Thorn in My Heart

Thorn in My Heart

4.3 68
by Liz Curtis Higgs

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Two brothers fight to claim one father’s blessing.
Two sisters long to claim one man’s heart.

In the autumn of 1788, amid the moors and glens of the Scottish Lowlands, two brothers and two sisters each embark on a painful journey of discovery.

Jamie and Evan McKie both want their father Alec’s flocks and lands, yet only one


Two brothers fight to claim one father’s blessing.
Two sisters long to claim one man’s heart.

In the autumn of 1788, amid the moors and glens of the Scottish Lowlands, two brothers and two sisters each embark on a painful journey of discovery.

Jamie and Evan McKie both want their father Alec’s flocks and lands, yet only one brother will inherit Glentrool. Leana and Rose McBride both yearn to catch the eye of the same handsome lad, yet only one sister will be his bride.
A thorny love triangle emerges, plagued by lies and deception, jealousy and desire, hidden secrets and broken promises. Brimming with passion and drama, Thorn in My Heart brings the past to vibrant life, revealing spiritual truths that transcend time and penetrate the deepest places of the heart.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Editorial Reviews

Romantic Times
This remarkable tale of selfless love will live on in the hearts and minds of readers.
Publishers Weekly
Higgs, the bestselling author of 20 inspirational books, successfully tries her hand at her first historical novel, spinning a new version of the biblical story of Jacob to show the costs of deception and the triumph of love despite adversity. The story opens in 1764 Scotland, a month before the birth of Rowena McKie's twin boys. Those readers familiar with the biblical account of Isaac and Rebecca, their twin sons Jacob and Esau, and Jacob's search for a wife will have no trouble discerning how the plot unwinds. Higgs has a good track record with romance novels (Bookends; Mixed Signals), and she handles the love affairs between the younger twin James McKie and sisters Rose and Leana McBride with aplomb. Despite the predictable story line, Higgs keeps a few surprises up her sleeve, including the device of a proxy wedding (which although historically authentic, may be a stretch for some). Christian fiction readers will appreciate many of the moral lessons gently delivered, especially as James discovers that deception is a two-edged sword. The book feels a bit too long, but Higgs's fine writing will satisfy historical fiction aficionados. Although Scottish words are liberally sprinkled throughout the text, their definition through context is usually clear, and a welcome and thorough glossary in the back of the book further aids readers. Higgs incorporates many lovely historical details, and her strong storytelling skills stand her in good stead here. (Mar.) Forecast: Higgs's books have sold a combined two million copies, and her loyal fans will eagerly welcome her first foray into CBA historical fiction. Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.

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The Crown Publishing Group
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Read an Excerpt


My mother groan’d! my father wept.
Into the dangerous world I leapt.

Glen of Loch Trool
Summer 1764

"Breathe not a word of my visit, Jean. Not to a soul.”

The midwife merely nodded, opening the bothy door wider to receive her unexpected guest. Rowena McKie brushed past her into the cottage, then eased her ungainly body onto a rough bench. Her skirt caught on the splintery wood, and she snatched it free with an impatient yank. Another ragged seam for Ivy’s busy needle and thread to mend. “Tell me the babe’s coming soon, Jean. Mr. McKie can’t sleep at night for worrying.”

Carrying her husband’s heir through the long days of a Lowland summer had ground Rowena down like corn at McCracken’s mill. Her feet were swollen, her knees ached, and even fresh meadowsweet could not ease the burning in her stomach. Rowena pressed her damp palms against the unfinished oak and took the deepest breath she could. She’d come to the midwife for answers and had no intention of leaving without them.

“Now, now.” The older woman leaned over and squeezed Rowena’s shoulder, her touch as gentle as her words. “Nothin’ mair than nerves. Yer first time and all.” Jean’s eyes were wreathed in wrinkles and blue as forget-me-nots. Her dress was made of striped drugget, the too-snug bodice made for a younger woman. Beneath the ragged hem poked her bare feet, browned by the sun, the nails grass stained but neatly trimmed. “Ye were right to come knockin’ on my door. What would folks in the glen be sayin’ if I didn’t tend to Mr. McKie’s firstborn? Yer time is still a month off, but when it comes—”

“A month?” Rowena’s eyes widened. “Are you daft, woman? I’ll not last a week like this! Can’t you see how the child moves within me?” To prove her claim she arched her back, inviting the midwife’s inspection. “Look for yourself. Like a wild goat kicking his heels to one side, then the other.”

