Tuesday, April 4, 2017

**GIVEAWAY** Interview Suzanne Enoch - My One True Highlander

I'm so excited to welcome back to the blog the irrepressible Suzanne Enoch, fantastic historical romance author to chat about her latest Highlander tale, My One True Highlander.
Read the interview then enter for a chance to win a copy of your own.

Contest details below

ISBN-13: 9781250095435
No Ordinary Heros #2
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Release Date: 04-04-2017
Length: 320pp
Buy It: B&N/Amazon/Kobo/IndieBound

Scotland, 1812—Rugged Highlander Graeme’s loyalty to his clan means that their enemies are his own—even when that includes his neighbor, the Duke of Lattimer. It’s a fight he doesn’t relish, but when Graeme’s reckless younger brothers foolishly kidnap Lattimer’s younger sister, all bets are off…
Lady Marjorie Forrester may be aligned with the enemy, but capturing her puts Graeme squarely in the middle of a war. If he turns Marjorie over to his clan chief, she could be killed. If he lets her go, his brothers could face prison. In addition, the woman can’t stop trying to civilize the lot of them! What’s a Highlander to do, then, but keep the stubborn lass close…and explore the unexpected passion that develops between them? But how can Graeme protect Marjorie and his brothers when both Lattimer and his own clan are on the warpath—and will do whatever it takes to tear these two star-crossed lovers apart, in My One True Highlander, the next No Ordinary Hero Scottish romance from New York Times bestselling author Suzanne Enoch.

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Read an excerpt courtesy St. Martin's Press:

