense personality. It set up the story beautifully with his relationship with the little girl, Fiona. He always said what was on his mind and his sarcasm always hit it’s mark. Brilliantly done. I could understand, as a reader, where there would be a conflict with him wanting to bring Fiona back to his father. You could tell he was honor bound by duty, and I actually appreciated that he didn’t let that cloud his judgement when it came to Hester.

    Hester, okay, I have to be honest. I’m not a huge fan of her name. When I hear Hester I think spinster, and maybe that’s what Miss Burrowes was trying to convey. Hester’s saving grace was her sharp wit and ability to keep Tye on his toes. Her love for her niece is amazing and I loved seeing how the niece was clever enough to bring them together. Stupid adults…sometimes they ned a little pushing.

    The story itself was a bit slow, but as most Burrowes’ books there is always a reason she lays the plot the way she does, she is a brilliant mastermind at the way she works her stories, so I knew it would end up being okay as long as I just kept reading.

    All in all it was a very satisfying, heartfelt read. I think my only complaint is that there was no epilogue.

    Well done!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 14, 2014

    CAPTIVATING SERIES

    Disagree with previous review in that having intimate relations after becoming engaged was seemingly more accepted by society during the Regency period while breaking an engagement was not especially to a titled man. Women and men alike with an aristocratic heritage were often used to enhance an estate or their lineage wirhout mercy. An almost unbelievable double, hypocritical standard in a supposedly Christian society that called itself civilized. This series explains exactly what I am trying to relate. It is why reading Regency is fascinaring and Grace Burows does an excellent portrayal to my way of thinking. LORRAINE

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 3, 2014

    Hester was a bimbo..............................................

    Hester was a bimbo................................................
    Tiberius kept telling her that she shouldn't keep asking him to kiss her or make love to her because after all she was a lady.  Wake up Tiberius a woman that you know less then a week that keeps throwing herself at you is no lady no matter what her title.   She had her reasons of course.  She had been sexually assaulted earlier in the year by her fiancee and wanted to make sure she could still feel things.  So she throws herself at the first hunky title she sees  Really?  What a sorry commentary on  true rape victims. This was a DNF for me.    Hester was way to brazen for a woman of her era and background.  Threw the whole story off kilter.  First and last grace burrows book for me.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 3, 2014

    Entertaining

    The story of Hester and Tye was entertaining, if a bit slow in spots. I enjoyed how it all came together in the end.

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  • Posted February 7, 2014

    I love Grace Burrowes writing and story telling. Its always goo

    I love Grace Burrowes writing and story telling.
    Its always good. But there is no better way than listening to her story. Oh my, fabulous narrating. Fabulous. Loved it all. And only made the story even better.
    A sweet love story. With family love. And characters learning about love. Learning about begging forgiveness, giving a second chance and how sometimes fate plays such a big part in the final story.
    Loved this story. I am sure reading it would be great as well. But if you want a special treat while in your car, doing your housework or working out, try the audio version.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 16, 2013

    Great Author

    Always enjoy this author and her stories

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  • Posted September 17, 2013

    I love this book better than the 1st, Grace Burrows is becoming

    I love this book better than the 1st, Grace Burrows is becoming one of my favorite authors. Her heroines are never dull.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 17, 2013

    Not a bad followup (LVR)

    Enjoyed reading this third title of the series. Be sure to read the first book and novella which establish the characters for this book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 5, 2013

    awful would not recomend

    awful! would not recomend

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  • Posted September 4, 2013

    As posted at The Reading Cafe 24 Aug 13 ARC provided by NetGalle

    As posted at The Reading Cafe 24 Aug 13
    ARC provided by NetGalley for an honest review

    COMBINED REVIEW with The Bridegroom wore Plaid

    5 out of 5 for this reader folks!  I have to say, I REALLY REALLY love Grace Burrowes writing.  She is quickly becoming on of my ABSOLUTE FAVE authors.  I am currently on summer vacay and it is killing me that I have to put my book down as often as I am, because she writes page turning stories.  These two books are the first two books of her MacGregor Trilogy (note .. there is a novella in between book 1 and 2 but I have yet to read it).  Our genre is regency/historical/Victorian romance with a serious dash of yummy "trying to be proper, but serious are so much yummier when they aren't" highlanders.

