The Chief (Highland Guard Series #1)

The Chief (Highland Guard Series #1)

by Monica McCarty

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Overview

AN ELITE FIGHTING FORCE UNLIKE THE WORLD HAS EVER SEEN . . .

Scouring the darkest corners of the Highlands and Western Isles, Robert the Bruce handpicks ten warriors to help him in his quest to free Scotland from English rule. They are the best of the best, chosen for their superior skills in each discipline of warfare. And to lead his secret Highland Guard, Bruce chooses the greatest warrior of all.
 
The ultimate Highland warlord and a swordsman without equal, Tor MacLeod has no intention of being drawn into Scotland’s war against the English. Dedicated to his clan, the fiercely independent chief answers to no one—especially not to his alluring new bride, bartered to him in a bid to secure his command of the deadliest fighting force the world has ever seen. The treacherous chit who made her way to Tor’s bed may have won his hand, but she will never claim his heart.

Although her husband’s reputation is as fierce as his manner, Christina Fraser believes that something softer hides beneath his brutal shell. But the only warmth she feels is in their bed, in glorious moments of white-hot desire that disappear with the dawn. When Christina’s reckless bid to win her husband’s love goes awry and thrusts them into danger on the eve of war, Tor will face his ultimate battle: to save his wife and to open his heart—before it’s too late.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780345518231
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 03/23/2010
Series: Highland Guard Series , #1
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 432
Sales rank: 17,336
File size: 874 KB

About the Author

Monica McCarty is the bestselling author of the Highlander trilogy (Highlander Untamed, Highlander Unmasked, and Highlander Unchained). Her interest in the Scottish clan system began in the most unlikely of places: a comparative legal history course at Stanford Law School. After a short but enjoyable stint practicing law, she realized that her legal vocation and her husband’s transitory career as a professional baseball player were not exactly a match made in heaven. So McCarty traded in her legal briefs for Scottish historical romances with sexy alpha heroes. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and their two young children.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One
 
“The “greatest hero of his race”
—I. F. Grant, on Tormod MacLeod
 
Dunvegan Castle, Isle of Skye,
Michaelmas, 1305
 
He was going to kill him. Slowly.
 
A sharp hush fell over the hall, like the expectant quiet following a loud crack of thunder, as the clerk finished reading the missive. The score of warriors gathered around the great hall of Dunvegan Castle stood stone still, awaiting his response. In their fierce visages he saw the outrage and shock that he shared but masked beneath a stony façade.
 
Alone on the dais, Tormod MacLeod, Chief of MacLeod, leaned forward in his seat, his gaze piercing the unfortunate man before him. “He did what?” The dead calm of his voice did nothing to dispel the tension.
 
The clerk startled, emitting what could only be described as a squeak. The missive flew out of his hand and floated through the smoky air to land on the rush-strewn floor. Tor clomped his foot down on the offending scrap of parchment. As he reached down to pick it up, beneath his heel he could just make out the familiar scrawl: Torquil MacLeod, his younger-by-two-minutes twin brother.
 
Barely had the fires died from the recent attack on the village, and now his brother did this? Slowly, he vowed again, crumpling the missive into a tight ball.
 
The clerk managed to find his voice, though it shook as he answered Tor’s question. “Y-y-your b-brother states that he cannot ab-b-ide the Nicolson chief’s refusal of his daughter’s hand in marriage and has been forced to take matters into his own hands.” The young churchman paused, wiping the sweat beading from his brow with the back of his hand. “He s-says his love—”
 
“Enough!” Tor’s fist landed with a resounding thud on the arm of the carved wooden throne, in a rare break of temper. His eyes blared red as rage surged through his veins. “I’ve. Heard. Enough.”
 
Love. Of all the most asinine justifications for acting like an idiot. He would rather Torquil use the excuse that Margaret Nicolson was a great heiress—which she was—and that he’d carried her off for the betterment of the clan; at least then Tor might attempt to comprehend this egregious lapse in judgment.
 