“Mair than one wee goat.” Jean smoothed her hands across the fabric of Rowena’s dress, measuring the shape of her distended figure with a practiced eye. “Twa, I’d say.”

Rowena’s mouth dropped open. “Twins?”

The midwife nodded thoughtfully. “Boys, I’ll wager.”

Speechless, Rowena stared down at her belly. Her husband, Alec, had pleaded with the Almighty to bless her barren womb with a son. But two at once? Another kettle of fish, that. She rubbed her aching sides, feeling the child—children, if the midwife was right—moving beneath the gentle pressure of her hands. The walls of Glentrool were built with a large family in mind. Would her aging body be so accommodating?

A swift kick in her abdomen seemed an uncanny answer. “Speak the truth, Jean. This constant commotion, the sharp pains in my ribs. Surely this can’t be the usual way of things, even with twins?”

The midwife chewed on her lip, continuing to press and prod Rowena’s middle. “Twa bairns are always harder on the mither. But I fear somethin’ is amiss.” A note of compassion crept into the older woman’s voice. “How auld are ye, Mistress McKie?”

“Too old to be having my first, if that’s what you mean.” The worst of her many worries had come home to roost. “I’ll be thirty-eight come November.”

Jean made a st-st sound against her teeth. “If I weren’t so certain this was the Lord’s doin’, I’d be gatherin’ stanes for yer burial cairn. But seein’ how the Almighty has placed his hand upon yer womb, I’ll be usin’ these instead.” She reached into the money pouch tied at her waist and unfolded her fingers to reveal two silver coins in her palm. “All ready to tuck into their fists. Ye know the custom?”

Rowena nodded, relieved to hear the woman’s confident tone. Jean was a woman who feared the Almighty, not a common wutch. The silver pieces cast no spell; they were meant for good luck and the blessing of wealth. It seemed Jean expected the children to live. And so, please God, would she.

Rowena rose unsteadily to her feet, hoping the change in position might offer some relief. Instead it yielded another vicious kick from her hidden offspring and a jolt of pain at the base of her spine. Jean’s passing comment crept into her bones like a damp mist, chilling her. “You said something is amiss?”

The midwife nodded slowly. “They’re twins…but not the same. Verra different lads. One stronger than the other. By and by, the older will serve the younger.”

Rowena’s mouth went dry. Twins but not twins. A bad omen after all. She would see them baptized by the parish minister at the earliest possible hour. But the older serving the younger? That was not the Scottish way of things. Staring hard at the woman’s unblinking blue gaze, Rowena searched her lined face for assurance. “Is this a word from the Almighty?”

“ ’Tis that, aye.” Jean’s gray head bobbed slowly up and down. “Time will prove me truthful.”

“I’ve little doubt of that.” For the moment she would let the subject rest. Jean Wilson was the finest howdie in Galloway. Rowena knew she would be in good hands when the time came. “I’d best be home before Mr. McKie discovers I’m gone and frets himself sick. I slipped out the door without telling him where I was going.” She shrugged slightly, knowing Jean would understand. “He’s fash enough these days, watching my belly grow.” Rowena moved toward the door, gathering her light plaid about her shoulders. Summer or not, the evening winds blew a stout breeze across Loch Trool. “Don’t stray far, Jean. I’ll be sending my maidservant Ivy Findlay round soon enough. You’ll be here when she calls?”

“I’ve not missed a birthin’ in the glen all these years, Mistress McKie.”

“Aye. By God’s mercy, mine will not be the first.”

Bidding her farewell, Rowena left the thatch-roofed cottage behind and picked her way along the winding path toward home. Awkward as she was of late, riding on horseback was impossible and a carriage out of the question, with no proper road and bogs at every turn.

