Her Highland Rogue
Genre: Historical romance, Highlander
Publisher: Random House/Loveswept
Date of Publication: June 21, 2016
Number of pages: 170 * Word Count: 52,000
Cover Artist: Random House
Errol MacRae’s days of gallivanting across the Highlands are nearing an end. His father’s health has taken a turn for the worse, and rumors are swirling that the crown intends to transfer ancient lands into the hands of the MacKenzies, the clan the MacRaes are sworn to defend. Errol expects to lead his men into battle soon. So he isn’t pleased when his father instead sends him to retrieve a beautiful flame-haired lass who has fled into the mountains.
Orphaned as a young girl, Aileana vividly remembers how the MacRaes rescued her and welcomed her into their clan. For ten years, she has served them loyally—until the night she’s nearly despoiled by one of the laird’s captains. Aileana risks her life and her reputation to seek refuge in the snowcapped peaks of the Five Sisters, the one place that has always felt like home. But after the strong-armed, strong-willed Errol tracks her down in a blizzard, she finds herself tempted to risk something even more dangerous: her heart.
Aileana opened her eyes, confused by her surroundings. She’d fled the MacRae stronghold after Broc cornered her in the kitchen, long after the other women had gone abovestairs to sleep. She’d stupidly volunteered to keep watch over the remaining men in the hall in case they required more bread and meat—or in Broc’s case, more ale. Once she’d refilled his cup, even leaving a full pitcher behind for the great beast to finish off, he stumbled after her, smelling of sweat and spirits, and drooling on her neck.
She’d known him nearly all her life—at least for the time she remembered being alive. Before her tenth year, she held no clear memories. The occasional flash of a face or spoken word, but nothing that could connect her to a family or place. So she wandered through life nameless, though the MacRae laird had offered to recognize her as part of his clan. But whenever she considered it, something inside her warned not to do it. For once ye denied your name, whether you knew it or not, your fate might change. And she didn’t want to lose her only chance at true happiness. Deep down, Aileana knew there was more to her existence than being a bastard.
That’s what half the women within the MacRae keep called her. Behind her back mostly, but sometimes directly if she was blamed for burning the bread or spilling wine.
She kicked off the fur covering her from neck-to-foot, cold air sending a chill down her body. A fire burned at the opening of the rock enclosure, and she padded over to it, desperate for warmth. She stared beyond the flames, the world outside covered in white. Winter had come early to Kintail. And only by God’s grace had she met a woman last night in the hills. How could she turn down an offer of hot stew and a pallet to sleep on? So she’d walked quietly with the stranger to her cave.
As soon as she finished eating and drained her cup of wine, sleep overwhelmed her. That’s all she remembered. And now she woke up alone. But there was a loaf of bread and a cup of milk on the table by her pallet, hopefully meant for her to eat. Her stomach growled with hunger.
“Good morning,” Aileana heard as she reached for the cup.
She turned and met the woman’s smile. “Thank ye for allowing me to stay here last night. I’m afraid I have nothing to offer you, no money or goods to trade.”
The woman joined her, picked up the loaf of bread, then tore it in half. “I don’t remember asking for payment, child.”
“But your generosity must be rewarded in some way.”
“Aye,” she agreed. “Your company will do nicely.”
Aileana took a bite and it melted in her mouth, as tasty as what she cooked every morning in the MacRae kitchens. “Whatever you wish,” she said. “I prefer staying here. I wasn’t prepared for the snow. If ye hadn’t found me, I’m afraid I would have perished in the cold.” Though she had a fur cloak and thick-soled boots, she hadn’t had time to gather anything else before she ran away.
The woman sat down. “My name is Sgùrr.”
The woman studied her in silence, her dark gaze wandering more than once to her hair. “Who is your father?”
Aileana took another sip of milk, then put the cup down on the table. The idea of admitting to a stranger that she had no family was as humiliating as what Broc had done to her. “I don’t know.”
“And why were you roaming the hills alone? Surely someone will miss ye?”
“Laird MacRae is my guardian.”
“Your mother has passed?”
“I’m afraid I know nothing about my birth.” She walked the couple feet to her pallet and picked up her cloak. “Eight years ago a MacRae guard found me in the forest, cold and hungry, close to death I’ve been told. He bundled me in a blanket and took me home with him. I’ve lived there ever since.”
“Has the laird been kind and generous?”
“Laird MacRae is not only kind, but treats me as his own daughter. A day never passes without him greeting me. Sometimes I wonder what would have become of me if the MacDonalds or MacLeods found me instead.”
The older woman nodded. “Don’t put much stock in the affairs of men. Clan feuds are the last thing a lass needs to worry about. ’Tis your heart and charitable acts that define your character.”
Talking with author Violetta Rand!
What is your writing environment?
My office space is upstairs surrounded by big windows and sunshine, with a view of the mountains and woods. My writing companions include three dogs and two cats who often influence my stories.
What is your writing process?
