I’m happy to welcome Vonda Sinclair today. Vonda authors Scottish historicals featuring delicious heroes and delightful heroines.
Vonda is offering a free ebook download for one lucky commenter.
Hi Vonda. So glad you could join us.
Thanks so much for allowing me to be here today! And thank you for the wonderful things you said about my books! MY FIERCE HIGHLANDER and MY WILD HIGHLANDER are set mostly in Scotland in the early 1600s. There are a few scenes that take place in England.
Scottish-set historicals are so popular. What draws you to the area?
The only explanation I have for writing Scottish historical romance is that I’m in love with Scotland. LOL. Something about the place truly captures my imagination and my soul. Scotland is a feast for the eyes. It’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve seen. And there’s just something about it that mystical and mesmerizing. What both my husband and I found was that once we visited Scotland we loved the place even more than we’d imagined we would. I think this happens for a lot of people and I’m not sure why.
I agree completely. I know I felt the same way when I visited Scotland. Please tell us a little about your two titles.
MY FIERCE HIGHLANDER and MY WILD HIGHLANDER stand alone as separate novels but they are linked in that the heroes are brothers. I’m creating a series called the Highland Adventure Series. These are the first two books in it. Here’s what they are about:
MY FIERCE HIGHLANDER - Gwyneth Carswell, an English lady banished by her father to the harsh Scottish Highlands, wants nothing more than to take her young son away from the violence of two fighting clans--her own distant kin, the MacIrwins, and their enemies, the MacGraths. She risks everything to rescue the fierce MacGrath warrior from the battlefield where he’s left for dead by her clan. She only knows she is inexplicably drawn to him and he wants peace as she does. When her clan learns of her betrayal, they seek vengeance. Dare she trust the enemy more than her own family?
Laird Alasdair MacGrath is driven to end two-hundred years of feuding with the MacIrwins. But by taking in and protecting Lady Gwyneth and her son, he provokes more attacks from his mortal enemy. As the danger and conflict surrounding them escalate, Alasdair and Gwyneth discover an explosive passion neither of them expected. With the arrival of a powerful man from her past, a horrible decision confronts her--give up her son or the man she loves.
MY WILD HIGHLANDER - Lady Angelique Drummagan, a half-Scottish, half-French countess, has suffered much pain and betrayal in her past. She wants nothing to do with the sensual Scottish warrior that the king has ordered her to marry because the rogue could never be a faithful husband, but she has little choice in the matter. Dangerous, greedy enemies threaten her from all sides and she’s in dire need of his protection.
Sir Lachlan MacGrath, known as Seducer of the Highlands, possesses a charming wickedness and canny wit which has earned him much popularity. After the king decrees that he wed the fiery hellion, Lachlan discovers there is one woman who can resist him—Angelique. Can he break through her icy façade and melt her heart, or will the dark secrets lurking in her past not only cost them their future together, but their very lives?
Here’s an excerpt from MY FIERCE HIGHLANDER..
Scottish Highlands, 1618
A stiff breeze carried the scent of bruised grass and blood on its icy breath.
Gwyneth Carswell dropped into a crouch and peered through brambles at the tartan-clad bodies, a dozen or more, lying in the dusky gloaming. While gathering herbs earlier, she’d heard the sounds of battle—men shouting, steel clanging, horses screaming.
A chill shook her. The men of the MacIrwin clan, her distant kin, lived and died only for a skirmish. Her sheltered upbringing in England had molded her into the person she was, a lover of peace, but she’d been in the Highlands long enough to expect brutality at every turn. Thank God her son had stayed in the cottage with Mora.
“More senseless death,” she whispered, yearning to run and hide in the cottage, curl up beneath the blankets, and forget she was a healer. Forget all the drained blood and horrifying wounds that would never heal.
But she must not. She must again face death all around her. Dread and nausea rising within her, she covered her nose with a handkerchief. After peering about to make sure she was alone, she crept onto the soggy moor and forced herself to look at the butchered bodies of her cousins…and their enemies. Who had they been fighting?
Pressing her eyes closed to block out the slit throats and other mutilation, she murmured a prayer, both for their departed souls and for strength that she might keep going.
Please, allow me to save the life of at least one.
A haunting groan floated on the breeze. A sign? Her prayer answered? Gwyneth froze, listening. The groan sounded again, straight ahead.
She rushed to the far edge of the clearing.
Daylight dwindled, but she knew she’d never before seen the injured man, a large warrior with long dark hair, obviously from the enemy clan. She could not tear her gaze from his clean-shaven face, smeared and spattered with blood. Never had she seen such a striking man. But something more captivated her, something she could only sense with her woman’s intuition. She yearned for him to open his eyes, but he didn’t.
Blood soaked through his white shirt and fine, pale-blue doublet.
Kneeling on the damp ground, she attempted to press her hand against his chest to feel his heartbeat, but a rolled-up parchment lay in her way within his doublet. She removed it and checked his heart. The thump was slow but strong and steady.
Her eyes locked to his face again. Enticing, yes, but still an enemy.
Wary of him and what message he carried, she stripped the ribbon from the missive and flattened the thick paper. In the dim light, she could barely decipher a few of the Gaelic words inscribed in bold letters across the top.
A peace agreement? Had the MacIrwins ambushed them? She stared down at the man again, lifted his hand and found a seal ring on his finger. A chief?
For a second, it seemed the very ground had a pulse. The vibrating sensation disoriented her.
Distant hoof-beats grew louder and thundered in her direction—the MacIrwin reinforcements coming to finish off their enemies. Her pulse roared in her ears.