With one rash act Torquil was going to start a war, jeopardizing all that Tor had fought to achieve over the past twenty years. Twenty years ago, his clan had been on the brink of destruction—first from the massacre that had claimed the lives of many of his clansmen, including his parents, and then from years of famine. But with hard work and determination he’d brought them back. The clan was once again strong and prosperous. The last thing he wanted was to see it all destroyed by war. An odd position for a man who knew nothing else—who’d made his name and fortune from it—but his clan deserved peace and he intended to give it to them.
 
The recent spate of attacks was bad enough. Twice in the last year men had come at night to reive cattle, plunder the crops, and burn the fields. It was just the kind of cowardly act favored by the MacRuairis. If they’d broken the truce, Tor would make sure they paid.
 
But he had to deal with the more immediate threat first. Somehow he’d have to find a way to appease Nicolson and stave off a war. His mouth tightened into a grim line. He was half tempted to drag his brother in chains to Nicolson himself. That might appease him.
 
He’d be damned if he’d be Hector to Torquil’s lovesick Paris and allow his clan to suffer the fate of the Trojans. There were many reasons to fight a war, but a woman was not one of them.
 
He and his brother were much alike—or so he’d thought. Where in Hades was Torquil’s sense of duty and loyalty to his clan? He made a sound of disgust. Forgotten in the rush of blood between his legs, no doubt.
 
Tor forced his anger to cool. He didn’t lose control. Not that you would know it by the shaking of the obviously terrified man before him.
 
Tor’s gaze narrowed beneath the heavy weight of his brow, taking in the young churchman. John, he thought, was his name. The clerk wasn’t the type of man to make much of an impression. Of medium height and slight build, with straight brown hair cut in an arch around a smooth, unscarred face, and regular if nondescript features, he appeared perfectly suited to his profession. His thin arms were built for lifting a quill, not a sword.
 
Tor reserved his fighting for worthy opponents on the battlefield. Torquil would feel the lash of his anger, not this whelp. What satisfaction was there in stomping a mouse? Men who beat the weak—be it servants, children, or women—only shamed themselves.
 
As the clerk was new, Tor would forgive him the offense. This time. “Stop shaking, man,” he snapped. “I’m not going to cut out your tongue for being the bearer of ill news.”
 
Rather than looking reassured, however, the clerk seemed to turn an even sicklier shade of gray. Churchmen, Tor thought with disgust. For all their learning, they were delicate creatures. But he had no patience for subtlety. The clerk had best toughen his hide. And if he didn’t, he could be replaced.
 
“Where is my brother now?”
 
The clerk shook his head, his prominent Adam’s apple bobbing. “I don’t know, Chief. The messenger left before anyone could question him.”
 
If Torquil had one wit of sense he had taken his stolen bride and sailed to perdition—which was about the only place Tor would not follow him.
 
Murdoch, his henchman and captain of his guard, stepped forward, the first of his men to speak. It was not fear that kept the guardsmen silent, but respect for Tor’s judgment. Judgment he rendered alone.
 
“I’ll find him, ri tuath. Most likely he’ll have gone to Ireland or the Isle of Man.”
 
Tor had come to much the same conclusion himself. His brother—like the rest of them—had spent a large portion of the past twenty years as a gallowglass mercenary in Ireland. Sending fighting men to Ireland was one of the ways Tor had been able to restore the fortunes of his clan. He and his men knew Ireland almost as well as they knew Skye.
 
He nodded. “Take as many men as you need.” He gave Murdoch a meaningful look. “My brother had best hope you find him before Nicolson does.”
 
“And if he objects to returning?” Murdoch asked bluntly.
 
No one would question him if he authorized deadly force—despite Torquil’s popularity among the men. The chief’s word was law. His mouth fell in a hard line, tempted to do just that. But as always, he kept his thoughts to himself. “Tell him it’s a direct order from his chief.” Something not even his pig-headed brother would refuse.
 
He wished he’d thought to forbid him. After the trouble caused by their sister Muriel’s abduction, he’d assumed Torquil would know better. But he should have anticipated something when the negotiations fell through, and Nicolson announced a betrothal between his daughter and MacDougall’s son instead.
 
