We have received a most interesting report from an American acquaintance now engaged in a grand tour of the far northern reaches of our fair isle. The events in question occurred several months previously, and have not been greatly talked of in London. Or at all!
Dear Readers, you are the first in our great metropolis to learn of this story! No less a personage than a new member of the loftiest of our toplofty ranks, formerly a mere Mr. Mac, has married none other than the lady he employed to tend to the domestic responsibilities of the castle from which he rules his realm.
Some of you may not find such a story surprising. After all, it is said that the society of those places my American friend describes as having “lakes with a quiet sheen of water surrounded by high, swelling, naked mountains” might be less genteel than that of our southern climes. Perhaps this is due to the great north’s scarcity of society, the harsh climate, and the ancient rigors of kinship. (Why, my friend has also reported that at the close of a hearty dinner, even the ladies take whisky!)
Astonishingly, however, my inquiries reveal that this former Mr. Mac and the lady in question, a certain Mrs. M, were in fact not of Caledonian extraction at all but of good English gentry stock!
How such a thing came about is a tale involving a long-standing feud, common in those climes. Our American friend, a minister of one of the churches hatched in the free-thinking country that renounces all noble titles, finds the matter vastly amusing. He claims, in fact, to have dined with the lofty personage and his lady and heard the whole story from the proverbial horse’s mouth!
He proclaims it a most heartening Christmas tale of revelation, forgiveness and in the end redemption.
Dear Reader, as soon as we learn more, we will be sure to provide the whole story!
About the Book: The Duke She Despised
The new Duke of Kinmarty has lost everyone who mattered and gained naught but a title, and debt, and an old pile of a castle. When a fetching new housekeeper appears on his doorstep frantic to ready the place for the Yuletide, he seizes the chance for a respite from grieving and pretends to be the new duke’s estate factor.
With her cousin’s children due to arrive from India, a vicar’s widow hides her identity and takes a position as housekeeper to their dreadful uncle, the man who years ago sabotaged her own chance for happiness. Overwhelmed by a castle understaffed and in disarray, she forges a bond with the new duke’s charming but not very competent factor, not knowing that he’s hiding something as well.
When allies become lovers, each senses the truth may rip them apart. Can their love survive when she discovers he’s the duke she despised?
Award-winning and USA Today bestselling author Alina K. Field earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in English and German literature, but she prefers the much happier world of romance fiction. Though her roots are in the Midwestern U.S., after six very, very, very cold years in Chicago, she moved to Southern California and hasn’t looked back. She is the author of several Regency romances, including the 2014 Book Buyer’s Best winner, Rosalyn’s Ring. She is hard at work on her next series of historical romances, but loves to hear from readers!
The clan was busy with planting. Even the laird—Niall MacLean was out in the fields. The laird was still healing from the death of his wife and newborn son from a little over a year earlier. Thankfully, he had stopped drowning himself in his cups. That eased the clan’s worries for their laird.
So when a boat arrived on the isle, the
whole clan was thrown to the floor when Ermina Bruce pronounced that her and
the Laird were married. That news alone was shocking but she was with child. She
was so large with child that no one could look beyond her belly to see her
The clan couldn’t stopped talking about it.
No one thought he would marry so quickly then we learned that he was handfasted
with the lass to protect her and certain events followed as they do. That
sounded like the man I served and stand at his side. The whole MacLean clan was
hoping that love bloomed. We all saw that his wife loved him, so that was a
Only problem was Ermina Bruce swore she’d
die in childbirth. The laird couldn’t survive burying another wife.
Another thing: it seemed that the Laird couldn’t fight against feelings he had deep inside him. He told me they were friends, having grown up from childhood to adulthood together. But I knew differently, and now it was time for Ermina and Niall to learn it.
The Chieftan’s Secret
On a windswept Scottish Isle…
Many objects wash up on the shores of the rugged Isle of Mull. The Laird of Lochbuie never expected a pregnant wife to be included among the items. Honorable Niall MacLean was wed to his childhood love when she died in childbirth. Now a widower, he struggles to get beyond his grief.