Sit down and write. J
What authors have caught your interest lately and why?
Sue-Ellen Welfonder keeps me intrigued 24/7. Mia Marlowe is so entertaining. Bernard Cornwell writes amazing historical fiction.
How did you get the idea for this particular novel?
I don’t plan anything. How do I get inspired to write? Life in general, its grand!
What is your favorite scene in your new release?
I adore the prologue.
Kintail, Scotland 1498
Ownership of the lands surrounding were under protest. And with war in the air, Sgùrr scanned the world below. From the mountains, everything looked insignificant and small. Even the islands of Eigg, Rum, and Skye, visible in the distance, failed to inspire peace inside her.
At this elevation, no MacLeod or MacDonald could threaten her. She’d sought refuge and had found it in a cave. Let men destroy one another. Sgùrr refused to get stuck in the middle—even if she was guilty of bedding two warriors from enemy clans. The babe who now kicked furiously inside her womb would not wait much longer to draw her first breath. And with snow threatening to fall early, she’d had little time to prepare.
Another pain assailed her, and she stumbled over the rocky terrain, the opening to her shelter only yards away. The identity of the father was inconsequential; the babe grew stronger every day. Allegiance to lairds and tartans didn’t matter. God alone judged souls, and Sgùrr had mistakenly fallen in love with two men at the same time. One had stolen her virtue, the other her heart.
When they found out about each other, she fled, preferring freedom over the bonds of marriage. She’d deal with her punishment in the afterlife.
Reaching the cave, she dropped her bundle of kindling on the dirt floor. It had taken four separate trips, and some trickery to outsmart the MacKenzie guards, but she’d managed to steal enough linens, a fur, dried meat, beans, and skins of wine to survive. She’d even stuffed two blankets she’d sewn together with dried grass to sleep on.
The fire in the rock pit she’d built at the mouth of the cave needed attention, and she untied the piece of rope holding together the firewood she’d just collected. She chose four branches and arranged them carefully in the pit. The dried wood crackled and popped as the flames caught. The warmth pleased Sgùrr as she rubbed her hands together, wishing instead one of her lovers was providing the heat she needed. But alas, she wouldn’t risk their lives.
Jealousy had overridden their common sense. Cian MacDonald had grabbed his sword and dressed for battle, threatening to ride to the MacLeod stronghold to challenge her other warrior. She shook her head, knowing these memories were all she’d have left of the men she loved. And . . . Sgùrr massaged her swollen belly. As if the unborn babe heard her thoughts, she kicked violently. Sgùrr lost her breath and bent over, her hands resting on her knees. She began taking measured breaths, long inhales and controlled exhales. It relieved the pressure some.
A skilled midwife and healer, Sgùrr had brought dozens of children into the world. Her own should be no different. She made sure everything she needed was within reach of the pallet in the back of the cave. Fresh water, clean linens, her dirk, and some dried venison to chew on if she required sustenance for a long labor.
Satisfied, she changed into a linen shift, removed her leather boots and wool leggings, then settled on the thin mattress, wrapping the fur about her shoulders. Although the cave kept the rain and snow off her head, occasionally a frigid wind penetrated the crag, chilling her to the bone. It reminded her how delicate the balance of life truly was. Her child would grow up in a place free of hatred and violence. She’d teach her early that a man’s worth should be judged by his actions alone. Words meant little. For Sgùrr had heard the highest laird swear an oath, only to break it soon after. She’d share the beauty of nature with her—no hall could rival a sunrise or the view across Loch Duich.
She grunted as the pains came closer together, praying the delivery would be swift. Many women died in their birthing beds, but Sgùrr knew this little one had a purpose. Beads of sweat formed on her forehead as she continued to pant and wait for the moment to come. “Blessed Lord, keep us safe . . .”
What are you working on now and when can we expect it to be available?
The second book in my new historical Viking series releases in July (Desire’s Fury).
I’m also working on my next Highland story.
What do you like to do when you are not writing?
I love to hike, fish, and ride motorcycles and 4-wheelers.
What is one interesting fact about you that readers don’t know?
I used to be a DJ.
Top 3 things on your bucket list?
Learn how to bake cakes as delicious as my mom’s.
Visit Israel and Norway.
Buy my husband a new Harley.
When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
The obsession started in kindergarten.
Do you have a genre that you can see yourself writing in the future?
Mainstream historical fiction of fantasy
Thank you for hosting me today.
About the Author:
Raised in Corpus Christi, Texas, Violetta Rand spent her childhood reading, writing, and playing soccer. After meeting her husband in New England, they moved to Alaska where she studied environmental science and policy before attending graduate school. Violetta then spent nearly a decade working as a scientist, specializing in soil and water contamination and environmental assessments.
Violetta still lives in Alaska and spends her days writing romance. When she's not reading, writing, or editing, she enjoys time with her husband, pets, and friends. In her free time, she loves to hike, fish, and ride motorcycles and 4-wheelers.
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