A passionate, fast-paced new Scottish Highlander romance series from critically acclaimed author Amanda Forester
"RIVETING, DIVERTING...DELIGHTFUL ROMANCE." -RT Book Reviews, Top Pick, for True Highland Spirit
Their attraction is forbidden
All Highland warrior Gavin Patrick wants is to get back to his native Scotland. But before he can leave the battlefield, he's given a final mission-escort Lady Marie Colette to her fiancé. Under no circumstances is he to lay hands on the beautiful, clever-tongued heiress...no matter how desperate the temptation.
Their desire, undeniable
Forced to pose as a married couple to make their escape from France, Gavin and Marie Colette find themselves thrown into peril...and each other's arms. As the danger mounts, so does their forbidden passion. But it isn't until Marie Colette is taken from him that Gavin is forced to decide-is he willing to lose the woman who stole his heart, or will he jeopardize his honor, defy his promise, and steal her in return?
"Vivid, effortless storytelling." -Publishers Weekly on The Highlander's Heart
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Sir Gavin Patrick spurred his destrier and raced into the rising tide of English soldiers with the full knowledge they had already lost. Gavin was a bright lad by all accounts, but even one slow with his sums could readily see that the small force of French and Scottish allies was grossly outnumbered. Again.
A more practical person may have considered a tactical retreat, but the French would fight for honor, and Gavin, being a Highlander, would fight the English any chance he got. Besides, if he led a charge now, he could prevent a rout.
Unfortunately, the French were honorable only to a point and fled as soon as it became clear their advance was a failure. Without order, the knights turned and ran for the protection of the forest, leaving their retreating flank unprotected. It was the worst thing they could have done. One noble continued the fight and was quickly surrounded, unable to flee.
"Hold the line!" cried Gavin to the retreating men. It was a pointless command. The soldiers could hear nothing above the din of their own panic.
Gavin pushed ahead to the surrounded noble. The man was still mounted and fighting hard, but it was a matter of seconds before he was captured or killed. One of the English soldiers grabbed the bridle of the French noble's mount and forced it down. The end of the nobleman was near.
Gavin gave the howling war cry of the charging Highlander. It succeeded in momentarily arresting the attack of the English soldiers, who turned to see what demon was approaching them. Gavin charged forward, scattering the foot soldiers. He grabbed the gauntlet of the nobleman and in one bold move pulled the man onto his own horse.
Gavin spun and galloped back across the field of battle toward a large stand of trees, full of the dense green leaves of spring. The man behind him was leaning precariously and Gavin attempted to hold him with one arm as he urged his mount faster. They must reach the tree line before the English soldiers caught them.
He crashed through some low brush into the forest. The English pursued them into the trees, but here Gavin had prepared a surprise. Arrows rained down from the treetops and the English soldiers dropped and howled. The first wave of English soldiers turned and ran into their own charge, halting their advance.
Gavin smiled, though more in relief than from success. They had turned the English for the moment and prevented them from marching farther, but they were outnumbered and everyone knew it. Without reinforcements, their small force of French soldiers and volunteer Highland warriors would eventually fall.
The man behind him could hold on no longer. Gavin jumped off his horse just in time to catch the falling nobleman. He laid the man on the ground and removed his helmet. The nobleman appeared to be middle-aged, with a well-trimmed, dark beard in the style of the day.
The man gave him a wan smile. "You have saved me, Sir Knight. Pray tell me to whom I am indebted."
"I am Sir Gavin Patrick, of the clan of MacLaren," Gavin responded in French, a tongue he had learned well over the past few years he had spent in France.
"A Scot, are you?" The man's smile grew. "Tonight, you will accept my hospitality. If I do not reward you richly, I do not deserve the name of duc de Bergerac."
* * *
Lady Marie Colette, the only daughter of the duc de Bergerac, sat sedately in the ladies' solar with her ladies-in-waiting. By tradition, her four ladies, Marie Claude, Marie Jeannette, Marie Agnes, and Marie Philippe, were there to tend to her needs, but they had been her mother's ladies-in-waiting and had adopted an instructional role after her mother died. They were all old enough to be her mother or her grandmother, and had distinct opinions as to how a lady such as herself should behave.
