The Reluctant Highlander: A Highland Romance

The Reluctant Highlander: A Highland Romance

by Amanda Scott

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Overview

The Reluctant Highlander: A Highland Romance by Amanda Scott

An uncertain bride looks for love with a man as wild and mysterious as his Highland home in this new Scottish romance from a USA Today– bestselling author.

Ordinarily, Lady Fiona Ormiston wouldn’t think of forming an alliance with an ungroomed, barbaric Highlander, despite the protection he offers. But now, by request of the king, Sir Adham MacFinlagh, a brazen stranger and outsider unlike anyone she has met before, is to be her husband. Torn from solitude and the comfort of her family to make a home with the rugged knight, Fiona surrenders to Adham’s powerfully passionate—and shockingly tender—touch, only to discover her new husband’s family ties may lie with an enemy of the king.

A sense of duty may have brought Adham to the marriage bed, but it’s his powerful feelings for his beautiful, willful wife that will be his undoing. Ultimately, the bold knight will have to decide: Does his allegiance lie with his blood ties to the man who hopes to bring down the king or with the bride who has stolen his heart?

From the author “frequently credited with creating the subgenre” of Scottish romance with her Lairds of the Loch and Secret Clan series, The Reluctant Highlander is a rich historical tale of intrigue and desire ( Library Journal ).

The Reluctant Highlander is the 1st book in the Highland Nights series, but you may enjoy reading the series in any order.
 

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781504016193
Publisher: Open Road Media Romance
Publication date: 06/13/2017
Series: Highland Nights Series , #1
Pages: 350
Sales rank: 554,256
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.80(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

A fourth-generation Californian of Scottish descent, Amanda Scott is the author of more than fifty romantic novels, many of which appeared on the USA Today bestseller list. Her Scottish heritage and love of history (she received undergraduate and graduate degrees in history at Mills College and California State University, San Jose, respectively) inspired her to write historical fiction. Credited by Library Journal with starting the Scottish romance subgenre, Scott has also won acclaim for her sparkling Regency romances. She is the recipient of the Romance Writers of America’s RITA Award (for Lord Abberley’s Nemesis , 1986) and the RT Book Reviews Career Achievement Award. She lives in central California with her husband.

Read an Excerpt

The Reluctant Highlander

A Highland Romance


By Amanda Scott

OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA

Copyright © 2017 Lynne Scott-Drennan
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-5040-1617-9


CHAPTER 1

The North Inch of Perth, 25 June 1431

The night had been nearly starless before the clouds moved on.

Now, a pale golden glow edged distant hills to the east, which told twenty-three-year-old Sir Àdham MacFinlagh, riding south on the west bank of the river Tay, that the moon — full tonight — was rising.

Sir Àdham's night vision was excellent, and his shaggy black-and-white dog, Sirius, ranging ahead on the undulating, shrublined path, would alert him to any disturbing movement, scent, or noise nearby.

The King's annual Parliament was meeting in the royal burgh of St. John's Town of Perth, so the road from Blair Castle, where he had spent the previous night, was safe enough to travel even at that late hour. Nevertheless, as Àdham neared the town, he welcomed the increasing moonlight.

Starlight had already revealed black heights of the town wall a half mile ahead, beyond a rise in the landscape. He could even make out the tall, pointed spire of what he suspected was the Kirk of St. John the Baptist, for whom the town was named. Then, the bridge crossing from the village of Bridgend to St. John's Town's High Street gate came into view.

At that hour, even the broad expanse of water to his left had hushed, looking black and bottomless as it flowed toward the Firth of Tay and the sea. He knew the Tay was a powerful river, but now, it seemed calm and contained, reminding him that sea tides influenced its current. It was low, too, flowing some ten feet below its banks. So the tide was also low but on the turn. The breeze wafting toward him from across the water stirred no more than an occasional ripple.

His path lay between the river and a wide field to his right that, despite big patches of shrubbery and scattered trees, he believed was the infamous North Inch of Perth. The current King's father, Robert III, had ordered a trial by combat there between the two great Highland confederations, Clan Chattan and the Camerons.