Then his dear friend, Ermina Bruce pleaded for his help. His protective instinct came alive and he handfasted with Ermina to save her from an unsuitable marriage and one drunken night has led to forever after and a possible repeat of his past heartbreak.
The bonds of friendship…
Noble Ermina Bruce has loved Niall MacLean since he first fostered in her uncle’s home. But he loved another so she settled for the deep bonds of friendship. When Niall save her from that miserable fate, she never thought she would end up in his arms.
One night of passion…
That one night in Niall’s arms led to her pregnancy. Ermina has not told Niall of their secret baby. But his reaction isn’t her greatest fear. Her fear is even greater than the brave laird’s wrath. Every woman in her family has died in childbirth and all know the same fate awaits her. Once again, Ermina knows Niall is the only one who can save her. And if he fails, her last days shall be with the man she loves.
Dear Reader, it has come to the attention of the Teatime Tattler that a shocking new fancy has overtaken certain young ladies who might otherwise have been considered diamonds of the first water. Namely, they have forgotten that the current romantic view of the Scottish Highlands, so carefully fostered by Sir Walter Scott, is not a true representation of that barbaric region. Even our finest families have been corrupted! We have heard from a most reliable source that an actual savage Highlander not only attended the presentation ball of Miss Darcy in the very presence of the Earl and Countess of Matlock, but was actually seen in cordial conversation with them both! Rumor has it that this young gentleman, if one can use such a term, is a connection of the new Mrs. Darcy, whose family was quite deserved unknown prior to her unexpected marriage, so perhaps they felt obliged to invite him. But there is no excuse for the behavior of a flock of young ladies who ought to have known better than to desperately seek introductions to this so-called laird.
Signed, A Concerned Citizen
About the Book: A Matter of Honor
Pride & Prejudice goes to Scotland!
When Fitzwilliam Darcy, still smarting from Elizabeth
Bennet’s rejection, discovers she was forced to flee her home in disgrace owing
to his actions, his course is clear. He must marry her. It is a matter of
honor. All he has to do is find her and propose. Surely that will be simple
But Elizabeth does not want to be found, especially not by
Darcy. From the moment he entered her life, he has caused disaster after
disaster. Now he has followed her all the way to Scotland, foolishly certain
it’s within his power to fix all her problems. But far more is at stake than
Darcy’s quest takes him from backstage at Edinburgh’s
Theatre Royal to the wilds of the Scottish Highlands, where mysterious
Highlanders prove both friend and enemy. And now his search risks exposing
long-hidden secrets that threaten his happiness and her future.
On the run and in danger, Elizabeth is forced to make
impossible choices to protect those whom she loves – including Darcy. Her
growing attraction to him is at war with her need for caution, and the stakes are
impossibly high. Can she trust him to continue to fight for her protection when
he knows the whole truth? And if he does, will it be for love… or will it be
merely a matter of honor?
Excerpt from A Matter of Honor
“Here you are, sir.” Elizabeth
handed a cup of Christmas punch to Mr. Siddons. “Happy Christmas.”
“And to you as well.” The theatre
manager raised his glass to her. “I look forward to this dinner every year. It
is almost like being back in England.”
“But with a much smaller Yule log.”
Elizabeth nodded to the elegant fireplace which barely held a moderate-sized
He chuckled. “Indeed so.”
Elizabeth ladled out a new glass of
punch, turned to the next guest, and almost dropped the glass. It would have
slid through her fingers had not a hand reached out and steadied it.
It was Mr. Darcy’s hand. What in
God’s name was he doing here?
“How clumsy of me!” she said
hastily. “You saved me from spilling punch everywhere. Let me see – are you not
Mr. Fitzpatrick’s friend?”