Colette had hoped when a fifth lady had been added to her entourage, she would be more of a friend to her. Marie Suzanne was indeed young, but at twelve years of age, almost a decade her junior, Suzanne was hardly a bosom companion. The young girl spent most of her time staring wide-eyed about the room and agreeing with anything her elders said.
All the ladies were at work on their embroidery, one of the few useful arts acceptable for ladies of court. Colette gathered a large sheet of linen about her. She had chosen to embroider a bed linen due to its bulk. Surreptitiously, she pulled a leather-bound book from her workbag, placing it behind the gathered sheet, out of sight from her ladies.
Colette quietly opened her book, careful to take a stitch now and then so as not to raise suspicion. Her ladies would be most displeased if the illicit text were discovered. They did not approve of a lady being taught to read, for everyone knew books would overcome a lady's delicate sensibilities. Colette's educated mother had embraced a more expanded view and once Colette had been taught, nothing could stop her from reading everything in her father's priceless book collection.
Pressed on by a sincere desire to read, Colette had become fluent in many languages. She read stories of glorious battles, myths from the Greeks, and of course, the Book of Hours, her prayer book, the only reading condoned by her ladies. Above all, her favorite stories were adventures of amazing courage and forbidden love.
She secretly turned the page of La Chanson de Roland. She had read the heroic adventure so many times she could almost recite it. She longed for her own adventure beyond the reaches of her strict nursemaids, but she had rarely traveled beyond the walls of the castle, and now that the dreaded English were causing havoc in their realm, she never left the castle at all.
She often lost herself completely in a book, but today the story of Roland dying bravely against the onslaught of foreign soldiers caused a ripple of fear to flow through her. Several weeks ago, her father had marched out with his knights to repel the English. He was late in returning. Colette did not wish to consider losing the only parent left her.
A clarion trumpet call gave the signal that the soldiers' return had been seen in the distance. Was her father among them? Colette swooped her book up with the linen sheet and stuffed them both into her workbag, hidden until next time.
"My father, he has returned," she announced, rushing to the door. "Come, let us greet him on the castle walk."
"A lady does not rush about like a common servant," chastised Marie Claude. Stalwart in stature, she was as old as the lines on her face were long. As the eldest of her ladies, Marie Claude's word was law in these chambers.
"And you must wear your headdress and your cloak, my lady," said Marie Jeannette with a scandalized gasp. Her life's work was perfecting the physical appearance of her lady, no matter what Colette's preference might be. Colette was heralded as the most beautiful lady in court, and Marie Jeannette lived on such praise.
"But I am already wearing a veil. Surely I do not need a headdress to stand upon the ramparts. It is a warm day, so a cloak, it will not be necessary," reasoned Colette.
Her ladies stopped her with their shocked expressions. "My lady!" they protested.
Colette sighed. They were right, of course. Everyone in the castle looked to Marie Colette to dress and act in a particular manner. If she should be seen running about the castle in anything less than rigid decorum, it would no doubt cause pandemonium.
"Vexing, forward child, always thinking for herself," muttered Marie Agnes, whose purpose in life was to ensure Colette never forgot her shortcomings.
"Let us pray His Grace has returned safely to us," said Marie Philippe, the only one to grasp what was truly important, at least to Colette, and thus the one who received looks of censor from the other ladies.
Colette relented, allowing them to weigh her down further. "Make haste, if you please." She submitted herself to be further dressed, though she was already warm in a formfitting blue silk kirtle and a brocade sleeveless surcoat, with rich embroidery of golden thread. To show her status, it had no less than a two-foot train, the minimum her maids would allow for everyday use. To this, her maids added a large velvet cloak, lined in ermine.
Colette tried to be patient as her maids pinned on her ornate headdress, a jeweled fillet over the silk barbet, which circled her hair. Her maids were even more chaste, wearing pristine white wimples that encased their heads and wrapped around their chins. Despite the current fashion that allowed unmarried ladies to let their hair flow loose or in two braids, her maids would not allow her hair to be seen in public.
