Louisa Robertson’s father is furious when he finds her acting on stage. Now, she’s being shipped off to America to marry some stranger her father thinks will bring out the “lady” in her. Luckily, Louisa’s maid agrees to switch places with her! Her maid will marry the American and get the wealthy lifestyle she’s always wanted, and Louisa can do whatever she damn well pleases––for the first time in her life.
Highlander Ian Sinclair needs an army commission, and the only way he can get one is to safely deliver the general’s Daughter-from-Hell to her intended in America. Easy, right? It would be if the lady’s companion Louisa didn’t wear breeches and do everything the exact opposite of what he orders. It’ll be a miracle if the sparks flying between Ian and Louisa don’t set the bloody ship afire before they arrive in America.
But just when Louisa thinks her plan is going to give her the acting career she wants and a Highlander to boot...Ian discovers her secret.
Each book in The Highlanders of Balforss series is STANDALONE:
* Tying the Scot
* Betting the Scot
* Forgetting the Scot
* Saving the Scot
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About the Author
Jennifer Trethewey is an actor-turned-writer who has moved her performances from the stage to the page. She would, if she could, live half of every year in Scotland. It’s the next best place to home. She never feels like a tourist in Scotland “because the people there always seem like they are expecting you, like you are a long-lost cousin come to visit.” Her love for Scotland has been translated into her first series of historical romance novels, The Highlanders of Balforss.
Trethewey’s primary experience in bringing the imaginary to life was working for one of the most successful women’s theater companies in the nation, where she was the co-founder and co-artistic director. Today, she continues to act but writes contemporary and historical fiction full-time. She lives in Milwaukee with her husband. Her other loves include dogs, movies, music, good wine, and good friends.
Read an Excerpt
May 1822, Leith Docks, Edinburgh
Ian Sinclair untied the knot in his neckcloth and began retying it again. It had to be perfect. Everything had to be perfect today.
He called to his quartermaster. "Mr. Peter!"
Peter appeared at his cabin door instantly. He must have been hovering again. "Aye, Captain."
"Are the passengers ashore?"
"The cargo?" he asked, his chin lifted while he worked at the cloth.
"Unloading as we speak, sir."
"Supplies?" He still couldn't get the bloody knot right.
"Cook's gone ashore with the list."
"And the topsail —"
"Topsail's being mended, masts are oiled, and the guns are cleaned."
"And the —"
"Everything's done, Captain."
"To hell with this blasted thing." It was hopeless. He tore at his neckcloth again. "Bloody, buggering bastard."
"Want some help with that, Captain?"
Ian dropped his hands and barked, "Peter, you're not my damned valet."
Peter smiled at his outburst. "Aye, but I tie a handsome neckcloth." He stepped forward and, in no time, took control of the situation.
Ian endured Peter's attention while he listened to the familiar sounds of the crew, their conversation relaxed now that they had made Leith Docks.
Peter finished and stepped back to inspect his work. "There now. You look smart."
He admired the knot in his glass and somehow it irritated him that Peter had done it so effortlessly. "Thanks."
Peter held out his best wool coat, tailored to a nicety, brushed clean, and buttons polished. "Sure you don't want to wear your uniform?"
"Too presumptuous," Ian said, slipping the coat over his gray waistcoat and starched white shirt. "I havenae been offered the commission, as yet."
"What else could General Robertson want to speak to you about?"
What else, indeed. Ian wanted that commission, more than he liked to admit. He needed to be back in the army — needed the order, the discipline. He was a soldier and soldiering was what he did best.
"Did you send word ahead?" Ian asked.
"Aye, Captain. They'll be expecting you." Peter smiled that knowing smile of his.
"I'm not nervous," he growled.
Peter shrugged. "Didnae say you were."
He closed his eyes and breathed in, taking that moment to gather himself, master his nerves. Nothing rattled Ian Michael Sinclair, former Captain of the 42nd Royal Highlanders of Foot and second son of Laird John Sinclair.
"Ask Murphy to find me a hack. I need to be at Edinburgh Castle by the noon hour."
"Aye, sir." Peter dashed off.
