Laire MacLeod’s father has married a mysterious widow who is a vain beauty that deals with potions and spells. Laire does not drink them with the rest of her family and is the only one who could see through her stepmother’s games. When Laire flees to find help from her Uncle, the Lady’s huntsman follows her with orders to kill. Laire must survive in a dangerous new city and find the antidote to a poisonous potion before it is too late.
Iain Lindsay is cursed. He is bound for seven years to be the hunter of a Lady who uses him to bring back birds to use in her potions. When Laire MacLeod escapes the Lady’s nets, Iain tracks her to Edinburgh, where she’s found shelter with an unusual band of thieves, but he cannot bring himself to harm her. Instead, he finds himself falling in love with the MacLeod beauty.
But a Highlander’s oath is his bond, and the price for helping her is death, both his own, and of those he loves.
About the Author
Lecia Cornwall is the author of Regency and Scottish romances, including Beauty and the Highland Beast and When a Laird Finds a Lass. Her books are known for their layered plots, humour, and intriguing characters. Lecia lives in Alberta, Canada with two adult children, four cats, a crazy chocolate Lab, the dozens of book characters who live in her head, and one very patient husband who endures it all with remarkable patience. Lecia is currently hard at work on her next book.
Read an Excerpt
The Lady and the Highlander
By Lecia Cornwall
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2017 Lecia Cornwall
All rights reserved.
Laire stood with her sisters as Bibiana entered the hall on Papa's arm. It was Tuesday, and on an ordinary Tuesday in early November, they'd be washing the linens, repairing plaids and blankets, distributing winter stores to the old and sickly members of the clan to see them through the cold months ahead. All that would be done tomorrow, of course, but that meant Wednesday's tasks would have to wait until Thursday. She felt an anxious twitch in her chest and clasped her hands together tightly. She hoped her new stepmother wouldn't change the routines, the traditions, the little rituals at Glen Iolair, but they knew so little about her.
Papa had gone to Edinburgh on business, as he did several times a year. But this time, on the date of his expected return, a letter had come instead, announcing the happy news that he was bringing a bride and directing his daughters to make ready for a grand wedding a fortnight hence.
It had set the whole castle into a spin. There'd been days of speculation about who the lady might be, and just how Papa had met her and fallen in love so quickly. The haste of it made Laire uneasy, but Papa had been married eight times before. If anyone recognized love at a glance, it was Donal MacLeod.
They'd known Papa would remarry eventually. He wanted a son to become the next laird of Glen Iolair, the next Fearsome MacLeod. But with twelve daughters and only two married and gone, their father had despaired of any woman accepting his hand in marriage while the castle was so full of females. Laire and her sisters had come to believe that Papa intended to wait until a few more of his daughters — say eight or nine of them — were wed before he married again.
The lady's stunning beauty when she arrived in the glen on Papa's arm, with three servants in tow, had been yet another surprise.
And now, on this happiest of days, Donal's daughters sighed like an autumn wind at the pride and joy in their father's eyes as he entered with his bride. He looked every inch the nervous bridegroom, though this was his ninth wedding.
"She's beautiful," whispered Cait to her sisters.
"And look at her gown," Meggie murmured.
Papa's new bride glittered in the candlelight and the sharp shards of light that emanated from her made people squint as she passed by. It was impossible not to stare at her jewels, at the delicate embroidery that covered her garments, at the youth and grace of the bride.
In Laire's opinion, all that flashing sparkle made it impossible to see her, the bride, the person behind the finery. Was she pleased to be marrying Papa? Was she as in love as he was?
"Papa looks so happy," Jennet sighed. "How fortunate at his advanced age to find such a lovely wife."
Laire frowned slightly. No, he wasn't getting any younger, but he wasn't in his dotage. She felt the hope he carried in his breast, that this time he'd breed a fine, strong, strapping son. He had a son once, Laire's own twin, but the boy had died when he was only five. A misadventure, they called it. A tragedy. Laire felt a twinge of guilt now, a familiar companion. It had been all her fault ... She bent to pick up her youngest sister, Annie, who was five herself now, so she could see the bride better, and held her tight.
