Lady Joan Armstrong Fraser was once the indulged and pampered daughter of a laird. But marriage to a brute changed her. When he sets her aside, she has only her wits and her beauty to protect herself and her child from the chaos of her former home. She will have to find another husband—a man whose strength is more than a weapon against the weak. A man she can trust . . . if such a man even breathes.
Sir Malcolm McKenna has known Lady Joan since her childhood, a spoiled princess as dangerous as she is lovely. But when she steps forward to protect him against a false accusation, he discovers a character stronger than he guessed—and an attraction he yearns to explore . . .
Praise for Adrienne Basso’s The Highlander Who Loved Me
“In this sensitive, compassionate romance that will touch those who savor second-chance romances, Basso showcases love’s power to erase the horrors of the past.” —RT Book Reviews
About the Author
Adrienne and her husband, both native New Yorkers, now make their home in North Plainfield, New Jersey, along with their two sons. In her spare time she likes to pretend that she is an organized, efficient, dynamic super-woman. It doesn't always work.
Read an Excerpt
No Other Highlander
By ADRIENNE BASSO
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2017 Adrienne Basso
All rights reserved.
Highlands of Scotland, 1334
"What is that god-awful smell?" Sir Malcolm McKenna wrinkled his nose and glanced down at his five-year-old daughter, Lileas, who stood at his side in the bailey of McKenna Castle.
The child sniffed loudly, then turned toward the faithful hound that was her constant companion. "It must be Prince. I think he needs a bath."
Hearing his name, the motley beast lifted his ears and cocked his head. Malcolm studied the large dog, yet saw no muck on his fur or paws. However, the hem of his daughter's gown was dark with filth and he suspected her shoes were even worse. She had clearly been in the stables, a place forbidden to her without permission.
Malcolm raised a brow. "Prince?"
"Aye." Lileas nodded her head enthusiastically. "Cook calls him a mangy, dirty cur when she chases him from the kitchens. But we love him anyway, don't we, Papa?"
The little girl smiled broadly at him, looking so like her mother that Malcolm felt a pang of melancholy. His arranged marriage to Margaret Douglas had been brief, and while not unhappy, had hardly been the relationship he sought.
He had wanted a wife who would challenge and excite him. Who had opinions of her own, was blessed with a sharp mind and high spirits. He wanted the close comradery of love and devotion his parents shared. And passion. Aye, he wanted a woman in his bed who would fire his blood and answer his kisses and caresses with bold ones of her own.
When they first married, Margaret had been sweet and kind and so eager to please at times it made him feel guilty for not returning her blind devotion. Over time, his lack of overt affection toward her brought on a clinging, almost desperate behavior that further distanced him from his wife.
She became quick to cry and even quicker to complain. Truth be told, he found his demanding wife exhausting. Perhaps they had wed too young. Perhaps in time he would have found a way to make her happy and in turn learned to give Margaret the love she so desperately craved.
Alas, he would never know for certain. Margaret had died of a sudden fever when their daughter was barely two years old. He mourned her passing with true emotion, knowing he owed his young wife an unimaginable debt of gratitude, for she had given him the most precious gift of all — a child.
It was not the son and heir that so many in the clan had hoped and prayed would arrive. In truth, many believed that Margaret had failed in her duty by birthing a daughter. But Malcolm knew they were wrong.
From the first moment he'd held Lileas's small, squirming body in his arms, Malcolm felt a rush of emotion so strong it had weakened his knees. To this day, every time he looked into the mischievous face of his daughter, his heart swelled with love.
He could not imagine his life without her — impish lass that she was — full of life and laughter and most assuredly the boldest child in all the Highlands. At least that's what his parents, and most of their clan, always told him. He knew that he spoiled and indulged her more than he should, but these early years of carefree childhood disappeared so quickly and he wanted to enjoy them as much as his daughter did.
Malcolm and Lileas made their way across the bailey, stopping in front of the heavy oak door that led to the great hall. Prince followed cheerfully behind them, his large tongue lolling out of the side of his mouth.
"Nay, Lileas, Prince cannae enter the hall smelling the way he does," Malcolm said. "Yer grandmother will have fits."
