I've been asked what my inspiration was for My Highland Love. My first impulse was to write about a hero who knew what he wanted. The tortured hero has always been in fashion, but I wanted to see a man openly pursue the woman he wanted. From there, I had to figure out everything else. I began researching Scottish history and was shocked to learn of the Scottish Clearances, which took place in the early nineteenth century. There were a few real life heroes at that time, and I decided that a romantic hero who was decisive would also be heroic by nature. So the Highland Clearances became the current political backdrop that our hero dealt with.
I also learned that the MacGregor clan was a clan that was singled out for persecution during the clearances. In fact, the MacGregors really were the rebels of the Scottish clans, and had been singled out throughout much of Scottish history. So Marcus MacGregor was born with a tempestuous family history and a troubled modern history. Here's an early scene that I believe sums up Marcus' past, as well as his feelings about how he must lead his people.
Until she must choose between his life and her revenge.
Through the busy courtyard, he answered greetings, but his thoughts remained on the image of Elise as she vanished from sight. She had a forthright, strong quality. Yet—he bent his head to breathe her lingering scent from his clothes—the lavender bouquet in her hair was decidedly feminine. It would be some time before he forgot the feel of her buttocks across his thighs. But then, perhaps he wouldn't have to. Marcus entered the great hall to find his father sitting alone in his chair at the head of the table.
Cameron brightened. "So, ye decided to come home?"
Relaxing warmth rippled through Marcus.
"Tired of wandering the land?" Cameron made a wide sweeping gesture.
"You knew I was on my way, but, aye." He stopped at the chair to his father's right and lowered himself onto the seat. "I am pleased to be home."
"How is my grandson? I see you did not bring him with you."
Marcus sighed. "Nay, Father. You knew I wouldn't."
Cameron snorted. "We would not want to offend the mighty Sassenach."
"Father," Marcus said in a low tone.
Cameron shook his head. "The clan never asked you to concede to the English, you know. I never asked for it. Did you ever wonder if the sacrifice is worth your son?"
"Aye," Marcus murmured. He'd wondered. Politics had ruled the MacGregor clan for centuries and that wasn't easily changed. He paused. "Have I been gone too long, or is something different about the great hall?"
"You have the right of it, lad." Eyes that mirrored his own looked back at him. "More than you can imagine."
Marcus looked about the room. "I can't quite place it. What's happened?"
Cameron took a long, exaggerated draught of ale.
"Enough of your looks, lad. They do not work with me." He chuckled. "I taught them to you. Remember? It is no mystery, really. Look around. When did you last see the tapestries so bright, the floors so clean?" He motioned toward the wall that ran the length of the room, framed by stairs on either end. "When have you seen the weapons so polished?"
Marcus scanned the nearly two hundred gleaming weapons mounted across the wall. He rose and walked the wall's length, perusing the weapons. Each one glistened, some nearly as bright as newly forged steel. He glanced at the floor. The stone looked as if it had just been laid.
He looked at his father. "What happened?"
"The women came one day—or rather, one month—and swept out the cobwebs, cleaned the floors, the tapestries, weapons."
Marcus rose and crossed the room to the kitchen door where the women worked. The housekeeper sat at the kitchen table. Ancient blue eyes, still shining with the bloom of youth, smiled back at him. Winnie had been present at his birth. Marcus knew she loved him like the son she'd never had. He, in turn, regarded her with as much affection as he had his own mother.
She turned her attention to the raw chicken she carved. "So, you've returned at last."
A corner of her mouth twitched with amusement.
"I am looking forward to the company of some fine lasses tonight," he said. "'Tis a long and lonely trip I've had. Perhaps next time I shall take you with me." He gave her a roguish wink before striding back to his seat in the hall.
Marcus lowered himself into the chair he had occupied earlier. "Must have taken an army just to shine the weapons alone. Not to mention the walls and floors."
"It did. You will see the same throughout the castle. Not a room went untouched."
"Whatever possessed them to do it?"