Chapter One

Graeme, Viscount Maxton, stripped off his heavy work gloves as he strode up the hill toward the house. “Calm yerself, Connell,” he urged, “before ye split the seat of yer trousers.”
His youngest brother continued circling and leaping about like a pine marten after a mouse. “But it’s the Maxwell!” the eight-year-old exclaimed, grabbing one of Graeme’s hands to pull him along. “Ye said after last year he’d nae darken our doorway again, but there he is, himself! The Duke of Dunncraigh! And two grand coaches!”
Two coaches? That didn’t bode well. Eight, nine men plus the coach drivers, all of them following after the dinner scraps of the chief of clan Maxwell. “Where are yer brothers?” Graeme asked, sending a glance across the field. Old Dunham Moore stood hip-deep in the irrigation ditch digging out an old tree limb, but other than that the field and green slopes beyond stood empty. Even the crows had flown elsewhere to search for a meal.
“Brendan says he’s making a fishing lure,” the eight-year-old offered, “but I ken he’s writing a love poem to Isobel Allen or Keavy Fox because he locked his door.”
Locked in a bedchamber was good, whatever the actual reason for it. “And Dùghlas?”
“He’s the one who sent me oot to find ye, Graeme. I heard the Maxwell say he was growing into a fine young lad.”
Graeme tightened his grip on Connell’s hand, drawing him to a halt. “I ken ye’re excited, duckling, but I need ye to go help old Dunham in the ditch right now. And I need ye to stay there until I or one of the lads come and fetch ye.”
The boy’s light gray eyes narrowed, then widened. Swallowing, he swiped his too long brown hair from his face. “I can go fetch Uncle Raibeart,” he offered, his young voice quavering a little. “I’m nae tired at all.”
The offer tempted Graeme. If it had been one of the older boys, he might have agreed to it. But under no circumstances did he mean to send Connell running two miles across the countryside while the Duke of Dunncraigh’s brutes wandered about. “I dunnae think we’ll need Raibeart,” he returned, “but I do need ye close enough to hear trouble and far enough to stay oot of it. One of us has to be ready to run fer help.”
Connell nodded, swallowing again. “I’ll be ready.”
Smacking the boy on the arse to speed him on his way, Graeme topped the hill. He knew by heart every inch of this land, of the white and gray walls of Garaidh nan Leòmhann, but the two heavy coaches and accompanying quartet of saddled mounts crowded on the front drive were new. His groom, Johnny, was nowhere in sight to collect or even water the animals, which hopefully meant the stay would be brief.
As he reached the front door it remained closed; either Cowen was occupied elsewhere, or the butler was in hiding. Graeme lowered the handle and shoved the heavy, stubborn oak open with his shoulder.
“So ye decided to make an appearance after all,” a low voice drawled from the morning room doorway. “I dunnae ken if that makes ye brave, or stupid.”
“A bit of both, I reckon. I see ye still dress English,” Graeme returned, debating whether to push past the Maxwell’s nephew or wait for an invitation. “Good fer ye, Artur. I thought after the duke’s dealings with Lattimer, he might have ordered ye to stop wearing Sassenach clothes.”
Artur Maxwell squared his shoulders. “That’s fairly bold talk, Maxton. I dare ye to repeat it in there.” Shifting out of the way, he indicated the depths of the morning room.
Keeping his own expression neutral and his work gloves clenched in his left hand, Graeme walked into the room. “Yer Grace,” he said, inclining his head.
As the Duke of Dunncraigh turned from gazing out the front window, Graeme took a swift measure of everyone else in the room. His younger brother Dùghlas sent him a relieved look, which told him the fourteen-year-old at least had the sense to know that the Maxwell’s visit here rarely boded anything but trouble.
He knew all but one of the other men crowded into the small room. Five of the Maxwell’s bruisers, all related to the duke in one way or another and ready to bloody, shoot, or set fire to anything their master looked at sideways. The other one had the same look about him, and Graeme shifted his attention back to the duke and the stiff-spined other man who stood close by the Maxwell—no doubt ready to wipe Dunncraigh’s arse if asked to do so.
“Ye took yer time getting here,” the duke stated, his green eyes flat and emotionless beneath a shock of white hair.
“I was moving a plow and the handle cracked,” Graeme returned, stepping over to tousle his younger brother’s brown mop of hair and shove the lad toward the door. “Ye owe me some arithmetic, as I recall,” he said for good measure. Once his brothers were out of immediate danger, he would deal with what seemed to be a hostile visit—another hostile visit—from his clan chief.
“Ye’re plowing yer own fields now, are ye, Maxton?” the Maxwell’s arse-wiper drawled. “Do ye milk the cows and cut the peat yerself, as well?”
Graeme kept his gaze on the steely-eyed duke. “I reckon ye brought Sir Hamish with ye as yer jester, but as we both ken we arenae friends, I’d prefer if ye’d forgo the theatrics and tell me what’s brought ye oot here.”
Sir Hamish Paulk’s heavy face folded into a scowl. “That’s bold talk fer a chieftain who cannae pay his own tithing, ye damned—”
“Considering ye just lost the tithes and loyalty of all the tenants of the Duke of Lattimer’s ten thousand acres, I suggest ye nae go aboot insulting yer remaining clansmen, Yer Grace,” Graeme cut in. “Or allowing yer other chieftains to do so.”
“Sir Hamish doesnae have my patience,” Dunncraigh returned. “I find myself more curious over what else ye think ye ken aboot the goings-on at Lattimer. I’d have thought ye had enough of yer own worries, what with three younger brothers and a large patch of poorly protected land of yer own.” The Maxwell moved closer. “I reckon it’s helpful that ye do know an English duke has taken our ancestral land and turned a good handful of our own against us.”
That wasn’t all Graeme had heard, but repeating rumors about the Maxwell failing to purchase Lattimer and then resorting to sabotage and threats in an attempt to turn the tenants against their lord—which efforts hadn’t turned out at all well for Dunncraigh—seemed a very poor idea at the moment. “And why is that?” he settled for asking.
“Because I’m feeling a particular dislike for Gabriel Forrester, the damned Duke of Lattimer, and I’m inclined to feel a particular generosity toward any of my clan who might … discover anything useful against him. Or who might cause Lattimer a measure of consternation. Do ye ken what I’m saying, Graeme?”
“Aye. And I’ve nae liking fer any Sassenach. But I reckon I’m content to keep to my own affairs.”
The duke nodded. “Yer land borders his, so I ken ye wish to be neighborly. All I’m saying is that if ye should happen to have or overhear any dealings with Lattimer that someone might be able to turn against him, and if ye tell me of them, ye might find yer herds have increased and that any tithes ye might owe have been forgotten. If someaught unfortunate befell the duke himself, well, I’d nae mourn his loss.”
He clapped Graeme on the shoulder. Making a supreme effort not to level his clan chief with a punch to the jaw, Graeme took a moment to wonder if anyone serving clan Maxwell under Dunncraigh’s leadership actually liked the man. For him, even beneath the dizzying barrage of faux fatherly advice and barely veiled threats, the duke was to be tolerated, placated when possible, and obeyed when necessary—and otherwise ignored.
Dunncraigh and his sycophants stomped back out to their coaches and mounts, and he followed them outside to make certain no one lingered. One of the luckier things about owning a rundown manor and a property of a mere thousand acres was that the likes of a duke, especially one who happened to be the head of clan Maxwell, had no wish to remain under his roof for long.
“Ye’d best do as he asks, Maxton,” Sir Hamish said, watching as the duke settled into the lead coach.
“So ye’re giving me helpful advice now, are ye, Paulk? I reckon I’ll give that all the consideration it deserves.”
“If ye sell off any more land ye’ll barely qualify as gentry, Maxton. So take the advice given ye and smile while ye hear it. With but two hundred cotters ye’re already underqualified to be a clan chieftain. Make yerself useful, earn yerself some blunt and some gratitude, or he may decide ye’re of nae use at all.”
“Do ye recommend I follow yer strategy? Stay so close to Dunncraigh’s arse that he thinks ye a pimple?”
“Go to the devil, ye useless sack of shite. Ye’re the same as yer father and yer grandfather, stubborn fools. There are consequences fer failing yer betters. With yer brothers to look after, ye’d best remember th—”
“Hamish,” the duke called. “I’ve nae wish to remain here till Christmas.”
The other Maxwell chieftain present held Graeme’s gaze, clearly meaning to intimidate. Not bloody likely. Graeme tilted his head, then took a quick half step forward. When Paulk flinched back, he curved his mouth in a smile he didn’t feel. “It’ll take more than yer beady eyes glaring at me to give me a fright,” he murmured. “Now run off, dog. Yer master’s calling ye.”
“He’s yer master, too. Ye’d best realize that before he decides the wee bit ye contribute isnae worth the aggravation ye cause.” With that, Sir Hamish turned on his heel and stepped up into the coach.
Graeme stood on his drive of crushed oyster shells and gravel to watch the coaches and riders rumble down the hill and vanish into the scattering of trees and boulders beyond. Once he was certain they were well away, he turned back to the house—to find Dùghlas and Brendan standing in the open doorway, both of them holding rifles. Cowen stood just inside the foyer, armed with an old claymore the butler had likely pulled off the wall in the drawing room.
“Do ye mean to murder yer own clan chief then, lads?” he asked, proud that they’d had the presence of mind to arm themselves, and alarmed at what would have happened if a battle had erupted in his morning room.
“They threatened ye, Graeme,” Dùghlas said, blowing out his breath as he lowered the weapon to point at the floor. “I nearly pissed myself when Cowen showed ’em into the hoose.”
“Why would the Maxwell think ye’d want anything at all to do with the Sassenach Lattimer?” Brendan took up. “Mayhap we should go shoot the grand Gabriel Forrester so Dunncraigh will leave us be.” He hefted his rifle.
Eyeing the sixteen-year-old, Graeme frowned. “I’ll agree we could use both the money and gratitude that being Dunncraigh’s lapdog would give us, but the Duke of Lattimer’s nae done a damned thing to me. So ye mark me well, Brendan; nae a soul here is to harm Lattimer or those under his protection. Do both of ye brutes ken what I’m telling ye?”
“Aye, Graeme.”
“Good. Dùghlas, go fetch Connell. He’s doon by the ditch with Dunham past the south field.”
Handing his rifle over to Cowen, Dùghlas trotted across the drive toward the near field. Brendan, though, stepped forward and spat onto the gravel. “After losing a thousand Maxwells to that Sassenach, Dunncraigh should be more grateful to ye and yers. Ye should have told him that, Graeme.”