Rowena slowed her steps, more exhausted than she could ever remember. And no wonder. Twins! All well and good for Alec, nearing sixty, to pray for an heir. He didn’t have the burden of carrying the babes. “Nor the challenge of bearing them,” she announced to a wheatear that flew over her shoulder, its black-and-white tail flirting like a lass’s fan.

She tilted her head back, taking in the steep slopes rising all around, so different from the rolling hills of east Galloway where she’d spent her girlhood. Mulldonach loomed on the right, where Robert the Bruce had claimed his first victory against the English troops by rolling great boulders down the steep slopes and crushing the army. Ahead rose Buchan Hill, once the hunting ground of Comyn, Earl of Buchan, now covered with McKie flocks. Rough and craggy at the top, the mountains gave way to slender stretches of grass and sparse, piney woods along the meandering loch.

At the heart of the glen stood the granite walls of Glentrool, the only laird’s house for miles and her home for the last twenty years. Guests marveled at the imposing tower house with its round turrets and soaring chimneys that stood in the shadow of the Fell of Eschoncan. When asked how it had been constructed in so remote a setting, Alec borrowed a tale from the Bruce and insisted, “The stanes rolled doon the mountain, and the hoose built itself!”

When Archibald McKie, Alec’s father, bartered a bride for his son from the distant parish of Newabbey, Glentrool had welcomed her with pine-scented arms. Bartered was not quite the way of it, Rowena reminded herself with a chuckle, but it was not far from the truth. Her brother, Lachlan, had urged her to marry Alec, and she’d agreed sight unseen. It was not merely the vast McKie lands that had appealed to Lachlan’s greedy nature. The fine gold bracelets McKie’s manservant had slipped around her wrists were enticement as well. “A bonny bride is soon decorated,” young Lachlan had whispered in her ear, pocketing the silver McKie’s man had pressed into his own hands. “Haste to his side, lass, and let him see what his coin has purchased.”

Rowena and Alec were married a fortnight later with their parents’ ardent blessings.

How young she’d been! Eighteen, green as Galloway grass in May. What had she known of marriage, of life in the lonely glen, far from village and friend? She’d learned to care for her older, steady-tempered husband, even to love him as the years passed. Respect had not come so easily. Alec gave in too readily to her wishes. He was more wind-bent willow than stalwart oak, good man though he was. Rowena shook her head, thinking of all the times her headstrong nature had overwhelmed his passive one. “Such a heidie lass I’ve brought under my roof!” he would say, then pinch her cheek a bit harder than necessary. Willful she might be, but before summer’s end she would present him with not one heir, but two. It was a secret too good to keep, yet too dangerous to tell until the babes were safely tucked in her arms and away from the fairies’ grasp.

“Och!” Rowena yanked her skirts clear of a prickly blackthorn bush, imagining the seasons to come with two strong-willed young sons. Who would help her raise them when their father grew too old and weak to be of any use? Her parents were gone. And her brother lived in distant Newabbey, separated from her by mountains and moors.

“I’ll be needing your help, Lord,” she whispered, stepping gingerly along the mossy banks. “If I’m to raise my sons worthy of their father’s blessing, I canna do it alone."

Rowena was anything but alone when her time came.

Half a dozen women gathered about her birthing room to witness the birth of the McKie heir. Rowena vaguely recognized their faces through the pain that hung over her like a shroud, yet she could not think of a single one of their names. Was that McTaggart’s widow in the stiff gray bonnet? Or one of the McMillans from Glenhead? Every one of her neighbors would later insist that she was present at the birth. Rowena heard the women murmuring, felt their eyes on her. For the moment they offered more gossip than comfort.

