Jun 13 2017 8:30am

First Look: Amanda Scott’s The Reluctant Highlander (June 13, 2017)

The Reluctant Highlander by Amanda Scott

Amanda Scott
The Reluctant Highlander 
Open Road Media Romance / June 13, 2017 / $15.99 print, $7.99 digital

Late one moonlight June night in 1431, on the North Inch of Perth, Sir Adham MacFinlagh spots a graceful lass, clad only in her shift, stepping into the waters of the river Tay. Adham is not a “fanciful man” but if he were, “he might have called it magical.” He is content to watch the water sprite float away from him, buoyed by the current, until “in an eddying swirl, she vanished beneath the sparkling dark surface.”

Suddenly fearful, he dashed after her. Heedless of rocks, the uneven terrain, and other such minor obstacles, he cast off his badric, belt, and heavy wool plaid as he ran.

Lady Fiona Ormiston savored the rare sense of freedom she felt deep beneath the surface, as her arms swept her forward and her legs kicked hard against the Tay’s strong current, heading back the way she had come. She was smugly pleased that she could hold her breath long enough now to count nearly to two hundred.

There you have the crux of the tempestuous relationship that unfolds between Adham and Fiona—he is protective and brave while Fiona is capable and sensible, except for the times when her yearning for freedom and solitude lead her into what some might dub foolhardiness. Adham is concerned for the safety of a young noblewoman, all alone outside the city gates, and he radiates disapproval.

“Does anyone else know you are swimming here?” he asked. His voice was deep and so vibrant that it seemed to hum through her, strumming unusually pleasant chords in her body and instilling an unexpected calmness there, as well.

Those feelings did naught to help her identify him, though, nor did she trust her own calm. Doubtless, he was good with animals. But she was no dumb beast.

Adham insists on escorting Fiona to her quarters (she is a lady-in-waiting to Queen Joanna, wife to King James of Scotland) even though she protests mightily, to no avail: “…she felt a prickle of unease but had time for no more before he picked her up as if she had been a sack of oatmeal and slung her, face down, over his left shoulder.” A ferocious cat snarls out of the shrubbery along the path and sinks sharp-clawed paws into Adham’s arm. Of course the cat could only belong to Fiona who promises to behave as she untangles her cat from the judgmental stranger’s arm, making Adham feel guilty about how he has treated the strong-willed swimmer.

Irked by her insistence upon having her own way, he had briefly forgotten that she was a noblewoman, a lady, and he a knight sworn to behave honorably. Instead he had behaved as he might toward one of his saucier younger cousins.

Calamitously, her father, Lord Ormiston, counselor to the king and a senior member of the court, is waiting at the gates of the town. After Fiona’s father dismisses her abruptly, he invites the young knight from the Highlands to stay with him for what remains of the night. Is this a clue that the met-by-chance couple will be married by daybreak? Not quite but Adham is a valuable pawn to the king and his courtiers. Adham is loyal to King James, in fact he was elevated to the knighthood by the king, but he also related by blood to the disloyal noblemen from the northern isles of Scotland.

Fiona and Adham meet again at court, careful not to give rise to gossip, but the littlest gesture—a touch to a shoulder—has each of them thinking about the other.  

She could feel where his hand had touched her shoulder, and she felt other sensations when she thought about him. For reasons she could neither describe or understand, he had a strong effect on her. She wanted to know more about him.

Doubtless, the desire was no more than simple curiosity about a Highland barbarian. In fact, though, and if one discounted his untidy appearance and odd garments, the man seemed no more barbaric than Davy was.

Admittedly, it was unusual for her to think about any man as much as she had thought about Sir Adham, whom she had known for less than a day.

It’s pretty obvious that Fiona’s feelings for Adham are not sisterly, although Adham and her fierce brother Davy have a lot in common. When the king and Fiona’s father suggest the two marry, Adham agrees, with the proviso that Fiona not be compelled to wed him. Adham realizes he wants nothing more than to marry Fiona, and so he tells her.

“If you mean to say nae, say it.”

“I will say aye, sir, although I fear that I may regret it.”

Grinning, he said, “Doubtless, we will both have some regrets. We do seem able to talk to each without speaking in riddles or thinking things we do not say aloud. So, when one of us irks the other, mayhap we’ll be able to see it through.”

She smiled, feeling warm all. “I like you, Sir Adham MacFinlagh.”

“Tis a good start,” he said. “You fascinate me, lass.”

Could there be a more eloquent, realistic, and hopeful proposal? Adham and Fiona travel to the Highlands after their marriage and therein lies a tale. But whatever the obstacles in their path—the marriage of an aristocratic lady and a Highland bred warrior—they have growing affection on their side. As Adham tells Fiona after taking “delightful liberties” with her lips, “You would entice a man made of stone, my lady.” Perhaps Lady Fiona will not be a reluctant highlander after all.


Learn more about or order a copy of The Reluctant Highlander by Amanda Scott, available now: 

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Janet Webb aka @JanetETennessee moved from the San Francisco Bay to eastern Tennessee. Baseball is my passion: I follow the Chattanooga Lookouts and the Nashville Sounds (farm team of my beloved Oakland Athletics). Social media devotee. Stories on royals and politics catch my eye. Ottawa born. Grew up on Georgette Heyer and Helen MacInnes. I also review at Criminal Element.

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1 comment
1. Kahintenn
Alrighty then...off to order this one! Thanks for the preview!
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