A Sanctuary of Secrets . . .
Gavin MacKenzie, a chieftain heir who is hired to restore the ancient Castle of Braigh, discovers a hidden village of outcasts who have created their own private sanctuary from the world. Among them is Serena Boyd, a mysterious and comely lass, who captures Gavin’s heart in spite of harboring a deadly past that could destroy her future.
The villagers happen to be keeping an intriguing secret as well, and when a fierce enemy launches an attack against them, greed leads to bitter betrayal. Then, as Gavin prepares a defense, the villagers unite in a bold act of faith, showing how God’s love is more powerful than any human force on earth.
"Travel back to medieval Scotland with this great inspirational tale of faith and compassion." - FreshFiction.com
"Highland Sanctuary is a wonderful medieval tale fraught with rich, compelling drama, excellent characterization, a plot with depth, beautifully described backdrops, and satisfying romance. In other words, a page turner. (Not recommended if you don't want to miss a night of sleep!)" - Sharlene MacLaren, Retailers' Choice nominee, IRCA finalist and bestselling author of Daughters of Jacob Kane series and River of Hope series
"Jennifer Hudson Taylor has penned a heart-warming medieval romance full of mystery and intrigue with Highland Sanctuary. This book grabbed my attention from page one and kept it as I prayed for Serena to recover from her mystery illness and find true acceptance and freedom." - Laura V. Hilton, author of Patchwork Dreams
"Highland Sanctuary offers just that—a reading sanctuary set in medieval Scotland, full of mystique and romance. To use the author’s own words, it’s a book that will remind readers that while there is no Heaven on earth, God can guide us through our challenges. Well done, Jennifer Hudson Taylor!" —Maureen Lang, author of Whisper on the Wind and Springtime of the Spirit
"Jennifer Hudson Taylor has written a moving story of sacrificial love and heartrending choices amidst the haunting beauty of the Scottish highland coast." Ruth Axtell Morren, author of Wild Rose and Winter Is Past
"Jennnifer Hudson Taylor has written another wonderful Scottish medieval novel. In Highland Sanctuary, she masterfully created a setting and authentically portrayed the culture of the time period. And the characters leapt from the pages." - Lena Nelson Dooley, award-winning author of the McKenna's Daughters series and Love Finds You in Golden, New Mexico
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.10(d)|
About the Author
Jennifer Hudson Taylor is an award-winning author of inspirational fiction set in historical Europe and the Carolinas. Her books, which include Path of Freedom, Highland Blessings, and Highland Sanctuary, have been critically acclaimed by publications such as RT Book Reviews and USA Today’s Happy Ever After blog.
Read an Excerpt
By Jennifer Hudson Taylor
Abingdon PressCopyright © 2011 Jennifer Hudson Taylor
All rights reserved.
The ordeal over, fragmented tremors still quaked through Evelina Broderwick's body. She gazed down at her new daughter. Now, she'd finally have someone who would truly love her. Tiny fingers curled. Evelina marveled at the wee nails. The other hand tightened into a fist and flew into the bairn's mouth as she sucked on her knuckles.
"She's beautiful, is she not?" Tears clouded Evelina's vision, overwhelming her by the magnitude of God's gift of life.
Gunna, her wet nurse, peered closer at the babe swaddled in a warm blanket. "Aye, she is at that."
"I believe I shall call her Serena after my Spanish grandmother. The lass has an English da and a Scottish mither—a mixture of noble blood from three countries."
"Not a verra common name here in the lowlands," Gunna's round cheeks swelled in a smile as she nodded in agreement, "but lovely just the same."
The bedchamber door swung open, casting dim light from the hallway candles. The shadow of a man's tall frame bounced on the dark pine walls. Evelina tensed as her husband, Devlin Broderwick, strode in with his usual frown. A dent marred his forehead. He towered over the bedside.
The midwife followed him and stood at the foot of the bed, folding her hands in front of her. The woman appeared to be in her mid-fifties, personally chosen by Devlin and quite loyal to the Broderwick family. Her dark gaze traveled from Evelina to Gunna and down at the infant.
"I've heard the unfortunate news." Devlin's sharp tone cut through the room like a blade through a gentle lamb.