Hell. MacDougall would have to be recompensed, and knowing the greedy bastard, it was going to cost him.
 
Tor tossed the balled letter into the fire in the middle of the hall and dismissed the clerk with a curt wave of his hand. Though the churchman looked anxious to scamper away and retreat to the safety of his books and papers, he didn’t move—other than to shift back and forth on his feet anxiously.
 
The clerk’s temerity had begun to grate. “If you’ve something else to say, say it or return to your duties.”
 
“Yes, Chief. I’m sorry, Chief.” The clerk retrieved a folded piece of parchment from the pouch he wore tied around his brown woolen robes. “This came only a short while ago.” He handed it over to Tor for his inspection.
 
Tor examined the wax and took immediate note of the seal with the familiar four men in a birlinn. Angus Og MacDonald, Ri Innse Gall. He lifted a brow, amused. MacDonald was a bold one, using the old title of King of the Isles instead of Lord of Islay. A title with which King Edward just might disagree.
 
What did the “King of the Isles” want with him?
 
He broke the seal, scanned the letter, and handed it back to the young churchman. Though he could read some Gaelic, he did not have the proficiency of the clerk. Like most of the West Highland chiefs, he employed men for such tasks.
 
The clerk began to read. It took him a while to get through the extended greeting—Tormod son of the same, son of Leod, son of Olaf the Black, King of Man, son of Harald Hardrada, King of Norway—but eventually it became clear that MacDonald was sending out a summons to the island chiefs to attend a council at Finlaggan, his stronghold on Islay.
 
What wasn’t clear was why he’d summoned Tor. He didn’t answer to MacDonald. Skye had never been part of MacDonald’s dominion. Blood every bit as royal as MacDonald’s flowed through Tor’s veins. Not since his uncle Magnus, the last King of Man, had sat upon the throne had the MacLeods bowed to anyone.
 

