His Convenient Highland Wedding by Janice Preston – Mills & Boon Insider Review.

His Convenient Highland Wedding by Janice Preston in a nutshell: if you’re after an adorable romance between two big softies, a slice of social history and a good dose of “Och!”, walk this way.

Disclaimer: Contains mild spoilers, moderate sarcasm and serious swooning. Continue at your own risk.

9781474088886

 

I’m back!!!

(In my current excitement, I think it’s worth a few unruly exclamation marks winking-face_1f609)

After my prolonged and unplanned sabbatical (fear not, I won’t bore you with the details) I was raring to go! But what first…?

I gave the latest titles – that the good old M&B had been so kind to send my way – an intense perusal, expecting that with Eroticon so rapidly approaching a Dare may be smouldering on the horizon. However, it was my Celtic genes that piped up – no pun intended – and they would not be denied! (The same Celtic genes that I blame for my pasty complexion despite the fact that my Scottish granny – from whence said Celtic genes presumably came – tans like nobody alive. Some things in life just aren’t fair.)

Or maybe it was because I’d just spent half an hour on the phone to Scottish Power…?

Regardless, His Convenient Highland Wedding it was! So, full of cold on a typically English rainy day, I did the only proper thing. I put the kettle on, curled up on the sofa, cast eight hours of Youtube log fire to the TV and prepared to get thoroughly stuck in.

However, as you well know, I am cursed to ask the big questions.

Could the despairing “Och!” and eye roll ever be truly captured in print?

I was about to find out.

 

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[Image courtesy of Aardman Animations, DreamWorks Pictures and Pathé]

 

Sorry, couldn’t resist!

 

Our Loquacious Lady:

(Yes, I’ve been watching Con Air…again.)

Lady Flora McCrieff has ideas! This girl is one smart shortbread and she knows that she could turn her noble family’s diminishing fortune around. If only her father would listen to her rather than investing himself in her little brother’s hair brained and fruitless schemes. According to Daddy Dearest, girls know nothing and suffering his wrath over disobedience is something that her entire family is all too familiar with. However, after Flora commits the ultimate act thereof – turning down a dic…ahem, I mean, Duke – the shame of her family and shunning from polite society all but snuffs out that fierce light of hers once and for all.

A year later, she couldn’t have anticipated the bombshell her father was about to drop. An arranged marriage to a man she has never met. With two days notice, Flora is walking down the aisle and whisked away to Lochmore Castle by her wealthy new husband who has promised to ease her family’s (relative) financial woes in exchange for a high born wife. Understandably plagued by uncertainty, Flora has only her upbringing and her mother’s “just close your eyes and let him get on with it” advice to go on.

Will Lachlan McNeill be a man just like her father or the Duke to whom she gave the old school swipe left? And how will he react when it becomes clear that she is not the doorway into noble society that he thought he’d married?

Our Soft-centred Scotsman:

Businessman Lachlan McNeill knows what it’s like to live hand to mouth. After his family was turfed out of their home and, like many before and after them, moved to the slums of Glasgow in search of work, tragedy all too quickly followed. Forced to leave Scotland (I leave the spoilers well alone), Lachlan’s fiery determination to return a successful man paid off. He’s got the wealth, the threads and the castle to prove it. All he needs now is a high born wife to help him tap into the noble market so that his fledgling whisky distillery can get off the ground, thus giving economic security not just to him but those who rely on him for their livelihoods in such difficult times.

When Lady Flora McCrieff rocks up beside him at the alter, old Lachy can’t believe his luck. However, with the secrets and shames of his past yapping at his heels (along with Flora’s excitable wee puppy dog) and his long lost sister almost within reach, it gets increasingly difficult to keep his new wife in the dark. Sure that, once she knows the truth, Flora will reject and despise him like so many before, Lachlan is determined to keep Flora out of deepest recesses of his heart.

But what do they say about famous last words?

 

My Two Penneth.

 

Ahem, *whispers* I have a confession to make.

It’s not often that I read a historical romance. I’ve got nothing against them but for some reason they’re not my go to. Usually though, once I get going I really enjoy them and His Convenient Highland Wedding turned out to be more than one of these “usuals”!