Aileen, Laire's eldest sister, dabbed her eyes with her handkerchief. "I wish we'd had time to know her better — this all seems so sudden. Papa goes to Edinburgh twice a year, and he's never come back with anything more exciting than ribbons and sweets before now."
"And books," Gillian added.
"And fine gowns," Meggie sighed.
"He said it was love," Jennet whispered. "Where did he say she was from?"
"Italy," Isobel said. "Her maidservant told me so."
"Her manservant Rafael said Spain," Aileen said.
"I understood it was Egypt," Gillian said. They all glanced at the bride again, standing next to Papa, smiling as she received the congratulations of the clan.
Her servants were passing among the MacLeods with trays of wine instead of whisky, ready for toasting the happy couple.
"Wherever she's from, she's beautiful. And rich." Meggie said taking a glass of the deep red wine. "Have you tasted the wine she brought? A dozen casks of it have arrived already, with more to come. Her maidservant mulls it with spices and herbs and secret things. I've never tasted anything so fine." She drank deeply and held up her glass to be refilled, and Rafael filled it to the brim. Her eyes shone, and Isobel giggled. So did Aileen, and Jennet ... All her sisters were giggling.
Laire looked around the room. The whole clan was merry on the fine wine. It was red as rubies and apparently as sweet and heady as the rich autumn air.
"You are not drinking, mademoiselle," Rafael said to her.
"I drink only water," she said. He made a moue of disappointment and held out a glass anyway. "Take just a sip to wish the bride happy," he said. Laire looked into the depths of the liquid. It was as dark as the loch at night, and it smelled sweet, like spring flowers. But underlying the fragrance was a dark, metallic tang that made Laire recoil. Rafael's jaunty smile faded. "Take the glass, mistress," he said, his eyes as hard as pebbles, and Laire felt a chill sweep over her.
She took it and held it, but Annie grabbed it in her small hands and drank deeply before Laire could stop her. "Annie, no," she said, but Meggie laughed.
"Oh let her. What harm can it do? She'll fall asleep before she's had more than two sips."
Annie squirmed to be released, and Laire set her down, watched her dart through the crowd.
The noise in the hall rose as one toast followed another and the clan celebrated. The wine flowed and cups were filled and refilled until cheeks and eyes shone. Donal gestured to the pipers and the music began, and folk danced with wild abandon. Laire backed out of the onrushing stream of people and found a safe place by the wall. Still the drink flowed, an unending river of it. Lads kissed lasses, and the lasses kissed them back. Papa would never allow such impropriety in his hall, but he was oblivious to all but his new bride. He hadn't taken his eyes off her.
Laire supposed Bibiana's servants thought it odd she didn't drink ale or wine or whisky. They probably thought she didn't wish her father happy, but she never drank anything but plain water. Not since her brother's death. She did wish Papa happy ... She looked around the hall at her delighted clan and saw the last of Bibiana's servants standing in the shadows just as she was, outside the party, watching.
Bibiana had brought three servants. Terza was as old and lined as the hills, but her black eyes were as sharp as a bodkin. The French manservant, Rafael, was handsome, quick of wit, and as charming as summer wine. It was his job to anticipate anything that Bibiana might want, and provide it before she even had to ask.
But this man was most intriguing. He was simply called the hunter, the sealgair, and by no other name. Laire looked at him from under her lashes. He neither ate nor drank, and he hadn't dressed for the wedding, but wore the same black leather he'd worn since his arrival at Glen Iolair. He was a man of few words, but when he did speak, it was with the gruff brogue of a Highlander.
He was dangerously dark, long, and lean. His sword hung low on his hip, and there was a dirk in his belt and another in his boot. Even in the midst of such revelry and merriment, he looked like a hungry wolf — a predator coiled to strike. She swallowed and ran her hand along the side of her skirt. She couldn't seem to look away. Was he dangerous?
