A Highland lass dares to fall in love with her clan’s most hated enemy in the first book of Patricia Potter’s spellbinding Scottish Highland Series, set in the sixteenth century
Felicia Campbell has just received a death sentence from her uncle and the king. In a fortnight, she is to wed the Earl of Morneith. Vowing to escape her fate as the bride of the lecherous, decades-older nobleman, she devises a daring scheme. But the plan goes horribly awry when she is abducted. Now the only way to survive is to continue her deception and yield to Rory Maclean, her clan’s most hated enemy—and the handsomest man she has ever seen.
After tragedy claimed his first two wives, Rory took to the sea. Ten years later he returns home, vowing never to marry or give his heart again. But then his clansmen steal a bride for him: a fearless, spirited beauty who can wield a sword as well as any man. As bitter strife continues to divide his homeland, Rory will move heaven and earth for the woman who has healed his soul—a woman who isn’t what she seems.
Beloved Imposter is the 1st book in the Scottish Highland series, but you may enjoy reading the series in any order.
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By Patricia Potter
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 2004 Patricia Potter
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Scotland, 1509 A.D.
The cry tore from Felicia Campbell's throat as she stared at the message from her uncle.
He would not do this to her. He could not do this.
Her hands crushed the parchment as if doing so would erase the words.
She never thought her uncle—and guardian—would agree to a marriage for her with a man more than three times her age. She had met this particular earl once. This chosen husband. He was a man of great girth and dirty hair, and an arrogant and cruel manner. She remembered too well how his eyes had rested on her small breasts in a way that made her shudder.
The words in the letter were stamped on her mind. "The King wishes this marriage. It is a good alliance for the Campbells. You will be escorted to Edinburgh in a fortnight's time for the formal betrothal.
Dread as well as despair knotted her stomach. She was being sold for expediency.
As a ward, she knew she had little choice in marriage. She was no beauty, but her uncle was one of the most influential men in Scotland. And that made her not only acceptable but highly sought. An alliance with the Campbells was valuable.
Still, she had always believed her uncle would try to choose a good man as well as a wealthy one. Angus Campbell had taken her into the household after the death of his sister, Eloise, and her husband, John Campbell, of the Loudin Campbells.
But Angus Campbell was rarely at Dunstaffnage. He spent most of his time at the Scottish court in Edinburgh. When he was at home, he was indifferent toward her, but never cruel.
Felicia closed her eyes. She wanted to please her uncle. He and Jamie were all the family she had. He had taken her in and provided for her needs. But she would not marry the Earl of Morneith.
She wandered down the chilled corridor of the keep. She had to see Janet, her friend, who had retired to her chamber to read her own letter. But Janet's was from her beloved, while Felicia's had contained a sentence worse than death. The two messages had arrived together, both by special messenger from Edinburgh.
Felicia knocked at Janet's door, then opened it. Janet sat on a chair and held the letter in clenched hands. "Jamie will be a few days longer in London," she said. "We will have to delay the wedding."
"I'm sorry," Felicia said, desperately wishing she had such a problem. To love the man she was to marry. What a wonder that would be.
Janet and her family had been visiting Dunstaffnage to complete the marriage formalities and await the arrival of Jamie, who had been in London on an errand for the king. Then Felicia's uncle had been suddenly summoned to Edinburgh by King James, and Janet's father left as well. Janet had begged to stay another week to work on her wedding gown.
Janet looked up from the letter to meet Felicia's gaze. "What is wrong? What did your uncle say? Is it anything about Jamie?"
Wordlessly, Felicia handed her letter to Janet.
Janet's face clouded as she read it, then asked in her soft, gentle voice, "What are you going to do?"
Felicia shrugged hopelessly.
Janet reached out a hand to her. "I wish ... I wish you could be as happy as I am."
"I am glad you are. Jamie loves you." She tried to smile, though her heart was breaking into a hundred pieces.
Janet didn't say anything. She had also been at grand events the earl attended.
She had seen him as well. And had probably heard tales of his debauchery. "What can you do?"
Felicia shook her head.
"If only Jamie were here—"
"He isn't," Felicia said bleakly. Janet believed Jamie could solve every problem.
She herself had, as well. But how could he defy the king?
"The letter said you must be ready in a fortnight."
Two weeks before my life ends. Her mind worked frantically. She had always known that her one worth to her uncle was marriage, an alliance. But she also knew that she was plain at best and not much of an enticement to prospective husbands. She had hoped ...
She didn't know what she had hoped. But she certainly hadn't expected him to arrange a marriage with someone so ... appalling. Her uncle said in the letter that the king wanted this marriage, but she also knew the king needed her uncle.
If only Jamie were here. He was more brother than cousin. He had lost two sisters in their infancy and had readily taken to the role of her protector since the first day she came to Dunstaffnage as a heartbroken and confused child of five.
Her uncle had approved. It relieved him of the responsibility. And as long as Jamie performed well in military arts, Angus Campbell paid little attention to his outside activities.
He did not know—at least Felicia did not believe he knew—that his only son had taught Felicia to fight, to use the bow, the sword. Nor did he care that Jamie had taught Felicia to read, when Angus believed women should not bother with such things.
Amazingly, she was very good at the former and even better at the latter, a fact that had amused her cousin, as had her interest in healing. Nairna, the healer, had been her friend and taught her the healing arts.
Jamie had treated her as an equal, or almost as an equal. He hadn't cared that she was plain, that her red hair was untamable and that she had few of the womanly attributes that most men admired in a woman.
Morneith would care little about her unorthodox skills. He would want a wife to serve his needs, to produce more heirs.
Again her mind went to Jamie. But what could he do? She knew neither King James nor her uncle were men to be defied. She would not want Jamie to lose his head for her.
She must help herself. And she had only two weeks to do so.
She tried to smile, but knew she failed miserably. She wanted to cry, but Campbell women did not cry. "I will not," she said again. "I will not marry him."
"But the king—"
"He can do nothing if I am not here." Ideas were already forming in her mind.
Anything would be better than marriage to the earl. Anything!
She would go to a convent first and ask for sanctuary.
That was the answer. She would far prefer that to being wed to a beast.
There was one not twenty-five miles away.
She would pack tonight. Ride out tomorrow. She and Janet often went riding, though there was usually a guard with them. She would have to find a way to distract the guard.
Would Janet help? Her friend was shy, even timid, respectful of duty and authority. Yet she had a sweetness and loyalty that won hearts. Felicia had often puzzled over their friendship because they were so opposite. But mayhap that was also the attraction.
Felicia would lose even her friendship then.
She took the letter from Janet.
Janet stared at her, dismay written on her face. "How can you leave?"
Felicia spoke rapidly, spewing words before thinking them through. "You and I go riding with a groom each morning. Perhaps I can trick him and ride toward the closest convent."
"They will not take you without a dowry," Janet said. "I know my father had to pay one for my cousin."
"I have some jewelry from my mother," Felicia said.
"They would not defy the king." Janet tried another tack.
Her friend was right. Few in Scotland would. If she were to escape, she must flee to outside the king's—and Morneith's—reach. If she could reach Jamie in London, he might be able to help her flee to France without anyone finding out.
"Will you help me?" she asked Janet. "You would have to go riding with me.
You can take one of the slower mares, then you can say I fled. You could not keep up."
"I wish Jamie were here," Janet said.
"I am glad he is not. He would be risking his life if he defied the king."
"And he would," Janet said. "He would defy both his father and the king for you." She hesitated, then said in a small voice, "Of course, I will help."
Felicia felt terrible. She knew what it took for Janet to utter those words. She wanted to withdraw the request, but she needed Janet's help too badly. She would make sure no blame came to her friend.
"I will have to sew my jewels in my cloak and decide what I can take with me."
"I will help you," Janet said, her voice more sure now that she had made the decision to help.
Still, Felicia saw the apprehension in her friend's eyes. Guilt as sharp as a knife thrust deep inside her.
But she knew she would never be allowed to leave the castle walls alone. She also knew she had to move quickly.
She and Janet supped alone with only her maid in attendance. She had no desire to dine in the great hall with the rowdy men at arms. Not tonight.
They usually dined well, and tonight was no exception. Felicia treasured every bite, knowing that she probably would not have such fare again soon. Mutton and capons, salmon, pears and apples, and freshly baked bread and tarts. Her uncle insisted on having a good cook, since he often entertained other Highland families and even the king on occasion. The cook, Sarah, was rightfully proud, even arrogant, and refused to allow anyone in the kitchen other than her chosen helpers.
Felicia had attempted to visit and learn more about the kitchen, but she was always rebuffed. She'd been rebuffed by everyone when she wanted to be helpful. Everyone but the healer and Jamie.
Apprehension whittled away at Felicia's appetite, but she knew she needed to eat. She would eat well on the morn as well, for she would be running for her life.
Janet darted sympathetic glances at Felicia as she took one bite, then another. After she had eaten all she could, she took the remaining bread and wrapped it in a piece of cloth. She would take it with her tomorrow.
She dismissed her maid for the night, then she and Janet stitched jewels into her cloak.
When they were through, Felicia reached for Janet's hand. "Thank you. I will see that you are not blamed."
They clasped each other, then Janet went to her room.
Felicia went to the window of her room and looked out at the hills she loved. Everything safe in her life had just shattered into small pieces. Should she try to stay and make the best of the proposed marriage? Then she thought of the earl again, the cruelty and lust in his eyes. He'd already had three wives, and rumors abounded as to the fates of each.
Jamie and Nairna had taught her to value herself. And now she was considered no more than an item to be bargained for.
Rory Maclean stood on the cliff, looking out over the sea, his mood as cold and bleak as the waves smashing against the rocks.
He had returned four days earlier, and already the place was sapping his soul.
Ten years away, and yet it seemed he had walked these cliffs yesterday, mourning the lass he had loved above all else.
He wished he were anywhere else.
If not for duty, he would be captaining his own merchant vessel in wanner climes. He was a seaman and trader by choice. He'd long wanted to cut the ties that bound him to a legacy of hatred and bloodshed. He wanted to be away from this place that haunted him.
Duty had brought him back. It was the only thing that could.
His clan was in peril. Campbells had been raiding small villages and stealing cattle since his father died two years earlier. His older half brother, Patrick, had disappeared into France. His younger half brother, Lachlan, was no warrior.
Word of his father's death and brother's disappearance had finally reached him in Leith a year after it was sent. Douglas, the family steward, had apparently despaired of finding Patrick and called for him. It was an urgent plea he could not ignore, however much he wished he could.
He had also learned news in France that would have brought him home in any event. It bode ill for the Macleans.
His gaze went to the Sound of Mull. He gazed at the rock that some said caused all the Maclean misfortunes, including the deaths of Rory's two wives.
It was on that rock decades ago that one of his ancestors chained his Campbell wife, hoping that the tide would drown her. She lived for a short time after, but a Campbell curse, and war, had followed the Macleans ever since.
He whirled around.
Douglas had approached so quietly he hadn't noticed. It was not a good thing. As a lad raiding Campbells, he could hear the rustle of grass. Another memory he would rather forget.
"We are pleased you have returned," Douglas said.
"You did no' give me much choice."
"We have missed you."
Rory didn't say anything. He did not miss this place, though he did miss friends.
"Rory, you have to wed again."
"The devil I do," he snapped back. His gaze went back to that accursed rock.
"It is a myth, Rory."
"Tell Maggie that. And Anne. If you can bring them back to life."
Douglas was silent. "I know you loved Maggie."
"I loved both my wives," Rory corrected, though that was not exactly true. Maggie had his heart. Anne had his loyalty and gratitude.
"We need an heir."
"I have two brothers." He had vowed never to marry again. He had lost two wives. He did not want to inflict a similar fate on another woman unwise and unlucky enough to accept him.
Patrick would return. Everyone but Rory thought he was dead. Patrick was too strong, too wise, too loved to die. He had always been their father's favorite. He had been the heir, something that Rory had never regretted. He'd always looked up to Patrick, always followed his lead. Until the day that Maggie died and he decided to carve out his own path. He had always been lured to the sea and the family's source of wealth. Knowing his grief, his father had backed his maiden voyage as a trader. That was ten years ago.
No sense in thinking about that now. He had responsibilities. But they would not include marriage.
"I do not have to do anything I do not wish to do," Rory reminded Douglas.
"'Tis not a matter of wishes. We need an heir," Douglas insisted.
If he had not saved Rory's life more than once, Rory would have cut him short. But tolerance did not mean compliance. "Then my brothers will have to produce one."
"We canna take that chance. If you die without an heir, the Campbells will smell weakness. We could not stand against them."
Rory silently, reluctantly, agreed. It was the one reason he'd returned. Not to sire an heir but to create a peace between the two clans. His father had been a strong laird who had held the clan together. But there were conflicting interests, disputed property, feuds even within the clan. And that weakness made them prey for predators. He wondered if now was the time to tell Douglas what he had heard, but it was still rumor. He needed proof. And he did not want to assume the position of laird.
"I will not usurp Patrick's place," he said.
"He has been gone three years now," Douglas said. "There's been no word, no message, no demand for ransom."