Ian took another look in the glass. Outwardly, he looked ready, but was he mentally prepared for this meeting? He'd been summoned by his former superior officer, Lieutenant Robertson, now General Sir Thomas Robertson, having earned the rank and the knighthood for his valor at Waterloo. Robertson was known informally to some as the Tartan Terror. He had acquired the name in Flanders for his ferocity. It was used by his men out of respect and admiration. Ian owed the general more than his respect. The man had saved his life at Quatre Bras seven years ago. Robertson had carried him off the field to a dressing station, alive and in one piece, but for the gaping saber gash on his thigh. For that, Ian owed him his service and whatever else the general asked of him.
"Right then," he said to his reflection. "To Castle Rock."
An hour later, Ian and Peter strode across the esplanade to Edinburgh Castle and were waved through the gatehouse. A guardsman met them at the portcullis and escorted them to the Governor's House where they were hustled inside and asked to wait in a dimly lit hall until they were called.
"I hear they'll let you see the Honors of Scotland for a shilling," Peter whispered.
"The crown and scepter, ye mean?"
"Aye, and the sword. I'd like to see the sword." Peter glanced around as though he might spot the object nearby.
"Maybe. We'll see." Raised voices somewhere in the building distracted Ian. The argument spilled into the corridor and a group of six men trying to outshout each other trailed behind a harried-looking General Robertson clad in red uniform jacket and tartan trews. At the door to his office, the general rounded on his assailants bellowing, "Enough. No more of this until tomorrow." He turned to Ian and ordered a curt, "Sinclair. Inside."
Ian followed the general into his office leaving Peter in the hallway, defenseless. Hopefully, the general's assailants weren't after blood.
The general looked a few pounds heavier and many years older than the mere seven years that had passed since their last acquaintance. He collapsed into his chair, put his elbows on the desk and his head in his hands. Ian waited patiently at attention because he didn't know how else to stand before the man. At last, the general sighed and raised his head, his eyes red with fatigue.
"It's a bloody nightmare, Sinclair."
"Is it war, then, sir?"
"Worse. His Majesty King George IV is visiting Edinburgh, the first time a monarch has set foot on Scottish soil in nearly two hundred years, and all of Scotland has gone mad." He added bitterly, "The King claims blood ties to Stuart and suddenly everyone's a Jacobite." He pointed to the door. "Those sharks you saw out there, MacDonell and Glengarry? They're threatening a clan war over who takes precedence in the plaided pageantry nonsense." The general raked a hand through his snow-white hair. "On top of that, the King has ordered his Highland regalia from his tailors, therefore, all peers of Scotland attending the King's Grand Ball must appear in traditional Highland costume." He laughed to himself and his voice pitched higher. "The only thing comical about the debacle is watching the lowlanders desperately search for their Highland ancestry and a suitable tartan."
"Is there something I can do to help, sir?" Something like a commission, perhaps? A regiment to lead? A garrison to command?
The general regarded him for an uncomfortably long time, then pointed. "Have a seat, Sinclair."
"Thank you, sir."
"I hear you've been captaining your own ship these last years."
The general's mood had shifted and Ian eased himself back into the chair. "Aye, sir. The Gael Forss. It's fine work, the shipping trade, but as you know, I prefer the life of a soldier."
"A passenger vessel?"
"We can accommodate a few passengers, but mostly we ship goods up and down the coast and to and from the Continent." Ian relaxed into a comfortable conversation with the general, confident the meeting was going well.
"The Gael Forss will sail for Boston next month, sir."
"I have a favor to ask of you." The general looked unsure of himself, something Ian had never witnessed in the Tartan Terror.
"Of course, sir."
"It's a personal favor, really."
Personal? Alarms went off in Ian's head. Had an ill wind shifted the meeting off course? "Anything, sir."
"Good. I knew I could count on you."
Shite. He'd just agreed to do whatever the hell the general had on his mind. He hoped it had nothing to do with treason or murder.
"I need you to escort my daughter to Connecticut to meet her fiancé."
Disappointment rose up the back of Ian's throat and he swallowed hard. "You want me to take your daughter to Connecticut aboard the Gael Forss, sir?"
Bloody frigging hell. A goddamned child minder. That's the commission the general had in store for him. His daughter's chaperone. Sweat beaded on his forehead and the knot in his neckcloth Peter had tied so perfectly was beginning to choke him. "I see."
"Now, I know you were hoping for a commission. Do this favor for me, deliver my daughter into the hands of her fiancé, and there will be a choice assignment waiting for you when you return." The general rose and held out his hand. Apparently, everything was settled and the meeting was over.