He turned, and she felt the moment when his eyes met hers like a touch. A jolt of surprise shot through her. His eyes stopped her breath, arrested her, made her lips part in breathless surprise. They were as hard and gray as polished metal. He was a bonny man, she noted, the realization striking her like a whip and making him all the more disconcerting. Her belly tensed, and her breath left her body. Slowly, those clear gray eyes gaze moved over her, taking in her violet silk gown and the locket at her throat. Awareness of him heightened every one of her senses. She could feel the softness of the silk against her skin, smell the damp stones of the wall beside her, hear her heart beating. It skipped a beat as his eyes stopped on her lips. She watched his mouth tighten slightly, saw his throat work. She flicked her tongue over her lips, suddenly thirsty.
She forced herself to smile, to offer him a brief and polite welcome to Glen Iolair, but he didn't smile back. He looked away to scan the crowd, and she felt as if a candle had been snuffed out, leaving her in the dark. She kept her eyes on him, waited for him to look back at her again, but he did not.
He was watching Meggie, who was very merry, and Isobel, who was tipsy and giggling, and sensible, steady, matronly Aileen, who glowed under the effects of the potent wine. The sealgair looked away again, frowning.
Laire felt an angry blush rise from her breasts to her hairline. What right did this man, this servant, have to judge the MacLeods? It was their laird's wedding, a joyous event indeed. There was nothing wrong with a glass of wine or two. Or more.
She looked at him again, willed his eyes back to hers, and raised her chin. He glanced at her again, a mere brush of his eyes before they moved on. She sent him a sharp look to remind him that she and her sisters were the daughters of the Fearsome MacLeod, while he was just — she paused. No. He was more than a servant, that was clear. Something about the way he stood, the proud set of his head or the easy lines of his body, told her that. But what was he otherwise?
He was alone, and he was a guest — of sorts. She turned to take a glass from Terza's tray, not for herself, but for him. Her hands shook a little, anticipating what she would say and how it would feel to stand beside him.
But when she looked up again, the shadows were empty. Bibiana's sealgair was gone.CHAPTER 2
Iain Lindsay pushed back the black hood that covered his head and looked around the forest that surrounded Glen Iolair. He breathed in the rich, pine-scented air of Scotland and let himself relax for a moment. He'd missed Scotland, even though he'd hardened his heart against ever coming back to his homeland. It had been nearly seven years. He'd missed the rocks and the hills, the purple of the heather, and the unsurpassed blue of the sky more than he'd known until this moment. The air held the tang of the sea, the freshness of the mountains, and the sweetness of the peat-rich earth. It was a perfume that was unique to the Highlands of Scotland.
He frowned. Nay, it wasn't his home. Not anymore. He had no country, no plaid, no clan, no home, and no name. He was the sealgair, defined by his hunting skills and nothing more.
He closed his eyes and rubbed them, the brilliant yellow of the last autumn leaves so bright they were almost painful to behold. Or perhaps it was the long-forsaken emotion the sight of them stirred in him.
He had no right to such feelings. He was naught but a servant now, and his job was to kill the birds Bibiana craved and play her bodyguard when she required that — which wasn't often. Bibiana was a woman of independent wealth, wit, and charm. She was no man's victim. Some called her a witch, some a seductress. She took what she wanted, swiftly and without mercy.
He turned his face up to the sun filtering through the trees. The air was crisp and cold. It was early November, and he knew there wouldn't be many more days like this one. Winter would soon close in on the Highlands, and deep snow would lock the land in an icy grip. Cailleach, the winter hag, would reign. But that witch had not met Bibiana ...
It wouldn't snow today. Yellow leaves floated down around him like forgiveness. But redemption was impossible. His heart was as black as the clothing he wore, black as the dried blood on his sword and the barbed tips of his arrows.
By spring, his sworn service to Bibiana would be done. She would try to beguile him to stay, promise him his heart's desire if he remained with her. He wondered now if that was why she'd come to Scotland — to remind him of who he'd been, what he'd been, and what he was now.