The full result of that great clan battle depended on who told the tale, and Àdham knew little more than that the two sides had had to provide thirty champions each and that the Camerons had lost all but one of theirs. It had happened before his birth, and although a truce had resulted, no one on either side had been eager to discuss the battle with him.

All was quiet on the Inch, too, unnaturally so. Not even a night bird's call.

His instinctive wariness of new places, augmented by years as a warrior, stirred strong then, as did his Highlander's mistrust of any town's dark environs.

His mount was tired after a long day's ride, and enough of the moon peeked above the hills to light the river and its surrounding landscape, so he dismounted to lead the horse. Absently shifting stray hairs of his beard from his mouth with a finger of his free hand and smoothing them, he scanned the nearby field.

He had not visited St. John's Town before, but his foster grandfather had explained exactly how he could find their clansmen by following the High Street into the town from its north gate.

He could see the top parts now of a massive dark tower rising above the end of the town wall near the riverbank. Moonlight also revealed that the rise ahead was a low, rocky hillock extending into the water.

A short distance ahead, to his right, orange light revealed two high windows of an otherwise shadowed building inside a wall of its own. Torch-glow suggested that its east-facing wall had a gateway, but the rise hid all save its twin towers.

Rustling shrubbery near the field's center sharpened the wariness awakened by its hitherto unnatural silence. His skin prickled, too, making him wonder if someone watched him from the Inch or from one of those lighted windows.

The dog's ears rose at the rustling sound, but when they relaxed almost immediately, Àdham relaxed, too, deciding that he had let his imagination turn a wakeful badger or fox seeking its supper into a bairn's boggart.


"Whisst now, ye dafty!" the older of the two watchers hissed to the one creeping toward him with what the fool apparently mistook for extreme stealth. "'Tis like a herd o' kine, ye be, a-pushing through them shrubs!"

"Whisst yourself!" his cousin hissed back. "Some'un's coming, Hew. A chap on horseback with a dog, and a great sword on his back. D'ye see our quarry yet?"

"Nae," Hew whispered. "Three men walked over from the town, though, and I saw one go into yon monastery. From here, I couldna be sure if them others went wi' him or stayed outside. I'm thinking we may ha' tae wait till they leave, though."

"Who were they?"

"Sakes, how would I know? But the one as went inside, by his bearing, were a nobleman sure."

"Deevil's curse on all three o' them. We canna bide here much longer! I did think this would be the night. But what if that dog senses us?"

"It'll hear nowt if ye say nowt," Hew muttered savagely. "It canna smell us, Dae, because wi' this breeze a-blowin' at us from yon river, the dog be upwind of us. This may be our chance tae win freedom for Alexander. So just hush your gob."

Instead, his cousin Dae hissed, "Look now, Hew. Some'un's a-hieing down tae the river from yon hedged garden!"


Àdham had seen no sign yet of his squire and the two other lads who followed him more slowly on foot, leading sturdy Highland garrons laden with bundles of the extra clothing and gear that they might need in town.

His sense of watchers had vanished when Sirius remained undisturbed, and he had heard no more himself beyond leaves hushing in the gentle breeze.

Increasing moonlight now turned the river into a wide silver-gilt ribbon. He began watching his steps as the path steepened and grew more rugged. But when he reached the top, he beheld a sight so unexpected that it stopped him in his tracks.

The dog stopped, too, and glanced at him uncertainly. Behind him, the horse whuffled, its sound no more than the fluttering wings of a nervous grouse.

Halfway down the rough slope, watching the moon, transfixed and unaware of her audience, stood a slender figure in a thin white nightdress or smock. The garment's long sleeves and gathered neckline hid most of her. But it stopped at her knees, revealing bare calves, ankles, and small feet below.

Àdham's breath caught in his throat, although anyone watching — had there been such a watcher — would have noted no change in his expression because he had habitually concealed his feelings since childhood. Emotions, after all, were private, not for sharing in the world of men that he customarily inhabited.