Dazed, he stood and shook hands. "Thank you for this opportunity, sir," he said, as a matter of form.
"I'm afraid I won't be present to see my daughter off. I'm leaving today for Belfast. Her brother Connor will take care of the arrangements. She'll have a companion, of course. I trust that's no problem."
"Not at all, sir."
"Good," the general said. "Again, my thanks. I have complete confidence in you. Good day, Sinclair."
Ian saluted, turned on his heel, and exited the office.
Peter waited in the hallway looking expectantly at him. "Did you get the commission?"
He blinked. "Aye, but first I must complete the Thirteenth Labor of Hercules."
"Never mind. I need a drink."
* * *
Louisa sat on the edge of her bed and read the note her father had left before his hasty departure for Belfast. It couldn't be true. Surely there was a way to stop this madness before it was too late. She sighed a stage-worthy, "Ah, me. What am I to do?"
Mairi removed Louisa's shoes and tsked with disapproval. "The bow on your left slipper has come loose."
Louisa sighed again. "It's tragedy, pure tragedy."
"Och, it's no' so bad. I'll give it a stitch and it'll be good as new."
"Not my shoe. This." She thrust the offending note at Mairi.
"What? The letter from the general?"
"He's gone and done it. He's sending me to America to marry. The contracts are signed and passage has been arranged."
Mairi's eyes flew open wide. "America," she gasped. "You're goin' to America?"
"We both are. I wouldnae leave you behind," Louisa assured her.
"Me?" Mairi put a hand to her chest.
"A' course you're going wi' me. I cannae go alone, can I?"
"Oh, oh, miss. Is it really true? We're going to America?" Mairi fanned herself, her face a portrait of rapture. Louisa had never seen such a reaction from her normally levelheaded maid. Excitement seemed to be building inside her at an alarming rate and Louisa worried the girl might swoon.
"Bonnets, Mairi. This isnae good news. It's a disaster. He's making me marry some ..." Louisa struggled to get the word out. "Man." She stood and paced the room, angry with the general, irritated with her maid, and furious that events had brought her to this precipice.
"Who?" Mairi asked, startling Louisa out of her vigorous pacing.
"Who is it you're to marry?"
Louisa referred to the letter again. "A Mr. Edward Kirby. Oh, God." She flung herself backward onto her bed, lifted the letter in the air, and waved it like a flag of surrender.
Mairi took the letter then and read. When she'd finished, she looked at Louisa quizzically. "Whatever is there to fash aboot? This Mr. Kirby sounds like a good sort of fellow. He's a young man, got his own business — a foundry — and he's doing fine by it. He's even got a big house and servants, forby."
"I dinnae care if he's the Prince of Egypt, I willnae marry. Ever."
"Ye want to be a spinster all yer life?"
The mere sound of the word sparked Louisa's fury. She sat up and pointed an accusing finger. "Dinnae ever use that word in front of me, Mairi. You ken I hate it. It's a nasty, dirty word people use to shame women for not finding a husband, as if that's the only way for a woman to live, to attach herself to a man like his favorite hound, dependent upon him for food and shelter, left begging at his feet for an occasional pat on the head, and then forgotten in some corner of the house. Well, that's no life for me. Ever. I'll not be someone's hound and I'll not be called a spinster. I'll be my own woman. I'll run away if I have to."
"Go an' boil yer heid, ye dafty. Ye cannae run away. What would you do?"
"I could do lots of things. I could teach or run a shop or be a lady's companion. I could even be an actress," Louisa said with some reservation. She hadn't really had an opportunity to prove herself a competent actress, but she thought she could, given the chance. "I thought to run away to London and try to be an actress there. The problem is, no matter what I do, Da would just send one of my brothers to drag me home again."
"You ken very well the stage is no place for a proper young lady such as yerself. That's what got you into this mess, is it not?" Louisa reached for Mairi's hand and pulled her down to sit next to her on the bed. The girl was her maid, yes, but she was also
Louisa's only confidante and, as they were equal in age, both being twenty-two, the one person who understood her completely. She let her head rest on her friend's shoulder.
"Oh, Mairi. I wish you had been there. It was the most glorious feeling to be standin' on that stage in front of hundreds of people, everyone watching you, listening to you, loving you. If only Da had watched me just a wee while, he might have loved me." She corrected herself. "I mean, he might have liked my performance."