Ach, but this land was still part of his battered soul, for all his refusal to say it aloud. Still, he wouldn't stay. When his contracted time was done, he'd go and disappear forever. But no matter where he went or how far he ran, the memories, the sins, the terrible burden of guilt, would stay with him.
His ears pricked at the soft snap of a twig, the rustle of a branch being moved aside carefully. Not carefully enough. Someone was following him.
It was the boy, no doubt — the half-grown son of a MacLeod clansman who had begged to come hunting with him that morning. He'd offered to saddle the horse, carry the weapons and snares, and bear home what the sealgair killed. He'd made a fist, crooked his arm, and showed Iain the strength of his wee muscles.
But Iain hunted alone, the way he did everything else.
For the moment, he ignored his stalker. He turned at the coo of a wood dove, high in a tree. In one sleek motion he drew his bow, nocked it, aimed, and shot the creature. It fell from the tree without a sound.
He crunched through the leaves to where it lay, its red blood staining the soft gray feathers and the golden leaves. He frowned. He'd hit it through the heart and killed it instantly. It was a mistake. Bibiana liked the heart whole and undamaged, and the creature's suffering made the meat spicier, sweeter. He pulled his arrow free and put the limp body into the pouch at his hip anyway. He looked around for more birds, but the woods had gone silent.
He blamed the boy and his clumsy attempt to follow him. A hunter must be silent, stealthy, a shadow. If he were willing to teach the boy the way he'd been taught, he'd tell him that, show him ... but he wasn't here for that. He was Bibiana's servant, her thrall, and he had work to do.
He fixed a ferocious scowl on his face and turned to the place he knew the boy was hiding, just a dozen yards behind him, crouched low behind a bush. He heard the intake of the lad's breath, knew his heart was beating fast. Good. He should be afraid.
Iain began to stride toward the undergrowth. He caught the glint of an eye, the curve of a cheek. He heard a soft gasp, the sound of movement, and the boy lifted his head to look at Iain fully, his eyes widening in surprise. But the eyes were violet, vivid against the yellow leaves, and surrounded by long dark lashes. He stopped in his tracks.
It wasn't the boy — it was the lass. One of Donal MacLeod's daughters, the one who'd watched him at the wedding feast, the beauty with the lush lips and slender curves. He'd broken his own rule and looked at her, stared, unwilling to look away as his body shook with craving for her, with sorrow for her fate and disgust for himself. It had been a mistake, that moment of connection. He'd always made it a point not to see Bibiana's victims, not to meet their eyes. But this lass had surprised him, and once he'd met her gentle gaze and set eyes on her half-parted lips and her slim, perfect figure, he hadn't been able to look away. She had pale, translucent skin, and she'd blushed under his scrutiny. It was like watching the sun rise over the mountains in winter. It had felt like a blow to the gut, and his belly curled with the kind of male interest he'd thought long dead. She'd stolen his breath, just standing there. And her eyes — like amethysts, or the wee violets that filled the woods at Craigmyle in spring. For a long moment — too long — he hadn't been able to look away from the MacLeod's daughter. He tried to recall how long it had been since he looked into any woman's eyes, felt desire stir. A mistake indeed. Lust had been replaced with regret at the thought of what Bibiana would do to the lass, what she'd suffer.
He couldn't afford such thoughts. They were distracting and dangerous. But still his heart kicked into a run, seeing her again here in the wood. He should turn and walk away, but he didn't. He was curious. Why did she follow him? Her sisters were no doubt still abed, well-dosed with one of Terza's potions — perhaps the one that brought on lust-filled dreams and made them sigh and quiver in their sleep, their young, perfect bodies rousing with desire and yearning.
Excerpted from The Lady and the Highlander by Lecia Cornwall. Copyright © 2017 Lecia Cornwall. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I liked the characters in the story, but the storyline was a bit far out there for me. I liked the idea of a step-mother coming in and then trying to "get rid" of the beautiful sisters, but the whole drinking the bird blood was a bit much... I believe if Cornwall had taken the storyline a different way, I would have enjoyed it much more.