Was a lass so terrible? Evelina glanced at the only window on the far right. The shutters were closed, blocking the night sky from view. She would like naught more than to escape the confines of her marriage, even if it meant taking sanctuary behind the walls of a convent for the rest of her days.
Devlin cleared his throat. He wore a black tunic with blooming sleeves narrowing at the cuffs. Black suited his dark moods. His hair hung straight in the shape of a downward bowl. He crossed his arms, taking an authoritative stance. "Fortunately, you're still young and healthy. You can try again when you're well enough."
Evelina stayed her tongue. Over the last eleven months of their marriage, she had come to despise him. She had tried to love him, tried to win his affection, but he had been most impossible to please. No wonder her kinsmen hated the English. He had wounded her feelings more times than she cared to count. She'd begun to resent her parents for arranging this union and forcing her into a lifetime of sorrow.
"I'll love her." Evelina held her daughter against her bosom. She stared at the wine-colored blanket covering her bed, tracing a finger along the raised flower pattern stitched into the thick fabric, a gift from Devlin's mother.
"I'm sure you will." He pointed at their daughter. "Now lay her down so I can see her."
Cradling her child's unsteady head, Evelina lowered Serena onto her back. She unwrapped the white blanket from her squirming body. Devlin leaned close.
The bairn's rosy glow turned red then deepened to a shade of purple. Serena's head twisted at the nape, her face almost level with the bed. The child's eyes glazed over, twitching into the corners, only the whites visible.
"What's the meaning of this?" Devlin jumped back in alarm.
Though Serena's entire body had grown stiff, it quivered in spasms. The area around her lips faded to white and the rest of her skin melted from purple to an ashen gray.
"She's not breathing!" Evelina turned to the midwife. "Do something!"
"I deliver wee bairns. I don't cast out demons." The midwife's fearful eyes met hers.
Evelina gripped her husband's arm, but he pulled away. "Devlin, please do something. She's stopped breathing! Save her, please?"
He only stared at the helpless babe with disbelieving eyes.
Evelina reached for her daughter's seizing body. Not knowing what else to do, Evelina turned the child over on her stomach and patted her back. She willed her babe to breathe. She blew air in Serena's face, hoping to startle her into breathing. White foam leaked over Serena's colorless lips. Evelina laid her down and plunged her finger into the tiny mouth, pulling with all her might against the curled tongue. Serena coughed, moaned, and screamed into a blessed cry.
"Oh, thank God!" Evelina collapsed, lowering her head next to Serena and letting silent tears fall in relief. Their wee bairn would live.
Evelina kissed the thin layer of soft black hair on Serena's round head. Her tiny lungs panted for air as her breathing returned to normal. She touched Serena's sweet ears, her pug nose, and cheeks now gaining a rosy glow.
"What was that?" Devlin's voice flayed her nerves and she jumped. He stood with his hands on his hips, staring at the child in disbelief, his dark, condemning eyes narrowed.
"The babe was having some sort of fit," the midwife said. "I've heard of stories like this, but never seen one myself."
"Yes, I can see that. I want to know why!" Devlin took two menacing steps toward her.
"'Tis unexplained." She stepped back, tilted her head upon her shoulders, and looked up at him with wide eyes. "No one really knows what it is. Some call it the falling sickness."
Devlin paced across the chamber, rubbing the back of his head. The soles of his mid-calf leather boots clicked against the hardwood floor. "Why would a child have such a fit? How can ye stop it?"
"I don't know." The midwife shook her head and sank against the wall.
His gaze dropped to the bundle in Evelina's arms. "It's possessed." His lips twisted in thought. He paced again. "We'll call a priest to cast it out." He paused and shook his head. "No, we can't do that. How would it look if the Broderwick family produced a demon possessed child?" He shook his head. "I won't have the family name ruined." He turned and pointed at the midwife and Gunna. "No one had better speak a word outside this bedchamber. If you do, I'll make you sorry."
"I won't say a word," the midwife said, shaking her head.
"Aye, my lord," Gunna said, looking down at her feet.
"She isn't possessed," Evelina said, her heart pounding in worry. "She stopped breathing and nearly died."