In the beginning I had a brief moment of:

“Oh no, is this going to be one of those romances where strong silent type really translates to utter douche bag and the uphill struggle to give him redeeming features begins?”

Let’s be honest, we’ve all read (and for my part fumed – “Wanda smash!” style – over) them. However, by the end of the paragraph, I had already completely changed my mind!

What came out was two people who had been, for one reason or another, downtrodden by society and were feeling around in the dark trying to find their place in the world. Even though Flora and Lachlan hadn’t set eyes on each other before the “big” day and it primarily took place for business purposes (and yes, arranged marriages, though historically accurate are a seriously crappy institution), what’s nice about how their relationship is written is that despite all this, they start from a point of basic human warmth and compassion.

In my experience, that isn’t always the case. So often – historical or contemporary – it starts from a place of indifference, outright dislike or a kind of clinical lust and it warms up from there. Yet, these guys start out with this lovely, tentative “I know you’re cool really, but I’m too scared to let you in right now so, let’s just be friends and make babies together, yeah?” and how they get from A to B is just adorable.

They’ve both been through the social ringer, they both know what it’s like to have no control of your own life – albeit on opposite ends of the financial spectrum. Though losing no end of faith in themselves, neither of them have completely lost their faith in humanity even though that would have been the easiest thing in the world and it gives the whole book a hopeful, warm and fuzzy edge. Then again, they’re also both human beings with their baggage and it was nice that this wasn’t glossed over in rose tinted specs fashion, either. 

I also loved that the focus on the relationship didn’t blot out the social history surrounding it. It was very well interwoven and didn’t feel at all like one had been shoehorned into the other as can sometimes be the case. And for me, it was quite nice to get a snapshot view into my far reaching roots (Janice, my Celtic genes are appeased and I thank you!) 

Now, for those of you umm-ing and ah-ing about whether or not it’s going to be historical shagathon (when I started, I was fifty / fifty on which way it might go), all I can say is that my hat is raised to some truly impressive circumstantial (and a good dose of self imposed) cock blockery! If you were hoping for said shagathon, fear not shenanigans are on the horizon. And for those of you just not down with that, don’t write it off because there’s a hell of a lot of story to go at.

One last thing I will say is that [beware of minor, nondescript spoiler!], if you get to the bit when Flora’s realising the pressure ould Daddy was under and have the same reaction I did, namely:

“That’s still no justification for being a $£”%^$£^@, don’t let him get away with it Flo!”

Don’t panic and bear with it, our Flora comes good in the end!

 

His Convenient Highland Wedding in a nutshell: if you’re after an adorable romance between two big softies, a slice of social history and a good dose of “Och!”, walk this way.

 

Wanda-ometer rating for His Convenient Highland Wedding: four and a half stars

History: Book emojiBook emojiBook emojiBook emojiBook emoji

Smoochies: kiss-emojikiss-emojikiss-emoji

Feels: crying emojicrying emojicrying emojicrying emoji

Och!: SCOTTISH_EMOJISCOTTISH_EMOJISCOTTISH_EMOJISCOTTISH_EMOJISCOTTISH_EMOJI

Happily Ever After: happily ever after emojihappily ever after emojihappily ever after emojihappily ever after emojihappily ever after emoji

 

His Convenient Highland Wedding is available from (but not limited to) the following retailers:

Mills & Boon

Amazon

 

And yes, the despairing “och!” and eye roll made an appearance (however briefly). And it turns out print can, in fact, do it justice.

 

Happy swooning!

The Ashes of Anria.

Flash fiction inspired by the writing prompt:

SPARKLE!

(Yeah, I’m not sure how I got from A-to-grim with this one either!)

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[Image by the talented Hugo Richards]

 

Those last steps hurt as much as the first.

The devastation that they had known was coming in that one short hour before they fled, had long since been and gone. There was nothing left.

Not a brick.

Not a leaf.

Not a soul.