Wow a great fairy tale romance that is a little on the dark side with lots of love and light shining through. Author Lecia Cornwall puts together a brilliantly written plot in this book that was so involved and detailed that I was in awe. There is so much to this book that I can't talk about because I don't want to ruin it for those who will read it. So a few things I will share is that there are truly evil people in the world such as Bibiana, Laire's new stepmother, and Babiana's servants the French manservant, Rafael, old Terza, and her dark and dangerous sealgair, Iain. The reason for their deception and what they intend to do is stuff out of fairy tales. Another this about this book is that not all evil people are truly evil, are they? I just couldn't believe that Iain was as evil as he was coming across. and I kept wanting him to redeem himself as he hunted Laire to kill her. How the innocent Laire goes about trying to save her family while running for her life still makes my heart skip a beat. I was on the edge of my chair praying she would get away and find help to save her family. There is a whole cast of surprising secondary characters that will warm the readers heart when they read this book. I want to tell everyone about them but then that will really spoil the story. I am sorry but this is a book you should read to get the full flavor of it. I give this 4 STARS for the authors ability to show the darkness and the light of people with hope, redemption, the desire to survive and love as its main theme. Received an advance reader copy in exchange for a fair review.
Laire MacLeod’s father has married a mysterious widow Bibiana. She has arrived at the castle with her three servants and their mysterious potions. She already has everyone bewitched but Laire who refuses to drink anything because of something that happened in her past. When Laire realizes her father and sisters seem to be under a spell, there’s something going on at the castle so she runs away to find her uncle. Her step-mother sends her huntsman after her to kill her. Iain Lindsay is cursed, he’s become Bibiana’s huntsman. He is bound for seven years to be the hunter who uses him to bring back birds to use in her potions. Iain feels nothing, he just wants to repay his debt to Bibiana and when his seven years are up he just wants to disappear. He purposefully has refused to form any attachments and believes he no long is able to feel emotion. But one look at Laire and she makes him feel for the first time in years. Iain lets his past control him, he feels such and guilt and bitterness that he refuses to let Laire affect him. When he has the chance to capture her, he instead helps her escape. She’s aided in her search of finding her Uncle by seven abandoned children. Just like Snow White and the seven dwarf’s fairytale. This book is a truly enchanting book with strong characters who are persevere to find their happiness in this Highlander’s fairy tale. I received a complimentary copy and this is my honest review.
I was hooked from beginning to end. The story is fast paced with lots of drama and the characters are amazing. Laire is a wonderful character and brings this version of Snow White to life. I really liked it.
O. m. G! This is a fantastic book! I loved everything about it. I don't think I can write a review that will do this book justice. There's so many things that go on and so many secondary characters that I loved. I will give you the story summary but I suggest that you read it. I could hardly put it down and it's the best book I've read in a long while. The characters were strong and complex and so very likable. Well except for the villain Bibiana. Laire MacLeod and Iain Lindsay meet when Laire's father marries Bibiana and she brings her own servents. Iain is her huntsman, always clad in black and always standing in the back never speaking or participating. Laire doesn't understand the power Bibiana has over her father, its as if he only has eyes for Bibiana not seeing anything else. Her sisters sleep all day and dance all night and nothing is as it was before. One day she catches the eye of the huntsman and finds a connection she's never felt before and Iain feels something for the first time in seven years looking into Laire's eyes. Nothing can come of these feelings because Iain's a bad man and has no soul. Laire escapes the castle to find help for her family. Iain is sent to bring her back if he can find her. A long the way she runs into a menagerie of people some helpful and some very dangerous. When Iain does catch-up with Laire will he killer and save himself or help her and save his soul?