The lass, who looked only fifteen or sixteen, stood as still as sculpted marble, as if she focused every ounce of her being moonward.

Dropping the reins, hoping the horse would stay put, as the Blair Castle man who had provided it that morning had promised, Àdham stood still, too, unwilling to break whatever spell the moon goddess or unknown river nymph had cast on her.

Her dark hair, gilded by moonlight, fell past her hips in soft, shimmering waves. The white garment revealed little more than the slenderness of her figure, although his experienced eye detected the soft outline of a generous bosom.

As he watched, he heard only the murmuring river. Then, an owl hooted softly in the distance and Sirius made a petulant sound as if questioning his master's stillness or his judgment.

Àdham's wariness stirred again, but the lass did not react. Her gaze remained fixed, eastward, across the river on the rising moon.

To be sure, the moon, looking larger than life, was a splendid sight. More than half of it showed now above the dark mass of hills to the east. It seemed to have come nearer and grown bigger since the night before. Were he a fanciful man — which, decidedly, he was not — he might have called it magical.

Movement drew his gaze back to the lass as she raised her arms out from her sides. Then, to his amazement, she continued to hold them so as she stepped down into the water. She moved slowly and with more grace than one might expect on such a steep, uneven slope. Keeping her balance with outstretched arms, she eased forward until the flowing water reached her knees, her thighs, and then her hips.

Àdham shivered, watching her. Although the late-spring air was temperate, the hour was nearly midnight. The water had to be much colder than the air.

Evidently, though, its chill did not deter her. She took another step, then leaned forward and glided into the water, stroking gently from the shore, her head up, her hair spreading behind her on the water's surface. Still gazing at the moon, she let the current carry her southward, away from him, toward the town and the sea. Then, in an eddying swirl, she vanished beneath the sparkling dark surface.

He watched expectantly, but she did not come up. Suddenly fearful, he dashed after her. Heedless of rocks, the uneven terrain, and other such minor obstacles, he cast off his baldric, belt, and heavy wool plaid as he ran.


Lady Fiona Ormiston savored the rare sense of freedom she felt deep beneath the surface, as her arms swept her forward and her legs kicked hard against the Tay's strong current, heading back the way she had come. She was smugly pleased that she could hold her breath long enough now to count nearly to two hundred.

She knew that someone had been nearby, for her senses, especially on such moonlit ventures as this one, remained keenly attuned to her surroundings, and as she had waded into the water, she'd heard barely audible sounds of approach on the path northward and had given thanks that she wore her least revealing shift.

Peripherally, just before submerging, she had glimpsed a large, apparently cloaked figure cresting the rise and decided it must be one of the friars or a guard who, despite her caution, had seen her push through the monastery's garden hedge and followed her. Such a man might watch her, even report her presence to others, but he would not harm her. She hoped whoever it was would be kind enough to return from whence he came without disturbing her or telling anyone else at the monastery that she had come down to the river.

In any event, although it was unusual to see anyone on that path at so late an hour, she would be safe enough in the water even if he was a late-night traveler.

A niggling discomfort stirred then at the intrusive memory of her first secret moonlight swim, years before at her home, Ormiston Mains, which was nearly four days' distant from St. John's Town. That night, she had emerged naked from the Teviot to find Davy, the youngest of her brothers, waiting on the riverbank. Eight years older, then sixteen, Davy had disapproved of her nudity and scolded her in that maddeningly calm but cutting manner he had.

Emboldened by her successful escape from Ormiston House and the bracing swim, she had dared to inform him that she liked to swim by moonlight.

When he'd smacked her bare backside hard and warned her to behave, she had demanded to know why she should not swim — having done so for two whole years, since she was six — especially late at night when everyone else was asleep.

His reply was that he had been awake, so others might be as well. When she had tried to argue that now obviously logical point by insisting that she'd have seen anyone else before she went into the water, Davy had ended the argument by tossing her back in the river. By the time she swam out again, he'd collected her cloak from the damp grass and held it ready to wrap around her.