Malcolm folded his arms over his chest and waited for his daughter to confess that it wasn't the dog who smelled so foul, 'twas her.
Lileas turned to her pet, then gazed beseechingly at her father. "I can help draw the water from the well fer Prince's bath."
Malcolm shook his head. "I dinnae have time to bathe him now. Nor does anyone else," he added, anticipating her response. "He'll have to stay outside."
His parents were nearly as indulgent as he was when it came to Lileas, but even their generosity did not extend to bathing a dog that they insisted should be kept in the kennels and not allowed to sleep in Lileas's bedchamber beneath her bed. Besides, for once it was not the dog who smelled so rank, but the child.
Lileas frowned and pulled her bottom lip back and forth between her teeth. "Prince will feel very sad if he has to stay outside."
"He will probably start barking. Very loudly. He might even start to whimper and cry."
"More than likely."
Lileas's lips began to quiver. "I'll cry, too."
Malcolm's heart lurched at the sight of her watery eyes and he nearly relented. Nay! She had to learn to obey, if only for her own safety. She had been warned about the dangers of the stables, but had deliberately ignored the rule.
Thankfully, nothing tragic had befallen her, but what about the next time? Would she be so fortunate? His heart nearly ceased beating at the possibility.
"It will take more than a few tears to take the stench off Prince," Malcolm said casually.
Lileas rubbed her eyes with the back of her hand. "He doesn't smell that bad," she insisted stubbornly.
"But ye do." Malcolm leaned down, his broad nose nearly touching his daughter's. "How do ye suppose that happened?"
Lileas lowered her eyes and looked away. "Ye shouldn't say that I smell. Grandmother says it isn't polite to insult a lady."
"Aye, and a true lady doesn't lie. Especially to her papa," Malcolm said reprovingly.
Lileas chewed anxiously on her lower lip. "I'm sorry that I smell, Papa. May I have a bath?"
"Not until ye tell me how ye got this way."
The child took a deep breath. Then looking uncharacteristically serious, she declared, "I stepped in some horse muck."
"In the bailey?" Malcolm questioned, deciding to test her honesty.
Lileas's eyes lit with excitement. She opened her mouth to agree, then paused and lowered her chin. "Nay, Papa. The muck was in the stables. I brought carrots and apples for the horses."
Malcolm slowly exhaled with relief, then gave his daughter an understanding smile. "I know how much ye love being around the horses, but I've told ye many times that ye cannae feed them unless someone is with ye."
"Duncan was there!" Lileas protested.
"An adult," Malcolm clarified. "A lad of ten is hardly a proper escort around such fierce animals. Those horses are bred fer battle. A wee lass like ye can so easily be hurt."
"I'm always careful," Lileas insisted. "And the horses like me. They never hurt me. I feed them treats and sometimes weave flowers in their manes. They always look so pretty when I'm done."
Malcolm tried to mask his amusement as he pictured his father, the warrior laird Brian McKenna, riding into battle on a horse with delicate purple heather in its mane. "Nevertheless, ye must do as ye are told, Lileas."
"I'm sorry." Lileas heaved a long sigh. "'Tis not easy for a poor motherless child to always behave as she should. If I had a proper mother —"
"Lileas," Malcolm warned. "The lack of a mother is no excuse fer yer behavior, as ye well know."
Lileas hung her head and slowly drew her foot across the hard dirt. Malcolm could see the muck clumping around the edges of her halfboots and worried the leather would stiffen after it was thoroughly cleaned. Rigid boots meant blisters, and while not a severe condition, they could fester if not treated properly. He made a mental note to speak with the cobbler about having a new pair of boots made.
"Are ye very mad at me, Papa?"
Malcolm took a deep breath. Aye, he was angry. But that fierce emotion was quickly leaving him. No matter what her behavior, he simply found it impossible to stay mad at his daughter.
"Well, not as mad as I would have been if ye had continued to lie to me," he said, smoothing the hair on the top of her head.
The sudden sound of thundering hoofbeats coming hard and fast from beyond the castle walls pulled Malcolm's attention away from Lileas. No alarm had been sounded, but he saw several of the soldiers on the battlements rush forward. Concerned, Malcolm turned his gaze toward the heavy gate, waiting to see if it would be closed.