'The Lady and the Highlander' by Lecia Cornwall is book Three in the "A Highland Fairytale' series. This is the story of Laire MacLeod and Iain Lindsay. I have read the previous books but this is easily a standalone book. Laire's father has married for the 8th time in attempts to get a son. His new wife Bibiana and her servants seems to posing Laire's family. They are trying to make her drink this red wine that her father and sisters have been drinking which is making them act funny. Laire only drinks water so now they are trying to force her to drink this wine. Laire goes on the run to try to find help. Iain is one of Bibiana's servants but we learn that he is cursed with a bargain to be in her service for 7 years...which is ending soon. Iain has seen what Bibiana does with the other 13 husbands she has had. Iain tries not to look the victims in the eye and waits his time to be over. But right from the start Laire is one he can't ignore and goes forward to try to help her. We learn that a past issue is what has brought Iain to be in the hold of Bibiana but will be able to get away from her power? Can Laire save her family and help Iain to live happy again? "My honest review is for a special copy I voluntarily read."
Glen Iolair, November 1709 THE LADY AND THE HIGHLANDER is a loose retelling of Snow White. Laire MacLeod's father meets and marries a widow in Edinburgh that no one seems to know. At their wedding celebration Laire notices that her sisters are acting very odd. Days later it only gets worse. Iain Lindsey is bound to Bibiana for seven years, so acting as her hunter he has to bring her birds for her potions. When Laire flees to Edinburgh to find her uncle, Bibiana sends Iain to bring her home. That will not be an easy task... This is my first Lecia Cornwall novel and I loved it. It's a fast paced well written story. I was a little leery of Iain at first but it didn't last long. The storyline and characters are well developed and I totally fell in love with the "dwarfs"! I received a special copy for my honest opinion.
Mirror, mirror on the wall… Bibiana had been the fairest of them all for a very, very long time. She is getting married for the thirteenth time to Donal MacLeod, who has been married eight times before, and has twelve daughters, twelve lovely daughters. Bibiana is as vain as she is beautiful, and as even more malevolent. Bibiana hates Laire MacLeod on sight: how dare this insignificant girl be so lovely! Laire doesn’t like the dark, doesn’t drink anything but water, is afraid of poison, wine and bloody meats because of a past incident. At the wedding party, Laire senses that something is very wrong. Everyone but she partake in the special wine that Bibiana brought, and they’re acting strangely. Laire also notices Bibiana’s entourage: her old servant, Terza, her bodyguard Frenchman Rafael, and Bibiana’s huntsman, her sealgair, Iain Lindsay, a Highlander. Iain feels something that he had long forgotten when glancing at Laire, and soon becomes afraid that Bibiana has nefarious plans concerning the MacLeod lass. Within a few days, nothing is as it was at Glen Iolair, and Bibiana is even more scared than she was on her father’s wedding day. Iain has less than a year of servitude, out of the seven he owes Bibiana. Iain would like to protect the young Scotswoman, because he admires her courage, but will he? Dare he? Laire MacLeod is in mortal danger because she is the fairest of them all… Right from the indescribably chilling prologue, Lecia Cornwall had me in her grasp, and completely enthralled. Ms. Cornwall has created an unforgettable atmosphere: at one point, I had to look away from my reader, and I was actually startled to notice that it was daylight and that I was not amidst the dark, foreboding forest of the story! The prose is stupendous: the author conveys every little nuance, whether of colour, of emotion, of feeling, of danger. Iain has done terrible things, but can he redeem himself? He is a fabulously intriguing character; very charismatic, and mysterious. Every character, down to minor ones are extremely well drawn, I loved the delightful Clan of Thieves, the dialogues are superb, and Ms. Cornwall offers a vibrant picture of Scotland. THE LADY AND THE HIGHLANDER is so captivating that I would recommend that you plan good chunks of time, because I found it extremely difficult to put the book aside and then pick back up. Not because I lost track of what was going on, but because it is so mesmerising, I just did not want to stop. This book is filled with action and adventures, and I couldn’t help but wonder how the author would make a romance between Iain and Laire believable, and it worked up to a point: the sex scenes, although well done, felt totally out of place, and completely out of character for Laire. Still, THE LADY AND THE HIGHLANDER would be worth the read if only for the astounding mood created by Lecia Cornwall. I voluntarily reviewed an advanced reader copy of this book. I give 4 1/5 stars.