    The stories revolve around the MacGregor family and the English folk that they seem to hate in one second and take a fancy to the next.  These families all seem to link into one another and create hilarious, action packed, angsty, HEA stories full of lust, bad guys, traditions and LOTS OF WIT!

    Let's meet them shall we??

    BOOK 1 - THE BRIDEGROOM WORE PLAID

    DESCRIPTION

    New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Grace Burrowes keeps winning reader awards for her gorgeously imagined books. If you're already a fan, you'll devour her new characters and if you haven't yet discovered the richly drawn worlds of Grace Burrowes, you're in for a treat....

    "Memorable heroes. Intelligent, sensual love stories. This author knows what romance readers adore."-RT Book Reviews, 4 Stars

    His Family or His Heart - One of Them Will Be Betrayed...

    Ian MacGregor is wooing a woman who's wrong for him in every way. As the new Earl of Balfour, though, he must marry an English heiress to repair the family fortunes.

    But in his intends penniless chaperone, Augusta, Ian is finding everything he's ever wanted in a wife.

    "Historical details enrich Burrowes's intimate and erotic story, but the real stars are her vibrant characters and her masterful ear for dialogue. Burrowes is superb at creating connections that feel honest and real."-Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

    REVIEW

    I swear this book should of been called "The Highland Hookup"!  LOL  While we do have a main love story, there are quite a few other love stories that are going on that keep it exciting.  This is definitely a case of two families made for each other!  

    Our main character is Ian MacGregor.  He is an assumed Earl as his oldest brother has gone MIA and thus declared deceased.  With this comes the responsibility of being the head and provider of his family.  He is also assuming responsibility of removing the MacGragor family from ruin by agreeing to marry an English heiress.  

    Enter the Daniels family.  Eager to marry his daughter Genie to a titled man, Baron Atstax (AKA CREEPOID) moves his entire family in for a long visit with the MacGregor family.  Part of this family is Augusta who is the Baron's niece and chaperon to Genie.  It is Augusta who Ian takes a shine too though.  Don't feel bad for Genie though, she has her eyes set on Ian's brother Gill.  Ian's other brother is hooking up with another Daniels member as well, and Ian's sister is falling in love with the Baron's son.  Have you processed all that??  LOL

    A slow simmering relationship (which comes to a serious hot, steamy boil), between Augusta and Ian begins.  These two are clearly made for each other.  They embark in a physical and emotional relationship believing that they only have this short time to treasure before saying goodbye.  In the midst of this budding relationship, the ugly Baron Alstax is plotting Augusta's murder as he is a devious, selfish and harbouring a secret that could land him in some serious hot water.  Ian begins to slowly put the pieces together and between his family members, some of the Daniels family and his smart, beautiful  Augusta, weave together a terrific climax of this story.

    The bad guys NEVER win in a Grace Burrowes novel, but she can seriously make you sweat!  LOL


    BOOK 2  - ONCE UPON A TARTAN

    DESCRIPTION

    Hester MacDaniel is recovering from an engagement gone awry by summering at her brother's holding in the Highlands, and looking after her brother's young step-daughter, Fiona. Tiberius Flynn, heir to the English Marquis of Quinworth, appears on Hester's doorstep claiming he's Fee's paternal uncle, and he's been sent by her English relations to make the girl's acquaintance. Tye believes his brother's dying wishes compel him to take Fee south with him, but he doesn't plan on Hester capturing his heart, even as she fights him tooth and nail for custody of Fiona.

    REVIEW

    This was a fantastic continuation of this trilogy.  In the first book we met our heroine of this book.  Hester Daniels in book one was a easy going, full of life young lady coming into her own.  Between these books, Hester is involved in a scandalous affair that she has taken to heart and has come back to Scotland to take care of her niece and properly hide from society.  My heart really broke for Hester in this book.

