Royal Court, England, 1603
Laird Ciaran MacGregor of Glenorchy spots Rosalia in the great hall as her mother is disparaging her and then pinches her before flying off across the room. Their gazes meet as she slips off to go find her father. Her father introduces her to Lord Dunnehl but she can't seem to concentrate on the conversation they are having. Her eyes keep going back to Ciaran. When she asks her father who the man is, her mother berates her telling her it doesn't matter who he is, they will be leaving for home to prepare for an important guest, the Lord Dunnehl.
Once home she is informed that she is to marry Dunnehl who is pure evil itself. This marriage will fill the family coffers again and when she refuses, she is beaten badly by her mother. She decides to run off in the middle of the night and make her way to her grandmother's home in the Highlands. She binds herself and cuts her hair to look like a boy and then gathers just enough to get her out the door and onto her beloved horse, Noonie, and although she is in intense pain from the beating she takes flight. After several hours she stops for a rest and passes out from the pain. She's found by Ciaran's men in a clearing in the woods. They take what they think is a lad back to camp and it's only when Ciaran is checking for broken bones that he finds she is a lass. He sends his brother, Aiden, on ahead and talks her into letting him take her to the closest village to see a healer. While there, she accepts the fact that she can't make it to her grandmothers this time of year. He takes her home to Glenorchy with him and promises to take her to her Grandmother in Glengarry as soon as the weather permits. In the meantime, Dunnehl arrives for his bride to find she's gone and his men take off along with one of her father's men, James who is like a brother to her, to find her. They are found on the way to Glenorchy and James and Ciaran stage it as if James was overtaken along with the others and left tied so as to throw off Rosalia's escape.
When they arrive at Glenorchy, They find that Aiden's wife, Aisling, has had her baby. Beathag, his leman, is dismissed after she shows herself in front of Rosalia and she vows vengence upon Ciaran. They are finding themselves drawn to each other but Ciaran refuses to admit the love he feels for her because of a vow he made to his father to see his brother Declan settled before he turns to his own needs. Those feelings are put to the test as Rosalia and Aisling and her son are kidnapped by the Campbells who have sworn to destroy the MacGregors. A rescue is planned and a clan fight ensues where help comes from an unexpected source. After the rescue they both find they cannot deny what is in their hearts and plan to marry.
Rosalia is a woman who has been beaten and mistreated by her mother her entire life while her father sat back and watched it happen. Trust does not come easy for her and I enjoyed watching as she grew to trust and to love. To accept herself for who she is and that what she considers her imperfections are actually what makes her beautiful. Ciaran is a man bound by duty who has it in his head that a vow he made to his father can only be accomplished one way. I loved watching him realize that life isn't always a straight path and it made me smile when he veered from that path just a little to include his own happiness. Choices are never either black or white, there are varying shades in between that make each of our journeys worthwhile. I'm anxious to read Declan's story, X Marks The Scot. I fell hard for this man. He's such a rogue and I'm totally head over heels for him! Victoria Roberts writes beautifully about the Highlands and I felt as if I were seeing it through Rosalia's eyes. It is well written and truly took me out of this world and into theirs. 4 Stars
**Reviewed by Leah**