“I’ll agree that a Maxton has been a clan Maxwell chieftain fer better than two hundred years, if ye’ll agree that our da and I’ve nae spent much of that time bowing to Dunncraigh. I reckon we’d fare better if I bowed more, but I’m nae murdering anyone in exchange fer a pat on the head.”
The brother nearest him in age continued to look angry and defiant, as offended and righteous as any well-protected and stubborn sixteen-year-old could be. Graeme put a hand on his shoulder and squeezed. The lads had been much easier to manage when they were bairns, and the eleven years that separated him from Brendan had seemed much wider. Just a few years ago he could tell them the way things were and they didn’t question a damned word of it.
“Tempers are boiling now,” he continued, “what with Lattimer getting his gamekeeper to swear that he was taking blunt from Dunncraigh in exchange fer causing trouble. The Maxwell’s embarrassed, I reckon. And he wants blood. But winter’s nearly here, and everything’ll quiet doon. By spring we’ll be talking aboot calves and lambs and all this will be forgotten. So be patient. Dunncraigh willnae be sending us posies, but he’ll likely go back to ignoring us again—which is damned fine enough fer me.”
Finally Brendan nodded, his fingers easing their grip on the old rifle. “I ken, Graeme. Ye want us to stay quiet, like wee church mice, even though we havenae done a damned thing wrong.”
Graeme knew some who could debate the last part of that statement, but now wasn’t the time for that discussion. “Aye. And now ye can come help me fix that plow and drag it back to Widow Peele’s before the snow and wet rot the rest of it.”
“Dunnae we have men to do that?” Brendan returned, abruptly sounding like a young lad again.
“Aye, we do. And today their names are Graeme and Brendan.”
When Connell trotted back up with Dùghlas, the eight-year-old needed more reassurance that they weren’t about to be murdered. The animosity between the Maxtons and Dunncraigh had begun well before he’d inherited his father’s role as chieftain, but he could take steps to mend the break if he felt so inclined. His brothers shouldn’t have to be frightened of their own kin and clan. Causing trouble for a neighbor, though, English or not, didn’t sit well. Lattimer had brought some changes to the Highlands, but none of them had harmed him or his. If not for Dunncraigh’s public condemnation of the man, Graeme would have been tempted to go make his acquaintance. They were neighbors, after all, even if their homes lay six hours’ distant from each other.
Once he’d sent the younger lads back into the house and Brendan on his way to the field, Graeme gestured at Cowen. “Send fer Boisil Fox and his brothers,” he muttered, moving closer to the butler. “I want an extra watch on the hoose tonight.”
The butler nodded, his gaze moving toward the treeline. “Ye reckon we’re in fer it, Laird Maxton?”
“Nae. I dunnae want Brendan sneaking off to go shoot the Duke of Lattimer.”
The older man’s expression eased. “Yer bràthair’s a good lad, if a mite hotheaded.”
“He’s a mite hotheaded the way the Highlands are a bit nippy in January. We’ll be back by sunset.”
“I’ll keep an eye oot until then, m’laird.”
Hopefully keeping his brothers close by until their tempers cooled would see them past the worst of this. The Maxwell’s rare visits had never yet boded well for the Maxtons, and this time was no damned exception. As Graeme made his way back through a deepening drizzle to the widow’s old plow, he spared a moment to wish that he could stop being civil to a man he disliked on principle, and stop worrying over three younger brothers, a half-dozen servants, and roughly two hundred cotters currently residing on his land.
With that kind of freedom, the only question would be who he went after first—Lattimer, for simply being there and being English; or Dunncraigh for fifty years of bitter vitriole. But that was also a question for a man who lived a different life—and one with far less responsibility than he had.
* * *
Lady Marjorie Forrester took the coachman’s outstretched hand as she stepped down to the muddy ground. She’d worn her most practical walking shoes, but they immediately disappeared beneath thick, sticky brown halfway up her toes.
“For heaven’s sake,” Mrs. Giswell exclaimed from the coach doorway, “someone—you, sir!—move those planks over here before we drown in the mud!”
“I’m nearly to the inn, now,” Marjorie returned, nevertheless favoring the large bearded man with a smile as he slogged over with an armful of planks and began laying them between the vehicle and the coaching inn. “Thank you for your assistance, sir.”
“With that woman screeching at me, I was scared she’d put a curse on me if I didnae do as she said,” he returned in a thick, drawling brogue, grinning back at her.
Once the planks covered the mud, Mrs. Giswell stepped down gingerly to follow Marjorie. “A lady does not screech, sir,” she stated in her coolest tones. “A lady merely speaks up when an expected and needed chivalry is not offered.”
“Och, a chivalry,” the large man took up, tugging on his thick brown beard. “Ye hear that, lads? I’m a bloody knight!”
The half-dozen men scattered about the small courtyard laughed. “Aye! Sir Robert the Blacksmith, ye are,” one of them called out.
“Aye, and the lot of ye bow when ye see me from now on.”
The conversation amused her, and Marjorie smiled, starting a little when Mrs. Giswell put a hand on her arm. “A lady is not amused by brutes and their foul language,” she said. “Now let’s get you inside before you catch your death, my lady.”
The wind did have a definite bite, but she wasn’t yet chilled enough to feel more than a sense of exhilaration. The accents in the Lowlands had been charming as the coach drove north, but now just from the thick brogues surrounding her she knew they’d reached the Highlands. For heaven’s sake, they might even be on Gabriel’s land; Lattimer Castle’s property consisted of ten thousand acres—or so her brother’s solicitors had informed her.
Taking a breath, she pushed open the inn’s faded green door and stepped inside. According to the sign hanging outside this was the Cracked Hearth, but at first glance the old stone fireplace seemed to be perfectly intact. The place had a low ceiling braced with massive wood beams, leaving Marjorie with the sensation that she was too tall for the room—despite the fact that she was far shorter than some of the very large men inside.
And it wasn’t just men having luncheon or escaping the rain at the Cracked Hearth; a dozen women and a handful of children sat at the tables or played in the corner, as well. The sight of families left her feeling easier about being in the cavernlike setting, but it also made her very conscious of how … out of place she looked there.
She’d chosen her London-made green and cream walking gown because the color of it had enchanted her, and the heavy Parisian shawl of green braided wool because it was warm and French-made when such things were almost impossible to get. Six months ago she wouldn’t have been able to afford either of them, or her walking shoes, and perhaps they weren’t exactly plain even by London standards. The novelty of being able to purchase whatever she wanted still hadn’t quite faded. Now, though, picking her way through the luncheon crowd to find an empty table at the Cracked Hearth, she wished she’d been a bit more discerning.
“You should be accustomed to being noticed,” Mrs. Giswell whispered from behind her. “A lady doesn’t acknowledge stares.”
“I’m frequently noticed,” she returned in the same tone. “In London it’s followed by people turning their backs on me. Here they keep looking.”
“And they will continue to do so, no doubt. They don’t seem to be any better mannered than those men outside who laughed while we waded through the mud.”
That seemed severe. Dwelling on ignorance versus rudeness, though, would keep her from listening to the very boisterous banter going on all about the large, low room. Doing her best not to return their attention or smile at the young boy with the red hair and pretty gray eyes sitting with a group of boys three tables away, she sat and stretched her fingers out to the candle there to warm them. “I’ll be perfectly satisfied with hot tea and a warm meal,” she returned.
Mrs. Giswell gathered her dark brown skirt and took a seat on the opposite bench. “You might have taken a private room, my lady. A duke’s sister should not be dining with commoners.” She leaned closer. “And while I commend you for traveling with your own driver and coachman, I still believe you should also have employed at least two outriders and someone to travel a day ahead of us to arrange for proper accommodations and announce your coming.”
“That’s a bit grandiose, don’t you think?” Marjorie returned. After five days of being confined in a coach with her paid companion, the endless litany of what a lady should and shouldn’t do had lost much of the limited appeal it had once had. That didn’t make it less necessary, but it had definitely become less interesting. “I did attend finishing school, you know. I have some expertise in etiquette and propriety.”
“Yes, but that was when you were preparing for employment as a governess or a companion. Not the sister of a duke. You hired me to assist you with settling into the aristocracy. If I may be so bold, I daresay I’ve spend more time amid the beau monde than you have, Lady Marjorie. And wherever you travel, you must always keep in mind that you are the Duke of Lattimer’s sister.”
“I do thank you for your boundless wisdom, Mrs. Giswell.” Boundless and endless, but she had hired the woman for precisely that reason.
And Mrs. Giswell made a very good point. Because while she had excelled at both boarding school and finishing school, she’d had a very keen insight about the restrictions her birth and income placed on her future. If not for the death of a great-great-uncle to whom she hadn’t even known she was related, the education she’d received would have been completely adequate.
When a soft-faced young man approached the table, Mrs. Giswell placed a request for tea and two servings of roasted veal—evidently the proper meal for a midday rest and a change of horses—so that she wouldn’t have to converse with any commoners, herself. Marjorie settled for giving him a smile, which for once earned her a friendly nod.
Whatever Mrs. Giswell thought was proper, Marjorie didn’t want someone riding ahead to prepare the way, both because it seemed even more frivolous than her wardrobe, and because for once she meant to surprise her brother. That was the true reason for her hurry—because she wanted to arrive before the final preparations were made for his wedding. The rush and her decision to forgo outriders had nothing to do with this being her first and only excuse to flee the emptying streets of London before she was the only soul left in Mayfair. Nor was it because she’d felt like she’d been alone from the moment she’d taken up residence at Leeds House. Before that even, but she’d expected it, then.