Dark, dry, level earth lay at their feet. It stretched all the way to the sweeping crevass of what used to be the river, previously visible only from the cathedral tower. The same cathedral where Orla had spoken her vows as a future Chieftain and sworn to protect the city that The Ancestors had built. Their descendants, hundreds of thousands strong, had filled Anria’s homesteads, preserved its walls and cared for its land. Now, hundreds of thousands of blank faces swarmed in her mind. Of all those people, she had known pitifully few well enough to accurately recall their features. And in the years since she had last stood on this seemingly alien ground, she had remembered fewer and fewer each day.

‘We abandoned them.’

The air, void of even the buzz of insects, lay oppressively dormant around them.

‘We abandoned them to save them,’ Doran replied, the ashes of Anria crunching beneath his boots as he took a stand beside her.

Orla clutched the leather pouch on her belt even tighter.

‘Only if this works.’

She tore herself from the heartbreak before her and met Doran’s gaze. His autumn brown eyes mirrored every tangled emotion in her heart.

The Chieftain’s daughter and the man with Anria’s fastest horse. They had lived worlds apart within the same walls until the sky began to crackle with fire and the ground began to boil. They had ridden for days before either could think through the horror enough to merely introduce themselves. And every moment since, Anria had waited while they fought their quest. Waited, lost in the dust, as they learned the pains and the luxuries of living.

The pair of them had been to hell and back searching for the artefact that could revive the home that they had so lovingly deserted. Yet, looking on the nothingness that home had become, the hope that had driven them for so long felt painfully heavy in her chest.

Doran’s fingers curled, gently familiar between her own.

‘You were born to do this and I was born to bring you home. I know it.’ His voice was sure even as it faltered.

Pulling her hand reluctantly from his, Orla looked down at the symbol carved deep into the flesh of her palm. The Chieftain’s mark, a ceremonial tattoo passed from one Chieftain to the next in death and death alone. Her ceremony had been self-administered with blood and river water in place of ink and wine, sanctified by nature in place of priestesses and holy men. The makeshift mark was one half of the key that could restore Anria. If the key was broken or incomplete, the ritual would kill them both and anything else within a hundred miles that may have dared to live. Yet, if she did not try, then all that suffering by all those people; their families, their friends, their city of faceless kinsman would have been in vain.

Reading her mind, Doran moved closer. His eyes, softened by experience, looked deeper into her hers. ‘You can do this.’

Orla allowed his words to flow through her heart and weave into her soul, allowed herself to connect with the part of her that believed them. Her reign had been forged in fire, the journey back to Anria melting her down and making her anew. Now a woman of steel stood in the place of a girl of glass. If she wanted to succeed, her intent had to be as strong as she had become.

‘I can do this.’

Orla strode further into the dust, tipping the contents of the leather pouch into her scarred palm.

The egg shaped stone glittered even in the cloud-dimmed light. The piercing cold and energetic thrum of two halves made whole, rippled through its ruby-like shell. It seeped into her bones until they hurt. Coursed through her veins until they screamed. Crushed her lungs and stole her breath. Sucked all colour from her skin but sickly, pallid blue.

Doran shifted behind her, skittish with concern. She held out her other hand, silently ordering him back. If anyone but Orla touched the stone, even by accident, this would all be over. Anria would never be reborn. And they would die along with it.

As Doran held her stare, she could see his struggle to hold himself back. Yet, she could feel the trust and the faith that he unwaveringly placed in her. That one look was all she needed.

I can do this.

‘Do not test me, Spirit,’ she sputtered the words, memorised from oft-told childhood stories, to the now glowing stone. ‘A thousand lives stand behind me and a thousand more before me. I was. I will be…I am.’ The stone quaked uncontrollably in her hand, the ground beneath her answering it’s call with violent, groaning shivers. Caging her fingers around the stone, Orla fought to steady herself. ‘In the name of The Neverending…’ she heard herself screech, lifting it high above her head. ‘I command thee, here, to shine!’

Gathering what little strength she had left, Orla forced the stone deep into the barren earth and prayed.

 

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Thanks The Daily Post for your Daily Prompt: Sparkle!