In the dark days after the death of Richard the Lionhearted, lives and lands would fall into upheaval at the hands of a power-hungry British ruler and his violent minions. One victim of the scourge is innocent Gillian, who is a mere child when the cruel and ambitious Baron Alford slaughters her father and tears her family apart. Alford, determined to recover a jeweled box for the despotic King John, is furious when the precious treasure slips through his fingers—only to be lost for more than a decade.
Now a beautiful young woman, Gillian finds the key to resolving her past in handsome Scottish chieftains Ramsey Sinclair and Brodick Buchanan. With the cunning and courage of the daring Scotsmen, and with the friendship of a new ally, Bridgid KirkConnell, Gillian at last fights the unscrupulous Baron Alford, laying claim to her home, her family, and her father's reputation. But in the presence of the mighty warrors, Gillian and Bridgid discover that desire can be a weapon of conquest, betrayal can slay trust in a heartbeat, and the greatest risk of all is to surrender to unexpected love.
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Scotland, fourteen years later
The fate of the entire MacPherson clan rested in the hands of Laird Ramsey Sinclair. With the recent birth of Alan Doyle and the peaceful passing of Walter Flanders, there were exactly nine hundred and twenty-two MacPhersons, and the vast majority of those proud men and women desperately wanted and needed Ramsey's protection.
The MacPhersons were in a bad way. Their laird, a sad-eyed, mean-tempered old man named Lochlan, had died the year before, by his own hand, God forgive him. His clansmen had been stunned and appalled by their laird's cowardly act and still could not talk openly about it. None of the younger men had successfully challenged for the right to lead the clan; though, in truth, most didn't want to fill Lochlan's shoes because they believed he had tainted the position by killing himself. He had to have been mad, they reasoned, because a sane man would never commit such a sin, knowing that he would spend eternity burning in hell for giving God such an insult.
The two elders who had stepped forward to temporarily lead the MacPherson clan, Brisbane Andrews and Otis MacPherson, were old and worn-out from more than twenty years of off-and-on fighting with the land-hungry clans to the east, south, and west of their holding. The fighting had intensified tenfold after the death of their laird, for their enemies knew their vulnerability with the lack of leadership. Desperate times called for cunning measures, however, and so Brisbane and Otis, with their clan's approval, decided to approach Laird Ramsey Sinclair during the annual spring festival. The social opportunity seemed the ideal time to present their petition, as it was an unspoken rule that all the clans leave their animosity at home and join together as one family for two full weeks of competition and goodwill. It was a time when old friendships were renewed, harmless grudges were stirred up, and most important, marriage contracts were sealed. Fathers of young daughters spent most of their days frantically trying to protect their offspring from unwanted suitors while at the same time trying to make the best possible match. Most of the men found it a thoroughly invigorating time.
Because the Sinclair land bordered the MacPherson holding on the southern edge, Ramsey assumed that the MacPherson leaders wanted to talk to him about a possible alliance, but as it turned out, the old men wanted much more. They were after a union -- a marriage, so to speak -- between the two clans and were willing to give up their name and become Sinclairs if the laird would give them his solemn word that every MacPherson would be treated as though he had been born a Sinclair. They wanted equality for every one of their nine hundred and twenty-two clansmen.
Ramsey Sinclair's tent was the size of a large cottage and spacious enough to accommodate the gathering. There was a small round table in the center with four chairs and several mats strewn around the ground for sleeping. Ramsey's commander in arms, Gideon, and two other seasoned Sinclair warriors, Anthony and Faudron, his trusted leaders, were present. Michael Sinclair, Ramsey's younger brother, fidgeted in the shadows while he waited for permission to rejoin the festivities. The child had already been rebuked for interrupting the meeting and kept his head bowed in embarrassment and shame.
Brisbane Andrews, a cantankerous old man with a piercing gaze and raspy voice, stepped forward to explain why the MacPhersons sought a merger.
"We have young soldiers, but they are poorly trained and cannot defend our women and children against our aggressors. We need your strength to keep the predators at bay so that we may live a peaceful life."
Otis MacPherson, a legend in the Highlands because of his remarkable though highly embellished feats as a young man, sat down in the chair Ramsey offered, clasped his hands on his knobby knees, and nodded toward Michael. "Perhaps, Laird, it would be best if you would listen to your brother's request and allow him to be on his way before we continue this discussion. Children often repeat secrets by accident, and I wouldn't like anyone to know about this...merger...until you have either accepted or denied us."
Ramsey agreed and turned to his brother. "What is it you want, Michael?"
The boy was still terribly timid around his older brother, for he barely knew him, having seen him only a couple of times in his short life. Ramsey had been living at the Maitland holding as an emissary after his mandatory years of training to become a fit warrior and had returned to his Sinclair home when their father had called for him on his deathbed. The brothers were nearly strangers to one another, but Ramsey, though somewhat inept at dealing with children, was determined to rectify that situation as soon as possible.
"I want to go fishing with my new friend," Michael stammered, his head still bowed low, "if it's all right with you, Laird."
"Look at me when you ask your question," Ramsey instructed. Michael quickly did as he was ordered and repeated his request, adding the word "please" this time.
Ramsey could see the fear in his brother's eyes and wondered how long it was going to take for the boy to get used to having him around. The child still mourned their father, and Ramsey knew that Michael felt as though he had been abandoned. The boy didn't remember his mother -- she had passed away when he was just a year old -- but he had been extremely close to their father and still had not recovered from his death. Ramsey hoped that with time and patience Michael would learn to trust him and perhaps even remember how to smile again.
"You won't go near the falls, and you'll be back in this tent before sunset," he ordered quietly.
"I'll be back before sunset," Michael promised. "Can I leave now?"
"Yes," Ramsey answered, then watched in exasperation as his brother tripped over his own feet and knocked a chair over in his haste to join his friend.
"Michael," he called as his brother was rushing out the entrance, "haven't you forgotten something?"
The child looked puzzled until Ramsey nodded to the visitors. Michael immediately ran to the two men, bowed to his waist, and blurted out, "May I take your leave?"
Otis and Brisbane gave their permission, smiling as they watched the child bolt outside.
"The boy resembles you, Laird," Brisbane commented. "'Tis the truth he's your very image, for I well remember you as a lad. God willing, Michael will also grow into a fine warrior. A leader of men."
"Yes," Otis agreed, "with proper guidance, he could become a great leader, yet I couldn't help but notice that the child fears his brother. Why is that, Laird?"
Ramsey wasn't offended by the question, as the old man spoke the truth and was simply making an observation. "I'm a stranger to the boy, but in time he'll learn to trust me."
"And trust that you won't leave him?" Otis asked.
"Yes," he answered, realizing how perceptive the old man was.
"I remember when your father decided to marry again," Brisbane remarked. "I thought Alisdair was too old and set in his ways to take another wife. Your mother had been dead over ten years, but he fooled me, and he seemed very content. Did you ever meet Glynnes, his second wife?"
"I attended their wedding," he said. "Because she was so much younger than my father, he was certain he would die first and he wanted to be sure she was well provided for," he explained.
"And he asked this of you?" Otis inquired, smiling.
"I am his son," Ramsey responded. "I would do whatever he asked."
Otis turned to his friend. "Laird Sinclair would never turn his back on anyone in need."
Ramsey had wasted enough time talking about personal matters and turned the discussion back to the primary subject. "You have said you want my protection, but could you not achieve this with a simple alliance?"
"Your soldiers would have to patrol our borders night and day," Otis said. "And in time they would grow weary of the duty, but if you owned the land..."
"Yes," Brisbane eagerly agreed. "If the Sinclairs owned the land, you would protect it at all cost. We have -- " He suddenly stopped, for he was so stunned by the fact that Ramsey had moved forward to pour wine into their empty goblets, he lost his train of thought. "You are laird...yet you serve us as though you are our squire. Do you not know the power you hold?"
Ramsey smiled over their bewilderment. "I know that you are guests in my tent," he answered, "and my elders. It is therefore my duty to see to your comfort."
The men were honored by his words. "You have your father's heart," Otis praised. "It is good to see Alisdair lives on in his son." The laird accepted the compliment with a nod and then gently led the men back to the topic he most wanted to discuss. "You were saying that I would protect your land at all costs if I owned it?"
"Aye," Otis agreed. "And we have much to offer in return for this union. Our land is rich with resources. Our lakes are glutted with fat fish, our soil is rich for planting, and our hills are filled with sheep."
"Which is why we are being constantly attacked on all our borders by the Campbells and the Hamiltons and the Boswells. They all want our land, our water and our women, but the rest of us can go to hell."
Ramsey didn't show any outward reaction to the passionate speech. He began to pace about the tent with his head bowed and his hands clasped behind his back.
"With your permission, Laird, I would ask a few questions," Gideon requested.
"As you wish," Ramsey told his commander.
Gideon turned to Otis. "How many soldiers do you count among the MacPhersons?"
"Nearly two hundred," he answered. "But as Brisbane explained, they have not been properly trained."
"And there are one hundred more of an age to begin training," Otis interjected. "You could make them invincible, Laird," he said. "As invincible as Laird Brodick Buchanan's Spartans. Aye, it's possible, for they already have the minds and hearts of warriors."
"You call Brodick's soldiers Spartans?" Gideon asked, smiling.
"We do, for that is what they are," Otis replied. "Haven't you heard the stories about the Spartans of times past from your fathers and grandfathers as we have?"
Gideon nodded. "Most of the stories have been exaggerated."
"Nay, most are true," Otis replied. "The stories were written down by the holy monks and retold countless times. They were a barbaric tribe," he added with a frown. "Sinfully proud but extremely brave. It was said they would rather die by the blade than lose an argument. 'Tis my opinion they were a stubborn lot."
"We wouldn't want our soldiers to be as ruthless as the Buchanan warriors," Brisbane hastily interjected.
Ramsey laughed. "Aye, Brodick's soldiers are ruthless." His smile faded as he added, "Know this, gentlemen. Though we are often at odds, I count Brodick as one of my closest friends. He is a brother to me. However, I will not take exception to what have said about him, for I know Brodick would be pleased to know that you think him ruthless."
"The man rules with passion," Otis said.
"Yes, he does," Ramsey agreed. "But he is also fair to a fault." "You were both trained by Iain Maitland, weren't you?" Brisbane asked.
"Laird Maitland rules his clan with wisdom."
Ramsey concurred. "I also count Iain as my friend and brother."
Otis smiled. "Brodick rules with passion, Iain with wisdom, and you, Laird Ramsey, rule with an iron hand of justice. We all know you to be a compassionate man. Show us your mercy now," he pleaded.
"How can you know what kind of leader I am?" he asked. "You call me compassionate, but I've only been laird for six months and I've yet to be tested."
"Look at your commanders," Brisbane said with a nod. "Gideon and Anthony and Faudron led and controlled the Sinclair clan when your father was ill, and after he died and you became Laird, you didn't do what others in your position would have done."
"And what would they have done?"
"Replace the commanders with men you know would be loyal you."
"We are loyal to our laird," Gideon blustered. "You dare to suggest otherwise?"
"Nay," Brisbane countered. "I'm merely saying that other lairds would be less...confident...and would rid themselves of any competitors. That is all. laird, you showed compassion by allowing them to stay in their important positions."
Ramsey didn't agree or disagree with the old man's judgment. "As I just mentioned, I've been laird for a very short time, and there are problems I must solve within the Sinclair clan. I'm not certain that now is the time to -- "
"We can't wait any longer, Laird. The Boswells have declared war and there's talk that they'll align themselves with the Hamiltons. If that happens, the MacPhersons will all be destroyed."
"Would your soldiers willingly pledge themselves to Ramsey?" Gideon asked.
"Aye, they would," Otis insisted.
"All of them?" the Sinclair commander persisted. "There are no dissenters?"
Otis and Brisbane glanced at one another before Otis answered. "There are but a few against this union. Before we came to you with our proposal, we put it to a vote four months ago. Everyone, man and woman, was included."
"You let your women vote?" Gideon asked, incredulous.
Otis smiled. "Aye, we did, for we wanted it to be fair, and our women will also be affected by the union. We wouldn't have thought to include them if Meggan MacPherson, granddaughter of our past laird, hadn't insisted on it."
"She is a most outspoken woman," Brisbane added, though the glint in his eye indicated he didn't see that as a flaw.
"If you voted four months ago, why are you just now making this request to Ramsey?" Gideon asked.
"We've actually voted twice now," Otis explained. "Four months ago we put the vote to the clan and then allowed a period for everyone to consider the matter again. The first vote went in favor of the union, but by a smaller margin."
"We didn't want it to be said that we rushed such an important issue," Brisbane added. "So we gave them time to consider all the ramifications. Then we voted again."
"Yes," Otis said. "Many who were at first against the union changed their minds and voted in favor."
"We shouldn't have waited so long to come to you, Laird, because now our situation has become critical."
"What was the result of the second vote?" Ramsey asked. "How many of your soldiers are still against the union?"
"Sixty-two are still against, and all of them are young, very young," Otis said.
"Pride has colored their judgment," Brisbane volunteered.
"They're led by a stubborn-headed rebel named Proster, but all the others were in favor of the union, and the majority rules."
"Will the dissenters go along with the decision?" Ramsey asked.
"Yes, but grudgingly," Otis admitted. "If Proster can be won over, the others will come with him. There is a simple way to gain their loyalty...a very simple way."
"And what might that be?"
"Marry Meggan MacPherson," Brisbane blurted out. "And unite us by marriage."
"Men have married for far less than what we offer you," Otis interjected.
"And if I choose not to marry Meggan?"