His dark gaze enveloped her. In a
low, intense voice, he said, “It is Christmas, Miss Elizabeth. I will say
nothing to anyone, but I beg of you not to pretend. Not today.” His fingers
brushed hers as he accepted a glass of punch.
A week ago he had practically
ignored her at the theatre, and now this! Should she admit it? He had already
guessed it, and her reaction to discovering his presence would have given her
away in any case. So much was at stake, but there could be no one at her aunt’s
Christmas dinner who would report on her. And it seemed to mean something to
him, given the way he was studying her.
Elizabeth forced her shoulders to
relax. “For Christmas. As long as you tell no one.”
A light leapt in his dark eyes. “I
thank you.” He raised his glass. “To your very good health and happiness.” He
touched the glass to his lips.
She ducked her head in
acknowledgment. With trembling hands, she filled another glass with punch and
held it out to the next guest.
Mr. Darcy took the hint and moved
away. Elizabeth deliberately did not watch where he went. Not that there would
be much doubt about it since he had only one friend there and everyone else in
the room was far beneath his notice. It would doubtless be a repeat of the
Meryton assembly where he had spoken only to members of his own party. Her lips
twitched. That would not serve him well in this crowd of theatricals.
When she finally dared to look
across the drawing room, she was astonished to find Mr. Darcy in close
conversation with her aunt and Mr. Siddons. Not only that, but he appeared
amused by something she had said.
What astonishing behavior! Surely
her words of reproof at Hunsford could not have worked such a miraculous
change! Perhaps it was not a change, though. Mr. Darcy might feel obliged to be
polite to his hostess, no matter how much he disdained her.
At least it was safer that way.
Nothing Mr. Darcy could reveal about Elizabeth would be a surprise to her aunt.
She was not over-worried that he would disclose her past, though. He had said
he would not. He might be proud, resentful, and ill-tempered, but she had never
known him to be dishonest. No, Jasper had said he was not ill-tempered. What a
puzzle Mr. Darcy was!
Soon there were no more guests to
serve. Two actresses remained by the punch bowl to converse with her. She usually
enjoyed their company, but today she could not forget the gentleman sitting
across the room.
Then he was no longer sitting
across the room, but beside her and offering his arm. “Miss Merton, would you
do me the honor of going in to dinner with me?” He stumbled slightly over her
“Of course.” She could not refuse
him without being utterly rude. Even though the last thing she wished for was
to spend time with him, she would have to tolerate it. Perhaps it would give
her the opportunity to discover what he wanted from her and to convince him to
stay away. She placed her hand on his arm. Somehow even that small contact felt
What could Mr. Darcy mean by this
particular attention to her? After she refused his proposal so bitterly, she
would have expected him to avoid her company, as he had that day at the
theatre. Perhaps he knew so few people in Scotland that even her acquaintance
was tolerable, but he would have to be terribly lonely before he would choose
to spend his time with the woman who had summarily rejected his hand and heart!
She risked a glance at his face. He
did not appear particularly pleased with her company, but his features showed
no extraordinary resentment either. Perhaps there was no other woman present
whom he felt comfortable enough to sit with at dinner. In this gathering, he
would likely wish to avoid revealing too much about his background. A wealthy
gentleman would be too much of a target.
It was impossible that he could
still care for her, but on the slight chance he did, it behooved her to behave
kindly towards him. She had no regrets about having refused him, but she had
long rued how bitterly and hurtfully she had done so. Even though she did not
want his attentions now, she had no desire to hurt him more than she already
Abigail Reynolds may be a nationally bestselling author and
a physician, but she can’t follow a straight line with a ruler. She studied
Russian and theater at Bryn Mawr College and marine biology at the Marine
Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole. After a stint in performing arts
administration, she decided to attend medical school, and took up writing to
retain her sanity during her years as a physician in private practice.