He reached automatically for his sword, dismayed to find it was not in its usual place at his side. Having just come from the practice field, he had given the weapon to his squire to clean and oil.
The dirk in his belt was a comfort; he was confident he could defend himself and protect his child, if needed. Yet realistically, Malcolm knew there was no cause for fear.
McKenna Castle was one of the best-fortified structures in the Highlands, boasting a high square watchtower, wide battlements, and a gray stone curtain wall that was nearly fifteen feet thick. Even in the unlikely event that an enemy was able to breach these impressive defenses, they would then be facing an army of McKenna soldiers, arguably the fiercest fighting men in all of Scotland.
A sizable contingent of men rode through the open gates. Instinctively, Malcolm thrust Lileas behind him, but his rigid stance slowly relaxed when he recognized the man leading the riders.
"Uncle James!" Lileas screeched excitedly and took off at a run.
Malcolm grinned as he watched his younger brother dismount, then capture Lileas in his arms and swing her high in the air, before pulling her to his chest and hugging her tightly. Malcolm followed his daughter at a more dignified pace, unable to hold back his chuckle when he saw his brother wiggle his nose as he sniffed, obviously trying to decide from where a most unpleasant odor was emanating.
James quickly surmised it was Lileas, but to his credit, he still held her close. The lass giggled, twining her arms tightly around his neck as he swung her back and forth.
"What sort of mischief have ye been getting yerself into since I last saw ye, lass?" James asked, as he gently set her on her feet.
"None," she replied, lowering her chin. "I'm a very good girl and I always listen and do what I'm told." Malcolm cleared his throat loudly. His daughter turned to him with a mulish expression. "I try very hard to do what I'm told."
"That's all anyone can ask of ye." James reached over to grasp Malcolm's hand in greeting, but Lileas stepped between them.
"Where is Aunt Davina? Is she coming, too? And where is her baby? Is it here? I want to hold it. I promise to be very, very careful. Grandmother told me that I must pray fer them both, and I do, every night. I pray fer ye, too, Uncle James." The words spilled out of the child's mouth faster than she could speak them.
James put his hand on his niece's shoulder. "Aunt Davina is back at Torridon Keep, waiting fer the bairn to arrive. But it will still be many months before it comes."
"I hope it's a lass," Lileas declared. "Like me."
"Och, Lileas, there's none like ye," James said with a laugh, as he ruffled the child's hair.
"And fer that we all give thanks," the McKenna declared, interrupting the reunion.
Their father, laird of the McKenna clan, stepped forward and slapped James on the shoulder affectionately. James barely had time to greet his father before their mother came rushing over. She launched herself forward, hugging her son tightly.
"Why did ye not send word that ye were coming?" Lady Aileen scolded, as she patted James's cheek. "Is Davina with ye?"
"Nay, Mother, she is safely resting at home."
"'Tis best, I suppose, but I would have longed to see her." Lady Aileen's face darkened. "Why dinnae ye send word of yer arrival? If I had known, I would have instructed Cook to prepare all yer favorite dishes."
"Enough of yer fussing, Aileen," the McKenna grumbled. "James will simply have to make do with the swill ye were going to serve the rest of us."
Malcolm exchanged an amused glance with the McKenna, as their mother's jaw dropped in indignation.
"Ye had best be minding yer manners, Brian McKenna," Lady Aileen answered tartly. "Or else I'll make certain that tonight yer trencher is filled with a meal fit only fer the hogs."
There was an instant of tense silence in the busy courtyard. The McKenna glared at his wife. Lady Aileen glared back.
The McKenna broke first, his broad, sun-kissed face widening into a deep grin. Lady Aileen answered that grin with one of her own, then lifted her cheek for her husband's gentle kiss.
Malcolm watched them with a mixture of confusion and awe. All his life he had witnessed the intense passion between his parents — in nearly every interaction. They fought and made up with equal fervor and yet through it all somehow maintained a level of respect and regard.