"I would still plead with you if that is what it will take to get your agreement to let our clan unite with yours. Marriage to a MacPherson would only make the union stronger. My clan...my children...need your protection. Just two weeks ago, David and Lucy Douglas were murdered, and their only sin was that they ventured too close to the border. They were newly wed."
"We cannot lose any more of our good people, and if you do not take us in, one by one we will be hunted down. What will happen to our children?" Brisbane asked. "We have boys your brother's age," he added in an attempt to sway the laird.
Ramsey couldn't turn his back on their cry for help. He knew the lengths the Boswells would go to in order to claim more land. None of their soldiers would think twice about killing a child.
"The Boswells are jackals," he muttered.
Gideon knew his laird well and had already guessed what his answer was going to be. "Ramsey, will you put this matter to our clan before you give these men your decision?"
"I will not," he answered. "The matter isn't open for discussion."
Gideon held his frustration. "But will you think about this before you decide?"
Knowing his commander was trying to caution him to wait and was wanting a private discussion before any commitment was made, Ramsey gave Gideon a brisk nod before addressing the MacPhersons again.
"Gentlemen, you will have my answer in three hours' time. Does that suit you?"
Otis nodded as he stood. "With your permission, we will return then to hear your answer."
Brisbane latched onto his friend's arm. "You've forgotten to tell him about the competition," he whispered loudly.
"What competition?" Gideon asked.
Otis visibly colored. "We thought...to save our soldiers' pride, that you would agree to compete in a series of games. We can't possibly win, but it would be easier to give up our name and take the Sinclair name if we were soundly beaten in games of strength."
Gideon stepped forward. "And if you should win?"
"But we wouldn't," Otis insisted.
"But if you did?"
"Then the Sinclairs give up their name. You would still rule as laird, Ramsey, but you would become a MacPherson, and the man who bested you would become your first in command."
Gideon was outraged, but Ramsey had the opposite reaction. So absurd was the request, he felt like laughing. He forced himself to maintain his stern expression as he said, "I have a commander and am well pleased with him."
"But, Laird, we thought only -- " Otis began.
Ramsey cut him off. "My commander stands before you, gentlemen, and you insult him mightily with your proposal."
"What if you were to put the question to your clan?" Brisbane asked. "The games have only just started and there are still two full weeks. You could compete at the end of the games."
"Then I, like you, would want every man and woman to have a say, and since most are not attending the festival, I assure you it would take months before everyone had voted. We would have to wait until next year to compete."
"But we cannot wait that long for a decision," Otis said.
"I will be completely honest with you and tell you I wouldn't give the matter to my clan to decide anyway. The mere suggestion is obscene. The Sinclair name is sacred. However, since you say you wish only to save your soldiers' pride, if I decide on this union, then I will also suggest they compete for positions within my ranks under my commander. Those MacPherson soldiers who show strength and courage against my soldiers will be personally trained by Gideon."
Otis nodded. "We'll return then in three hours to hear your answer," he said.
"God guide you in making this momentous decision," Brisbane added as he followed his friend outside.
Ramsey laughed softly. "We've just been led down a crooked path," he remarked. "Otis believes the MacPherson soldiers could beat us and then he would have it all. Our protection and his name."
Gideon wasn't amused. "They come to you with hat in hand, begging, but then they have the audacity to put conditions on you at the same time. They are outrageous."
"What say you, Anthony?" he asked Gideon's second in command.
"I'm against this union," the yellow-haired soldier muttered. "Any man who would willingly give up his name disgusts me."
"I feel the same," Faudron interjected, his hawk-like face red with anger. "Brisbane and Otis are despicable."
"Nay, they're simply cunning old men who want the best for their clan. I've known for some time now that they were going to come to me, and I've had time to contemplate the matter. Tell me, Gideon, are you in favor of such a union?"
"I know you are," he replied. "Your heart is too soft, Laird. It's a troubling flaw, that. I see the problems involved in such a union."
"So do I," Ramsey said. "But Otis is right; they have much to offer in return. More important is their cry for help, Gideon. Can you turn your back on them?"
His commander shook his head. "Nay, the Boswells would slaughter them. However, I'm most concerned about Proster and the other dissenters."
"They've had time to come to terms with this union," Ramsey reminded him. "You heard what Otis said. They first voted four months ago. Besides, we'll keep a close eye on them."
"Your mind's made up, isn't it?"
"Yes, I'll welcome them into our clan."
"There'll be problems with our soldiers..."
Ramsey slapped Gideon's shoulder. "Then we'll deal with them," he said. "Don't look so bleak. Let's put the matter aside for now and join the festivities. Iain and Judith Maitland have been here since yesterday afternoon and I've still not spoken to them. Let's hunt them down."
"There is one more pressing matter you must attend to first," he said.
Ramsey dismissed Anthony and Faudron and then said to Gideon, "I can see from your grin the matter isn't serious."
"To your faithful soldier, Dunstan Forbes, the matter is very serious. You might as well sit down, Laird, for Dunstan has requested permission to marry Bridgid KirkConnell."
Ramsey was suddenly weary. "How many does this make now?"
Gideon laughed. "Including me, I count seven proposals in all, but Douglas swears there have been eight."
Ramsey sat down and stretched his long legs out in front of him. "Does Bridgid know about this latest suitor?"
"Not yet," he answered. "But I have taken the liberty of sending for her. She's waiting outside, and you will at last meet the thorn in your side." After making the comment, he burst into laughter.
Ramsey shook his head. "Do you know, Gideon, all this time I believed that when I challenged you for the position of laird, I beat you fairly."
Gideon instantly sobered. "But you did beat me fairly."
"Are you certain you didn't let me win just so you wouldn't have to deal with Bridgid KirkConnell?"
Gideon laughed again. "Perhaps," he said. "I'll admit I like being in her presence, for she's a beautiful woman and a true delight to observe. She has a spirit few other women possess. She's quite...passionate...but alas, she's also as stubborn as a Buchanan. I'm glad now she turned me down, for I have no wish to marry such a difficult woman."
"How is it that I have had to deny three proposals on this woman's behalf while I have been laird but I have yet to meet her?"
"She sent her refusals from her uncle's home in Carnwath. I specifically remember telling you that I had given her permission to help her aunt with the new bairn. They, too, are here at the festival."
"If you told me, I've forgotten," he said. "I do remember her rejections though. She always sent back the same message.
"I've a feeling she'll say those very words today and Dunstan will join the rapidly growing ranks of the brokenhearted."
"My father is to blame for this nuisance duty I'm now saddled with because he was the one who gave his promise to Bridgid's father that she could choose her husband. It's unthinkable to me that she alone will decide her future."
"You don't have a choice in the matter," Gideon said. "You must honor your father's word. Bridgid's father was a noble warrior, and he was on his deathbed when he forged this promise. I wonder if he knew how stubborn his daughter was going to be."
Ramsey stood and then suggested Gideon call Bridgid inside. "And stop grinning," he ordered. "This is an important matter to Dunstan, and we shall treat it as such. Who knows? She may say yes to his proposal."
"Aye, and it might rain pigs this afternoon," Gideon drawled as he folded back the flap of the tent. He hesitated, turned back to his laird, and in a soft voice asked, "Have you ever had your head turned by a lady?"
The question exasperated Ramsey. "No, I haven't."
"Then I'd brace myself if I were you. I swear your head's going to spin."
A moment later, Gideon's prediction almost came true, as Bridgid KirkConnell walked into the tent and literally knocked the wind out of her laird. She was an astonishingly pretty young lady, with fair skin, sparkling eyes, and sinfully curly, long honey-colored hair that floated beyond her shoulders. Her gentle curves were in all the right places, and Ramsey was surprised that there had been only eight proposals.
She made a curtsy, smiled ever so sweetly up at him, and said, "Good day to you, Laird Ramsey."
He bowed. "So we meet at last, Bridgid KirkConnell. I've had to break the hearts of several suitors on your behalf without benefit of knowing why those good men were so anxious to wed such an obstinate woman. Now I understand the reason my soldiers are so persistent."
Her smile vanished. "But we have met before."
He shook his head. "I assure you that if I had met you, I would not have forgotten."
"But it's true, we did meet," she insisted. "And I remember our encounter as though it had taken place just yesterday. You had come home for your cousin's wedding. While my parents were attending the celebration, I decided to go swimming in the lake beyond the glen. You fished me out."
He clasped his hands behind his back and tried to concentrate on what she was telling him. Gideon hadn't exaggerated. She was an extraordinary woman.
"And why did I fish you out?"
"I was drowning."
"Didn't you know how to swim, lass?" Gideon asked.
"Much to my surprise, I didn't."
She smiled again, and Ramsey's heartbeat began to race. He was stunned by his own reaction to the woman, for he couldn't get past the fact that she was so damned pretty. It wasn't like him to behave like this -- he wasn't a boy and he had certainly been in the presence of comely women before. It was her smile, he decided then. It was really quite infectious.
He wondered if Gideon was experiencing a similar response to the lass, and just as soon as he could find the discipline to stop gawking at her, he'd look at his commander.
"If you didn't know how to swim, why did you go in the lake?" Gideon asked, trying to make sense out of such an illogical act.
She shrugged. "Swimming didn't look difficult, and I was sure I could figure it out, but alas, I was mistaken."
rd"You were a bold lass," Gideon commented.
"Nay, I was stupid."
"You were young," Ramsey offered.
"You must have turned your parents' hair white," Gideon said.
"I was accused of doing just that on several occasions," she replied before turning her attention to Ramsey again. "I understand why you don't remember. I've changed in my appearance and it has been a long while. I'm grown up now, but I'm not obstinate, Laird. Truly I'm not."
"You should have married by now," Ramsey said. "And it would seem to me that you are being difficult. All of the men who have proposed marriage are fine and worthy soldiers."
"Yes, I'm certain they are good men," she agreed.
Ramsey took a step toward her. She took a step back, for she knew what was coming and wanted to be close to the opening of the tent so she could make a quick exit.
Ramsey noticed her glancing over her shoulder and thought she might be judging the distance to freedom. He maintained his serious demeanor, but it was difficult. Her panic made him want to laugh. Was marriage that repulsive to her?
"Now another soldier has stepped forward to ask for your hand in marriage," he said. "His name is Dunstan. Do you know him?"
She shook her head. "No, I don't."
"He's a good man, Bridgid, and he would certainly treat you well."
"Why?" she asked.
"Why what?" he countered.
"Why does he want to marry me? Did he give you a reason?"
Since Ramsey hadn't spoken to Dunstan personally, he turned to Gideon. "Did he give you a reason? "
The commander nodded. "He wants you."
Ramsey could tell from the hesitation in Gideon's voice that he wasn't telling her the full story. "Give her his exact words," he ordered.
Gideon's face colored. "Surely the lass doesn't wish to hear every word, Laird."
"I think she does," Ramsey countered. "And Dunstan expects us to speak for him."
The commander scowled to cover his embarrassment. "Very well then. Bridgid KirkConnell, Dunstan swears his love for you. He treasures your beauty and worships the very ground you...float upon....As God is my witness, those were his very words."
Ramsey smiled, but Bridgid wasn't the least bit amused. Insulted by the declaration, she tried to hide her feelings, knowing that her laird wouldn't understand. How could he? He was a man and, therefore, couldn't possibly know what was in her heart.
"How can this be?" she asked. "I have not even met this man, yet he declares his love for me?"
"Dunstan is a good man," Gideon told her. "And I believe he means what he says."
"He's clearly infatuated with you," Ramsey added. "Would you like time to consider his proposal? Perhaps if you were to sit down with him and discuss this matter -- "
"No," she blurted out. "I don't want to sit down with him, and I don't need time to consider his proposal. I would like to give my answer now. Would you please tell Dunstan that I thank him for his proposal, but..."
"But what?" Gideon asked.
"I won't have him."
Those were the identical words she had used to deny eight other men.
"Why not?" Ramsey demanded, his irritation obvious.
"I don't love him."
"What does love have to do with a marriage proposal? You could learn to love this man."
"I will love the man I marry or I won't marry at all." After making her vehement statement, she took another step back.
"How do I reason with such an absurd belief?" Ramsey asked Gideon.
"I don't know," he replied. "Where could she have gotten such notions?"
Their rudeness in openly discussing her as though she weren't even there angered and frustrated her, but she tried to control her temper because Ramsey was her laird and she should respect his position.
"You won't change your mind about Dunstan?" Ramsey asked.
She shook her head. "I won't have him," she repeated.
"Ah, Bridgid, you are a stubborn lass to be sure."
Being criticized a third time stung her pride, and she found it impossible to keep silent any longer.
"I have been in your presence less than ten minutes, but in that short while you have called me obstinate, difficult, and stubborn. If you are through insulting me, I would like to join my aunt and uncle."
Ramsey was astonished by her burst of anger. She was the first woman ever to speak to him in such a tone. Her behavior bordered on insolence, yet he couldn't fault her because he had said those very words to her, and they were insulting.
"You will not speak to your laird with such disrespect," Gideon commanded. "Your father would turn in his grave if he could hear you now."
She lowered her head, but Ramsey saw the tears in her eyes. "Let's leave her father out of this," he said.
"But, Laird, at the very least she should apologize."
"Why? I insulted her, though not deliberately, and for that I apologize."
Her head snapped up. "You apologize to me?"
Her smile was radiant. "Then I must tell you I'm sorry for being so contrary." She bowed, then turned and ran outside.
Gideon frowned after her. "She's a difficult woman," he remarked. "I pity the man who does marry her, for he will have a fine battle on his hands."
Ramsey laughed. "But what an invigorating battle it would be."
Gideon was surprised by the comment. "And would you be interested in pursuing a -- "
A shout stopped his question and he turned to the entrance just as a young soldier came running inside the tent. He was Emmet MacPherson's son, Alan, and he looked as though he had just seen the ghost of his father.