"It was the hand of a sweet lass," Cameron replied.
"Which one? Not Winnie—"
"Nay. The lass Shannon and Josh found washed ashore on the coast. They brought her when they returned from the south."
"An American woman. Her ship perished in a fire."
Cameron scowled. "Are you deaf? Shannon is the one who discovered her at Solway Firth."
"What in God's name was she doing there?"
Cameron gave his chin a speculative scratch. "Damned if I know. They were headed for London."
"London? Sailing through Solway Firth requires sailing around the north of Ireland. That would add a week or more to the journey."
His father's mouth twisted into a wry grin. "You know the English, probably got lost."
"I thought you said she was American."
"English, American, 'tis all the same." Cameron's expression sobered. "But dinna' mistake me, she is a fine lass. She came to us just after you left for Ashlund four months ago. You should have seen her when they brought her here. Proud little thing."
"Proud, indeed," Marcus repeated.
"'Tis what I said." Cameron eyed him. "Are you sure something isn't ailing you?"
Marcus shook his head.
"At first, she didn't say much," Cameron went on. "But I could see a storm brewed in her head. Then one day, she informed me Brahan Seer was in dire need of something." He sighed deeply. "She was more right than she knew."
Marcus understood his father's meaning. His mother's death five years ago had affected Cameron dramatically. Only last year had his father finally sought female comfort. The gaping hole created by her absence left them both thirsting for a firm, feminine hand.
"It's a miracle she survived the fire," Cameron said. "'Course, if you knew her, you would not be surprised."
"I believe I do," Marcus remarked.
"What? You only just arrived."
"I picked up passengers on the way home—Tavis, little Bonnie, and an American woman." Marcus related the tale. "I recognized her accent," he ended. "Got accustomed to it while on campaign in America."
Cameron smiled. "Elise is forever chasing after those children."
His father's expression darkened. "Shamus was murdered."
Marcus straightened. "Murdered?"
"By God, how—Lauren, what of her?"
Sadness softened the hard lines around his father's mouth. "She is fine, in body, but… her mind has no' been the same since Shamus died. We tried consoling her, but she will have none of it."
A tingling sensation crept up Marcus's back. "What happened?"
"We found him just over the border in Montal Cove with his skull bashed in."
"Any idea who did it?"
"Aye," Cameron said. "Campbells."
Marcus surged to his feet. He strode to the wall, where hung the claymore belonging to his ancestor Ryan MacGregor, the man who saved their clan from annihilation. Marcus ran a finger along the blade, the cold, hard steel heating his blood as nothing else could. Except… Campbells.
Had two centuries of bloodshed not been enough?
Fifty years ago, King George finally proclaimed the MacGregors no longer outlaws and restored their Highland name. General John Murray, Marcus's great uncle, was named clan chief. Only recently, the MacGregors were given a place of honor in the escort, which carried the "Honors of Scotland" before the sovereign. Marcus had been there, marching alongside his clansmen.
Too many dark years had passed under this cloud. Would the hunted feeling Ryan MacGregor experienced ever fade from the clan? Perhaps it would have been better if Helena hadn't saved Ryan that fateful day so long ago. But Ryan had lived, and his clan thrived, not by the sword, but by the timeless power of gold. Aye, the Ashlund name Helena gave Ryan saved them. Yet, Ryan MacGregor's soul demanded recompense.
How could Ryan rest while his people still perished?
Marcus removed his hand from the sword and faced his father. "It's time the MacGregors brought down the Campbell dogs."
My Highland Love is the first book in the Highland Lords series and is now available at http://www.spsilverpublishing.com/ and your favorite distributors.
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Award winning author Tarah Scott cut her teeth on authors such as Georgette Heyer, Zane Grey, and Amanda Quick. Her favorite book is a Tale of Two Cities, with Gone With the Wind as a close second. She writes modern classical romance, and paranormal and romantic suspense. Tarah grew up in Texas and currently resides in Westchester County, New York with her daughter.