“Have you considered yet who you might have sponsor you in the spring so you may have your Season? That would see you introduced to the best families, and would diminish any reason they might have to slight you.” Mrs. Giswell cut her veal into delicate portions, every motion proper and feminine and precise. “I have several suggestions, though any of them will likely require a generous gift on your part.”
Marjorie took a moment to properly dissect her meal, as well. “So I must purchase this female’s friendship.” Not for the first time, she wondered if fitting in with the aristocracy was worth the effort. As a girl she’d dreamed of being a great lady, of men who tipped their hats and bowed at the very sight of her. Abruptly she was that lady, only to discover now that the deference of others could evidently be purchased.
“You purchase their cooperation and assistance,” Marjorie’s companion corrected. “In time you might find acceptance and even friendship, but only the first is necessary to your success.” She took another dainty bite, chewed, and swallowed. “As you already know, being an aristocrat is an expensive proposition. And not every title comes with as much wealth as your brother’s. The offer of a new carriage, say, to an appropriate, established household, should secure you a marchioness or a viscountess with good connections.”
Bile rose in her throat, and she drank down half a cup of weak tea to drive it back down again. “Let us discuss something more pleasant, Mrs. Giswell. We can develop our strategy for acceptance when we return to London.”
After that she had to listen to a twenty-minute discussion of the general unpleasantness of Scottish weather. Finally she couldn’t stand it any longer, and rose. “I’m going to stretch my legs before we return to the coach.”
Mrs. Giswell started to her feet, as well. “Of course.”
“You stay here. I’ll remain in the courtyard, well in sight of Stevens and Wolstanton,” she said, naming her coachman and driver.
“My lady, that is not—”
“Please, Mrs. Giswell. Give me a moment to breathe.”
The older woman snapped her mouth closed and sat again. “Of course, my lady. I did not mean to offend.”
“You didn’t off—Oh, for heaven’s sake. I’ll be back in ten minutes.” And she would apologize when she returned, because as frustrating as Mrs. Giswell was, Marjorie knew blasted well that she needed the woman.
She would have preferred not to have to carry the image of her companion’s hurt expression with her as she traipsed through the mud. Every time Mrs. Giswell opened her mouth, her own circumstances seemed more … hopeless. Even if she succeeded in winning over the aristocracy, even if they all accepted her and invited her to every soiree and luncheon, she would know she’d only arrived there because of carefully placed gifts and a large quantity of money. The magic of the song vanished once she joined the chorus, apparently. But still, to hold grand parties and chat with well-spoken, well-educated folk about important topics … It could still happen. If she was patient, and generous to the correct people.
The light drizzle, the cold pricks of water soaking through her shawl and onto her skin, actually felt refreshing. She nodded to her coachman and driver, seated on boxes beneath an overhang and eating something that steamed in the chilly air.
Five or six more hours, tomorrow morning at the latest if they decided to stop for the night, and they would be at Lattimer. It wouldn’t be just her and the constantly Society-minded Mrs. Giswell. Perhaps her brother or his betrothed would even have an alternate plan to her purchasing a carriage for some woman who otherwise couldn’t be bothered to look in her direction.
A face appeared around the corner of the building. The young boy with the pretty gray eyes smiled at her. Marjorie grinned back. “Good afternoon, sir.”
His nose wrinkled. “I’m nae a sir.”
“Why not?”
“Because I’m eight, I reckon.” He beckoned to her and backed around the corner again.
“I’m not following you, sir,” she called, pulling her shawl closer around her shoulders. “It’s raining.” If not for the prospect of six more hours in Mrs. Giswell’s company she would have returned to the inn already. Perhaps she should, anyway; the last thing she wanted was to be bedridden at Lattimer once she finally arrived there.
The boy appeared again, a very young black and white kitten cradled in his hands. “I only wanted to show ye the kittens in the haystack,” he said, his Highlands brogue rendered even more charming by his youth. “I reckon I’ll keep this one, name him Bruce.”
“Oh, he’s too young to leave his mama, don’t you think?” she returned, walking up to gently scratch the adorable little thing between the ears.
“If I wait, someone else’ll take him. Or the foxes will. And they’ll get the other wee ones, too.”
“Perhaps you could find a box and take all of them and the mother home with you.”
He wrinkled his nose again, clearly considering. “I reckon I can do that, if ye’ll help me collect ’em. I counted seven bairns, plus the mama.”
She hesitated, perfectly aware that duke’s sisters did not climb into haystacks after cats. Especially not when they wore gowns that cost more than six months of her old salary.
The boy tilted his head, red hair falling across one eye. “Are ye scared of me, miss? Everyone says the English are cowards, but I didnae ken ye were afraid of kittens. Of course I’ve only met one English before, but he wasnae a lass. He’s a peddler who comes by to sell pots and pans and he’s English, but he says he’s nae been to London so I dunnae know if I believe him.”
Stifling a grin, Marjorie sighed. “No, I’m not scared of you, sir. My name is Marjorie. What’s yours?”
“Let’s go rescue your kittens, shall we, Connell?”
He smiled widely. “Aye.”
Hiking her skirts, she stepped into the unkempt grass behind the stable. A half-collapsed pile of wet hay leaned against the back of the building, kept mostly out of the rain by the deep eaves. In the eyes of a female cat it was probably the perfect place to have a litter.
“I’ll get the mama and three kittens,” she said, crouching where he indicated and leaning down to spy an unhappy-looking tabby. “Can you carry four kit—”
Something pulled fast and hard over her head from behind. She lost her balance, flailing backward. Hands far stronger than the boy’s would have been grabbed onto her wrists and bound them together in front of her. Shaking herself out of her shock, Marjorie took a deep breath to scream.
“Make a sound, and it’ll be the last one ye make,” another voice growled. “Ye ken, Sassenach?”
Since he’d just ordered her not to talk, she settled for nodding beneath the heavy material covering her head and shoulders. Fear stiffened her muscles, making her feel heavy and uncoordinated as she worked to sit upright.
“Good. On yer feet, then. Try to make a run fer it, and I’ll shoot ye in the leg and ye’ll still be coming with us.”
“If ye make the lass faint we’ll have to carry her, so shut up,” another voice muttered.
Including the devious little boy there were at least three of them, then. Hands grabbed her beneath the arms and yanked her to her feet. The tall, wet grass tangled around her feet and the hem of her gown, but they continued hurrying her along. The already faint sounds of the courtyard faded, but she had no sense of which direction they were heading.
Her heart pounded so loudly she thought it might burst from her chest. If she could manage to pull the covering off her head she might at least have a chance to escape, but to where? For all she knew, everyone at the Cracked Hearth worked together to kidnap travelers. For ransom, she supposed—and hoped. If this was for money, then she had a chance to survive it.
She swallowed, her throat so tight she almost choked. If this wasn’t about money, if she’d been grabbed because she was English, or because they regularly grabbed and murdered strangers … Oh, good heavens. Marjorie stumbled.
“Keep her on her feet,” the voice on the left ordered, pulling her upright again. “We’re nearly to the wagon.”
“I’m trying,” the voice on her right returned. “Ye’d best be certain she is who ye think she is, or we’re all in fer it.”
“I heard it plain. She’s the Duke of Lattimer’s sister.”
They sounded young, or younger than she was, anyway. The two who held on to her were at least her height, though, and she doubted she could wrestle free of one, much less two or more.
“Her name’s Marjorie. That’s what she told me,” the boy Connell said from a few steps behind her.
“And ye told her yer name, duckling.”
“She asked me,” he protested. “Ye didnae say I should lie, Brendan.”
“Saint Andrew’s arse. Stop talking, bairn.”
“Dunnae yell at me. I did what ye said.”
“I’m … I’m nae yelling. Go hold the horses while we load her in.”
She bumped into something wooden at the level of her thighs and nearly fell over again. It felt safer to simply do as they said, but Mrs. Giswell and Stevens and Wolstanton were somewhere behind her. The wagon would not be taking her anywhere she wanted to go. Oh, the lectures she would be getting from Mrs. Giswell after this. And she would deserve them.
That thought actually steadied her a little. Squaring her shoulders, she dug the toes of her walking shoes into the soft ground and locked her knees. “It’s time for you to let me go,” she said in her calmest voice. “We’ll call this a jest, and I’ll be on my way with no one the wiser.”
“Ye’re nae to talk,” the left voice, Brendan, countered. “Step up.”
“No. You’ll have to shoot me. Which will make a great deal of noise, I’d like to point out.”
What sounded like Gaelic profanity followed. Then came another few words she didn’t understand, and one of them seized her shoulders. The other one lifted the sack half off her head and then pulled a strip of cloth tight around her mouth and knotted it.
Marjorie kicked out, but someone grabbed her foot. Pulled off balance, she half fell onto what she assumed was the back of the wagon. Fear stabbed through her again. She squirmed, punching out with her joined hands and connecting with something solid.
“Hold ’er still, fer Lucifer’s sake,” Brendan hissed, falling across both her legs.
“She hit me in the damned eye,” the other one grunted.
“We’ll tie her arms doon, then. After I get her legs. I told ye we’d need all this rope.”
No class in boarding school or finishing school had ever dealt with how to avoid or fight against a kidnapping. And wrestling and fighting were so completely unacceptable they weren’t even mentioned. Several headmistresses would be receiving a sternly worded letter if she survived this. When she survived this, she hurriedly corrected. Yes, she seemed to be thinking very frivolous thoughts, but school, the order and … safety of it, felt very comforting right now. And anything that helped keep her calm could be useful.
“There,” the one named Brendan said, his weight finally leaving her legs. “Ye’d best settle yerself, Lady Marjorie Forrester, because ye’ve got a bit of traveling to do. Ye can blame yer Sassenach bastard of a brother fer it, but ye’re going to help make things right. Fer all of us.”

Copyright © 2017 by Suzanne Enoch

Hi Suzanne, welcome back to The Reading Frenzy.
Tell my readers a bit about your new Highlander tale please.
My One True Highlander is the second book in the “No Ordinary Hero” series. Marjorie Forrester finds that despite her education, the ton isn’t interested in welcoming her into their midst now that her brother’s inherited an unexpected dukedom in Scotland. Needing an escape from London, the former lady’s companion decides to surprise her brother, the Duke of Lattimer, before his impending wedding – only to be kidnapped once she reaches Scotland.
Graeme, Viscount Maxton, is neighbors with Lattimer, and a chieftain of clan Maxwell, enemies of Lattimer. When his young brothers kidnap Lattimer’s sister in an effort to improve Graeme’s standing with their clan, Graeme is placed with an impossible decision – turn her over to his clan chief and possibly get her killed; release her and see his brothers arrested; or decide if he can trust Marjorie and perhaps find an altogether unexpected way to proceed.

You write a lot of stories staring those brawny Highlanders.
What is it about Scottish romance that floats your boat the most?
I love the larger-than-life aura that surrounds Highlands men. And within the Regency time period where I write, they’re these fierce alpha males being forced to deal with a time that’s becoming more civilized but still offering them nothing but challenges to keep their lands and clans intact.

Suzanne do your heroes and heroines always find their HEA?
Why or why not?
I guarantee that every single book I’ve written ends with the hero and heroine living happily ever after. I write Romance, and if the couple aren’t together at the end, it’s not a romance. (I’m looking at you, Nicholas Sparks.)

Some historical romance sizzles and some are very mild.
Where in the range do your novels fall?
I think my books fall somewhere in the middle. There’s lovemaking, but the hero and heroine’s sexual relationship isn’t the main focus of the story.

Is there anything that you consider taboo to put in your novels?
Well, of course. I don’t write dark, angst-ridden stories, and I want to leave my readers smiling at the end. Awful things happen in the world, but not in my novels. Yes, a character may have a tortured past, but I don’t want to write about it, or make anyone else read about it. The course of the romance is about love healing all wounds, after all.

Suzanne you’ve been a published author since 1995, wow that’s quite an accomplishment. Congratulations!
If your present self could give one piece of advice to your past self what would it be?
Thank you! It’s been a real interesting journey so far. I think if I could talk to my 1995 self I would tell her to be patient, and not to spend so much time worrying about numbers – or any of the things she won’t be able to control.

In 2002 you were invited by the E! Channel to discuss romance in the Star Wars movie series.
How was sharing the stage with George Lucas?
It was fun! I only wish I’d first seen the prequel series scripts, and second been able to actually meet George. I think I might perhaps have been able to improve the romance of Padme and Anakin – or at least make it not so cringe-worthy. But being the “romance expert” for the Star Wars series? Yeah, that was pretty cool.

Suzanne thanks so much for coming back on the blog, good luck with the new release.
Will you be attending any author/signing events in the near future?
I’ll be at the Romantic Times conference in Atlanta, May 2-11 of this year. Other than that, I have a lot of writing to do. Those Highlanders aren’t known for their patience.
Thank you so much for inviting me here!

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Meet Suzanne:Suzanne Enoch grew up in Southern California, where she still balances her love for the Regency romances of Georgette Heyer and classic romantic comedies with her obsession for anything Star Wars. Given her love of food and comfy chairs, she may in fact be a Hobbit. She has written more than 35 romance novels, including traditional Regencies, Historical Romance, and contemporary Romantic Suspense. When she isn't working on her next book she is trying to learn to cook, and wishes she had an English accent.

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  1. Great interview! I love this genre even though I have not read it in a while. Thanks for sharing.

  2. I do love a good HEA, it kind of sucks when they don't get one. ;) Great interview!

  3. I enjoy the setting and the larger than life characters who are fascinating and have great strength.

  4. I love the beautiful scenery and the imagined accents.

  5. Yay for HEA's they are the best and I love a brawny highlander and highlands story.

  6. I just recently had a discussion with someone about how much we liked her books. :) Fun to see an interview and get to know Suzanne a little more and her writing.

  7. It sounds amazing (fab cover, too) and goodness what a sticky spot they were in.

  8. Wonderful interview Debbie. I need to read book one, but I love highlander books, from the setting to the handsome men :)

  9. The strong men and great stories.