Warriors in Winter: In the Bleak Midwinter\The Holly and the Viking\A Season to Forgive (Harlequin Historical Series #1118)

Warriors in Winter: In the Bleak Midwinter\The Holly and the Viking\A Season to Forgive (Harlequin Historical Series #1118)

by Michelle Willingham

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781459249592
Publisher: Harlequin
Publication date: 12/01/2012
Series: MacEgan Brothers
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 403,087
File size: 338 KB

About the Author

RITA ® Award Finalist and Kindle bestselling author Michelle Willingham has written over thirty-five historical romances, novellas, and short stories. Currently, she lives in southeastern Virginia with her husband and children. When she's not writing, Michelle enjoys reading, baking, and avoiding exercise at all costs. Visit her website at: www.michellewillingham.com.

Read an Excerpt


The wind had turned cold in Eireann, forcing Brianna MacEgan inside the walls of her beehive-shaped stone hut. The fire had gone out, but she hadn't built another yet. The chill within these walls matched the feelings of her heart. At any moment, she expected the door to open, with Murtagh sweeping inside to steal a kiss. But he wouldn't. He'd been killed in a raid by a Lochlannach warrior of Gall Tir.

In her nightmares, she saw the frozen expression of shock on Murtagh's face when the spear took his life. A cry of anguish had ripped from her throat as she'd rushed to his side, heedless of danger. Never in her life would she forget the cold expression of the Viking who had killed him. In a fraction of a second, he'd ended her world.

A part of her lay buried beneath the earth at his side. Worse, she'd never conceived a child during the marriage. There would be no son with Murtagh's eyes, no daughter with his smile. The empty longing for a child ached within her, but she couldn't imagine another man taking his place.

The walls seemed to close in on her, the grief shrouding her. Though her father had pleaded with her to return to Rionallis, her childhood home, she couldn't bring herself to leave Laochre. All of her best memories were here, in this home. Inside this space, she could feel Murtagh's presence, like a ghost haunting her. And though she knew it was time to let go of the past, she wasn't ready.

A knock sounded at the door, and without waiting for an answer, her cousin Rhiannon came bursting inside. Her long brown hair was twisted into braids in a crown across her forehead, while the rest fell to her waist. 'I've been looking for you everywhere. The guards saw riders approaching. Liam has returned…and he has a woman with him!'

'He's back from the Crusade?' Brianna stood up, rubbing her arms against the cold. Their cousin had gone to the Holy Land, against his father's orders. The king had been furious to learn of it, but he'd allowed his son to stay…provided that he remained in the service of King Richard the Lionheart. 'Why do you think he brought a woman?'

Rhiannon lifted her shoulders. 'Possibly to marry her. There are wagons behind them, and more riders.' Her cousin's voice was filled with excitement at the prospect of visitors. 'I might find a husband. Pray God, there's someone handsome among them.'

The fervent prayer wasn't entirely in jest. Rhiannon's father believed there was no man alive good enough for his daughter. He'd forbidden any of their tribe to even look at her, much less ask her to marry.

'And if you do meet a handsome stranger?' she prompted.

Rhiannon sent her a secret smile. 'I won't be telling my father about him, you can be certain of that.' She rubbed her shoulders against the cold. 'Come, and let's greet Liam.'

'Go on without me,' Brianna urged. 'I'll follow in a few moments.' No doubt if Liam was getting married, there would be feasting and celebrations for days. The very thought of making merry was foreign to her, like a long-forgotten dream.

Her cousin's face dimmed. 'You've been hiding away for weeks. If I leave you alone, you won't come.'

'I'm sorry.' The loneliness was so unbearable, she didn't know how to force herself out of her melancholy. 'It's just that…today was difficult for me.'

'I'll stand outside the door and wait for you,' Rhiannon warned. 'And you wouldn't want your best friend to die of cold, would you?'

Beneath the teasing, Brianna heard the true concern. Her cousin was only trying to help, to draw her away from the sorrow. Perhaps Rhiannon was right. A distraction might take her mind away from her grief.

