First, I would like to thank all of my guest authors who helped make this month of courage a success. I would also like to thank my readers who commented. The thoughts and stories of courage that you shared were priceless. It surely takes courage to voice one’s opinion and share a personal story.
I think the final message is that courage is very personal and can be defined in many ways. In Highland Courage Mairead must overcome an old fear. Her story is one that I believe will resonate with many women and I truly hope you enjoy reading it. I have included an excerpt from the first chapter below to whet your appetite.
Please be sure to join me Sunday evening from 4:00 to Midnight on Facebook for my big release party. There are 13 other authors from several different genres joining me for this party. The other Highland romance authors are: Tarah Scott, Kate Robbins, Sue-Ellen Welfonder, Suzan Tisdale, Lily Baldwin, Kathryn Lynn Davis, April Holthaus, Eliza Knight, and Ria Cantrell. Additionally Stephanie Cole and Jude Johnson who both write contemporary romance and Jeanne Arnold who writes young adult romance will attend. Finally H.D. Smith, whose spectacular urban fantasy, Dark Hope will be released on Monday will also be attending.
There will be lots of book prizes (at least one from each author) given away throughout the evening. I am offering a grand prize of a $50 Amazon gift certificate. The winner will be selected shortly after 11:00 pm on Sunday night. Anyone can enter to win this prize via Rafflecopter a Rafflecopter giveaway
Check out the event page on Facebook for more details as they develop! Highland Courage Release Party
Now, without further ado, the opening chapter of Highland Courage
Carraigile, The Western Highlands, Mid-September 1360
Her father looked bewildered. “Mairead, don’t ye want to be married? Look at how happy your sisters are. Ye love your nieces
and nephews. Don’t ye want to be a mother?”
Cathal MacKenzie had tried for years to make a match his youngest daughter would accept. Now she suspected his patience was at an end, and he would no longer wait for her approval. Her father had arranged strategically sound marriages for his six oldest children, and they all seemed to be very happy. “Da, I do love the children, but with eight living here and three more when Annag and Hogan visit, why does anything need to change? I’m happy with
things the way they are.”
Her mother, Brigid, tried reasoning with her. “Mairead, my sweet lass, things can’t stay as they are forever. I know ye don’t want to live the religious life. Ye would miss your family too much, and I couldn’t bear to think of ye locked up in a cloister. Please, dear one, it is time ye were married.”
“Why, Mama? Why can’t I just stay here?”
Mairead desperately wanted to avoid the discussion of marriage, but the look of pity in her mother’s eyes spoke volumes. Mairead fought to hold back her tears. She hadn’t cried in seven years, and she wouldn’t start now. Mairead pleaded silently for her mother to intervene, to tell her she never had to marry or leave home if she chose not to.
Perhaps sensing his wife’s resolve waver, her father answered, “I’m sorry, Mairead, but that is not an option. Ye are well past the age when most lasses marry.” Mairead started to argue, but her father put up his hand to stop her. “Nay, lass. No more. We will arrange a betrothal for ye when we attend the Michaelmas Festival at the end of this month.”
“Nay, Da, please…” Terrified, her voice broke, and she couldn’t say more.
Her father’s countenance softened. “Come with us, sweetling. Ye haven’t been for years, and ye used to love it so. We will find ye a new instrument to conquer and ye can meet the young men we are considering. We’ll take your wishes into account if we can, love.”
“I don’t want to go, Da, and I don’t want to get married yet!” Again, she blinked rapidly to keep the tears from slipping freely down her cheeks.
“What are ye afraid of?” demanded her father.
“I’m not—afraid,” she snapped, her voice catching with a sob.
Now her father’s eyes mirrored the pity she had seen in her mother’s. “The choice to go to the festival or not is yours, Mairead, but we will arrange a betrothal for ye and ye will be married. Soon.”
“Aye, Da,” she whispered and left her parents’ solar. Mairead wanted to retreat unseen to her chamber, but escaping unnoticed was nearly impossible at Carraigile. All of her siblings and their families lived in the MacKenzie stronghold except her sister Annag, who was married to the laird of Clan MacBain and her little brother Flan, who had just begun his training as squire for Laird Matheson. After leaving the solar, in order to reach the stairs leading
to her chamber, she had to cross the great hall, and her siblings managed to corner her there.
Both Cathal and Brigid had lost their first spouses, and each had brought children to their marriage. Mairead was their first child together. She had been the baby of the family for years, until Flan was born, and in a way was the person who had firmly united both sets of children. They could all claim her as a sister. She grew up loved and adored by her siblings, but they could also overwhelm her.
“Mairead, go with us,” Rowan said. “We are all going. It’ll be fun.”
“Ye aren’t all going,” countered Mairead. “Cullen and Marjean aren’t going.”
“That’s because of our new baby,” answered Cullen, “but everyone else is.”
Mairead crossed her arms and did her best to look defiant. “Lily and Rose aren’t going.” She looked pointedly at their twin
sisters, Lilias and Rhoswen.