"I will hear no more of weddings and heirs. I am far happier at sea than I am in this cursed place. There are too many ghosts here. I tire of war, cousin. I tire of these feuds that go back centuries. I tire of vengeance creating more vengeance. I tire of politics and the constant shift of loyalties and betrayals. I want no part of them. I returned because you said the situation was desperate. Now I find you want an heir rather than a leader." He couldn't keep the disgust from his voice. He was ready, in truth, to mount a horse and ride back to Leith where his ship and crew awaited his orders.
If he did not return within a month, Sven, his first mate, was to take command and sail to France with a cargo of wool.
Douglas said nothing else, but Rory knew from his expression that he had not given up.
Rory turned the conversation to another matter. "You said there have been frequent raids?"
"Aye. Campbells burned several of our outlying villages and stole the cattle. I told our tenants that they would not be required to pay their rent this year. I hope you feel that is satisfactory. With no one here to guide me ..."
"No one but Lachlan has been here for two years," Rory interrupted, "and you have managed well. I am not quite sure why it was so urgent that I return."
"The Campbells are getting bolder. I have sent protests to the king, but I do not have your influence. You are the designated heir. Not Lachlan. He would not have the authority, nor the allegiance of the clan. You must apply for recognition. Until you officially become laird, we have no real power."
Excerpted from Beloved Impostor by Patricia Potter. Copyright © 2004 Patricia Potter. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
An excellant read...This is the first book in the trilogy. On to the next one, I am hooked to this series. Give it a try. You may also get hooked.....donna
OK, if this if book one of a trilogy, what are #2 and #3? Have they been written yet? Every time a writer does a trilogy, they never seem to be tied together or noted, 1 of 3 or 2 of 3, etc. Loved the book!
i usually dont read romances but i happened to see this one and i bought on a hunch. I am so glad i did! it was an interesting page turner, full of sexual tension and adventure. i stayed up until one o'clock in the morning just to finish it! You should definitly read this book if you like romance, suspence and adventure!
Having read Beloved Stranger, book #2 of Patricia Potter’s Beloved Trilogy, first, I can vouch Beloved Imposter (book #1) is a standalone with its own HEA. As with most series, the plots and character development are more established and enjoyable when these three books are read in serial order, but certainly not necessary. As an avid fan of Scottish romance, I did enjoy Beloved Imposter. Ms. Potter’s writing style flows, and she adds enough historical details to give her intriguing romantic tales and characters credibility. My biggest concern regarding this book is the amount of time spent waiting for something imminent to happen. Perhaps I am unfairly comparing it to Beloved Stranger, which moved at a faster, more suspenseful pace. Also, I tend to dislike a romance where a former first love overshadows the main couple’s. Therefore, was not a fan of Rory’s first wife, Maggie, as being portrayed so perfect all the time. The dead can do no wrong adage kept coming to mind. Overall, I know once you read one book you will find yourself wanting to read the HEA’s for each of these Maclean brothers. It truly is a well-written, thoroughly entertaining series. (This review is based on ARC e-book provided via NetGalley in exchange for an honest, unbiased opinin.)
Rory and Felicia were wonderful and the story was interesting. You won't be disappointed (although there were so many typos it became annoying).
In 1420 Scotland, Lord MacLean ties his wife Mary to a rock to die when the tide comes in. Nurse Siobhan Campbell curses the MacLeans insisting no woman will ever replace Mary.................................... In 1511 Uncle Ansys Campbell informs his orphaned niece Felicia that the King demands she marry brutal Morreth. She refuses, but acts compliant because she knows her only way out is to flee....................................... Rory MacLean has returned home after years at sea because his clan needs him. His men decide he needs a wife so they abduct a woman they think is Janet Cameron. Felicia realizes what has happened and pretends to be her friend Janet because she does not want to be returned to her uncle. Rory is irate with his men for the kidnapping especially since he has vowed to never marry again since his first two spouses died because he believes of the curse. Felicia works every ruse to stay until she can escape, but soon she and her host fall in love. She knows she owes him the truth that she is a member of his enemy clan while he rejects marriage because he refuses to place the woman he loves in jeopardy................................... This is an engaging historical romance with a touch of the supernatural or perhaps a belief fostered by coincidence (read to learn which). Rory is a terrific hero who feels like a fish out of water, but finds wanting to become a landlubber. The support cast adds depth, but the fun sixteenth century novel belongs to the courageous Felicia who refuses to let a monarch, a guardian, a stubborn beloved, or a curse stop her from obtaining her desire....................... Harriet Klausner