"Laird, come quickly. There's been a terrible accident...terrible...at the falls," he stammered, panting for breath. "Your brother...oh, God, your little brother..."
Ramsey was already running outside when Alan's next words hit him.
Copyright © 1999 by Julie Garwood
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On Tuesday, February 16th, barnesandnoble.com welcomed Julie Garwood to discuss RANSOM.
Moderator: Good evening, Julie Garwood! Welcome back -- a third time! We are so glad you could join us to talk about RANSOM. How are you this evening?
Julie Garwood: Great! I am just happy to be online.
Lisbeth from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Dear Mrs. Garwood, just a quick note: I received RANSOM as a Valentine's gift and, needless to say, what a great gift! I started reading it that same night and couldn't put it down. I finished it around four in the morning and once again I wanted so much to be able to meet these characters and laugh and smile with them. I only have one question really -- well, OK, two: What is the source of your inspiration in writing about such lively characters and making the castles and land come to life for your readers? Do you feel any pressure to always outperform your last book/story? Just another curious (ahem, nosy) reader. Your faithful reader, Lisbeth Lopez.
Julie Garwood: Vivid imagination and a passion for history were my inspiration. No inspiration for the particular story line except that it was in response to hundreds of letters from readers who fell in love with two minor characters of THE SECRET. They wanted their stories to be told, and I pay attention to my readers. I always knew I would do their stories, I just didn't know when. I never compete with anyone but myself. I think it is really important as a writer to try to stretch and do better. That is always my goal. I always feel if I could just write a book once more. I am never satisfied with the end result and I worry. I do, I do. I worry I will disappoint the reader so I am really happy RANSOM has been well received. It has really been phenomenal.
Hannah from Richmond: As a writer, what draws you to the medieval era as a setting for a romance? Is this your favorite period to capture?
Julie Garwood: I am a history major and when I took the ancient and medieval courses I fell in love with the period. I like everything about feudalism -- where everyone has a place from the moment they are born. And being a daydreamer, I wonder about the people who don't fit and that is who I want to write about. Yes, it is my favorite period to capture.
Heather Hurley from Massachusetts: I have to tell you that I read RANSOM in one day. I could not put it down! I also felt the same way about THE SECRET. Now that you have had stories about Ian and Brodrick, is there any chance that you will be giving Ramsey and Bridgette their own story?
Julie Garwood: That is so funny. I have already received a flood of letters asking for their story and I promise you I will. I just can't tell you when!
Deborah Gizzi from Ossining, New York: When you are working on a new novel, do you tailor the story to fit a character you have in mind, the character to fit the story, or is the development done in tandem?
Julie Garwood: Each story, the process, is different. Some, the plot determines how a character will react. An example is COME THE SPRING. In RANSOM, I hope there is a balance but if I had to choose, it is character driven. All of my books pretty much are.
Sarah from St. Marks Place, New York City: I see that you feature characters from THE SECRET in RANSOM. What are the challenges of continuing characters' lifelines through different books? Will Gillian and Christen's story continue beyond RANSOM?
Julie Garwood: It is like a big family reunion -- it really is -- catching up with everyone. It is fun to look in and see how they are doing. And, yes, you will see these characters in other stories. I would like to validate that yes, Rain and Sun, once the commitment is made, they are together. That is what these love stories are about.
a.k.a. Lilith from somewhere out there: What is your favorite book? Who was it written by? Why do you like it, specifically? Also, what inspired you to write RANSOM? One more thing, where did you write it, and what was going on in your life? (You don't have to answer that, but could you?) Thanks a bunch! Lilith
Julie Garwood: My favorites are those that I associate with meaningful times in my life. There are so many wonderful books out there. Nancy Drew books are the first that got me excited about reading. My all time favorite is TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. It was the first book to really involve me. It made me feel and think. Two more -- Shakespeare's MERCHANT OF VENICE, because it is the first of his plays that I read and the first time I realized there is beauty in language, and last but not least, Dr. Suess's books, because they remind me of when my kids were young. I wrote RANSOM in a library in my home; it has floor-to-ceiling books. I have a ladder that slides so I can have books right up to the ceiling. There is a real wooded area behind the house so I can look out at the trees and the change of seasons. And watch the woodchuck that is going to go down in the world record book for huge! The more that is going on in my life, the happier I am. I can't work in silence. When I was a kid I worked around the dining-room table with my sibling and there was always lots of noise so I learned to block out everything around me. If there is a party going on I could probably write a good scene. When no one is home with me I have CNN blaring.
Deidre from Nebraska: I am doing a report in my American Literature class about novels that have been made into movies. Have any of your books been or are going to be made into movies?
Julie Garwood: FOR THE ROSES was purchased by Hallmark Hall of Fame and made into the movie "Rose Hill." I have written another treatment and partial screenplay. It has been optioned and who knows if it will be a movie. That wasn't based on any of my books though.
Julie Marsh from Arkansas: It's an honor to be able to chat with you. I've been trying to get my husband to read one of your books. What percentage of men read your novels?
Julie Garwood: I can't tell you the percent but I get letters from a lot of men. The funny thing is they always explain why they read it. There is always a specific reason and it is always "the battle scenes," which makes me want to write back and say, "What battle scenes?" They also like the history, I guess. Women are primarily my readers.
Brenda C. from Whitman, Massachusetts: Do you have plans to write a sequel to THE WEDDING, with Faith and Quinlan, anytime soon? Also, if you haven't been there already, I do suggest a trip to Scotland. The Scottish Highlands are even more beautiful in person.
Julie Garwood: I do want to write Quinlan's story, I just don't know when it will be, and I very much want to visit Scotland.
W.A. from California: Hi, Julie! Remember the guy that was supposed to marry the female character in THE PRIZE? I heard that you were going to do a sequel with him as the main character. Is that true? Thank you so much
Julie Garwood: I don't have any plans at the time to write his story.
Barb Smith from North Carolina: I have read all your books. I love them all. The only problem is when I finish them I have nothing else to read. I would like to know who your favorite author is so when I don't have one of your books to read I can read someone else.
Julie Garwood: I am a reader, but I don't read historical romance when I am writing one. I am just starting DIVINE SECRETS OF THE YA-YA SISTERHOOD for my book club, and I have friends I could recommend, but I don't want to leave anyone out. Trust your bookseller; if they know romance, they can recommend some great books.
Alicia from North Carolina: Will you be doing a book on Ramsey and Gillian? Or on Quinlan and Faith from THE WEDDING? This would be great (separate) stories!
Julie Garwood: Yes, I agree. They are on my list!
Amanda Blashill from Hammond, Indiana: I am 17 years old and I love all of your books. I like how you have all of your books go together and would like to know what the next book is going to be about. I like the medieval ones the best. I was hoping the next one would be about Ramsey Sinclair and Bridgit KirkConnel. (I hope I spelled their names right.) If you can't tell us what the next book is about, tell us when the next one is coming out, soon I hope. Thank You, Amanda Blashill. P.S.: When are you going to be in the Chicagoland area? I would really like to meet you.