Customer Reviews

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Chief (Highland Guard Series #1) 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 279 reviews.
soto_caligrl02MI More than 1 year ago
this was my first McCarty book, and I must say im buying the rest of this series. I'm a huge highlander junkie and The Chief is definitely making my top five list. Its a new twist to the many books out there about a lass falling into the saving arms of a laird. This story however has a new spin on that old tale. Tor doesn't want Christina as his bride, he finds her attractive but not enough to take her as his. He wants no part in the kings war and will deny himself a bride till he can make sure his marriage will not cause harm to his people. Christina loves her sister and will do anything to protect her fragile spirit from their abusive father, she will even go as far as playing a part in the trickery of her father to gain a forced marriage from Tor. This tale has action, adventure, treachery, and romance.Now add a group of fierce men each with a perfected skill working together, and you have the ingredients to a wonderful new series. I highly recommend The Chief as part of your library, and i hope the rest of the books are as good as this one.
Charmed47 More than 1 year ago
I read this in one day. It had all the elements, stubborn man, soft but sensible woman, enjoyable intimacies, and a nice history lesson.
bklvr16 More than 1 year ago
I totally loved this book. The love story was hot and the Special Ops part was different from anything I have read before. Tor MacLeod and Christina Fraser are real historical figures living around the time of Robert Bruce and William Wallace (think 'Braveheart'). Tor is tricked into marrying Christina about the time he is asked to train a group of men to fight against the English who want to control Scotland. Tor is a hard man whose main purpose is keeping his clan safe and out of the coming conflict. Christina is a beautiful, but impulsive woman, determined to help her husband who is determined not to love her, but he finds she is a very sensual woman in bed and finds it harder and harder not to love her. One impulsive act put her in danger and Tor is thrust into a conflict he wants no part of. This is the first in the Highland Guard Series and I can not wait for the next book to come out.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Monica McCarty is a new author find for me- and if you like Scottish historicals then this is a series for you- and if you read Monica's author note she went to great expense to find real Scottish families and events of the time. Tor and Christina and fantastic characters that you won't be able to leave.
RebeccaTX More than 1 year ago
This book was exciting, action packed, thought provoking and romantic. I am now devouring all books by Monica McCatry - she is brilliant!
Jessica Kelb More than 1 year ago
I am a huge historical romance fan (especially in the scottish highlands) This book did not disapoint and I would highly recommend this to anyone. Could not put it down once I started.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Doesnt get any better than this. Hunky laird beautiful lady great sex scenes. Nice build up of their love and marriage.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Five star read
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I didn't really expect a "bodice ripper" when I bought this book. I was looking more for adventurous historical fiction.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
What a wonderfully written story. Very sensual, as well.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Excellent read
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I LOVE Regency tales; but, Highlander, not so much - till, I read this one - first in the series and I look forward to reading ALL of them! Good story and excellent writing - a good proof reading wouldn't hurt, though!
Mama_of_4 More than 1 year ago
I love historical romance. For me, the right about of plot and sex. There really is a story line to this book that was enjoyable. This is the first book by this author that I have read and just started the 2nd, I hope it is just as good, or close. I will re read this story when I need a good escape book!
Wicked68 More than 1 year ago
Monica you've done it again!!! I couldnt wait for this book to come out since reading all your previous ones. Alot of rich history and I loved the characters. Cant wait for the next one!! Keep up the good work!
harstan More than 1 year ago
In 1305, Scotland appears to have lost its war with the English. Robert the Bruce knows his warriors cannot defeat the English in open combat so he decides to use guerilla special operation tactics to wear down their opponent. Thus alliances are made to unify the divided Scottish clans. Christina Fraser heads to the island of Isla to attend her sister's marriage to ferocious Tormod "Tor" MacLeod. However, she offers herself in her sibling's place as she has much more fortitude to stand up against the roaring Highlander. Bruce offers Tor his clan lands back if he vows allegiance and leads a counter force. Tor is attracted to his new spouse but clan restoration and the war of Scottish independence come before personal desires. This is an exciting historical romance in which the war preparations as a medieval special forces type unit adhering to the Scottish warrior code provide freshness to the tale. The relationship between the married couple add tension as he puts his clan and his battle team ahead of his growing love for his feisty wife who brought baggage into their marriage as her father supported Wallace. Well written, Monica McCarty's devoted romance fans will relish this deep look at Scotland trying to regain its independence. Harriet Klausner
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A+different+but+enjoyable+book...%F0%9F%93%96
TheBookNerd5 More than 1 year ago