“I want to,” said Rhoswen, “but it is awfully hard to travel that far with a baby.” Her youngest was only a year-old and quite a
“I’m only staying to keep Rose company, both of our husbands are going,” said Lilias.
Cullen rolled his eyes. Lily had given her an opening and Mairead seized it. “Then I will stay and keep ye both company.”
Peadar’s wife, Rhona, jumped to the rescue, “But then who will keep me company? I’ll be the only woman going if ye stay here.”
“That’s not true. Naveen is going.”
Gannon’s wife, Naveen, shook her head, “I am only going as far as my parents’ holding.”
“Well, Mother is going, and your mother will be joining ye as well, Rhona,” countered Mairead.
Rhona pouted prettily. “That’s not the same as a sister.”
Mairead simply arched an eyebrow at her. Rhona had to know how weak that argument was; at least a score of other Chisholm clanswomen were going. Mairead loved her family, but now they smothered her. She slowly edged away from them saying, “Really. I’m sure it will be fun, but I want to stay here.”
Gannon tried. “Laird Matheson is going, so Flan will be there, too. Ye were just saying how much ye miss him.”
“Nay, Gannon. I can’t go.” She edged past him and rushed from the hall.
Peadar said, “Well that went well,” just before she left.
By the time she reached her chamber, her emotions were a jumble, and once again, she had to fight back the tears. This was awful. Clearly, her family didn’t understand why this scared her so much. They couldn’t possibly understand it. She had never given them the opportunity to understand because she had never been able to tell them why. Perhaps she should have, but she hadn’t found the courage to tell them before and she wasn’t about to tell them tonight. She had to take hold of herself and find the strength to face this.
She sat by the hearth in her chamber with her head in her hands when a knock sounded at the door. Completely exasperated with her siblings, she yelled through the door, “Go away.”
Her brother Quinn ignored her and entered her bedchamber. “I can’t, Mairead. We need to talk about this.”
“Quinn, I know ye all mean well, but please leave me alone. I don’t want to go to the fair.”
“I know ye don’t want to go.” He leaned his back against the door, but his casual stance belied the serious expression on his face. “I want to know why.”
“I just don’t. Why can’t ye all accept that?”
He ignored her question. “Mairead, I’ve never talked with ye about it and maybe I should have, but I know something happened the last time ye went.”
She waved her hands in irritation. “Everyone knows something happened, Quinn. To quote Peadar, I was colossally stupid and wandered off with Flan.”
“Yes, everyone knows that. What I want to know is what happened when ye wandered off?”
“Ye know that already too. I lost Flan, then I found him, and that priest walked us back to camp.”
“Mairead, ye’re lying to me. I knew it then, and I know it now.”
Mairead couldn’t meet his gaze. “Go away, Quinn.”
“Ye changed seven years ago. Tell me what happened.” The urgent note in his voice was unmistakable as he crossed the room and crouched in front of her.
“I don’t know what ye are talking about. I didn’t change.” She slammed her fists against the arm of her chair in frustration.
“Ye did. I’m sure there are cloistered nuns who are more outgoing than ye are, Mairead.”
“And ye know a lot of cloistered nuns?”
“That’s not the point.”
“Nay, but it’s all nonsense anyway. I have always been…timid. MacKenzie’s Mouse, remember? I just like being at home.”
She hated the nickname “MacKenzie’s Mouse” and no one within the family used it. However, many people outside the family and clan did, although it was her appearance and not her temperament that initially gave rise to the name. Da’s children by his first wife were tall and blonde with crystal blue eyes. Although her mother was petite, all Mama’s children from her first marriage were also tall—frankly, Peadar and Rowan were huge—and they all had Mother’s dark hair and dark brown eyes. Remarkably attractive, all eight of her older siblings turned heads. Even at four and ten, Flan was a head taller than most lads his age and already showed signs of having the dark good looks of Mama’s family but with Da’s bright blue eyes. More like her mother, Mairead was smaller than her siblings, with light brown hair and pale grey eyes. She felt mousey in comparison. However, Quinn was right. She would never admit it to
him, but something had changed seven years ago.
Quinn looked directly into her eyes. “Mairead, I know ye better than anyone. I know something bad happened to ye then, and ye have been hiding ever since. Da is getting ready to marry ye off, and I am worried for ye. For the love of God, lass, tell me what happened. No one can help ye if ye keep this locked away.”
“Go away, Quinn,” she whispered.
He sighed and shook his head in frustration. He rose and kissed the top of her head. “Ye can talk to me, Mairead. Ye can tell me when ye’re ready.” Then he turned and left her room.
She would never be ready. She couldn’t tell him. She couldn’t tell anyone. She wanted to keep it locked away.
I hope you enjoyed this little peek at Highland Courage. If you did, be sure to look for it on Amazon on Monday. You can pre-order it on Barnes and Noble (Highland Solution for Nook) or Kobo (Highland Solution for Kobo) now!