Julie Garwood: I am a member of the Chicago Art Institute and go up there all the time. We will have to nag Barnes & Noble to set up a book signing there for me! I can't tell you when the next book will be out because I don't know. I can tell you what it is about though: Brace yourself -- it is a contemporary! Shocking, isn't it? No one thought of not writing a contemporary more than I did, but this story is driving me nuts, and I have to write it. The story only works in a contemporary setting. I love the characters -- and that is kind of important. [laughs] I really hope you will give it a try and let me know what you think!
Pearlena Patters from Columbia, Maryland: I've noticed that most of your stories are about young lovers. At least the heroine is young. I am one of your older readers -- that is, older in age! Would you consider writing a book about an older couple? You touched on that in THE GIFT, but I was thinking a whole book devoted to an older couple. Perhaps Gillian's uncle??
Julie Garwood: What a great idea! It is frustrating because I would like to write a book in which you don't know their ages or what they look like so the reader can come up with their own vision, but I like the idea of a story with an older, mature heroine.
Julie Marsh from Arkansas: Have you thought about continuing a story like you did with THE SECRET, only keep going with stories of their children; and their children's children -- then stop when you get to the 19th century?
Julie Garwood: No, I hadn't thought about that, but I think it is a great idea! It would depend on when the story comes to me, so to speak, that fits those characters.
Jewell Brown from Sedalia, Missouri: What made you decide to go back to writing about medieval times?
Julie Garwood: I always knew I wanted to write Brodick's and Ramsey's story, or at least one of them sometime, and based on the letters I decided to do it now. I am very comfortable in that arena. I love everything about it. If I ever do a time travel I would definitely go back and have my contemporary heroine or hero meet these guys. Won't that be fun!
Mary from Kansas City: Hi, Ms. Garwood. I really enjoy the humor and fun personalities you give your people. Have you ever thought about writing a television sitcom? KCMary
Julie Garwood: Whoah! Actually, I think it would be so fun to be part of a team to write for television, but my heart belongs to the novels.
Lyons from Atlanta, Georgia: What do you like to do in your free time --that is, when you aren't writing another brilliant romance?
Julie Garwood: Thank you for calling it brilliant! After I finish this I am going to Yoga, which is a stitch! I am very uncoordinated and I didn't used to be but I am determined to get back into shape. I love to go to movies. I do a lot of fund-raising and I am always available to do lunch!
Jules from Jonesboro, Arkansas: Hello, Julie! I first want to say that you are the whole reason I started reading romance novels in the first place. I love every single one of your books. I also have an active imagination and I love to think of stories. However, when I think of stories, I tend to think of them in bits and pieces. Is that how you tend to write stories or do you follow a timeline? P.S.: Just a little tid bit of a personal preference -- I would love to see a story done about Justin from THE PRIZE. I know you have a ton of books to write, but just wanted to include my plea.
Julie Garwood: Justin had a special place in my heart too. I always know the story from one scene that just comes to me or just think about. I don't know how to explain this process. It isn't bits and pieces; however, I don't use a written outline because within a scene things can happen and they are better because they are spontaneous. The goal is that each scene propels the story forward and sometimes I have to go back and take scenes out because they don't. I do have a few weird quirks. Since I began I have written three endings to every book I have written but I always send the first ending that I wrote.
W.A. from C.A.: Hi, Ms. Garwood. I've read most of your books and I would like to say that you are my favorite romance author. I was wondering if you were going to do a sequel to REBELLIOUS DESIRE with Bradford's friend the Duke of Millford as the main character? Thank you so much.
Julie Garwood: I can't tell you how many times I have been asked to do that! I think it would be difficult right now, but one of these days the story will come to me and I will sit down and do it. Regency's for me are like hot fudge sundaes -- you just have to have one every once and a while!
Susan from Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania: I have enjoyed all of your books, including RANSOM. I am always excited to see a new one of yours come out since it guarantees at least one day of great fun! I often hear writers say that the story takes over during writing. Does this happen when you write or is it really hard work to get it out?
Julie Garwood: The story takes over and the characters make me nuts at times because they kind of take over. It sounds crazy, but I guess it's what they say, as really getting involved. Still, remember, I always rewrite, rewrite, rewrite. I asked my agent, When will it get easier? And she said, When it does, you are not doing your job. But even when I am pulling my hair out and gritting my teeth, I love what I do! Does that make sense?
Lindsay from Washington: Hi. The last time you were in the barnesandnoble.com Auditorium you talked about a book called HOLY OAKS or something that you were writing. How is it coming? Will it be out soon?
Julie Garwood: That is the book I am writing now and that is my working title for it, but I don't know what the real title will be until I finish the book. I don't know when. Pocket, my publisher, has the schedule. I am really loving the story. There is a mystery in it but that isn't a surprise. I always have a little mystery in my books.
Marj from North Carolina: What is your opinion of writers groups? Are they helpful critiquing in-progress work?
Julie Garwood: I think it is real important that you belong to a writing group. Romance writers have a great organization called Romance Writers of America. It is important for a lot of reasons, but there is an energy you get from these meetings -- plus the latest marketing news, and it is a great support group. I belong to our local chapter so it doesn't matter if you are beginning this as a new career or have been at it for awhile. There is something for all of us.
Moderator: How will you celebrate New Year's Eve 1999?
Julie Garwood: I haven't made up my mind. I am trying to figure out tomorrow. I haven't made plans yet but isn't it going to be exciting!
Rachel from California: What was your goal for your writing career when you first started? Did you ever imagine you would one day be a New York Times bestselling author selling millions of books? Also, did you start writing with a pen name, or is Julie Garwood your pen name?
Julie Garwood: Julie Garwood is my real name. My goal when I started was to write a children's book as a way to get into classrooms and talk to kids about reading and also because I wanted to be a writer. At the same time I had gone back to college as a history major and I decided to write a medieval. I didn't have a writing group back then and I didn't even know that what I was writing was called a historical romance. The children's book was published and was just reissued by Pocket Books. It is called A GIRL NAMED SUMMER. Getting on the New York Times list was not a goal because I didn't even realize that a romance could get on the New York Times list. It is great, but that isn't what gets me up at 5:30am and makes me sit down at the typewriter. It is the writing! I think luck had a lot to do with it.
Moderator: What women in history do you most admire and why?
Julie Garwood: I have just been reading about Queen Elizabeth because I want to go see the movie. There are a lot of women in history that I admire. I like strong, smart women who succeed in spite of everything. Eleanor Roosevelt and way back in history -- I just read an article about Golda Meir (Israel's former prime minister).
Moderator: What advances do you think women will make in the next century?