Brianna reached for her husband's cloak and drew it around her shoulders. It was too large to fit, but at least she could hold a part of Murtagh to her. 'All right, I'll come.' Before she pulled the door shut behind her, her gaze fixed upon the spear standing in the corner. The tip gleamed in the dim light, the edge honed until it would slice through any man's flesh.

She was torn between destroying the weapon that had claimed Murtagh's life…r using it for vengeance.

Fifteen years, he'd dreamed of this moment. At last, to set foot upon foreign shores and visit the places he'd longed to go. Arturo de Manzano cast a glimpse back at the ship that had brought him from Navarre, and anticipation quickened his pace. All his life, he'd wanted to taste adventure, and he intended to savour every last moment. Even if it was freezing and beginning to rain.

He rode behind his sister Adriana and her betrothed husband, Liam MacEgan. MacEgan had claimed to be an Irish prince, but Arturo would withhold his approval of the marriage until he witnessed the man's rank for himself. Though they were the same age, Liam appeared far older. He wouldn't speak of the horrors he'd witnessed while on Crusade, nor would Adriana. Both of them seemed grateful to be upon peaceful shores, far away from Saracen enemies.

Behind him, servants unloaded the ship filled with his sister's dowry goods. Adriana remained at MacEgan's side, her gaze fixed upon her betrothed husband, as if drawing strength from him. Her eyes were shadowed with sleeplessness, but what concerned Arturo most was the absence of joy in her face. A bride ought to be smiling with happiness, excited about her forthcoming wedding day. But Adriana appeared troubled.

Arturo drew his horse on her opposite side. 'You look tired.'

'It's been a long journey,' she admitted. 'I'm glad to be on land again. As is Liam.'

Liam grimaced, taking a deep breath. 'Had I known that going on Crusade would mean so many months at sea, I doubt I would have gone.' He reached for Adriana's hand. 'But then, I wouldn't have met you.'

Though she ventured a smile, Arturo saw the emptiness within it. 'She shouldn't have left Navarre.' Adriana had been changed by the Crusade. He could see the shadow weighing upon her, though she would not admit it. She'd shrugged away his questions, claiming it was only exhaustion. But Arturo suspected there was more to the story than that.

'It was an honour,' his sister countered. 'The queen needed a lady-in-waiting who could guard her.' Sending Arturo a sidelong glance, she added, 'And my brothers did well enough, teaching me to defend myself.'

'A battlefield is no place for a woman,' Arturo insisted.

'Which was why we left,' Adriana finished. With a warning glance, she silently asked him to abandon the subject.

'Adriana is braver than most women,' Liam said softly. With a wry smile, he added, 'She'll have to be, to survive the ordeal of meeting my family.'

Arturo wasn't certain what MacEgan was implying by that. 'Do they know of the marriage?'

He shook his head. 'I intend to surprise them.'

Adriana eyed her intended husband with wariness. 'And what if your father has arranged another bride in your absence?'

Liam squeezed her hand. 'You are the only one I intend to marry. And I have no doubt they will come to love you.'

She tried to smile, but worry lurked within her dark brown eyes. Arturo hung behind them, watching the couple as they rode toward a vast limestone castle. Adriana had been his friend and ally while they'd grown up together. It was she who had dismissed the potential brides their mother had brought before him, revealing the greed or faithlessness she'd discovered. And it was she who had introduced him to Cristina, the woman he'd been married to for years, before she'd died three summers ago.

The loneliness was starting to abrade his mood. It wasn't simply the desire to visit new places or to experience a culture different from his own. It was the deep need to fill up the empty spaces within his life. He wanted to feel the arms of a child's embrace during the day and a wife to curl up beside him at night. The time had come to find a new woman to bring back with him to Navarre. Perhaps an Irish one, if she was willing.

He saw love on his sister's face when she looked at Liam, despite the worry. They would find their happiness, once she adjusted to her new home. And he envied them.

They continued riding toward Laochre Castle, and the air was much cooler than his native Navarre. Arturo was accustomed to sun and mountains, while this land had the greenest hills he'd ever seen. A large stone wall surrounded the fortress, and it rivalled the holdings of their own father. It reassured him that this marriage would be a strong one, and he signalled to one of the servants to join him.