Devlin strode toward her. He pressed his fists into the soft feather mattress and leaned foward. "There's no other explanation."
"Devlin, ye're mistaken. She couldn't catch her breath is all."
"Then why did she turn her head as if it would disconnect from her body of its own accord? Where did her eyes go? In the back of her head? What was coming from her mouth? Do ye call it somethin' from God?" He stepped back. "This isn't the work of God. I feel it in my soul. Something is wrong. As head of this household it's my responsibility to take care of it."
"Our child is not evil." Evelina moved Serena over her shoulder and patted her bottom.
"I make the final decisions in this house." Devlin's dark eyebrows knitted together in an angry line. "She may look normal now, but her body is possessed by somethin'. I'll not tolerate evil under my own roof. Do you hear me, woman?"
"Devlin, listen to yerself. She's our child." Evelina clutched the bundle in her arms, fear rooted in her heart. Was he completely mad?
"I saw the babe turn into a demon with my own eyes. I won't claim it as mine. I've made up my mind. I don't want it, and I forbid ye to keep it."
"I won't give her up!" Evelina moved Serena to the far side of her body away from him. "She's my bairn, not some animal to cast away."
"You're my wife, and you'll do as I tell you." He stepped toward her, grabbing for the child.
Evelina refused to relinquish her hold. Their daughter began to cry at their tug of war. He tightened his grip on Evelina's flesh until she could no longer feel. Fearing Serena would be hurt from their struggle, Evelina relented. He snatched Serena.
"I beg ye, don't take her away." Tears clogged Evelina's voice, choking her.
He strode from the chamber with Serena. The midwife made a "humph" sound and followed him.
Evelina tried to rise. In her weakened state, she fell to the floor.
"Oh, dearie me!" Gunna cried, hurrying around the bed to help her.
Evelina had forgotten Gunna was still in the room. Frantic hands pulled under Evelina's arms, trying to lift her as she struggled to her knees.
"Nay! Don't bother with me. Find out where he's taking her." Evelina nudged her.
"Please? Do this one thing for me." Evelina sniffed back tears. "Go! Make haste before it's too late."
"I-I'll do as ye ask. Don't ye worry, lass. We'll save yer bairn." She fled the chamber, leaving Evelina alone in her anguish.
Evelina dropped her head upon her arms. Her eyelids fluttered shut. "Dear God," she whispered. "I dedicate Serena to Ye. She isn't evil. She's just the way Ye made her. Allow me to be her mither and I'll teach her Yer ways and raise her to be Yer child."
The room began to spin. Evelina clutched the bed linens for support. Darkness claimed her vision as the distant sounds of her child crying in another part of the house fell silent. "Please ... God," she whispered, fading to unconsciousness.
Gavin MacKenzie and Leith, his brother, led fifty clansmen along the narrow dirt path, two men abreast, their conversation a gentle rhythm above the steady clip-clop of horses. The comfortable late-spring air made it a good day to travel.
Something moved ahead. From this distance it looked like a horse pulling a wagon. The sound of weeping reached his ears and then faded. Had he imagined it? He motioned to the men to be quiet. Their voices dropped to whispers before altogether silencing.
Sholto, his horse, grew restless and sidestepped. Gavin grabbed the reins with both hands. The animal snorted in obvious distress. To calm the beast, Gavin rubbed his mount's neck until his breathing evened and his gait steadied. Gavin's red and gray plaid fell over his right shoulder. Shoving it out of his way, he studied the layout of the land, looking for signs of a surprise attack.
They'd travelled for days, leaving the familiar glens and rolling moors with a sheltered forest for the flat peatland surrounding them in Scotland's northern tip of Caithness. With no place to hide, the element of surprise was not in their favor. The light wind carried the scent of the bog myrtle across the silver lochs. Purple heather dotted the land, its sweet scent mixing with the salty sea air. By this, Gavin knew they must be getting close to Braigh Castle. He was told it stood alone on the moss-covered rocky cliffs facing the sea—like a sanctuary.
The wagon up ahead moved. Gavin gripped the reins tight and hastened his mount. As he drew closer, a skittish horse hitched to a heavy laden wagon flung his tail in vexation. The animal neighed and pranced about as much as the load allowed.