Julie Garwood: I think that the day will come when there really will be equal pay, and I am not talking about utopia. Women have skills and strengths that I think will be recognized. I don't think it will be an issue that a candidate for president happens to be a women. At least that is what I hope.
Moderator: What three books by or about women have been most influential in your life and why?
Julie Garwood: You laugh when I say Nancy Drew, but that is the first thing I read, and the character was so smart and figured all these mysteries out. I am reading DIVINE SECRETS OF THE YA-YA SISTERHOOD. There is a special bond between women, and that is why that book has struck a chord with so many book clubs, because it defines that special friendship. When I buy a novel, I don't separate between male and female -- it is the story. One of my all time favorites, being Irish, is ANGELA'S ASHES.
Pearlena Patters from Columbia, Maryland: You have used more than one writing style. REBELLIOUS DESIRE, for instance, is totally different in style from THE GIFT. Also, in RANSOM you seem to have slightly altered your writing style again. Do you do this intentionally? Or is this reflective of an evolving process? Do you have any conscious control over the process?
Julie Garwood: The answer is -- I keep trying to get better. For a while I fought multiple viewpoints because I tend to get carried away. I like to know what everyone is thinking. I think I loosened up and hopefully got better.
Julie from Arkansas: No question. I just wanted you to know that I can't read any other author but you. I've tried. I'll pick up a some other author's book, and after the third chapter I put it back on the shelf. I finally gave them all away. You're the best!
Julie Garwood: What a compliment! Thank you but don't give up! There are great writers out there, but it sure makes me feel good to hear you say that.
Lissa from Mississippi: What made you decide to do the contemporary? Was it because of reader requests or because you just decided you needed a change? Also will the book be about Jack of Holy Oaks, Iowa? One more question: Do you ever get much time to go online?
Julie Garwood: I don't use a computer though I do own one and one of these days I am going to learn to use it! The contemporary was not because I wanted to do something different, but it is a story I want to tell. It has to take place in a contemporary arena. I changed the name of the hero already but the story is the same and I really, really like these guys. I hope you will too.
Rose Burch from Albany, New York: I am such a huge fan of all your characters. Will you ever consider writing a book centered on the servants? Sterns is such a wonderful character and it might be fun to see their perspective on life taking care of the gentry.
Julie Garwood: I don't think I would do it as the primary but boy I would love to see Sterns again as a secondary.
Lindsay from Washington: Are you ever going to have books with the Claybornes again?
Julie Garwood: Hmmm...one of the characters in the contemporary I am doing carries a compass that has been passed down in his family over the years so I guess I am doing it right now.
Regina from Kansas: Julie, do you enjoy writing your books as much as your fans (like me) enjoy reading them?
Julie Garwood: I really, really love what I do, even when it isn't going well. I am so fortunate. There are times when I have actually laughed out loud but the odd thing is that when people write to tell me what was funny in a story, it is never what I thought was funny. Never!
Kristina from California: Hello, I've read many of your books and they always keep me up well past the time when I should've gone to sleep. I'm looking forward to reading RANSOM. I am curious whether you write every day according to a regular schedule or if your work is more flexible. Thanks!
Julie Garwood: I like to work everyday. I usually start around 5:30am but by three in the afternoon I am wiped out. If I am away from it too long I get antsy or edgy.
Barb from North Carolina: This isn't really a question. I just wanted to say my sister and I love your books. We read them and then call each other to discuss our favorites. Recently I bought my daughter A GIRL NAMED SUMMER. She loved it. I'm sure when she is old enough for your other books, she too will be a big fan
Julie Garwood: Ahh, I am glad! Tell your daughter to write to me and I will write back!
Deborah Gizzi from Ossining, New York: The Scottish novels always seem to feature an English lady that falls for a Scottish warrior. How about a novel with a Scottish lass falling for an English nobleman...and watch her adjust to English culture?
Julie Garwood: I was thinking about doing that with Bridgette in RANSOM but then I decided she needed to marry Ramsey so that is still on my to-do list.
Moderator: Thank you, Julie Garwood! Best of luck with RANSOM. Do you have any closing comments for the online audience?
Julie Garwood: I appreciate all of the lovely things you guys had to say. When a new book comes out I am always like the nervous mother and this has been a good boost for me. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I love books that portray strong, intelligent women and, in this one, a man who falls hard and forever. This is full of love, humor, great chemistry, courage, mystery, suspense, and loyalty. A must read and a keeper! No boredom here! Other books that snapped me to attention, see below.
I have read many books, but this book and Julie Garwood's other two books (The Secret, and Shadow Music)truly define the meaning of highland male-driven romance. I laughed, cried, and read until I finished each one. Then turn around and reread them at least three times a year. My daughters and other family members have recieved these books as a gift from me, and they frequently talk about how wonderful they are. I keep checking to see if Julie Garwood will take us back there again to see how the children of the main characters evolve.
I didn't think The Secret could have an equal, but this follow-up book is awesome! I loved how there were two stories going on at the same time. I loved how the character's interacted with each other. I would loved to see how Gillian did at her husband's home though. This book had you laughing, on the edge of your chair with so much suspense and a lot of surprises. Great read! Ljb
I laughed, I cried, I held my breath for the next happening. This is truly one of the best books I have read - and I am an avid reader. Alec was amazing, he made me laugh and he broke my heart, but he made you feel the wonder and vulnerability of a child. Gillian and Brodrick, along with Brodrick's guard were so much fun. I have read this book multiple times and definitely will again. Chivalry can be found in the strangest places. Thank you Ms. Garwood for such a wonderful surprise!
This was the second book I've read of Julie Garwood and I really like her writing style. Ransom tells a story of two sisters separated after the death of her father by someone in search of a treasure. Quite brutal in the beginning but this developes the intensity and urgency of the story. A lot of drama and in the end justice is served. A very good read.
It's hard to follow at first because of so many characters, but i fell in love with the book. It's romantic, heroic and it makes you want to experience it yourself.
Ransom truly puts the reader in the middle of things. From the moment I started the novel I felt as if I was part of all the adventure. I love how Julie Garwood shows the hatred between the English and the Scottish, but in turn defies this statement with the romantic matching of couples. This book was truly one of my favorites.
I could not put this book down. I truly enjoyed this book. I love how Gillians character is strong and how she speaks her mind even when she isn't supposed to. I'd like to have some of her qualities. Brodick's character is enjoyable too, especially his devotion, strength,and humor. I love how Julie Garwood always manages to put humor in her books too. I never quit smiling. I hope you read this book!
'Ransom' is one of the best books I have read of Julie Garwood's other than 'For the Roses'. 'Ransom' made me cry and laugh from one page to another. I loved the way that Gillian was strong and very proud of who she was, and very loyal to her family. I was also a little bit upset with the fact that her sister turned her away just like that. I could never put the book down for a second though. I read all the way through until I was done.