The gown and robe alone were a load to drag around, particularly while keeping her posture rigidly straight, but the ornate golden headdress weighed enough to crush any rebellion from her spirit. It was so heavy it never ceased to give her a pounding headache before it was finally removed. She had to move carefully not to tip out of balance and stagger under its weight.
Finally, she was deemed acceptable to walk sedately along the corridors to the castle walls. Even if she wanted to move faster, she was forced to walk slowly, carefully picking up each foot correctly so as not to trip over her fashionable, pointy-toed shoes. It would have been easier to lift the hem of her skirts, but her maids would have been scandalized if she'd accidently revealed (heaven forbid!) an ankle to the public. Thus encumbered, it took great effort to walk down the castle corridor, her five nursemaids trailing along behind her.
Colette was being watched. She was always being watched. So she kept her face placidly calm in contrast to the gnawing worry within. Did her father return? Was he well? Despite the war with the English now threatening their small duchy, her worth was still weighed by her beauty and her comportment. She was not allowed to reveal her fears, so she concentrated on maintaining the illusion of implacable poise.
Her father had marched out with too few men in the hopes of being joined by some landless knights who fought for glory and riches. She thought little of such men who sought their fortune at the misery of others, but she hoped that her father had indeed found help, or he might not return at all.
By the time she gracefully ascended to the ramparts, the soldiers had reached the castle gates. The sun was just setting in the west, casting a warm hue over the valley before her. Colette leaned forward against the cool stones of the tower, searching each figure who entered the gates until her eyes fixed on one man. Relief washed through her. Her father was alive.
She took a deep breath of relief. The air was perfumed with the flower buds of spring. New life emerged on every branch and pushed verdant, tender shoots out of the rich, brown earth. Everywhere around her, life was returning, renewing. Along with it came the sense that her life also would be changing soon. She was not sure whether to look upon this coming change with anticipation or foreboding, but at least she could face the future with her father by her side.
"Tell the steward to prepare for the return of His Grace and our gallant knights," she instructed a page, careful to keep all trace of emotion from her voice. To express relief would be to admit concern in the first place, and that would be unacceptable.
Though she wished to have more time breathing in the fresh air of the tower, she turned away from the glowing sun and walked serenely, with no apparent concern or haste, back down the stone stairs to her father's private solar. She arrived at the solar just as her father's squire was assisting him into the room. Her father reclined gingerly into a chair, pale but with no visible injuries.
Colette wished to run to her father to assist but was mindful of making him appear weak. "Bring wine, if you please, to refresh His Grace after his ordeal," she instructed the squire and then turned to her ladies who were still at her heels. "Thank you, ladies. I will return to you in the solar."
Her ladies gave a low bow to their master and quit the room. They would leave her alone with no man save her own father.
"Are you well?" Colette rushed to her father's side as soon as they were alone.
Her father raised a hand in a weak attempt to fend her off. "I am well, quite well. Took a bit of a blow, but I will recover, I assure you."
Riding off to battle was a young man's game, but Colette bit her lip before she insulted her father by suggesting his youth was behind him. "You are returned to me and I am glad for it." She knelt by his side. She wished to lay her cheek on his hand the way she used to do when she had been small, but she feared her heavy headdress would topple over if she tried.
"And I am so very glad to see you." He gave her a weary smile and sighed deeply. "Though it is not my fortune to keep you by my side. I have been pondering a problem most difficult and today a solution has presented itself. It is time for you to know. I have chosen for you a husband."
Colette stared at her father and slowly rose to her feet. After turning down scores of proposals and allowing Colette to reach one and twenty, well past the age at which most ladies were wed, her father had finally accepted a suitor. But who?
"A husband?" Colette prided herself on remaining composed at all times, but even she could not help the surprise in her tone.
"Yes. You will have the honor of serving the duchy," said her father, avoiding her eye. Something was wrong.
Colette waited for her father to elaborate, but he remained tight-lipped. At length, she could bear the silence no longer. "Will you not tell me which of my suitors you have chosen?"
Colette was much admired in court and her hand had long been sought in marriage. As her father's only child, she stood to inherit a fortune. The duchy, of course, would go to her male cousin, but her dowry was substantial. Yet for her father to choose one suitor would mean making enemies of the others at a time when he could least afford it, so she had remained unwed during their current time of tumult.
"The duchy, it is in grave danger of being captured by the English. We must have more men, strong warriors, if we are to have any hope to turn the tide," her father explained.
"I understand, my father." Her stomach tightened. She hoped his choice was not a certain marquis she had recently met. The man had already buried two wives and drooled slightly when he stared at her.
"We all must do our part." Her father finally turned to her with sad eyes.
"But of course." She was resigned. She would wed the drooling man.
He took her hand and held it tight. "Faith child, but I would not do this if there were any other way."
"Who is the man?" Colette whispered, fear hushing her voice.
"He is a knight from Scotland-"
"Scotland?" Colette could not keep from crying out. "That barbaric country?"
He squeezed her hand, his eyes pleading. "At least I will know you are safe, far from war. You would not deny your father that comfort, would you?"
Her cousin entered the solar, no doubt interested to see if he was closer to inheriting the duchy. Her father dropped her hand. The conversation was over. Colette curtsied and quit the room, still shaking from the sudden news.
Her father wished to keep her safe, but she would not flee before their enemies. No, it was time to be brave.
She, marry a barbaric Highlander?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
The Highlander’s Bride by Amanda Forester Narrated by Mary Jane Wells Series: Highland Trouble Book 1 4 Stars - I picked up this book because it was narrated by Mary Jane Wells. She is a favourite of mine and in this story she did not disappoint. I enjoyed the chemistry and banter between Gavin and Colette. The story ran smoothly and the secondary characters were fully developed and a wonderful addition. I have not read this author before, but I will be sure to look for her backlist. It was great to visit the highlands again… I feel like it's been a while! ~Paragraphs and Petticoats~
This is book 1 in the Highland Trouble series. For years, Sir Gavin Patrick, has been fighting in France. Ready to finally go home, he is tasked with transporting Lady Marie Colette to her fiancee in Scotland. Thinking it an easy task, Gavin is shocked to see what all the woman plans to take with her. Not being able to talk her out of it, they begin their journey to the port where they will meet their ship. Marie Colette thought she was doing her duty to go to the highlands and marry her fiancee. She didn't count on being attacked, finding a bunch of orphans or having to get married just to get out of France. Planning to get the marriage annulled when they reached Scotland, Marie and Gavin try to keep their distance from one another, but their attraction for one another is too strong. What happens at the end out their journey and Marie is presented to her fiancee? I so wanted to like this book. The storyline intrigued me, but I absolutely did not like Marie Colette. She killed it for me. I did really like Gavin, but wish Forester had a different woman in mind for him... Thanks go out to Sourcebooks via NetGalley for a copy of the book in exchange of an honest review.
Forester quickly & easily takes readers back in time with this exciting novel. The historical accuracy mixed with the sense of adventure was great. It really drew me in. That said, there were times where things fit together a little too neatly for me. The coincidences and luck involved were just enough to make me question it, thus jarring me out of the story a little. The characters were what one would stereotypically expect for the time period. Forester really plays up the religious devotion throughout, setting a certain tone for the novel. I loved the dynamic between Colette & Gavin. Their duty clashes with their desires on so many different levels. And despite the situations that they find themselves in, I had fun getting to know these two. That said, Gavin’s lack of history, or the skimming over it at least, made him difficult to really get to know. This novel was a nice start to Forester’s new series. She sets the scene and the tone well, showing readers what to expect. At the same time, she set some things up a little more neatly, making parts of the story feel contrived rather than exciting & natural. Overall, however, it was a quite enjoyable read. Please note that I received a complimentary copy of this work in exchange for an honest review.