She smiled at that memory, because Davy was her favorite brother and lived only a day's journey now from their childhood home. Also, despite his displeasure with her that night, Davy had not betrayed her to their father.

That thought barely entered her mind before an unexpected surge in the water behind her startled her so that she almost gasped. Certain that someone was now in the river with her, she surfaced to see if it was the man from the path.

He faced away from her, snapping his head frantically back and forth in an obvious search of the silent water downstream. Other than his unfashionably long and visibly tangled dark hair, only his arms, moving on the surface, and his broad shoulders — oddly golden in the moonlight — rose above the water.

Aware now that he likely feared the river had swept her away, she used the same sweeping strokes she employed underwater to swim swiftly and silently back toward shore, moving perforce with the current, but diagonally, so the water would not carry her right to him, and with her head well up to keep an eye on him.

When she could touch bottom with her toes, using her arms and hands to steady herself, she said just loudly enough for him to hear her, "I'm over here."

He turned toward her, his movements powerful yet unhurried, revealing that, as she had suspected, he was a skillful swimmer, too. She had therefore been wise not to try to swim away from him against the current. Nor could she have scrambled back up the steep slope and run away without drawing his attention.

Although only her head was above the water, he saw her straightaway and snapped, "What the dev —?"

When he fell silent rather than finish the likely curse, she said warily, "Why did you jump in? Did you fear the river had swept me away?"

He did not reply. Moonlight lit his face, revealing a prominent, even beaklike nose, as well as dark and deep-set eyes with a gaze both penetrating and piercingly intense, as if he would peer right through her skull to examine her thoughts.

His dark beard was thick and as unruly as his hair. He pushed a few long, wet strands of hair away from his face and took a stroke toward her.

Hastily, she said, "Pray, sir, just swim ashore. I do not need any help, for I learned to swim before I could walk. Also, the firth's tide is on the turn, so the current is not as strong now as it is at other hours."

He stopped where he was and remained so steady that she knew he must be touching bottom and was strong enough to disregard the remaining current.

"Does anyone else know you are swimming here?" he asked. His voice was deep and so vibrant that it seemed to hum through her, strumming unusually pleasant chords in her body and instilling an unexpected calmness there, as well.

Those feelings did naught to help her identify him, though, nor did she trust her own calm. Doubtless, he was good with animals. But she was no dumb beast.

She had also detected an odd, vaguely familiar accent. In fact, there was something oddly familiar about him, although she knew they had not met before.

As for his question, she was uncertain of what to say.

He was certainly at home in the water. His shoulders were broad and muscular under what was evidently saffron-dyed cloth. She knew she could not outswim him, and she certainly could not outrun him even if she could manage to scramble up the slope to the riverbank before he caught her.

Such thoughts made her aware again of how vulnerable she was, and he was closer now, making her wish that he had been one of the friars or a guard.

"Are you going to answer my question?" he asked her.

"'Tis the least you can do after pretending to drown."

"Sakes, I just swam underwater. Did you truly think I was drowning?"

"I thought you might be trying to drown."

"So you jumped in to save me?"

"This water is cold, and I've had a long day," he said. "Also, you have not answered my question, making me sure that you did slip away without permission."

She could hardly say that she had had permission, because she had told no one any more than that she meant to walk in the garden to enjoy the moonlight.

Although she could climb up the slope to the riverbank from where she was, she knew that her shift would reveal too much as she did and that the air would now feel colder than the water did. So she stayed where she was, watching him, as she said, "I merely came out to enjoy the moonlight and swim in a well-guarded stretch of the river. And you interrupted my solitude. I am not cold, and I do not mean to return yet. But I am perfectly safe. If I whistle or scream, men will come."

"Then whistle," he said lightly.

Fiona grimaced, wishing the irritating man would just go away.


The expression on her face stirred Àdham's sense of humor, although he hoped he had concealed it. Clearly, she did not want to whistle and likely would not scream either, and he did not blame her. She would not want to draw such attention. Her air of confidence and gentle speech told him she was wellborn.