A life-long lover of Jane Austen’s novels, Abigail began writing variations on Pride & Prejudice in 2001, then expanded her repertoire to include a series of novels set on her beloved Cape Cod. Her most recent releases are Mr. Darcy’s Enchantment,Conceit & Concealment,Mr. Darcy’s Journey, and Alone with Mr. Darcy. Her books have been translated into six languages. She lives on Cape Cod with her husband, her son and a menagerie of animals. Her hobbies do not include sleeping or cleaning her house.
A faint rapping came upon the door. The soft voice of Emma, the parlour maid, followed. “My Lady?”
“Enter,” I called.
Emma entered and curtsied to me. “Pardon me, My Lady, but the young woman is here about the position. Would you like to see her in the morning room?”
“Yes, thank you. I’ll be there presently.” With a sigh, I stood from my seat at the desk and stretched, glancing around my bedroom with a wince. Dresses, chemises, ribbons seemed to have strewn themselves over every available surface. I was sorry for Hannah, my maid, but she truly was not well, and the trip away with her daughter would do her the world of good. I desperately needed a lady’s maid.
Never mind, perhaps this one will be suitable.
I straightened my bodice and patted my hair back into position. Earlier this morning, Emma had tried her best with my coiffure, but she had never been trained as a lady’s maid.
C’est la vie.
My husband Lord M—’s ancestors frowned down from their portraits at the picture I must make with my less than salubrious attire, but I was, indeed, trying to remedy that situation this morning.
Emma stood beside the closed door to the morning room, curtsied and opened it. I entered, and the portal clicked closed behind me.
The girl, dressed in a tidy shirt and skirt, stood beside the fire in the grate, her pelisse over her arm. She curtsied, then looked directly at me, which I found refreshing.
“Good morning, and you would be Rachael,” I said, as I seated myself in one of the comfortable French chairs.
“Yes, My Lady. Good morning to you. Thank you for seeing me today.”
“Mmm. You understand I seek a lady’s maid. Have you a character?”
She handed over the single sheet of paper, folded and sealed. I glanced at the seal. Sutherland, no less.
“And what was your position at Sutherland’s?”
“If it pleases you, My Lady, I was a parlour maid there, but me mum trained me to be a lady’s maid since I was young.” She dropped her eyes to her wool-lined pelisse and the fingers of one hand crushed her carefully pleated skirt as she stood waiting for my next question.
“And you do not wish to continue as a parlour maid?”
She swallowed hard and looked back at me. “No, if it pleases you. I wish to better myself, to honour the memory of my mother.”
“You’re well-spoken. Your mother’s doing?”
She nodded. “Yes, My Lady.”
“And why do you wish to leave the employ of the Sutherlands?”
She took a deep breath and tightened her jaw. She finally answered. “Do you wish to hear the acceptable answer to that question or the truth?”
I smiled at her. The girl had gumption. “I appreciate being given the choice,” I said, with a wry grin. “The truth, please. Always.”
“It’s to be the truth, then.” She tightened her jaw for a moment. “I’d aspired to the position of lady’s maid there, but one young Master Sutherland… he was a bit free with his hands on more than one occasion, and… well, luckily, I was blessed to be holding a hot warming pan in mine, and… no one was injured, but the noise was tremendous.” Her lips twitched, but she kept a straight face. “Several other servants rushed to the room. I escaped and stayed as far away as possible from the young master. Fortunately, or unfortunately,” the girl looked down at me with a grimace, “on the same day, a young girl from the estate, Sofia, came into service as a tweenie.” She looked at me again, her brow wrinkled.
“Go on, please,” I said.
“Not only has her whole family been sent out to the coast in the Clearances, but Sofia was waiting for her young Robert, the son of the old Tacksman, and the love of her life, to return from his military service, but, well, things have gone badly for the young miss. Very badly. I know it is just a matter of time before…. well, before she is dismissed… and then his attentions could return to me. I’m a good girl and don’t want to go that way, if it pleases you, My Lady.”
I frowned at the character in my hands, as yet unopened.
Was there any point opening it?
For those of you who have read the first book in The Long Trails series, A Long Trail Rolling, this is the first of Scotty’s stories. As you may remember, Scotty is the trading post proprietor in A Long Trail Rolling, my award winning debut novel. Scotty’s real name is Robert, not Scotty, but you’ll have to read the as-yet unwritten books to find out the reasons he changed his name!
I invite you to wait to hear the rest of Scotty and Sophia’s story in the boxed set by the Bluestocking Belles, coming later this year!
Lizzi grew up riding wild in the Santa Cruz Mountain redwoods, became an equine veterinarian at UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine and practiced in the Gold and Pony Express Country of California before emigrating to New Zealand.
Busy raising two boys, farming, and running her own equine veterinary practice, she never thought she’d sit down long enough to write more than an article. A serious injury, however, changed all that, and planted her in one place long enough to jump-start her new career as an author!
With Lizzi’s debut historical romance, A Long Trail Rolling, she was: Finalist 2013 RWNZ Great Beginnings; Winner 2014 RWNZ Pacific Hearts Award for the best unpublished full manuscript; Winner 2015 RWNZ Koru Award for Best First Novel and third in the 2015 RWNZ Koru Long Novel section; and Finalist, 2015 Best Indie Book Award. Her newest novels and novellas, all released in 2017, are currently entered in more contests, and she’s working on her next novel!
When she’s not writing, she’s swinging a rapier or shooting a bow in medieval garb, riding or driving a carriage, playing in the garden on her hobby farm, singing, cooking, practicing as an equine veterinarian or teaching high school science. She is multiply published and awarded in special interest magazines and veterinary periodicals.
Lizzi is new to the Belles, but she’s loving the friendships she’s already developing with the rest of the ladies. She adores how they’re so progressive, organized, and fun. Best of all, they are all willing to put themselves out there, together, to achieve more, create more, than would be possible going it alone.
The Highlands are agog with the news of the impending marriage of Ailsa Cameron to the dreaded Laird Duncan MacLean. Clans MacLean and Cameron have been enemies since St. Columba walked these lands. All know these two clans rather break bones than bread. Now, they are binding together for peace.
And that poor lass, Ailsa Cameron—she is a sweet, tender soul they say. Ailsa the Tender— as she is known—will be no match for Black Duncan MacLean. The Laird is a man who likes to display the heads of his enemies on pikes, not display the type of affection the lasses like. The man doesn’t smile and lives a spartan life few came withstand. Worse, he has vowed to kill any Cameron who steps on MacLean land.
Yet, there may be hope for the bride and her groom…Black Duncan has loved before and had his heart crushed like heather beneath a foot. If Ailsa can somehow reach the heart he has buried then a chance for love and happiness exists.
All fear that Ailsa doesn’t stand a chance.
An excerpt from The Marriage Alliance
Duncan MacLean took stock of the lass. Her curtain of blazing tresses draped down to her hips. She had green eyes. Easy to notice since she gawked at him. Her complexion seemed fair, if not pale with fear. Her fine features exhibited a delicate quality yet a resoluteness radiated from her high cheekbones that should have held the rosy bloom of youth and health. Comely lass…If she closed her gaping mouth.
“She’s puny,” Duncan said to his two trusted commanders, Caelan and Lachlan. These two men had been at his side since he wielded a wooden sword. He valued their judgment, sought their advice and half the time adhered to it, and they guarded his back.
“It’s her inferior bloodline,” Caelan replied.
Duncan agreed. If Cameron men were stunted, it was only proper their women were even smaller than wee. He expected too much from a Cameron Female.
“At least, you’re not wedding the Urquhart lass. What’s her name?” Lachlan asked Caelan while peeking at the Cameron female.
“Nessie,” Caelan grunted.
“Oh aye, the Loch Ness monster,” Lachlan said, with a brief laugh. “At least this one’s a bonnie lass.”
“I do not care about her looks,” Duncan replied, secretly pleased she bore no resemblance to her father.
Lachlan snorted. ‘That’s what every man says until he’s shackled to a beast.”
Caelan smirked and Lachlan puffed his chest with pride.
Duncan blocked out Lachlan. It still dumbfounded Duncan that he was taking a wife and a Cameron no less. MacLeans and Camerons had been enemies since before his birth but that ended with a priest and a vow before the Lord. Warring with the Camerons sounded much more thrilling than standing before a priest and vowing his life to her.
When the red-haired rat offered peace for both clans to war against their common enemy the MacKinnons, his plan shocked Duncan. When Cameron offered marriage to his only daughter, he felt insulted. For some daft reason, he never pulled his broadsword from it scabbard and cleave Cameron in half but instead, he sat and listened. For some reason unfathomable to him even now, he decided to wed the lass.
Duncan smirked. Much as he expected, this puny woman to behave as a Cameron, ready to run, she remained at his side. She must have realized there was no escape or rescue but she kept her head lowered.
He stared at the top of her head, waiting for her to spare him one glance. She had the loveliest hair he had ever seen, streaks of auburns, coppers, golds and bronzes blended to create her silky strands. He only beheld such radiant tones when the sun set over the highlands. In the deep recess of his mind, he was grateful her hair wasn’t the palest of blonde. Hers pleased him.
It was convenient he preferred her waving tresses since he would only see the top of her head from the rest of his days. The woman hadn’t looked past his chin.
That might not be a bad thing. He recognized her fear of him, after all, he was Duncan MacLean, and it was right he be feared. Yet, she risked his displeasure and wrath to state her wants even as her voice trembled but her daring pleased him. How much more spirit she had hidden away? Duncan wanted to seek it out, see her face color from it. Hell, he was enjoying the prospect of having her as his wife.
But she was Cameron.
Forgetting that truth could kill him.
He barely survived the last betrayal.
As he recited the vows, she leaned toward Father Murray. While he pledged his troth, never raising his voice but adding more bite when he heard her hiss, “Must he stand there with his arms crossed as such?”
Father Murray waved her to silence. She shrugged. Duncan smothered his grin. Aye, her spirit pleased him. She wasn’t weak like other Camerons. When he vowed to love and cherish her, she humphed in a high-pitched tone like a mouse trapped in a cat’s mouth.
He was the cat.
About the Book
Her hand in marriage could secure peace and safety for those she longs to protect.
Lady Ailsa Cameron is not the most patient of souls. She has even slept through a few high masses. Still, this gentle lass never did anything wicked enough to deserve her father’s pronouncement that she must wed the dread Black Duncan, Laird of Clan MacLean.
As leader of the Spartans of the North, Duncan MacLean has inspired many a gruesome tale throughout the majestic highlands and beyond. Duncan accepts Laird Cameron’s offer of his daughter’s hand in marriage and pledges to make war against their shared enemy, Clan MacKinnon.
Duncan aches to possess his ravishing bride as passionately as he vows never to lower his defenses again. Love blooms between them nonetheless, until betrayal incites a war. Clan MacLean is in danger as are Ailsa and Duncan – but the thing in most peril is their love.
Can past enemies become lovers at last? Or will the flame in their hearts be consumed by the fires of war?
An Air Force brat, Mageela Troche has lived throughout the world then landed in New York City. She wanted to leave the same day she arrived. Yet, with her stubbornness, Mageela learned to like the place and the libraries were the main reason. Since she was a little girl, Mageela wanted to be an author and an actress, however, once in college, she changed her life plan in the pursuit of money. After all, college loans must be repaid.
With life’s twists and turns, she returned to writing and focused on the romance genre. Mageela Troche’s first break came when she sold a short story to a magazine. She sold two more before the publication of her historical romance novel, The Marriage Alliance. She has gone on to write four more novels and a novella.
Mageela is currently writing in the cramped corner of her Big Apple apartment. She is the proud owner of a Black-masked lovebird named Boobula. She loves to hear from her readers and can be found online at MageelaTroche.com