If they discovered this man hanging onto life, they’d cut his throat. Especially if he was a chief who wanted peace. Gwyneth crammed the parchment back inside his doublet and stood.
She grasped the thick leather belt that held the man’s plaide in place at his waist and struggled to drag him a few feet into the yellow blooming gorse and weeds. Good lord, he was heavy, comprised of honed warrior muscle. Another tug, then she rolled him down a short incline and behind the bushes, praying all this shifting wouldn’t worsen his injuries. She spread her dull-colored skirts and plaid arisaid over him to conceal the visibility of his light-colored doublet in the dusk.
Her body trembling, she gently bit her knuckle to quiet her chattering teeth. Please, do not let them find us. She hardly dared to breathe.
The horses’ hooves thumped over the grass, and the riders yelled in Gaelic—mostly vows of revenge against the cursed MacGraths.
Through the bushes and gorse, she watched as they loaded the dead bodies onto horses.
Several minutes later, the MacIrwin men rode away. After a while, silence descended and naught could be heard but the nearby stream and a faraway owl. Gwyneth calmed by slow degrees.
Taking a deep breath, she rose on shaking legs. The man lying at her feet was so large she couldn’t move him again, not alone, uphill, for the strength that had come with fear had ebbed.
She ran up to the stone cottage, her feet tangling in the rocks and low-growing plants.
Breathing hard, Gwyneth burst through the door, the bitter scent of peat smoke and tangy drying herbs replacing that of fresh air. “Mora, did you hear the battle?”
“Aye, I reckon they were fighting the MacGrath. ’Tis always a blood feud betwixt them.” Her friend and fellow healer bent over her knitting, her gray head wrapped in a white kerch. The fire smoldering in the center of the room provided little light.
“One man still lives. He’s been knocked out, but his breathing is strong. We must bring him here and see to his injuries.”
“Who is he?” Suspicion laced through Mora’s thick brogue.
“I know not.”
“One of the enemy?”
“Mmph. I won’t be helping the MacGraths.”
“A dozen men are dead. For what purpose? All this fighting is madness!”
“Easy for you to say, English. Lived here nigh on six years, you have, and still you ken naught of our Highland ways.”
She knew enough about their violent way of life and hated it. Gwyneth glanced at her five-year-old son sleeping in the box bed on the other side of the room and lowered her voice. “I would die before I’d let Rory become one of them, giving up his precious life over a senseless dispute.”
She had to find a way to take him out of the Highlands before Laird Donald MacIrwin forced him into the ranks of his fighting men. “And you’re right, I cannot understand so much bloodshed over nothing.”
“’Tis not for naught. The MacGraths killed Donald’s brother ten years past. Then there was the time the MacGraths claimed a goodly portion of MacIrwin land. We don’t take the stealing of land lightly.”
How could her friend be so cold? “This man who yet lives is carrying a peace treaty. He wears a seal ring and appears to be the chief. Aside from that, he’s human and we’re healers. If I can save a life, I will, whether he is friend, foe or beast.”
“Aye, you with your gentle lady’s heart. You’ll get us killed. What if Donald finds out?”
A chill raced through her at that thought. “He rarely comes here.” Though the clan chief was her second cousin on her father’s side, no fondness existed between them.
“’Tis a bad feeling I have about this. You’ll regret it.”
“Do you not think the MacGraths will exact a severe revenge against us all if the MacIrwins kill their chief? He wants peace, as we do.”
"Well, this is not the way to go about it. I’ve been around a few years longer than you have, Sassenach.”
“I will drag the big brute up here myself, then.” She yanked a blanket off the bed, left the cottage and strode down the hill once again toward the glen. The stones slid and rolled beneath her slippers and bit into her feet.
If Mora wouldn’t help her, she’d do what she could for the man.
Something all-consuming rose up from her soul and railed, refusing to allow him to lie there and die. Though his body looked powerful, he was helpless now. As helpless as a child, helpless as little Rory.
All this man’s fearsomeness at her mercy, she was awed by the power she held over him, to help him reclaim his strength and his life…or let it drain away. That would be a sin far worse than any she’d ever committed, of which she had many. The peace treaty and something deep within her proclaimed his life was worth saving a hundred times over.
Gwyneth crouched behind a patch of thistles at the edge of the glen and listened for MacIrwins. The only sound was the wind hissing through the pine needles and the splash of the stream.
A rock clattered down the slope behind her.
Love the independent Gwyneth, Vonda. Your two books are exciting beginnings to the Highland Adventure Series. What’s the next installment?
I’m writing Dirk’s story now. He is a good friend of Lachlan who was introduced in My Wild Highlander. Dirk is from Durness in the far North of Scotland. It is one of the coldest and windiest places in Scotland. The setting is also dramatic, rugged, untamed and beautiful. Durness and the surrounding area captivated me when I visited.
What one tip would you offer writers?
If becoming a successfully published author is what you truly want, don’t give up. Find a way to make it happen. There are lots of paths to success, not just the one you think of first. Be creative with both your stories and your approach to publishing and marketing. The publishing world is changing so be sure to stay on top of what is happening and learn all you can.
How long have you been writing?
I’ve been dreaming up stories and writing them down since elementary school. I feel like it was something I was born to do.
Where is your favorite place to write?
I write in my office, in my living room, or on my treadmill.
Thanks, again, for joining us today. Come back again to share Dirk’s story with us.
Thanks again for having me! It was a true pleasure to visit with you and your readers!
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MY FIERCE HIGHLANDER is available at these and other online bookstores:
MY WILD HIGHLANDER is available at these and other online bookstores: