THE HIGHLANDER WHO LOVED ME
Released Dec 29th, 2015
A HIGHLANDER IS ALWAYS WORTH WAITING FOR
Scottish Highlands, 1329. Sir James McKenna, second son of the powerful McKenna Chief, knows he has found his destiny when he falls in love with sweet Lady Davina Armstrong, niece of the Armstrong Chief. Orphaned in childhood, Davina has always felt like an outsider, and with James finally feels that she belongs. But their plans for a happy future are shattered after a brutal attack by a band of rogues. Horrified, Davina’s overprotective family quickly shelters her from everyone—including James…
Five years later, James is a changed man. His fighting skills sharpened to perfection, he is hardened by the war and destruction he’s endured as a Scottish knight—and by the loss of Davina. Weary, he returns home—and is shocked to find Davina there. Is it too late for them to start anew, or will the past dare to lay claim to their future once more?
Och, lasses were we born in the wrong century! It has been a really, really long while since I have delved into a historical romance, almost as long as our MCs were apart in this second chance romance in the wonderful place that is Scotland. This book was just a perfect recipe of possessive alpha male warrior, strong women and those that overcome, wondrous light humor that makes your heart sing with Scottish folklore ballads. The author not only created rich characters but her appreciates of the land shows through the writing. Her descriptions of the land’s riches (man am I a sucker for a nice scenery) almost makes you think you are there, but enough of my crooning over wonders of Scottish landscape.
Being a second son and in a way a spare to all that is McKenna heritage is a bit demoralizing for James, but as a dutiful son he follow through his fathers orders when he sends him on a protection run as Armstrong clan heads back to their home from a funeral. Fortunately for him he runs into a most delightful woman, Lady Davina Armstrong who is a niece to the Armstrong Chief. Now I’m not sure whether that is a protocol but he is so smitten with Davina that he remains many months at Armstrong Castle courting her. Davina is an orphan and placed in care of her uncle from a young age. All she has known in life is playing second best to her boisterous and over the top full of diva cousin, which comes as a surprise to her when Davina is the one who catches James’ eye. Their romance blooms and there is this one quote that perfectly describes their courtship that makes me go all ‘aww’.
Breathless when she reached him, Davina stretched up on her toes and quickly kissed his freshly shaven cheek.
“Och, now, Davina, is that any way to kiss a man?”
Teasing laughter bubbled to her lips. “Cease yer bellyaching. Ye are the man who taught me how to kiss, James McKenna, therefore ye’ve no right to complain.”
She gave him a saucy wink, then spun around and raced to the trees. Playfully, he gave chase, catching her quickly and easily. Laughing, he drew her close and they swayed together on the uneven ground.
“I dinnae teach ye that sort of kissing, Davina Armstrong,” he said. “Give me a proper kiss.”
However there are sinister plans, plans to keep them away from each other which do prove successful. After a brutal attack on the lovebirds outside the gates of castle that leaves a lot of scars things fall apart. James can not forgive himself for unable to properly protect and Davina unable to recall what happened to her during that attack. As we are living in historical land that is a big shame upon a lady. Was she violated? No one knows and Davina makes a tragic mistake by locking it all inside her and successfully driving James away.
Five long years Davina is locked inside her head, inside her uncle’s castle until an unexpected invitation from the Lady of McKenna castle, James’s mother. Vowing to finally live her life she accepts an invitation to visit and finally meet the woman who she kept correspondence with all these years after James ran away and disappeared becoming a knight in the Holy Crusade. Seems easy enough right? Hop on a horse, have a bunch of men escorting you… but wrong they are attacked again on the way and I’m proud to say Davina emerges from her protective cocoon. As soon as she leaves the confines of Armstrong Castle she grows into a real confident woman instead of a scared child she has incarcerated herself to be. The problem is that she has sworn herself off from being an eligible bachelorette, she vowed not to marry and yet… one of her escorts stirs something in her and that escort just happens to be her beloved’s big brother Malcolm.
On top of everything who just happens to return home after 5 long years at the same time as she visits Castle McKenna? Yup! You got it James himself. What’s more is that now the lord McKenna is set to protect Davida from these curious attacks on her by marrying her off to a McKenna… and so it begins… brother against brothers to win her heart, except doesn’t one already own it? Although the book is not really a love triangle theme it has it’s elements. Her stay at the McKenna castle is my favorite in the book. We meet so many interesting and quirky characters that I wish that Adrianne Basso will turn this into a series.
“We probably need not worry about the swimming,” she said quietly. “Most likely the fall will kill us.”
“That’s the spirit.” James’s lips tightened into a cheeky grin.
This was a perfect read for some Historical good natured drama, with some nefarious obstacles and two people who are destined to be together. Like I said I wish for this to turn into a series! Yup, I’ll say it again… PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE turn this into a series.
James awoke with a start, wincing as a stabbing pain sliced through his throbbing skull. He turned his head only to find himself struggling to overcome an attack of light-headedness. Blackness whirled around him, forcing him to shut his eyes and press his head against the pillow.
Deep breaths, deep breaths.
Gradually, the fog surrounding him eased, replaced by an onslaught of agony so sharp it stole the breath from his body. Every inch of him, from his scalp to his toes, ached and throbbed with a fiery pain. Dizzy and sweating, James pulled himself into a sitting position, only to immediately slump back down.
Bloody hell, what’s wrong with me?