'My lord.' The man bowed, waiting for his orders.

'Send word back to the Vicomte de Manzano that he and my mother should make arrangements to travel here for the wedding.' He'd wanted to confirm that MacEgan was telling the truth about his land and holdings, before they made the journey. His mother would want to be here, and surely Adriana would be grateful for their parents' presence.

After the servant departed to do his bidding, Arturo caught up to his sister and her husband-to-be. They had already entered the gates, and from the small crowd gathering, they were fascinated by her.

His sister paled at the sight of them. Arturo brought his horse up behind her and spoke quietly in Spanish. 'Don't faint, Adriana.'

'There are so many of them,' she responded back. 'And they're all talking about me.'

''St. But likely they are enchanted by you.'

'Will you not ride beside me?' she pleaded. Liam was speaking to the people in a foreign tongue, murmuring his translation to Adriana in the Norman language.

In a teasing voice Arturo refused, saying, 'I'll stay behind, to cut off your escape.' No doubt his sister was feeling lost amid all the people. He drew closer, giving her his support in the best way he could. While Liam was embraced by family and friends, the smile on Adriana's face grew strained.

He studied the crowd of people, his gaze passing over each of them, until his attention was drawn to another woman standing back from the others. She was dressed in an unadorned gown the colour of muddy water, while her hair was hidden beneath a darker mantle. A softness moved over her face when she saw Liam, but it was immediately shadowed by sadness.

She seemed reluctant to greet them, but when another woman took her hand, the two of them moved past the crowd toward Liam. Despite the mantle cloaking her features, he recognised the fragile beauty of her. After she greeted Liam, speaking quietly in Irish, she retreated from the crowd.

Arturo dismounted, giving his horse over to the stable master. When he returned to Liam's side, he asked, 'Who was that woman?'

'One of my cousins,' the Irishman answered. 'Her name is Brianna.' With a warning look, he added, 'And she's married, my friend.'

'Widowed,' another woman interrupted, switching from the Irish language into the Norman tongue. She embraced Liam, adding, 'Brianna's husband was killed after you left on Crusade.'

That explained the sadness. Arturo knew, well enough, what it was to endure the days ahead, pretending as if the grief weren't there. Even now, there were times when he wished he could speak with Cristina again, hearing her soft laugh. As he watched the woman slipping away, he sympathised with her fate.

Moments later, the king and queen of Laochre came forward. Queen Isabel threw herself at Liam, openly weeping tears of joy as she framed her son's face with her hands. 'Praise the saints, you're home.' She gripped him tightly and then scolded, 'When you left us, have you any idea how I worried about you? I'm so glad you're safe.'

'You're crushing him, Isabel,' the king said gently, pulling her back. But he embraced his son as well before turning to Adriana. 'I am Patrick MacEgan, King of Laochre.'

His sister managed a curtsy and Liam drew her forward. 'Father, this is Adriana de Manzano, the woman I intend to marry. And her brother Arturo de Manzano.'

At the mention of a wedding, the queen sent her a blinding smile and embraced Adriana. 'I bid you welcome.' Moments later, she began chattering so fast, Arturo wondered if Adriana would understand a word of it. But she walked alongside Isabel, and he supposed the queen would take good care of her.

It was clear that the king wanted to speak to his son alone, so Arturo offered to oversee the wagons. As he supervised them, bringing them into the inner bailey, his gaze returned to the hooded woman.

Brianna held herself apart from the others, and when the drizzling rain shifted into snow, she drew her mantle tighter around her. To his surprise, she caught him watching her and walked forward until she stood before him. At first, she spoke Irish, but when he shook his head, not understanding, she switched into the Norman language.

'Why do you stare at me?'

Her direct manner caught him off guard. Answering honestly, he said, 'Why do you think a man stares at a woman?'

She lifted her chin and met his eyes boldly. 'Find another woman for your attentions, Spaniard. I am not the one for you.'

A gust of wind caught at her hood, and it slipped away from her hair. It was nearly as dark as his own, and it contrasted sharply against her fair skin, making her green eyes stand out. Her features were exotic to him, beautiful in a way he'd never seen before.