The Highlander's Bride, the first book in the Highland Trouble series, by Amanda Forester was an enchanting tale of gallantry and honor. Held to their own high moral standards the hero and heroine made a valiant effort throughout the story to distance their growing attraction and blossoming love. A well developed, fun and eclectic supporting cast brought further depth to this work. Full of action, this novel only built in momentum as the characters battled one obstacle after another. Engaging dialog and deeds made this expertly written tale a pleasurable read. *I received this ARC via Netgalley.*
A mix of French nobility and Scottish knight provide the base for this story. When Gavin saves a man’s life, he is introduced to Colette, not as a bride, but as a treasured possession that he is to escort to Scotland to deliver her to her fiancé. While Gavin is instantly attracted to the beauty before him, his honor and his duty require him to complete the mission to the best of his ability. Colette has been raised to obey and make a marriage that benefits her family. Unhappy with leaving her home and family for the unknown, she’s reserved and a bit removed. These two will have a long journey together, with several unexpected obstacles. I wanted to see more conviction from Colette, her ‘sharp tongue’ was dismissive and made her difficult to understand or like: pretty is not an excuse for bad behavior. Her ‘opening up’ to Gavin rather felt like walking through a puddle, she didn’t have many moments that built her as a character that felt equal to Gavin. As for Gavin, he’s gobsmacked from the first by her, and I didn’t feel his ‘fighting’ the attraction as much as come up with yet another reason for them not to be together. Common in romance, but when the sole character conflict is solely based on the two characters overcoming a single obstacle (a fiancé) and the many reasons they can push off the ‘moment’ when they both decide their connection is more important. Having really enjoyed other titles from this author, I was disappointed in the plotting flow: characters seemed to appear and disappear, with and without convictions and intentions, solely to serve the plot move forward. It didn’t hold together as well as I wanted, and while there was plenty of ‘other moments’ of created conflict (thieves, orphans, subterfuge, danger) it didn’t always feel necessary or connected in a broader sense. An easy, non-challenging read that hit the okay button: not great, not bad, but never quite hitting the good moments that make a story memorable. I received an eArc copy of the title from the publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review all conclusions are my own responsibility.
What an amazing story. The turmoil the two waded through was extensive and to still find love, forbidden as it was, is nothing short of a miracle. The fight they put themselves through trying to deny their love and do what they are honor bound to do is difficult, but when the time comes will they choose love or honor, and with what they find at the end of their journey will it even matter?
I really enjoy Amanda Forester's novels and I also enjoy novels that feature Highlanders as the hero, but for some reason this one just didn't do anything for me. Gavin was ok, but I felt more could have been done to explore (and explain!) his backstory. Collette was a little blah. I understand she's been very strictly raised to present a certain image to her father's people, but this in turn made her boring and cold. Even the secondary cast, while interesting in theory, merely seemed to fill the plot-point-of-the-moment. Which is the unifying issue with this novel. First, there isn't much conflict to speak of. Gavin and Collette must travel to Scotland where Collette's affianced husband awaits her dowry. That's it. That's the big "problem" of the novel and the rest simply centers around their journey. The sole emotional conflict is Gavin and Collette trying to come up with five hundred and one excuses why they can't be together. Which I realize this is a typical part of most romance novels, but it should never be the *only* emotional conflict. Secondly - and this is the big sticking point with me - Gavin, Collette, and many other's characters' actions seemed to do little else than fulfill whatever was needed to make that scene's plot point happen. There are numerous times throughout this novel where a character, usually Collette, is speaking vehemently against "point A." Then another character will show up and make a flimsy case for "point A." Suddenly, the first character has changed their mind and is now a firm supporter of "point A." A more specific example: Collette and one of her maids Pippa need to hide in the woods while Gavin explores a castle. So, of course, this means that the baby which hasn't been mentioned for five chapters will suddenly begin screaming for no apparent reason, drawing the enemy. And finally, what small conflicts do present throughout the book are solved by something or something that "just so happened" to be close by. Collette needs to escape from the tower? Let's introduce the warlord's son who just so happens to be locked in the tower as well and has a working knowledge of engineering. Collette's affianced husband, who has been the primary stumbling block for Gavin and Collette's HEA, just so happens to prefer to marry Collette's maid whom he just met and the two are married immediately. In conclusion, I never began to really care for Collette and Gavin, so I never began to care for their "problems." When added to a plot that is just too far over the line of ridiculous and convenient, I'm left feeling both bored and cheated. I'm hoping it is a fluke because Ms. Forester's books are usually much better than this. Originally posted at Plot Twist Reviews [dot] Com I received this book for free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.