A stand alone novel, published December 27, 1997.
As the undisputed queen of sensual romance, Bertrice Small brings history to life through indomitable women who live with wit, intelligence, and courage and who love with fierce delight. Now she sweeps us to a time and place of fiery power struggles, where one woman holds the key to a country’s future – and to he own consuming passion.
When Fiona Hay offers Angus Gordon her virtue in exchange for a dowry for her sisters, she so intrigues the rogue that he demands a higher payment: She will be his mistress. Thus begins a battle of wills and sensual delights. Destiny soon draws the ardent lovers into the turbulent court of King Kames. But the king’s political schemes force Fiona away from the man she loves … and into the arms of a wild and passionate Highlander. The MacDonald of Nairn. Will this coldhearted and callous betrayal forever destroy Fiona’s chance at happiness?
For those of you, who would like to read an historical romance novel set in a different time period than the Regency or Victorian era, this novel starts in 1422 and follows the life of Fiona Hay for a couple of turbulent years of Scottish history. The time of King James I, and how he finally gains his throne and sets upon uniting Scotland. In the end of the book, there is a nice epilogue, and an explanation by the author in what ways she has bent history to make the book better readable.
For my new followers, from all the authors I love, I love Bertrice Small the most. I love everything she writes, no matter the genre. I love her writing style, her very strong heroines who never whine but do what has to be done, and survive. She has such a vivid description of what people wear, what they ate, and the politics of that time. Of course, it is the nobility that is focused upon, but the servants are certainly not forgotten and often have a strong secondary role in the books.
Usually I like my heroines a bit older, and in this book, Fiona is 15, and her sisters are 13 when they are married. For that time, that was normal, as are the pregnancies for those young girls. Fiona is no simpering and silly miss, or schoolgirl. She is independent, and has taken care of her family ever since her mother died when she was 8, and her father 2 years later.
To take care of her little sisters’ dowry, Fiona has to steal some cattle from her rich and mighty neighbour, as though she is the chieftain of her own clan, she is dirtpoor. And without a dowry, her sisters’ fiancé’s won’t have them. But unfortunately, she is caught, and Black Angus Gordon, the Laird of Bray, follows the cattlethief upon the Ben (mountain). When he threatens to take his cattle back, Fiona offers him the only thing of value she has: her maidenhead. Taken with the pretty and brazen lass, Angus agrees, but he wants her as his mistress. The bargain is struck, if Angus will also provide a dowry for her youngest two sisters, and help find them suitable husbands.
Angus and his men stay the night, for early the next morning, the husbands-to-be and their clansmen will claim the brides. Angus sends home for additional food and drink, so as not to shame Fiona in her hospitality. And when the marriages have taken place, and all the new family has left, Angus takes Fiona, her sisters and the 2 elderly servants home with him.
When his sister lectures him he should marry Fiona, as she is not a common girl, but a girl of rank, he refuses. Only if she tells him she loves him, will he marry her. But Fiona is stubborn, and won’t tell him that if he won’t say the words first. And so their battle goes on for 2 years. They really do love each other, and are happy together. And when the King comes home at last, Angus and Fiona travel to Perth to meet up with him and his new Queen, Joan. Angus spend a few years in England with the King while he was imprisoned there, and they are good friends. But the King is not ruled by his heart, but by his head. When he sees one of the Highlanders lusting after Fiona, he thinks up a ruthless plan. He needs a spy in the court of the Lord of the Isles, and Fiona is just what he needs. So he sends Angus on an errant to England, and manipulates Fiona in doing his bidding.
And so he separates Fiona and Angus, sending Fiona on her new destiny. But can she really spy on the MacDonalds if she gets to know them, and likes them? If Colin MacDonald of Nairn truly loves her, and wants to marry her, unlike Gordon who shamed her in front of the King and his court? And what is to become of her yet unborn child? She cannot let him be born a bastard. And will Angus just give her up, and marry an English lass as the King wishes him too?
As always, I loved this book. It is a stand alone novel, which is a rare thing these days. Fiona is a very strong girl, who grows up to be a very strong woman. She does what needs to be done, and she stands up to the King, when none of his Lairds dares to. King James is utterly ruthless, he will rule Scotland! I liked both men in Fiona’s life, both are larger than life, and love her. But honor is more important than love in those days. Honor, kinsmenship, loyalty to the clan, is more important than fealty to the King. And when nothing is forgiven or forgotten, how can there ever be peace in the Highlands?
Strong characters, strong secondary characters, a real lovestory against a historical background. And many hot lovescenes, as Bertrice Small is so good at those.
If you have never tried a Bertrice Small book before, you sure are missing something. Just try one. She has written some fantasy books, some erotica and lots of historical romances. But they all have the same amount of hot lovescenes in my opinion. She wrote erotica and romantica before the word was invented.