'We have more in common than you know.' He lifted her hood back to cover her hair, while the snow dusted both of them. He was referring to her loss, but she remained motionless until his hands moved away.

'Turn your eyes elsewhere, Spaniard,' she whispered. He recognised the edge of grief beneath her words. If she had lost her husband, then likely she would find his interest offensive.

'I know your pain,' he said softly. 'The grief never leaves you. But time dulls it, eventually.'

He gave a slight bow, and turned back to join the others. He didn't have to turn, to know that she was now watching him.

Customer Reviews

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Warriors in Winter: In the Bleak Midwinter the Holly and the Viking a Season to Forgive 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 15 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
All three stories were awesome, so much feeling and later love shown by all the strong Heroines (love a strong heroine!) And loving Heroes!!!! Highly Recommend!!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Penken More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this heartwarming anthology. Each story is about one of three cousins. They are each a child of a MacEgan Brother from the MacEgan Brothers series. I had not read the MacEgan Brothers series before reading this anthology and was able to enjoy each story without the back story. After reading this anthology I went back and read the entire series and really enjoyed knowing what happens to the brothers' children I read about in the stories. If you have read the MacEgan Brothers series you will definitely want to read this one as well.
NavyWave62 More than 1 year ago
FANTASTIC - AWESOME!! I wasn't sure 3 short stories could be connected in such a way that you wanted more. But I was so surprised how well they were written, connected in such a new way that I loved all 3. Well worth your time and money. I recommended the whole series of the MacEgan Brother's and now the Christmas story of their offspring. Great job Michelle!
SarahWeaver More than 1 year ago
Michelle Willingham continues her MacEgan's series with Warriors in Winter. This book continues their story by visiting their children in three short stories. Each story follows the journey of a different couple during the same time period. After finishing this book all I could think was WOW! The short stories blend pretty perfectly giving us different glimpses of the same events and time periods and never become redundant or convoluted. The end product is simply magic. If you love the Highlands and historical romances you can't get much better than Michelle Willingham's MacEgan books!
BonnieGBG More than 1 year ago
I don't normally care for novellas but I really liked this book. The 3 stories in the book are connected and take place in the same time frame.I enjoyed how the stories overlapped and flowed into the next. The middle story with wounded hero Kaall and sheltered Rhiannon was my favorite! The Christmas setting and the customs of the times were entertaining to read. I have not read the other MacEagan books but will definitely be reading them soon.
Mindy14 More than 1 year ago
Love this MacEgan book. This is the perfect book that you can just sit down and read cover to cover in one sitting... You will not want to miss out this book . The intertwining of the 3 stories was magnificently done and kept me wanting more . Its A must read for that winter reading list. All 3 stories were BRILLIANT! Michelle really out did herself this time!!! All three women aren't too soft but strong and you love them more for it!!! Love her work and will continue to Read!!!
MelanieMeadors More than 1 year ago
Michelle Willingham made me cry again (in a good way)! WARRIORS IN WINTER is a collection of three stories, all intertwined, starring the children of the characters who were in Willingham's "MacEgan Brothers" series. This book (and I think all of Willingham's) stands alone just fine, but I think readers of the other MacEgan books will enjoy seeing those characters again, and seeing their children grown up. Those who haven't read those books yet--you can get them as e-books! The first story in this collection, "In the Bleak Midwinter," had such sympathetic characters that my heart truly felt like it was breaking for them. What a beautiful story of healing and hope. The second, "The Holly and the Viking," is a tale of forgiveness (on a slightly larger scale) and understanding. I really liked the two main characters in this one, especially the hero. The third story is "A Season to Forgive," which, as the title states, is also a forgiveness story, this time between the hero and heroine, and also between the heroine and herself. I liked this story, but I think because Willingham's characters are so sympathetic, I felt the heroine's pain very poignantly. I really wanted the hero to be more understanding, but I can understand why he was like that. Seeing the story from both points of view was emotionally difficult. But of course, it was rewarding in the end. I don't think a story being that way is a BAD thing, personally. But from reading reviews of other stories, sort of along the same vein, I do know that not everyone feels that way. That being said, I couldn't put this book down. All in all, I highly recommend this book for some seasonal enjoyment. The perfect book to curl up next to a fire with :).