But if her people let her think she could safely sneak out at such an hour, they were fools. He had seen no guards. Doubtless, her father owned a house in town or had taken one there for the duration of the King's Parliament, although his foster grandfather had said naught of any nobleman's residence near the north gate.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from The Reluctant Highlander by Amanda Scott. Copyright © 2017 Lynne Scott-Drennan. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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The Reluctant Highlander: A Highland Romance 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 14 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Every single character in this book made this story interesting. Miss Scott's novel did not let me down. Excellent.
SuzyReads More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book. The Reluctant Highlander is a well written Highland romance. The author kept me interested with the rich history and characters that were easy to like. I liked Fiona and Adham but felt like their romance needed more passion to be believable. The adventurous royal intrigue was great though and the descriptions and dialogue helped to paint a spot on picture. Overall, the storytelling was excellent just lacking the overwhelming passion that I crave when I'm reading a romance book. I still enjoyed the story and can recommend to anyone interested in reading a good clean romance book
Historical_Romance_Lover More than 1 year ago
I have to say that I didn't like this book as much as I have the books in Scott's other series. We get all the great historical facts that we love with Scott's work, but the romance in this one just didn't do it for me. I'm hopeful that the next book in the series is better...
BuckeyeAngel More than 1 year ago
Lady Fiona Ormiston has been forced by the king to wed Sir Adham MacFinlagh. While neither of them wants to get married, they do what they must. What they didn’t expect was to experience real feelings for each other. This was a pretty good book. The characters were very well written. I really enjoyed the plot. It was steeped in history, but a little light on romance, which isn’t always a bad thing. I recommend. **I voluntarily read and reviewed this book
sportochick More than 1 year ago
A most unusual read with rich historical detail and wording appropriate for its era. Adham is the main male character who is presented as a man full of integrity, superb warrior abilities and is embedded with a hidden caring that continues to present itself throughout the book. His dealings with Lady Fiona Ormiston and her father caused me to think that there were two extreme sides to his personality. The hardened warrior he presents to all people and the caring side that he rarely shows but those close to him know. Because of this he caught my interest early. Lady Fiona as the main female character drove me a little batty at times. I wanted to shake her because of her carelessness in certain aspects of her life. But this part of her character is indeed her strength at the end of the book and I could see how no other woman would of been the one to be there for Adham in the manner he needed. Seriously, I got wrapped up in the history that is throughout this book and I could feel myself going back in time. It was well done. I give this 3.75 STARS only because I had trouble following the story at times because of the old language that was used and most of us are not familiar with. Received an advance reader copy in exchange for a fair review.
Dawncatlady More than 1 year ago
The reader is drawn into the time of intrigue in Scotland of olde with this tale of Adham and Fiona as they find a pathway of their hearts truth. This author creates interesting characters and interactions for family that keep the readers attention from the first pages to the last. Enjoyed this story and looking forward to her next book. Ebook from netgalley and publishers with thanks. Opinions are entirely my own.
Dawncatlady More than 1 year ago
The reader is drawn into the time of intrigue in Scotland of olde with this tale of Adham and Fiona as they find a pathway of their hearts truth. This author creates interesting characters and interactions for family that keep the readers attention from the first pages to the last. Enjoyed this story and looking forward to her next book. Ebook from netgalley and publishers with thanks. Opinions are entirely my own.
candy-b More than 1 year ago
I was quickly drawn into the story. The characters were vivid and you could see Abham and Fiona growing together and beginning to trust each other. The descriptions are complete, like the wedding of Fiona and Abham, it was beautiful and the way the lochs looked at night, so dark and flat. Unfortunately, once he got her home safely. He had to travel, there was a war brewing. There were some twists and turns in the plot which just added to the interest of the tale. I was up all night, I could not put this down I absolutely loved this book and found the story amazing.
