The Bastard Laird’s Bride
A forced marriage… A desire that can’t be denied…
To thwart a marriage alliance, Laird Reid Mackenzie kidnaps an English noblewoman en route to her fiancé. But to Reid’s horror, King Robert the Bruce orders that he now marry the bride he stole. With his legitimacy already in question, the last thing Reid needs is an English wife who will enrage his allies and embolden his enemies. Yet despite his opposition to marrying Corinne, her fiery spirit and matching beauty threaten to burn away his resistance and bring him to his knees with desire.
Corinne wants nothing more than to work as a scribe. With her wedding to a cruel fiancé looming, she decides to take matters into her own hands. But just when she initiates a daring escape, she is thrust into the arms of a dark Highland Laird whose stormy gaze leaves her breathless. Though she is desperate for freedom, her resolve begins to crumble under Reid’s heated touch. As she struggles to make a home in the Highlands—and in Reid’s heart—their union pushes the clan to the brink of war, forcing Reid and Corinne to choose between peace and their budding love.
“Where is she?” Reid demanded in a loud, cold voice. “Where is the de Reymont lass?”
The English guard’s eyes widened on Reid’s bloodied blade where it pointed at his neck. “I-I…she is in the wagon, milord.”
“Nay, she isnae,” Reid snapped. “I’ll ask ye again—where is she? Tell me now, man, or answer to my sword.”
The man moaned in terror, his eyes nearly bulging from his head. Reid resisted the urge to spit. This was the sort of man Lord de Reymont had sent to protect his only daughter?
“I-I-I swear, milord,” the man stuttered. “Last I saw her, she was in the wagon.”
“I’ll give ye one last chance,” Reid managed through gritted teeth. “Tell me where the lass is.”
When the Englishman’s gaze shifted back to Reid’s blade, his eyes rolled back in his head as if he were about to faint. Reid lowered his sword with a frustrated exhale. “Bloody Englishmen,” he muttered as he turned his back on the spineless guard. “Ye men, search the northern slope,” he said, letting his eyes sweep the dark forest. “And ye lot, take the southern side. The damned lass is somewhere.”
Just as he was about to turn and remount his horse, a rustling of leaves and a clattering of pebbles had him snapping his head toward the hill enclosing the southern side of the valley.
A little tumble of leaves and rocks was sliding down the hillside. A flicker of movement higher up snagged his eye. Through the trees, a shadowy figure stood frozen—and staring right at Reid. The weak light of the moon caught on the figure’s head, illuminating the thatch of cropped orange hair there.
Was that a lad staring back at him? The lad was slight and narrow-shouldered beneath his cloak, yet there was no mistaking that shorn flame-colored hair. Now was not the time for puzzling the mystery of the lad’s appearance. Reid let his body take over, bolting directly for the base of the hill.
“Follow me,” he ordered his men. He pointed first to the left and then to the right, indicating that his men should fan out to flank him. They spurred their horses, instantly following his command as he charged straight for the fleeing lad.
He didn’t bother remounting—a horse would move just as slowly as a man over that steep, rocky, densely forested terrain. Besides, the surge of battle lust still ran in his veins, now transforming into the thrill of a hunt. Whoever the lad was, there would be no escaping Reid. And he would be made to answer for the de Reymont lass’s whereabouts.
Reid drove himself up the hillside at a sprint. His legs devoured the distance between him and his quarry, who still scrambled upward ahead of him. At the edges of his vision, he saw his men urging their horses over the uneven ground. This wee fish would not escape his net.
In another three heartbeats, he was nearly within arm’s length of his prey. Reid dove forward, snagging his hand around the lad’s ankle. A high scream cut the night as the lad tumbled forward and landed hard on the sloping forest floor. Before the wee fish could wriggle away, Reid yanked forcefully on the ankle in his grasp, dragging the figure toward him.
But the lad was lighter than he’d expected. Instead of simply pulling him to a halt, Reid dragged the wee lad straight into his arms.
The lad screamed again, high and piercing, as Reid tightened his hold to keep him from escaping.
But as the lad writhed in his grasp, Reid began to notice things. The tangle of skirts beneath the lad’s cloak as he tried to lash out and kick Reid. The faint softness of the lad’s chest against his. And the distinct fragrance of lemon.
Just as Reid was about to abruptly release the lad—or rather, lass—the little hellion sank her teeth into his shoulder.
Reid roared as her teeth broke the skin. Before she could do more damage, he rolled on top of her and sprang up so that he straddled her hips, pinning her to the ground. With one hand around each wrist, he held her down. She thrashed wildly, screaming and bucking against him even though he had her completely restrained.
Just then, the yellow glow of torchlight fell on him and his struggling quarry.
“What in the bloody…” Alain mused, reining his horse beside Reid.
“This,” Reid said, tightening his grip on the writhing lass, “is de Reymont’s daughter. Isnae it, lass?”
Uncaged Review: This is the 6th book in a series, but I had no issues reading this one without reading the first books, it stands well on its own. Corinne is determined to escape her cruel father and his arranged marriage to another cruel man when she is kidnapped by the Highland Laird, Reid, on orders from his Scottish King, Robert the Bruce. With the war on the borders of England and Scotland, stopping the alliance that Corinne’s father was going to accomplish with her marriage, will help to weaken their stance on the borders. After Reid delivers Corinne to the King, he orders Reid to marry her. Already a Laird but not by blood, an English wife may have his own people turn on him, but Reid will carry out his orders.
This is a nicely paced Highlander, and the characters are engaging and endearing. The suspense knits tightly, and even though I was expecting something to happen, a couple things caught me off guard and I even fell in love with some of the secondary characters. This is the first book I’ve read by this author, but definitely won’t be my last. Reviewed by Cyrene