MelissaPorter32 More than 1 year ago
Oh my word...Liam and Adriana's story was gut wrenching. I had to finish the story. I needed to know what happened. The twisting and pulling that was going on just kept me reading. I loved all three stories. They all weaved around each other and was truely well written. Getting the stories to combine togther had to have been a challenge. One I am glad that Michelle took on. These stories show and tell how people can overcome past hurts. (I did not want to give any spoilers.) I hope that anyone that reads these stories really enjoys them like I did. I know I will most likely come back an reread them. They are ones that will stay in the mind for days and years to come. The one that you keep remembering, the one that you will have to reread.
GailAdams More than 1 year ago
It is that time of year for me to be looking for that book that I can curl up with and enjoy the story of Christmas that an author is sharing. This year the story was by one of my favorite authors............Michelle Willingham. Whether you have read her stories or not, a must read is Warriors in Winter. The MacEgan family once again is brought together and you will not be able to put this book down. Brianna, Rhiannon and Liam MacEgan have stories that intertwine. Brianna has lost her husband and is introduced to Liam MacEgan's soon to be brother in law. Arturo has lost his love and the two soon realize that they have a common bond. Rhiannon finds a blind warrior and is drawn to his lonliness and soon discovers that she finds his inner strength and strong character what is drawing her to him. Liam is in love with Adrianna, Arturo's sister, but Adrianna's secret is tending to place a definite strain on their relationship. If you enjoy stories with well written characters, stories that hold you spellbound, have twists and turns and love medievals with bold warriors, this is the book for you. Sit back, relax and enjoy three stories of love at Christmas time. You will definitely be glad you picked up this page turner.
Kathleen2 More than 1 year ago
Warriors in Winter – Three Stories – They take place as Liam MacEgan returns home with his bride-to-be, Adriana de Manzano. Liam and Adriana meet in the short story by Michelle called “Lionheart’s Bride” (first published March 28th 2011) In my review of Lionheart’s Bride I wrote, I would love to see what happens with Adriana, and the highlander prince Liam. Well this book is the continuation of their story and how it touches the lives of two other couples. These stories are separate but each one gives us a peek into their lives as they come together during the winter solstice celebration and the five days leading to Christmas. In the Bleak Midwinter – Brianna MacEgan (widow of Murtagh who was killed by a Lochlannach warrior) and Arturo de Manzano meet as he rides into Laochre Castle fortress. From that point on her fragile beauty and air of sadness speak to Arturo. He pursues her and as he learns Brianna’s story he becomes enchanted with her. Will Arturo be able to break through her sadness and anger and turn her year long morning period into dreams of the future? - If I were to give each story a star to represent my favorite to least favorite; 1-3, I would give this one a 3. Not because of the writing or the story itself. But because I knew I would be forced to deal with someone going through a great loss. (I have my reasons for not wanting to go there) Before you know it you are invested in this persons life. You feel the experiences she describes as though you are there. Brianna is so caught up in her own misery she might not see Arturo for the godsend that he is. I wanted to smack her, saying ‘Snap out of it!’ Brianna has good reason to be sad but not angry. I know sometimes sadness and anger run hand in hand. However, this is the beauty of Ms. Willingham’s writing. You may experience more than you bargain for. The Holly and The Viking –Kaal Hardrata is blind and involved in an accident that causes the death of another. As a result of that accident the child of his first love is taken away from him. He is a bitter man and trying hard to survive and be reunited with her. Enter Rhiannon MacEgan, the cousin of Liam daughter of Connor MacEgan (The Warriors Touch). She is young and longing to have a mate but her father is fiercely protective. They meet when she becomes disoriented in a snowstorm and takes shelter in a cave; a cave that Kaal calls home. This is a special romance. We see the world through a blind mans senses and how he overcomes tragedy with the help of one very special female. A Season To Forgive – Adriana de Manzano and Liam MacEgan – the reason I wanted