More weeping carried from the opposite side of the wagon. Gavin motioned for his men to halt. He nodded toward Leith who dismounted and went to calm the beast. Gavin inched toward the noise.
A woman with a long braid of auburn hair streaked with gray bent over a lass lying on her back. He couldn't see much of the one lying down, but the weeping one wore a dark blue gown. She patted her unresponsive companion, speaking in a hushed, worried tone.
He cleared his throat, reining in his horse and sliding to the ground.
She gasped and turned a frightened expression toward him.
"What happened?" He nodded toward the unconscious lady lying in a bed of thick grass.
Her moss-green eyes watched him, assessing his character. She wiped at the tears staining her cheeks. "We must have hit somethin'. The wagon nearly tipped over. She fell from her seat and hit her head."
Gavin bent to his knees, surveying the unmoving lass and felt for a pulse in her neck. It beat steady. Her skin was warm and smooth. She was much younger than her concerned friend. "Have ye checked her head for bleeding?"
"It only happened a moment ago. I first tried to wake her." Alarm crossed her face as her eyes widened, and she grabbed the girl's hands between her own. "I do wish she'd wake. 'Twould put my mind at ease. She's my daughter ... my only child." Her chin trembled.
"May I?" Gavin gestured toward her daughter. "I'd like to check her head for bleeding or lumps."
"Aye." She nodded. "Serena took many falls as a child. She was always so free-spirited. But I've never known her to be out this long."
Serena. He liked her name. It was different. Lying here, she looked serene. Although her skin was pale, he could tell she had spent time in the sun. Her dark lashes curled against her skin. Light freckles lay across the bridge of her nose. He took a deep breath and eased his hands in her black hair. It was thick and free of curls, reminding him of black velvet, though it felt more like smooth satin.
"It's right here." He found a bump forming on the right side of her head above her ear. "'Tis only a slight knot. I'm sure she'll be fine." Gavin glanced at the full wagon. "There's little room in yer wagon. Would ye like me to carry her to my horse?"
She graced her knuckles over her daughter's cheek. "I'm verra thankful for yer assistance. We live in the Village of Braigh about a mile ahead. Would ye mind carrying her there? We were just returning from the town market."
"We'd be honored," Gavin said. "We're on our way to Braigh Castle. Is yer village near the castle?"
"Aye." A smile brightened her worry-filled eyes. "Only a half a mile further beyond our village would be my guess."
Gavin crooked his finger toward his men, singling out Roan. As his friend dismounted, Gavin realized how much his tall frame would benefit them. His long blond hair was tied back at the nape. One thing he and his men lacked over the course of their travel was proper grooming. He hoped their ragged looks and overgrown beards wouldn't offend or frighten the lasses.
"I'm going to mount my horse, and I need ye to lift her to me as gently as possible."
"I got 'er." Roan said, bending to one knee and slipping an arm beneath her neck and behind her knees.
Once he was settled upon Sholto, Gavin secured the reins and held out his arms. Roan raised her up. Gavin settled her across his lap, hoping she would be comfortable and the ride wouldn't jar her wounded head too much. It helped that she wore a simple brown gown.
"Careful," her mother said, wringing her hands.
"Serena will be safe. Would ye prefer to drive the wagon or would ye like for one of my men to take over?" If she was too upset, he didn't want another mishap to befall them.
She shook her head. Pieces of hair loosened from her braid. "Nay, it helps me to have somethin' to do. Let me know as soon as she wakes. My name's Evelina Boyd, and I'm verra thankful for yer help."
Leith assisted her to better secure the horse to the wagon and checked the condition of the wheels. Once he and Roan were mounted on their horses again, they began a slow pace to match Evelina's wagon.
The men conversed in quiet tones. A bird flapped its wings above them and sang. A gentle draft kept the air from being too warm. The sun hid behind white clouds and burst out in brightness every once in a while.
Gavin looked down at the bonny lass in his arms, breathing in the feminine scent of heather and juniper. The aroma stirred forgotten memories of another lass he'd tried his best to forget. If she had lived, he'd be a married man by now, mayhap the father of wee bairns. To his bitter disappointment, his life had taken another route, which led him and his brother all over Europe to escape his grief and guilt.
