Adrienne Basso's NO OTHER HIGHLANDER
Adrienne Basso's NO OTHER HIGHLANDER
"Here is a tale that could only be set in Scotland, and one that fulfills readers' fantasies about wonderful men and women of the Highlands. Basso's understanding of her characters' emotions and motivations draw readers into the story as much as the passion and mystery. Add to this two adorable children and a dog, and you have a winner."—RT Book Reviews, 4 stars
NO OTHER HIGHLANDER
(The McKennas Book 2)
Publisher: Zebra Books
Publication Date: February 28, 2017 (ebook)
Publication Date: February 28, 2017 (mass market paperback)
Scottish Highlands, 1334: The McKenna clan flourishes under a family of warriors, fierce and righteous, faithful to their own until the last. But to produce an heir, the widowed eldest son must risk his heart again . . .
Lady Joan Armstrong Fraser was once the indulged and pampered daughter of a laird. But marriage to a brute changed her. When he sets her aside, she has only her wits and her beauty to protect herself and her child from the chaos of her former home. She will have to find another husband—a man whose strength is more than a weapon against the weak. A man she can trust . . . if such a man even breathes.
Sir Malcolm McKenna has known Lady Joan since her childhood, a spoiled princess as dangerous as she is lovely. But when she steps forward to protect him against a false accusation, he discovers a character stronger than he guessed—and an attraction he yearns to explore . . .
Malcolm increased the length of his stride to keep pace with Joan as she hurried across the bailey. Once she finally gripped it, her hand never left his arm-- - in truth she clutched it so tightly her fingernails dug into his flesh. She kept her back straight and her head high. Many eyes followed them, but she avoided looking directly at anyone they passed.
"I owe ye my thanks once again, Malcolm," she said as they drew near the entrance to the great hall. "Ye seem to be making a habit out of rescuing me."
Malcolm cleared his throat. Her hair was in disarray, her lips bruised, the sleeve of her gown torn. He believed he had reached her before the worst had occurred, but there was no way to know for certain without asking.
"Did Archibald . . . …?"
"Attack me," she answered. "Aye. But thanks to yer timely arrival he was unable to do any real harm." Her jaw clenched. "Though it would have been far more helpful if ye could have come a bit sooner."
She lifted her chin in a stubborn, haughty manner. Malcolm was momentarily speechless. Christ, was the woman ever gracious about anything? He was just about to call her to task when he noticed she was biting her bottom lip so hard it drew blood.
"I'm fine," she insisted.
"Ye're crying," he said softly.
"I'm not!" She swiped at her tears angrily with her sleeve.
Malcolm's gaze locked with hers.
"Why are ye always so kind to me?" she accused, fresh tears gathering in her eyes.
"I dinnae know. 'Tis one of my greater faults, I believe." He smiled gently.
"Aye." Her lovely eyes were now swimming in tears. "Ye must be sure to confess this grave sin the next time ye speak with a priest. I imagine ye'll have to do a substantial penance to save yer immortal soul."
She tried to smile, but a sob broke free. Joan's eyes widened in horror and she immediately put her fist in her mouth to stop it. Malcolm's heart softened as he watched her valiantly try to conquer her emotions.
She wore her fierceness and haughty manner like a suit of armor, showing the world a most formidable will. Yet beneath it he could see a frightened, vulnerable woman. Aye, there were times when she was arrogant and selfish, mayhap even manipulative, yet he realized there was far more to her character than his original opinion.
Her temper was driven by her passionate, uncompromising spirit. He had believed that her beauty hid a cold, dark heart, but after seeing her with her son, Malcolm knew there was love and kindness within her soul. And she was clever enough to realize that made her vulnerable.
Her beauty blinded most men, her caustic tongue kept them at bay, and she used both to advantage, in order to survive. By what right could he find fault with that behavior? Nay, in truth, he was drawn to it, admired it.
As he looked closely, Malcolm could see that she was still shaking. No doubt from shock.
"Forgive me fer not arriving sooner," he said sincerely. "Though of the two of ye, I'd say that Archibald looked the worse fer wear."
She let out a brittle laugh, reached up, and touched the back of her head. "'Tis good to know the bald spot on my scalp isn't that noticeable."
Malcolm's eyes followed her long, slender fingers. He saw streaks of bright red blood among the golden strands of her hair, and a darker red scab forming on her scalp. Obviously, the hair had been painfully pulled out by the roots.
"Bloody hell! I should have drawn my sword and run it through his black heart."
"Nay. Nothing on earth would bring me a greater sense of peace than knowing Archibald had taken his last breath. And I've no doubt of yer fighting skills, but he's too clever to let himself be drawn into an honorable fight. Against those odds, ye might not have been victorious."
"I'm touched that ye would show such tender feelings of concern fer me, Joan." Malcolm grinned.
She scowled. "Dinnae be daft! I am, as always, thinking of myself. If Archibald had defeated ye, I would be forced to carry the burden of yer death. 'Tis far too heavy a weight fer my conscience to bear."