so badly to read this book. I was not disappointed. Events occurred in Lionheart’s Bride that I always wondered about. The rest of the story is told here. Adriana is haunted by dreams of the past. She wakes nightly from nightmares so horrible she can’t bury them deep enough. This should be a time of celebration. Liam is a wonderful giving and caring man. However the past is going to have to be dealt with but Adriana is unsure if Liam will be able to understand and forgive. Warriors in Winter is a nicely arranged book, the three stories come together with a nice climax and they all stand well on their own. I enjoyed how all these lives entwine. All the characters are strong with their own personalities. The women aren’t too soft but strong and feminine enough to be endearing. The men, well, lets just say they don’t make them now like they did then, *grins wickedly*. I would love to see more books like this by other authors that write series. Great job Michelle.
Kooky71 More than 1 year ago
Perfect reading with a mince pie or three. Michelle really has captured the season wonderfully in these three novellas. This compliation features the next generation of MacEgans, two very strong independent women and Liam, the future King. In this, they meet their match and the reader really does go through all the emotions of falling in love, the passion and the pain that the couples experience. Brilliant and a must have for the season!
KahlanMercy More than 1 year ago
This book contains three novellas within the MacEgan Brothers world. It is listed as book #7. The first story is about Brianna MacEgan and Arturo de Manzano, both surviving the passing of their mates. Brianna is angry over the murder of her husband when Arturo meets her, but he is able to bring her back to life. This is a complete story even though it is short. The second tale is of Rhiannon MacEgan and Kaall Hardrata. After accidentally killing a man due to his blindness, Kaall lost his daughter and was cast out of his village. When Rhiannon is attacked by a wolf Kaall saves her, only to be bitten by the wolf in return. Rhiannon helps him recover and the two fall in love. The third and final story involves Adriana de Manzano and Liam MacEgan who recently returned from the crusades in the Holy Land. Adriana saved Liam's life by allowing the King to use her without Liam's knowledge. Now that they are within MacEgan territory she is unable to confess her pain to him and this drives a wedge between them. These three stories all occur at the same time, which gives a nice perspective on the events. Since they overlap, each story builds on the one before it. However, the succeeding tales don't have as much detail as the ones preceding them. Overall, this antholgoy is a cohesive story that gives different characters' experiences and shows that sometimes in romance there are multiple stories happening at one time. I do recommend reading the books earlier in the series first even though this can be read as a standalone book. I'm sure there were details I missed simply because I hadn't read the previous stories.
Laura_Polito_McEleney More than 1 year ago
This was my first look into the MacEgan's world and I must say I will be visiting again, which means that my credit card will be in full use tomorrow LOL Brianna and Arturo's story, "In The Bleak Midwinter", is a very touching story. I love the way MW writes, you really can feel both of their loss' as she draw's you into their lives. The struggle Brianna faces while she tries to overcome her feelings of guilt as she falls in love with Arturo. The obstacle's Arturo has to overcome that Brianna place's in his path. Speaking of obstacles to overcome! Wow! In "The Holly and the Viking", Rhiannon has quite the time of it. First, trying to break through Kaall's reserve and hurt and then her family's, namely Brianna's, understandable misgivings about her choice in men. Finally, my favorite of the three, A Season to Forgive, Adriana and Liam's story. Which is really hard for me to say because I enjoyed each and every one separately as well as how they all fit together and flowed into one story. Between Liam's confusion and Adriana's guilt and then the twist, that made my jaw literally drop, I couldn't pit it down!! I don't want to give too much away! Again, Michelle Willingham has written a story, or three, of such emotional punch that the characters pop off the page so you can laugh, cry and cringe along with them. I don't know how she does it but MW manages to put so much story in 283 pages and creates characters you can't help but fall for.
Scottishlass2 More than 1 year ago
"Spend Christmas with your favorite Warriors--the MacEgans!" This first sentence took me back to one of my favorite families and from there, the adventure never stops. Three stories--Brianna, Rhiannon, and Liam, children of the MacEgan Warriors. With this anthology, I felt as if I was reading one, for the stories are intertwined together, filled with passion and adventure. A beautiful way to spend the holidays curled up with this book.