Meet the Author

An award-winning speaker, Liz Curtis Higgs has addressed audiences from more than 1500 platforms all over the world since 1986, encouraging women to grow in faith and joy. In Thorn in My Heart, she combines her storytelling skills, her degree in English literature, her love of 18th-century history, and her passion for all things Scottish to create a richly textured, highly researched historical novel. A member of Novelists, Inc., Liz has focused her latest writing efforts toward historical fiction, particularly novels set in eighteenth-century Scotland. To aid in her research, she has visited the U.K. on seven occasions to date, with an extensive book tour planned for October 2003, and she is a member of the Eighteenth-Century Scottish Studies Society. In addition, Liz supports the National Museums of Scotland, Historic Scotland, and the National Trust for Scotland. The author of twenty books, Liz touches the hearts of her readers with honesty and grace-filled encouragement. She and her husband, Bill, live with their two children in Louisville, Kentucky.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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Thorn in My Heart 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 68 reviews.
Lynn_Wright More than 1 year ago
This is the first book of threebbook series. It is loosely based of the story of Jacob from the Bible set in the late 1800 in Scotland. It is about two sisters who are in love with the same man, Jamie, who got tricked into marrying the sister that he doesn't love, Leana. Jamie makes a pact with the father that he had work for seven months in ordernto be able to divorce Leana to marry Rose. I can almost feel the pain, the tears, the stress, and undying love that isn't return by the man that you love. All she has is the faith in her God to get her through. I highly recommend this series.
Stlphotogirl More than 1 year ago
Thorn in My Heart by Liz Curtis Higgs is a 1700s Scottish retelling of the Biblical story of Jacob, Leah, & Rachel. It is also the first of four books in the Lowlands of Scotland Series. From the very beginning the book is filled with plot twists and deceptions. I won't give them away here but if you are familiar with the Biblical account then you will probably be able to figure most of them out. However, I was pleasantly surprised with how Higgs handled them in their historical contest. For example, in the Bible Jacob takes two wives. However, during the 1700s in Scotland polygamy would have been frowned up and would not have been a plausible solution to the little Scottish love triangle. Thorn in My Heart is alternately written from the viewpoints of Jamie McKie and Leana McBride. Both characters are strong and carry the story well. It is also to see the story from Leana's (Biblical Leah) point of view. It makes you really stop and think what this all must have been like for her. What was she feeling? Was she a willing participant in the deception or was she a mere victim of circumstances? Liz Curtis Higg's descriptive writing style brings you right into the story from the very first pages. Whether you are raptly reading of Jamie and Evan's births or nearing the climactic ending you will feel like you are really there. Her writing also helps you relate to the characters in a very real way. You genuinely feel bad for those who are overlooked and mistreated because you care about what happens to them. They are very real. And if you're not careful you'll feel so in touch with Scotland that you will be tempted to start saying 'Nae' or call people 'bonnie'. When I first opened the book I wasn't sure what to think. I don't particularly care for the story of Jacob getting wives and the quarrel between the sisters. I was even less sure about the story when I discovered that the brunt of the story would be written from Leah's point of view. Now I am glad that I kept reading because it was definitely worth every minute! So whether you are curious about seeing this story from another side or you just love Scottish history, I recommend that you read Thorn in My Heart. You will absolutely love this book!
yearningtoread More than 1 year ago
Important note: I wrote this review before I'd read the second book. The second book, Fair is the Rose, was terrible and unrealistic and depressing. I'm actually a HUGE fan of tragedies and depressing books, but this one was just stupidly depressing. Things happened that shouldn't have happened. So while I love this book, I strongly disliked the second book. To anyone who has read the story of Jacob and Rachel in the Bible, this is a familiar story. To me, it was like looking at the back of my hand - at least, for the first seventy-five pages or so. Up until that point the story is almost exactly like the Bible story, only, of course, in a different setting and era. But as soon as Jamie arrives at Auchengray, I was at a loss to what would happen. The Bible story is written without the many details of your average love story; it gives only the details needed, those that are important. However, to create a whole novel based on this story, Liz Curtis Higgs had to add things. Some may have been true, and some may not have been. However, Higgs fills her story with her own bright and lovely characters, a few of her own twists and turns, and and ending that you'll never forget, and one that will make you go wild to get the second one in your hands. For one thing, this story very plainly shows deep and thoroughly felt emotions. Jamie, Leana, and Rose are all wronged in the story, creating strife, anger, love, jealousy, and ravaging terror. As you read it your emotions will change with the emotions of the character you are reading about at the moment; and then, when time comes to change perspective, you