Julie Garwood is one of my two favourite romance authors. I always eagerly await her books and as usual I was more than pleased with her latest, Ransom. I love her novels of a rich and beautiful culture and a proud and passionate people, the Highlanders. Her characters as usual melt your hearts and make you smile. I absolutely loved the book and spent a lot of late nights devouring it. With Julie Garwood's books I find myself reading them over and over.
I have to say that RANSOM was my favorite of JULIE GARWOODS books,I love the medieval times ,she makes me wish i could go back to that time,I adore Brodick Buchanan enough to want more,I even liked him in THE SECRET.I love the plot to RANSOM.JULIE please if you can give us a sequel of how BRODRICK and GILLIN make out when they get to his home.I never get tired of reading about those two. JULIE you'er not keeping up with me,I have read all your books a dozens of times,i need more.I would also add to all your readers that if they have not read RANSOM to do so,they will love it as i do,and want more.I do not tell much about the book,because if i got started i will not be able to stop.
Bought this book years ago when it first came out and read it over and ocver again over the years and so i had to buy it on my nook reader. Ms. Garwood, i hope you will go back to writing historicals. I like very much youur contemperaries but the historicals are so sweet and funny so much more sentimental. Love those highlanders!!!!!!!
I Love, Love, Love this book! For those of you who read "The Secret" I have two words for you... Brodick and Ramsey! This book has it all... a brooding, alpha-male type highland laird and a strong, quirky, lovable, demure English lady. Together the fireworks fly, the banter is fantastic, lots of humor , smoking hot chemistry, and a love to last through all time! One of my favorites by Julie Garwood! A Must Read or in my case a read it over and over again book!
I loved this book. I have read it several times and it get better each read!
I bought two copies of this book...It is my favorite one of all:-)
I couldn't put this book down! From page one, I felt as though I was part of the adventure with Brodick, Gillian, Ramsey & Bridget. (Brodick and his guardsmen are an absolute hoot!) I have read this book numerous times and each time I still cry and laugh out loud as well. Julie Garwood is truly a genius when developing characters and telling a story. Her sense of humor is terrific. I have read where she was discouraged from putting so much humor in her books. Boy, were they wrong!
I am the type of person who doesn't enjoy reading much, but then I saw this book in the library and I just thought that I should read it.. And this is the best book that I have ever read in my life (so far!!!! Lady Gillian is a heroine and I love the way she always portrayed herself as a lady.
I absolutely adore this book. I have read it three times, and occasionally I will pick it up and read from random pages. I would suggest reading The Secret prior to Ransom, but reading them backwards (as I did) is far from harmful! I have thoroughly enjoyed every book of Garwood's, though Ransom is my definite favorite. I highly recommend this enchanting tale!
Julie Garwood shines in this novel. It really shows off her wonderful talent. The book is so well written it simply captures you. You can almost see the scenes take place in your mind as you read. The people have such strong characters whether hero or vilian. The mystery twisting throughout grabs you and you do not realize who is the traitor until the end just as the players figure it out. Even King John seemed very real.
I really enjoyed this story. I thought at first that it would be something that would be too much like a romance novel where the woman was helpless and the man was the strong, brave one... boy was I wrong. The way the characters were portrayed was phonominal(sp?) I think that this is a must read. If anyone has comments on this story, e-mail it to me please. ^_^
this was a wonderful book, Ms. Garwood develops her characters very well. As a young reader, I thought it had a little bit of everything, a little adventure, a little romance, a little bit about family relationships. I thought it was very exciting and kept my attention until the end.
This is a great book. I read it in ONE night. I honestly could not put it down. I couldn't wait to turn to the page. I have read all of Garwood's romance novels, and I believe this is one of her best. I look forward to reading her next book.
When writing a review, I usually have a method to my madness. I start with some kind of hook to get the reader interested. Then I move into a brief synopsis of the plot. I then move on to some personal anecdotes outlining why I loved the book. Finally, I wrap it all up with some sweet thought that leaves the reader contemplating the values of humankind. Voila, my review! However, this time, I am doing things a little different. I'm just going to tell it like it is....I'm going to lay it on the line and just say WHY I liked this book. Somehow, I need to let you know what made me say, "Sorry, son, I can't make dinner right now. Mommy's reading. Go ask Daddy." or even "I can't help with your homework right now, can't you see I'm trying to finish this book? Go ask your dad." Wow....it's shameful, but it's the truth. Now why???Reason 1: The setting. I've said this before and I'm sure I'll say it again, there is something about the Scottish Highlands that sweeps me away. I don't want to leave that magical, romantic place. Yes, it's cold and blustery, but it is also serene and epically beautiful with rolling mountains and heather-covered fields. Simply breath-taking.Reason 2: The humour. I couldn't help but laugh out loud many times in this tale. The banter between the lovers had me giggling and I especially enjoyed the "talking to" that Brodick and Ramsey had to endure from dear old Uncle Morgan. Gillian's dear uncle was old and crotchety and very dear to Gillian. He had to endure the hysterics of both Gillian and Bridgid when the two women believed their men were not going to pledge their forever love. Uncle Morgan took his frustrations out on the two warriors, letting them know that they better be good to these women because he couldn't take their whining any more!Reason 3: Hunky men. God....this book is filled with them! Iain Maitland is back. I fell in love with him in book 1 (The Secret). His dark, imposing figure sent me swooning then and now. And then there's the breathtakingly beautiful Ramsey Sinclair, described even by other men in the book as an "Adonis". Women flock to him in hordes, and I am sure that I would have been one of those fair maiden's chasing after this beautiful beast. And of course, our main hunk, Brodick Buchanan. His sheer size blocks out the sun and his long, flaxen hair and tanned skin take your breathe away. What more could a women want....beautiful, strong men and all of them wearing kilts, riding on horseback and carrying dirks!Reason 4: Great female leads. I loved Gillian. She was a formidable woman, with a will to survive and a genuine love for others. She protected the young Alec Maitland from the evil Baron Alford with nothing other than courage and strength. She's my kind of gal....tough enough, yet gentle and knowing. The second strong female character that I enjoyed was Bridgid KirkConnell. She was a fiesty young beauty who was in love with Ramsey, but of course, kept her feelings a secret, until she befriended Gillian. I loved the way she would mutter how stubborn and arrogant Ramsey was one minute, and then suck in her breathe when she looked into his eyes. She sees his flaws, and still loves him. I know where she's coming from!Reason 5: Action and mystery. This was a fast-paced book full of action and a bit of mystery that keeps the reader thinking. Who has that jeweled box and what is in it? I enjoyed the plot and the immediate adventure one takes from the very turn of the first page.Reason 6: Love. Yes, I am a sucker for a good love story. Gillian finds herself unwittingly falling for a brute of a man, and even questions how she could fall so quickly. Love isn't supposed to happen so suddenly. Is it? The following quote is a question I have even asked myself. Can love grab you by the throat and leave you breathless.....or is it only a feeling that is nurtured with time? What do you believe? "Love wasn't supposed to happen this suddenly. Gillian spent most of the ride to Ramsey's holdin