Cali-Jewel More than 1 year ago
Delightful, entertaining, action packed and intriguing historical romance. The descriptions of the area, people and way of life where just detailed enough to fuel the imagination and keep the readers attention to the very end. Lady Fiona Ormiston is so full of sass and spunk you can't help but adore her and root for her happiness. Sir Adham MacFinlagh, an ungroomed, barbaric Highlander with a ready mind and strength of charter is so alluring he just draws you in. Loved all the twists and turns in their adventure and supporting story line. Looking forward to more from this series.
Kelly-T More than 1 year ago
The Reluctant Highlander was a Scottish romance that featured suspense and action. Lady Fiona Ormiston is on the court of the Queen. She has dreams of her future and it most certainly does not include a bearded highlander, but when one crosses her path during a midnight swim, Fiona has trouble getting him out of her mind. Warrior, Sir Adham MacFinlagh, has traveled to town with his Clan for the Parliament meeting. He is loyal to the King but he has biological relations that are trying to pull his loyalty away from the King. He has trouble getting Lady Fiona out of his mind after meeting her during her swim. He is pleased when the King and Fiona's father arrange for him and Fiona to be married. Fiona and Adam marry and Fiona is taken to the Highlands to live with Adam and his family. During their trip, they avoid an attempted kidnapping. Adam and Fiona are in the middle of a war of loyalty. Adam has been asked to travel to the different Clans to assure their loyalty to the King. Adam leaves on trips and then returns to his home. He is helping Fiona adjust to the Highlands and as they come to know one another better, they fall in love with each other. Fiona has trouble adjusting to being married to a Warrior, but she learns to pray for his safe return. All changes when she realizes she may hold the key to Adam's safety. I found The Reluctant Highlander interesting with likable characters. The steamy romance between Adam and Fiona developed nicely. The ending was fantastic, full of action and suspense.
def618 More than 1 year ago
This is an enjoyable, well written book but I like Amanda Scott's earlier series better, especially Border Nights. I very much like that this author stays true to the history of Scotland. This book takes place in 15th century Scotland, a time of strife for that country. Sir Adam MacFinlagh is a highland warrior loyal to the King. Lady Fiona Ormiston is one of the queen's ladies and not fond of highlanders, though she is attracted to Adam. The king decides they will marry. While not thrilled to be living in the highlands, she is attracted to her husband and wishes he wasn't gone so much. Adam loves her but has to answer when the king calls. Much more that I won't spoil. They do get their HEA and I can recommend this book. Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for giving me this ARC. No one influenced my review.
TammyS32 More than 1 year ago
Fiona is a lady in waiting to the Queen and one night Adham catches her swimming at night. The King later on decides that they would make a good match and decides they should marry. There is a lot his Scottish history in this read and great chemistry between Adham and Fiona. I really liked it.
BookReview4you More than 1 year ago
'The Reluctant Highlander' by Amanda Scott The Reluctant Highlander by Amanda Scott My rating: 4 of 5 stars 'The Reluctant Highlander' by Amanda Scott is the story of Lady Fiona Ormiston and Sir Adham MacFinlagh. Fiona has been ordered by the King to Marry Adham. Fiona has been comfortable with the life she has but goes along with the Marriage. Although Adham is totally different than any one she is used to being around. Adham is finding that he is starting to have feelings for his new wife. This was a story of strangers marrying as requested and slowly starting to learn about the other as their days go on. Each thinking something of the other when meeting and going into this marriage...but then that previous preconception starting to change. Later though they are put to the test again when it is thought that Adham family might have ties to the enemy. Overall found this book to be very good. "My honest review is for a special copy I voluntarily read."
Ajgray More than 1 year ago
I received an advance reader copy in exchange for a fair review. The marriage of Fiona and Adham was arranged on the spur of the moment by James the King. War was a part of the Highland life and was constantly on the horizon. A battle where many were killed is in the book but the gruesomeness was not detailed. Adham survived the battle but was captured by a Comyn seeking revenge and later rescued by Fiona and Rory. The book has intrigue, suspense, a battle and the growing love between Fiona and Adham. I enjoyed the book but sometimes the language was hard to understand exactly what they meant. Its still a good read.