"Och, he's worried for ye, is all. Things will be fine. You'll see. No doubt Mr. Kirby is a worthy fellow." Mairi rose and collected the slippers for mending. "Lord knows, I'd give my eye teeth to trade places with you." She chuckled and said more or less to herself, "Aye, that'd be heaven, it would."
The ghost of an idea tickled at the back of Louisa's brain. "What did you say?"
"Pah," Mairi flapped a hand. "I was talking havers."
"No. You said you'd trade places wi' me." Perhaps she had read too many Shakespeare plays but "Were you serious?"
Mairi straightened, her brow buckled. "Wed a rich man like that and never have to work again? Have servants wait on me for a change? A' course I'd want to be you." She shook her head and continued toward the door, still laughing to herself. "Who wouldnae want to be you?"
In the next moment, a fully formed plan popped into Louisa's head and unfurled like a rug. She jumped to her feet and called, "Wait."
Mairi paused at the door. "Yes, miss?"
"Come here." Breathless with excitement, Louisa pulled out the chair to her dressing table. "Sit." When Mairi didn't move, she ordered, "Sit down."
The maid sidled toward the chair and lowered herself. "What's got into you? I dinnae like the look on your face."
"Hold your wheesht and close your eyes." She whipped off Mairi's mobcap and the maid's mess of auburn ringlets spilled over her shoulders. Louisa scooped them up and pinned them on top of her head, allowing a few ringlets to feather the sides of her face. Next, she clipped a pair of glittering earbobs into place, and pinched her cheeks into rosy peaches.
"Keep your eyes closed." At the last, she buttoned a white lawn chemisette with a high ruffled collar around the girl's neck. "There," she said. "Take a keek."
Mairi stared into the mirror spellbound. Even Louisa had to admit, the transformation was astounding. Given the right adornment, Mairi was undeniably beautiful. The corners of her maid's mouth curved up. "Oh, miss." Then her eyes flicked from her reflection up to Louisa and her smile disappeared. "Oh, miss." The timbre of her voice had changed from awed to appalled. "Oh, no." She shook her head. "Oh, no-no-no-no-no."
Louisa arched a brow. "Oh, yes-yes-yes-yes-yes."
* * *
The bell above the door tinged as Ian entered the bookshop on St. Mary's Wynd. He removed his hat and inhaled the familiar smell, that heady combination of leather with a trace of vanilla and printer's ink. This was his favorite place in Edinburgh, the one spot where he could set aside his cares and silence the thing in his head that constantly demanded order.
He exhaled, let his shoulders loosen and his mind slow.
The bookseller acknowledged him from behind his counter with a raised hand.
"My order's come in, then?" Ian asked.
"Only yesterday, sir."
Good. And just in time. The Gael Forss was set to leave in two days. At least he'd have something enjoyable to read during the crossing. He should purchase the book and be on his way, as there was still much he must accomplish yet this afternoon. Plus, he'd promised to stop at his sister Maggie's house to say goodbye to her and the children.
Ian gazed longingly at the shelves, bowed in the center, laden with treasure waiting to be excavated. And the golden letters embossed on the soft leather spines called to him, daring him to peek inside their covers. Well, maybe he could spare a few more minutes. What would be the harm? In any case, his sister would forgive him for being late if he arrived with gifts of books for his niece and nephew.
He asked the bookseller, "Have you a recommendation for a lad of twelve years?"
"The American author, Washington Irving, is popular. I have one copy of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow."
"I've heard of it. A ghost story, aye?" Ian smiled to himself. Young Malcolm would love it. Ian located the book, checked the binding, and tucked it under his arm. Now to find a suitable story for his nine-year-old niece, Belinda. He took a leisurely stroll down the first two aisles of shelves, randomly pulling down books to examine their fly pages and check the publication dates, but mostly for the sheer pleasure of holding them in his hands, testing their weight, and running his fingers over the textured leather.
The rustle of skirts made him lift his head. Peering through the books to the next aisle, he caught a flash of pink. Pink was a young woman's color. And was that lavender he smelled? Those three things — skirts, pink, and lavender — fired Ian's need to investigate. He strolled to the end of the aisle and poked his head around the corner.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Saving the Scot"
Copyright © 2019 Jennifer Trethewey.
Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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