Having been married himself, Malcolm honestly did not understand how this was possible. Perhaps it was love that held them so solidly together. Yet he knew it took more than mere affection and emotion. His parents were bound together by a thread so strong that no matter how hard it was pulled, it never seemed to break.
'Twas precisely the type of marriage that Malcolm had dared to hope he could create. Judging by the expression of devotion on James's face whenever his wife's name was mentioned, he believed that his younger brother was well on his way to achieving that kind of relationship.
Clearly, it was not so very rare. It was possible to find. With a melancholy sigh, Malcolm realized that he simply had to keep searching.
James gestured for one of the knights in his party to come forward. "I would like to introduce Sir Gideon Croft. Gideon, this is my father, Laird McKenna, my mother, Lady Aileen, and my older brother, Malcolm."
"'Tis an honor to meet you all," Sir Gideon said as he executed a deep, formal bow.
Lileas poked James sharply in his side with her elbow. "What about me?"
"Och, forgive me, lass." James laughed. "Though I believe that Sir Gideon already knows yer name."
"He does?" Clearly delighted at the notion, Lileas craned her neck and gazed at the tall, handsome knight. "Does he also know I like horses and dogs and more than anything in the whole wide world, I want a new mother?"
"I do now." Sir Gideon bent his knee and twirled his hand dramatically in the air. "'Tis a great honor to make yer acquaintance, Lady Lileas."
Lileas dipped her chin and favored him with a flirty smile. "No one ever calls me Lady Lileas. I like it!"
Everyone laughed. Well, everyone except Malcolm. He was not amused by his daughter's coy, flirty attitude. Only five years old and already practicing her feminine wiles! Perhaps she did need a mother to take her in hand.
"I bid ye welcome to McKenna Castle, Sir Gideon," Lady Aileen said.
"Ye're not a Highlander," the McKenna observed, his eyes narrowing.
Sir Gideon rose slowly from his bow. "No, Laird. My mother was French. I'm only half Scots."
"The better half," James quipped.
There was a tense bit of laughter. "I fought in the Crusade beside your son, Laird McKenna," Sir Gideon said.
"Aye, and saved my arse a time or two," James added.
He smiled warmly at his friend and the tension slowly eased. Highlanders were naturally suspicious of any that were not their own, but James's approval assured Sir Gideon's acceptance. At least for now.
"Come inside and warm yerselves by the fire," Lady Aileen said, as she entwined her arm with James's.
Malcolm felt an unexpected twinge of jealousy at her obvious favoritism, yet could understand her need to hold her second son close. For five years James had been away from them, fighting in the Crusades. He had returned last year, married soon after, then moved to take command of his wife's keep.
Though happy to have him back on Scottish soil, Lady Aileen often lamented the journey to see James and Davina took a fortnight — if the weather was fair. But the usual Highland rains and muddy roads that were so much a part of daily life added days of discomfort to the trip.
Given her choice, Lady Aileen would be content to have all her adult children — and grandchildren — living within their solid castle walls. Yet she understood James's need for independence, often remarking on how proud she was of the success he had achieved in making his wife's formerly neglected estate thrive.
Once inside the great hall, Malcolm signaled for one of the maids. "Make certain Lileas is thoroughly washed and changes into clean garments," Malcolm instructed. "And clean shoes."
The maid scrunched her nose at the offensive odor wafting off the child, yet offered Lileas her hand. His daughter gave him a pleading glance, but Malcolm stood firm, crossing his arms to show her he meant business.
Lileas's small hands curled into defiant fists as her pleading turned to a glare. Malcolm never blinked. Lileas's face began to turn red, but the maid intervened before the child's fit of temper could be aired.
A small grin escaped Malcolm's lips as he watched his silent, pouting, rank-smelling daughter being led away.
James took a seat on the dais and gestured for Sir Gideon to do the same. Their mother sat beside James, her hand resting possessively on his arm, as though she feared he would vanish if she wasn't touching him.