Her barb fell short, for Malcolm saw right through her attempt to once again paint herself as cold and uncaring. Gently, he covered his hand over hers. "Ye must have a care never to be alone with him."
"I can assure ye that this meeting was not my choice," Joan replied.
"Yet ye went willingly?"
"I was foolish, trapped by another's lies." She shook her head, making no effort to hide her disgust. "I'll not be so easily duped again."
"Aye, this could have ended very badly," Malcolm said, his mind swirling with various possibilities, all of them dire.
The color drained from her cheeks. "I confess fer a moment I feared that he might kill me. But then I remembered that I am far too stubborn and proud to die at the hands of such a lowly worm."
She tossed her head as she said the last, her eyes suddenly blazing with defiance. "I must find my maid at once. Though it's doubtful that Archibald has any interest in my son, Gertrude must go to Callum. I'll not feel any ease until I am certain the lad is safe."
Her child. Of course. It was probably how Archibald lured her into meeting him.
"I'll see to the lad," Malcolm volunteered.
Joan's face darkened. "What do ye know of my son?"
"I followed ye the other night. I know which house the child is being kept in. I assume ye are hiding him because of his father?"
She nodded sharply. "Archibald has no conscience and no heart. He disowned Callum when he divorced me and has no care fer him, but I dinnae want to tempt the fates and put the lad anywhere that Archibald would see him."
"A wise precaution. I can easily locate the house and ensure that all is as it should be."
Joan's eyes filled with worry. "It will appear suspicious if ye are seen wandering the streets of the village. 'Tis best if Gertrude goes, but I thank ye sincerely fer the offer." She sighed. "It seems that I am constantly finding myself in yer debt."
Malcolm could tell by her tone that she was not pleased by that fact, but she was clever enough to realize she could ill afford to turn down any help. "I'm not a man who would take advantage of a woman," he said, trying to allay her fears.
Her reply surprised him, and his heart lightened to hear her opinion, though he was confused as to why her feelings about him mattered so much. Probably because of this mess with the MacPhearson lass, he told himself. There were just so many times a man could hear himself called a dishonorable rogue without it having an effect.
"I would, however, be pleased to accept a small token of thanks from ye, Joan," he said.
"What sort of token?" she asked warily.
He let his gaze drop to her lips. She stared back at him in confusion, then realizing what he meant, favored him with a stern glance of consternation. "I beg ye, Malcolm, dinnae go spoiling my rising regard fer ye by asking fer a kiss. 'Tis unseemly."
"Ye misunderstand me." He laughed, a bit too loudly, cursing himself for making his desire so obvious. Cursing, too, that she seemed so opposed to the idea.
She raised a skeptical brow. "Do I?"
"Aye. I dinnae think of ye in that way."
"What way? Like a woman?"
"Och, ye're twisting my words, Joan."
"Ye dinnae find me desirable?"
Malcolm swallowed a groan. "We both know there's no possible way fer me to answer that question."
"Hmm . . . …perhaps." Her eyes sparkled and he was pleased to be able to provide her with some amusement, even if it was at his expense.
"What would ye say if I asked fer a wee kiss?" he ventured, putting forth his most charming smile.
Joan tilted her head and considered him for a brief moment. "Honestly, I'd rather kiss my horse."
Inwardly, Malcolm winced, though he kept his smile in place. "Aye, I believe that ye'd both enjoy it more than kissing me."
Joan's eyes came alive as she broke into a giggle, but her laugh ended abruptly. "Bloody hell, here comes Archibald."
Malcolm whipped his head around and saw the Fraser laird stomping into the bailey, nearly spewing fire from his mouth. Archibald glanced at the faces of the men gathered in the courtyard, then snarled when his eyes lit upon Malcolm.
"Defend yerself, McKenna," Archibald shouted, pulling the claymore strapped to his back and raising it over his head.
“Building a lively, convincing world of 14th-century Scottish Highland culture, Basso ratchets up the dramatic tension with friction between different clans. . . . This heartwarming, satisfying historical lays intriguing groundwork for the series’ next installment.”—Publishers Weekly
4 Stars —Romantic Times Book Reviews
The setting was so realistic and breathtaking you can feel the water of the ice cold loch and smell the heather! The plotting was to perfection in my opinion! Plus the dialogue was absolutely brilliant. This was a spectacular book you just don't want to put down. As some parts make you laugh and some make you cry. This novel had me at the edge of my seat never knowing what to expect next! Bravo to Adrienne Basso as I absolutely and unequivocally loved "No Other Highlander! —Barb Massabrook of Tartan Book Reviews - 5 stars
For a compelling historical both sensitive and steamy, pick up your copy of NO OTHER HIGHLANDER today! You won't be disappointed it is a real page turner. —The Romance Junkies - 4.5 stars
WOW! Fast paced, adventure filled, heart -pounding and very captivating tale of heartbreak, healing, forgiveness, learning to trust and finding HEA, peace and happiness. Such a powerful and compelling story! Ms. Basso has written a sensitive, complicated, compassionate story of second chances that will captivate readers and capture their hearts from the first page to the last.—My Book Addition and More - 4.5 stars