will feel exactly what that character is feeling. Your view of the story will change multiple times; you will suddenly think completely differently about things that you once believed to be true; your eyes will be opened and all you will be able to do is keep reading. Liz Curtis Higgs is very learned in Irish culture and is also very skilled with her pen. Lord knows how she was able to create such an intricate story of deceit and love and forgiveness while still keeping as close to the Bible story as possible, and giving the character more life than many authors ever dream of. As I stand thoroughly impressed, I highly recommend this hearty story of a braw lad and two of the bonniest lasses in Ireland. (This book is an older romance novel; recommended for adults. Several scenes involve a couple's marriage bed and certain difficulties with this that have arisen from another character's deceitfulness. While these scenes are not, in a sense, explicit, they are at the very least very sensual.)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
i really love this book and i can't think of any other that i like more. The story is amazing. leana's story is heartbreaking and it kept me hooked from the very first page. I feel like I need to say that the sex scene in my opinion was tastefully done and I would like to add that there is nothing wrong with a little sex ladies. Sex is not a dirty thing. For those of us who are Christians i'd like to say loosen up a little. This is not one of those dirty romance novels. And I would like to remind everyone that there is sex in the actual biblical account between Leah and Jacob. All in all I love this book. I can't wait to see what Liz comes up with next.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is an amazing book. The author has an incredible way to truly draw you into the lives of the characters. As each twist in the story takes place, your heart just hurts for the character, whether you think that they were right or wrong. Even if their actions caused the consequences, you really feel for Leana, Rose, and Jamie. I was completely upset the first time I read it because I did not know that it was a continuation and I had to wait until the next book came out. The following two were amazing as well. I re-read the biblical account of Jacob, Leah, and Rachel in Genesis once I finished the series and there is quite a bit of meaning that I had originally overlooked. Well-done!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I liked the story, but I did not feel sorry for the main character. The author was sympathetic towards Leana and it took some of the joy out of reading.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Amazing story!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book
CalifornianBookLover More than 1 year ago
A historical retelling of the story of Jacob, Rachel, and Leah from the Bible set in the Scotland lowlands that is one of my favorite series. The author makes an old story new by making you take a second look at at familiar characters but maybe not as you have before. One thing that may be a drawback to others (I love it) is the author uses old Scottish words in the story. There is a dictionary at the back of the book and many of the words you can figure out from context. To me to fun learning new words.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
for a christian reader this is a great fiction book, Put right into the book with the charters. YOull not want to put it down.
Gwenigirl More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book so much. One of the best novels I've ever read. I just started reading Fair is the Rose and it promises to be just as good!
WheelchairLady More than 1 year ago
This is the kind of book I long for. Even though it is completely out of my experiential range, I felt like I had been transported to a different time and place. I could hardly get anything else done because I wanted to get back and continue reading. I can't wait to continue the series!
Janet-R More than 1 year ago
One key to great writing is when I put the brakes on my reading toward the end of the book. I slow down to delay leaving the story as long as possible. This happened with "Thorn in My Heart" by Liz Curtis Higgs. The story begins with a strong resemblanc to Jacob & Esau of the Bible. I wondered how Ms. Higgs would handle the main character having two wives in 18th century Scottland. But she's a clever and gifted writer who brought a new twist to this ancient story of sisterly rivalry. Jamie loves Rose. Leanna loves Jamie. And Uncle Lachlan, the shrewd father of an unmarriable daughter, loves a nephew who will work for free to gain a bride...but which daughter will Jamie get? Liz Curtis Higgs uses period-correct language and Scottish phrases so well I understood the meanings, even though I'm not fluent in the language...modern or ancient. I'm hooked now. I'll have to get the next two books... Great Job, Liz!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I thoroughly enjoyed this entire series. It is the best ive read in a long time. I love how she compared it to the Bible story about isaac and rebekah and their descendants.
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Xavionite More than 1 year ago
I loved this book by one of my favourite authors, and when it didn't come back after being lent out, I bought myself the Nook version. I'm sorry I spent the money on that instead of buying another hard copy because the editing on the Nook version was poorly done. I haven't gotten past the first chapter because the errors are distracting. So, while I recommend anything by Liz Curtis Higgs without reservation, I cannot recommend the Nook version of this book.
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