Excerpted from No Other Highlander by ADRIENNE BASSO. Copyright © 2017 Adrienne Basso. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I really enjoyed Joan and Malcolm's story! After surviving and leaving a horrible marriage, Joan is no longer the spoiled young woman she used to be. She just wants to live in peace with her son, but her soon to be step-mother doesn't want her around and makes life difficult for her. When Joan encounters her former husband, it doesn't go well. But lucky for her, Malcolm step in to rescue her. They soon find themselves married to eat other, when neither thought to marry again. Can this second marriage for each of them, lead to their HEA? This was a great addition to the McKennas series! I'm looking forward to the next one in the series!
I thought it was a vood read. I only wish Joans' father and ex would have gotten ther just deseerts.
Malcolm is a widower with a young daughter. When he is accused of ruining a young lady, he denies it and it must be decided among a council. Joan used to be a spoiled young woman until she married a horrible and abusive man. Now free of the marriage, she and her young son find themselves at Malcolm’s council hearing. This was a great story. I loved both of these characters. They had both been through so much and were able to eventually be a loving family. My only problem is the idea of divorce during an era where there wasn’t such a thing as divorce. It didn’t really detract from the story and I know there had to be a justification for her to not be with her husband and not be married anymore, but it still bugged me. I highly recommend and I look forward to reading more from this author. **I voluntarily read and reviewed this book
Nice i enjoyed reading the story but i feel it is unfinished there was nothing abut her ex getting what he deserved
It left a lot open. I wish it could have been longer. But it was an ok read.
In NO OTHER HIGHLANDER author Adrienne Basso creates a believable world set in the Scottish Highlands of the 1300’s. Lady Joan Armstrong Fraser both beautiful and pampered is married off to a brute of a man. He abuses her. When he finally divorces Lady Joan, she and her son go home to the chaos of her family. She must use her cunning and her beauty to keep them safe. Lady Joan prays for an honorable husband, one she can trust. Sir Malcolm McKenna, a widower with a young daughter, is falsely accused of impregnating a woman at a gathering of clans. A price is put on his head. He’s known Lady Joan since childhood and never considered her more than a beautiful spoiled brat. Sir Malcolm is surprised at the change in Lady Joan when she steps forward to protect him against the false allegations. Lady Joan and Malcolm are kidnapped by bounty hunters hoping to gain rewards for delivering Sir Malcolm to the clan of the woman who was wronged. Their attraction and trust grows as they over come many obstacles. The biggest trust issue for Lady Joan comes from all her beatings and mis-treatments of her ex-husband. Making physical love hard for her. The author treats this matter in a delicate and caring way. I was very impressed. Adrienne Basso is a new author to me. I will definitely be buying more of her books. For a compelling historical both sensitive and steamy, pick up your copy of NO OTHER HIGHLANDER today! You won’t be disappointed it is a real page turner. I received this book from Romance Junkies Reviews. The review is strictly my own opinion.
The reader is swept back to the Highlands with Malcolm and his little lass and the circumstances in which he is married to Joan. Thoroughly enjoyed the children and mischief along with the description of highland life in the 1300s. Definitely a page turner you will want to settle in and enjoy. Ebook from Netgalley and publishers with thanks. Opinions are entirely my own.
Very few men want a woman who is strong-willed, sharp-tongued, and speaks what is on her mind. I would hazard a guess that even today, a man would rather have a sweet, docile woman to do his bidding, not creating discord. Some would, however, take the challenge. Sir Malcolm, it seems, took the challenge and was rewarded greatly with a deeply felt love. The process of making that happen is what the story unfolds. A story of second chances; it is also a story of knowing what you want and finding the will to fight for it. Lady Joan could not be further from a paradigm of a woman. She, an only child, had just about anything she wanted as a child, therefore terribly spoiled. She hides real feelings behind a hauteur quite off-putting and consequently she is shunned by both male and female. She is insecure. Having been wed, now divorced, to a monster of a man who beat her verbally and physically, she uses her abrasiveness to push people away. Her father wants to remarry and wants her out of his home. She fears another marriage like the one she had and has every reason to run from her situation. But where can she run? Sir Malcolm is in a bit of a pickle. He may have impregnated a young girl when he was highly intoxicated during one of the festivals. Rather than fight with the woman’s clan, he is willing to do the honorable thing if he truly did have sex with the woman. While trying to resolve the matter, he meets Lady Joan. This isn’t the first time he’s seen her, but this is the first time his interest is engaged. She’s a beauty with a sharp mind, but with a reputation of being cold—a fate no hot-blooded man wants. Lady Joan’s character catches Malcolm’s interest. He finds her to his liking, rough edges and all. I enjoyed many scenes in this story. Author Adrienne Basso’s writing style, and steady pace building the story, is full of texture and dynamic dialogue. Her characters are well-developed. I feel the honor that permeates the MacKennas and the strength of the clan. The children and dog played an adorable part in the story. Lileas, a five-year-old demon on wheels, and Malcolm’s daughter is terribly funny with her insistence she is a motherless child and should be pitied. Lady Jane has her work cut out for her. There is a saying, what goes around comes around. You’ll appreciate what I mean when you read the story. We are introduced to Katherine, Malcolm’s sister who I’m sure will have her own story. We see the love between Malcolm’s mother and father and understand why Malcolm wants such a marriage. If you are a reader who loves your hero handsome, quick-witted, just, kind and honorable step right up and read this book. You’ll fall in love with both Malcolm and Lady Joan.
Scottish Highlands, 1334: The McKenna clan flourishes under a family of warriors, fierce and righteous, faithful to their own until the last. But to produce an heir, the widowed eldest son must risk his heart again . . . Lady Joan Armstrong Fraser was once the indulged and pampered daughter of a laird. But marriage to a brute changed her. When he sets her aside, she has only her wits and her beauty to protect herself and her child from the chaos of her former home. She will have to find another husband—a man whose strength is more than a weapon against the weak. A man she can trust . . . if such a man even breathes. Sir Malcolm McKenna has known Lady Joan since her childhood, a spoiled princess as dangerous as she is lovely. But when she steps forward to protect him against a false accusation, he discovers a character stronger than he guessed—and an attraction he yearns to explore . . . Review: The story was an attention grabber from the moment I picked it up to read. Malcolm and Joan are seemingly opposites attracting, but there is a lot more to both of these characters. First, Joan may seem aloof but she has been protecting herself from heartache from a young age. Her father and clan basically want nothing to do with and then she is lucky to walk away from her first marriage alive, so she has a tough outer shell. Though she really wants to love and be loved. Malcolm, you would think from being the lairds oldest son would be a gruff and tuff warrior, well he is but like Joan he has a gooey center for those he loves. When Malcolm has to visit her home to prove his innocence in a paternity case, Malcolm gets a glimpse of the woman Joan really is and sets out to help her. His help is a marriage...lol They grow closer and more in love as they move back to Malcolm's home. And that is all I am giving away, read the book if you want more. I really enjoyed the setting of this book and I thought the Author did a great job of immersing me into the time period. The characters were really great and I loved both of them. They were both smartly written and fierce. There was great action scenes as well as tender moments...and you cannot forget the sexy times were quite steamy. This was a new to me Author and I liked this book so much, I will definitely seek more of her work. Now this is the second book in the series but can totally be read as a stand alone title. 4Stars *I voluntarily read an advance reader copy of this book provided by the publisher.*
Great Highland Romance, I really liked it. Malcom is the widowed eldest son and must find a new wife to produce an heir. When Joan who he knew as a pampered princess as a child protects him he sees her in a whole new light. The story is fast paced with lots of suspense and drama, I was hooked from beginning to end.
Great characters in a believable plot took me away to the Scottish Highlands of the early 1300’s. Malcolm McKenna was a wonderful book boyfriend – not perfect but oh so wonderful. Joan Armstrong was a woman of depth that needed a protector and found that and more in Malcolm. They had history that could have kept them apart – it didn’t. They had history that could have kept them from loving – but it didn’t. They faced trials that could have kept them apart – but they overcame them. This was a wonderful book that stood alone easily though it had a predecessor that told the story of Malcolm’s brother James and no doubt introduced the main characters of this book. I hope there will be more books in this series though I picked up online that the author might be heading to a different time period for her next book. This is the first book I have read by this author – I hope to find more of her books to read in the future! Thank you to NetGalley and Kensington Books for the ARC. This is my honest review.