"Could that be a patch of woods down yon in the glen?" Leith rode up beside Gavin and shielded his hand over his eyes.
"Looks like it." Relieved to be distracted from his thoughts, Gavin looked where his brother gestured. "That must be Braigh Castle."
Situated on a long, narrow rocky cliff sat a magnificent stone fortress that looked to be king of the sea. A wide tower stood tall above wings that stretched out on each side. "From here, it doesn't look like it needs to be restored," Gavin said, admiring the view. "How will we ever be able to improve upon it?"
Excerpted from Highland Sanctuary by Jennifer Hudson Taylor. Copyright © 2011 Jennifer Hudson Taylor. Excerpted by permission of Abingdon Press.
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Characters in the book were very well described---it was hard to put the book down-----And it had a great ending!!!
This was an enjoyable book
I received an ebook free of charge from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. What a refreshing book! I am so glad I had a chance to read this story because I enjoyed it very much! I wasn't aware when I requested it that it was the second in a series, but it can easily be read as a stand alone. After reading this one, though, I am definitely going to go back and read the first book, because if it was half as good as this one, then I know I'm going to love it! Serena Boyd has had 'fits', or seizures, since she was born. Unfortunately, the book is set in Scotland in a time when anybody who had the falling disease (as epilepsy was called back then) was thought to be possessed by the devil, and many were burned at the stake as witches. For this reason, Serena's mother, Evelina, runs away from her husband to a place where she and Serena can hide out, a place full of misfits that outsiders call The Village of Outcasts. There Serena is raised to be a very kind Christian girl who is loved by all those in the village. Unfortunately, someone is terrorizing the villagers for unknown reasons, so the king sends Gavin MacKenzie, his brother, Leith, and their men to go undercover and find out what's going on. They are working at Braigh castle, restoring and rebuilding it, while also trying to figure out if something untoward happened to the old Laird, and to protect the new Laird, Iain MacBraigh. On their way there, Gavin meets Evelina and Serena, who had a 'fit' and fell off of their wagon, hitting her head. Gavin falls for Serena, but Serena is so scared of anyone finding out about her problem that she tries to keep him at arm's length. That works fine, until she has a fit not only in front of Gavin, but in front of the whole town of people, who denounce her for being possessed. There is so much more to this story that I can't even begin to get into here! The characters are so well fleshed out that you feel like you know them, and the writing is excellent. The story moves along at a quick pace as there is always something going on. The romance is sweet and Gavin makes an excellent hero! I can't wait to go back and read the first book, Highland Blessings, and I will be waiting anxiously for the next book to come out! I'm keeping my fingers crossed that Leith will get his own story one day :D
It had lots of twists and turns. Lots of talk of faith, love and sacrifice. It goes to show Gods words dont change no matter the time period.
The romantic element of this book was very satisfying. The other aspect of the book was good too - it just almost got too much for me towards the end. Really good though!
I love this era of historical romance. This was a well thought out book. It is has a partner that was interwoven well enough for me to follow without having to go back and reread excerpts from that one, too.
I enjoyed this book. Nice story line.
I haven't read the others in this series, but this story easily stood alone and made me want to check out the others. Enjoyable characters in the historical context of Scotland. Well-written.
I enjoyed Serena's tale. Her life is a rough one due to her "falling fits" and the stigma that follows them. The love story is very sweetly written and makes you want to keep reading. 250 pages
Too many plot spoilers. Bn insults customers by making free friday a hassle to try and get, then refusing to post the reviews so others wont c how bad they are!
Highland Sanctuary – 2nd in Jennifer Hudson Taylor’s Highland series and as riveting as her first. I’ve been emotionally invested in these characters and the intrigue of their story for the entire 331 pages. There was no putting down to pick up later. No time was spared in waiting to find out what was going to happen next. The emotional impact is intense. The story, consuming. From the delightful tartan binding and medieval castle featured cover to the Highland intrigue, romance, and colourful celtic characters; vivid descriptions that captured my senses to superstitions that grieved my spirit; this story is not to be missed. A Fantastic addition to the Scotland Reading Challenge . Thank you , Jennifer, for sharing your writing gift with us!
Grear read hard to put down
Loved the story