    One day, in trots this English, arrogant, aristocratic, pompous man named Tiberius Flynn (Tye), Earl of Srathroy and future Marquis of Quinworth who is claiming to be a paternal uncle to Hester niece Fiona.  Fiona just adores this man from the beginning while Tye is a little taken back by the little girl who one minute has impeccable manners and the next minute can be found singing in tree branches and mucking around horses.  However, little Fiona is known to take her Uncles hearts and wrap them around her finger, and soon Uncle Tye is in this position.

    Hester and Tye really dislike each other at first and go at it with their words, bantering back and forth.  Soon enough though they begin a friendship which develops into a fierce lusty and loving affair. They are stuck between a rock and a hard place though as they stand across from each other on opposite sides of a dilemma. Tye is very much a mutli-layered character and I loved seeing some of these layers peeled back.  He is put into a horrible position by his family, to claim custody of a niece the family took no interest in.  He is also finding a much needed peace in this country and in Hester's arms.  Hester has issues she is working out and it's wonderful to see her come back into the strong beautiful woman she is.  She is extremely loyal to her niece and she was just overall an easy leading lady to adore.

    Like all of Grace Burrowes stories, she develops situations that you know will work out, but shock you with the amount of thought and creativity it takes to get there.  I was so happy with this book and while there are some similarities to the first book, there was so much more to be had here!  Sorry .. no spoilers .. WINK!  LOL

    You can read these as stand alones but you would enjoy the second book so much more with the first book read.  We see many of the characters return and get a continuation of their story.  If you love the highland settings and a good regency romance, I highly recommend this series.  Grace Burrowes always delivers a thorough well thought out stories with some depth to her characters.  She writes the steamy classy but hot too!  LOL

    HAPPY READING! :)

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  • Posted August 30, 2013

    Oh, How I Love This Author

    Lovey, touching, sexy, just perfect. I love Ms Burrowes' Scottish-themed novels. 'The Bridegroom Wore Plaid' is one of my all-time favorites. Just start reading her books. All of them.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 30, 2013

    Highly Recommended

    Loved it!! One of her best!

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  • Posted August 19, 2013

    Wonderful story! Engaging characters, great dialogue, and a plo

    Wonderful story! Engaging characters, great dialogue, and a plot with a bit of a different twist. Grace Burrowes keeps getting better and better.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 15, 2013

    Liked it

    A very good book in a very good new series bu a bery good author. Liked the cast of characters, liked the storyline. Cant wait for the next Grace Burrowes nook!

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  • Posted August 7, 2013

    Great story

    Great story

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  • Posted August 6, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    ONCE UPON A TARTAN by Grace Burrowes is another exciting Regency

    ONCE UPON A TARTAN by Grace Burrowes is another exciting Regency Historical Romance set in Scotland and England. #2 in the "MacGregor" Trilogy, but can be read as a stand alone. See,"The Bridegroom Wore Plaid", Also, see, "Mary Fran and Matthew" a novella. Join Hester MacDaniel and Tiberius Flynn Earl of Spathfoy,(Tye) on a journey of discovery, passion, healing, trust,deception,seduction,loving a child and finding true love along the way. Filled with passion,a secret or two, and love. Oh and I have to say who wouldn't love the feisty,vivacious little Fiona(Fee, to her loved ones),who is what the story is mostly about. Although, Hester has her own issues, so does Tye,together they find their way to each other and hope to save little Fee, from a life away from her beloved mother. Fast paced and passion filled. You will delight in this pair of half Scottish and half English lovers as well as the vivacious little Fee. A compelling story with a bit of humor along the way. I enjoyed the story of Hester and Tye and of course little Fee as well. Who doesn't love a child in the mix. I can hardly wait to see the next installment of the "MacGregor" trilogy. It is sure to be a wonder. I also hope to learn more of these characters along the way. An exciting Trilogy! Take a romp through Regency Scotland as well as a quick romp through England with "Once Upon a Tartan", I dare you too. You will not regret reading this story. Ms. Burrowes is a true storyteller. Her characters are enduring, exciting, and engaging. Her storyline is fast paced, interesting and stimulating. Well done! Received for an honest review from the publisher.

    RATING: 4

    HEAT RATING: MILD

    REVIEWED BY: AprilR, Review courtesy of My Book Addiction and More

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 24, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted August 14, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted August 10, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

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