The Chief such a fast paced thrilling ride!!! There was so much action!! It kept me on the edge of my seat most of the time. My jaw dropped on more than one occasion while reading this. It had so many scenes where I couldn’t turn the page fast enough!! It also slowed down when it needed to for those feels to set in, which I appreciated. I’m so glad I found this author and this series by chance. I love me some historical romance but hardly ever pick them up for some reason. This book changed all that because this series currently has 12 books in it!!! I love longer series because it allows me to stay in that world with those characters for a longer period of time. I cannot wait to read the rest in this series and hope they are just as great as this one was. I learned fairly quickly that this was a book that I needed to jot things down for. I get overwhelmed quite easily when there are several characters in a book. I like to write down characters and other interesting facts as I’m reading just in case I need to go back over it later on. This is by no means necessary to understand the book, it’s just something that I like to do personally. When starting a new series, especially a longer one, the tend to give you a ton of information in book one. I don’t want to miss out on or forget things as I progress in the series so notes are my way of keeping track and organizing everything. Tormad MacLeod was your typical alpha male. Stubborn to the bone but willing to do anything for his clan and his wife. I loved the protectiveness of Tor. He was this beacon of strength for everyone around him. I also liked how there was more to him than meets the eye but I’ll leave that for you to discover. Christina Fraser was all very protective of those she cared about. She didn’t have the easiest life but she has this fierceness about her that no one could break. I really enjoyed her character and how she loved with everything she had. We really saw her grow into this amazing woman who anyone would be proud to know and have at their side. Overall this book had everything you could want in a story. We had a romance but we also had plenty of action scenes to keep us on our toes. I don’t want to go too deep into the story because I want you to experience everything for yourself. I’m more than happy that I discovered not just an amazing historical romance series but also an amazing writer. I can’t wait to read more by this author.
booksandbutter on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this novel. It was predictable, but that is why I read these sometimes. The novels were developed and charming. I enjoyed the romance in the book and their relationship.
jdquinlan on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
From the Back Cover:AN ELITE FIGHTING FORCE UNLIKE THE WORLD HAS EVER SEEN . . .Scouring the darkest corners of the Highlands and Western Isles, Robert the Bruce handpicks ten warriors to help him in his quest to free Scotland from English rule. They are the best of the best, chosen for their superior skills in each discipline of warfare. And to lead his secret Highland Guard, Bruce chooses the greatest warrior of all.The ultimate Highland warlord and a swordsman without equal, Tor MacLeod has no intention of being drawn into Scotland¿s war against the English. Dedicated to his clan, the fiercely independent chief answers to no one¿especially not to his alluring new bride, bartered to him in a bid to secure his command of the deadliest fighting force the world has ever seen. The treacherous chit who made her way to Tor¿s bed may have won his hand, but she will never claim his heart.Although her husband¿s reputation is as fierce as his manner, Christina Fraser believes that something softer hides beneath his brutal shell. But the only warmth she feels is in their bed, in glorious moments of white-hot desire that disappear with the dawn. When Christina¿s reckless bid to win her husband¿s love goes awry and thrusts them into danger on the eve of war, Tor will face his ultimate battle: to save his wife and to open his heart¿before it¿s too late.My Review:"William Wallace is dead."Not a bad way to start a novel and the scene that follows with Robert Bruce lays out the political scene in 1305 Scotland fairly well and sets up a potentially good story. But that story suffers in the execution. It's not actually badly written, although it probably could have been 100 pages shorter. The main problems are a heroine that is too wimpy, a hero that is too thick-headed, cliched characterizations, and too much time spent on "pirate" military training. Hot sex scenes, though. But with so many romance novels and so little time, I probably won't read another by this author.
emigre on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Steamy and engrossing, an awesome Highlander tale.
bookworm2bookworm on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I reviewed this book for Romance Reader At Heart website:RRAH's THOUGHTS AND PONDERINGS:Set right after William Wallace¿s execution, King Edward, the mighty Hammer of the Scots, is on the throne of England and Scotland, but Robert the Bruce is trying to stake his claim as King of Scotland, so he gets an idea to draft and organize a group of special `soldiers¿ to help him overthrow Edward and unite the Scottish clans under his banner. Bruce is looking for a special man to lead and train this `elite group¿ of men who excel in fighting. In Tormond `Tor¿ MacLeod, who¿s a chief of his clan, he finds such a man; alas, he¿s not so keen on it. Tor would rather stay out of the English/Scottish feud, but relents at the end, after he¿s found taking our heroine from behind by her father and some witnesses. That scene was painful to read.I just couldn¿t buy this. The story didn¿t ring true, and here¿s where I lost all interest in it. The premise of Navy SEALs of the Highlands working for Robert the Bruce was plain silly. For me, reading this book was a slow and arduous process, and I was trying to figure out why. Is it the writing or the characters I had a hard time with? I believe it¿s both. I found myself not liking Christina one bit. Her `naïve¿ and `spirited¿ nature seemed forced and not natural. As for Tor, I got annoyed with him and couldn¿t understand his reasons for always keeping his emotions to himself.In my opinion, the story felt rushed and not quite developed, so at times it read flat. Even the characters, and there are many, were not as developed or as rounded-off as they should have been, and that¿s why I had a hard time keeping up. So at the end, I¿m blaming poor execution, a wimpy and childish heroine, and a stubborn hero for my disappointment in this read.To be fair, the author takes the time at the end of the book to explain a few things to us through her notes, but even that didn¿t help me to understand or like THE CHIEF any better.Melanie
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great storyline, over 300 pages, suspense danger and romance. Definitely worth the money and I would read it again!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Excellent
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I'm really enjoying this series! I highly recommend!!!