He did not want to open his eyes, but finally, slowly, he did. Thoughts churning, he lifted the blanket covering his naked body. James glanced down and cringed, his blurry eyes taking in the sight of bloody bandages swathing his arm, chest, belly, and legs. He blew out another puzzled breath, but then suddenly his throat seized as faint memories of the attack filled his aching head.
“Davina,” he whispered.
Tears filled the corners of his eyes. He eased himself upright, the ropes beneath the mattress squealing in protest when he moved. The sound tore through his head, but he fought through the pain.
Leaning gingerly against the headboard, James searched his scattered memory for details. They had met on the hilltop, in their secret place. Davina had smiled and teased and kissed him with her usual passion and excitement. His heart had been near bursting with emotion when he asked her to be his wife and when she had agreed—och, his joy had been boundless.
But then . . . then . . . they had been set upon by brigands. A foul group of outlaws intent on causing them harm. He had fought fiercely, had killed several of them, but there were too many to defeat. He remembered striking his final opponent in the heart with his dirk, but after that there was only blackness.
What happened to Davina? Had she escaped? Been kidnapped? Been killed?
Ignoring the pulsing pain racking his body, James again whispered his beloved’s name, then began shouting,
The bedchamber door flew open. The silhouette of a burly man loomed in the doorway. “Are ye awake?”
“Aye,” James croaked. He felt appallingly weak and confused.
“I’ll get the laird.”
The man left before James could question him. Frustrated, James forced himself to remain calm. Finally, laird Armstrong entered the chamber, two men at his side. James recognized one of them as the captain of the guard. The other was unknown to him.
“I see ye’ve decided to join the living again,” Laird Armstrong said, his booming voice rattling James’s aching head.
Ignoring the expression of discontent clouding the laird’s features, James asked, “Where is Davina?”
“She’s confined to her bed.” The laird’s eyes grew dark. “She’s in a terrible, disgraceful state. Bruised and beaten. She shudders with nightmares, cries out in terror. My men found ye both miles from the castle, struck down and bleeding. What happened?”
Davina lives! James’s heart beat with elation, followed swiftly by sadness. Alive, aye, yet badly injured.
“We were attacked,” James replied.
“My men saw no one. There was no looting in the village, no crops destroyed, no cattle stolen.” The laird lifted his brow. “What can ye tell us of them?”
James took a deep breath, shuddering at the searing pain it caused in his chest. “There were six men. None wore plaids or carried shields with clan markings. They surprised us.”
“I can only imagine what ye were doing in such a private, secluded place with my niece that caused ye to be so distracted,” Laird Armstrong growled.
James grit his teeth and jerked his head in denial. He would not stand for Davina’s honor to be questioned, even by her own kin. “I love Davina. I would never do anything to compromise her honor or virtue.”
Laird Armstrong snorted in disbelief. “Six men trained his men better.”
He did. Guilt, swift and sudden, stabbed through James. He lowered his chin in shame. “The men were on foot, not horseback. They had the advantage of surprise when they ambushed us.”
The laird’s eyes sparked with sudden anger. “We’ve not had any trouble with brigands on our lands fer years.”
“Not while Robert the Bruce was king,” the captain of the guard added.
James nearly shouted in frustration. He had no care for the political implications of the attack. His main concern was finding the criminals and punishing them for hurting Davina.
“It could have been a group of English scum,” the other man suggested.
“We’re too far north for the English to be troubling us,” the laird insisted.
“Nay, they were Scots. I could tell by their swords; to a man they carried Claymores.” James’s voice felt choked and tight. “I killed two of them and wounded two others. After that . . .” he said, his voice trailing off in confusion.
“We found no bodies,” the captain of the guard challenged. James drew in a ragged breath, fighting the need to argue. “They must have taken the dead and wounded away.”
“Two men took four others away?” the laird asked incredulously.
James shook his head and stared across the chamber. He had no answers to give, no explanations that made sense. “What did Davina tell ye?”
The laird shot him a sidelong look. “She cannae speak of the incident without becoming hysterical.”
James cursed. “The last thing I remember was an explosion of pain inside my head.”
The captain of the guard nodded. “Ye’ve got a fine, swelling bruise on the back of yer skull. Ye must have been struck from behind.”
James lifted his arm and ran his fingers over the growing lump behind his right ear. At the touch, he felt a ferocious, nearly blinding pain so strong that it turned his stomach. He bowed his head and fought the sickness, not wanting to disgrace himself further in front of these men.
They were still scrutinizing him, some openly, some covertly, but all with grave suspicion. James saw the looks that passed between them. They spoke among themselves, their voices deliberately low, so he could not hear the conversation. ’Twas a stark reminder that he was not a member of the clan, but rather an outsider.
No matter that he was a McKenna, the son of a powerful and respected chieftain. He had lost their trust when he failed to protect Davina.
God, he needed to see her. But he feared he could not leave this bed without aid and he was too proud to show further weakness in front of these warriors.
The discussion continued, with frequent glances in his direction. The chamber was soon brimming with tension, yet James found that he didn’t really care. He rubbed a hand over his brow, trying to ease the pounding in his forehead. His eyelids grew heavy and slowly closed. He struggled to reopen them, succeeding, but within seconds they closed a second time.
He had the sensation of someone drawing closer to his bed, speaking to him, but the words made no sense. There were waves of pain crashing through his head. But even worse, over and over the image of Davina falling prey to those brigands flashed before his eyes.
And then suddenly, mercifully, there was only darkness. And silence.
Adrienne Basso is the author of over ten Zebra historical romances. She lives with her family in West Plainfield, New Jersey. Readers can visit her at adriennebasso.net.