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Sunday, December 16, 2018

A Historical Christmas Event with Julie Johnstone

USA Today bestselling author, Julie Johnstone writes Scottish and Regency Historical Romance. She pens fast paced, heartfelt sagas that sweep you into the past with heroes you want to love and heroines you want to be!

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The scene below takes place when Robert and Elizabeth are ordered to dance together by the King of England. Elizabeth has been ordered to seduce Robert, which he suspects, thought she does not want to do so. This is the first glimpse each of them has of how the other makes them feel.

Elizabeth was achingly aware of Robert’s hand on her back and his fingers laced with hers. The heat of his hand pressing against the curve of her spine burned through the layers of her clothes and into her skin, sparking a warmth in her belly and chest. She tried to steady her too-rapid breath while also attempting to discreetly take his measure. Was he honorable or not? Was he here to regain his wealth or play his part in this game for the throne of Scotland? She could not say for certain, and even if she could, she was painfully, shamefully aware that the truth did not change what she had to do to save Lillianna. The thought of her cousin put a lump in her throat. If her father was pleased with her performance tonight, perhaps he would allow her to visit Lillianna in the dungeon.

As Robert twirled her around the dance floor, she allowed her gaze to travel up the broad expanse of his chest, across his solid shoulders, to his strong chin dusted with dark whiskers, over the slant of his prominent cheekbones, and finally to his dark, gold-flecked eyes, which she realized with a start were observing her in return. His probing gaze made her heartbeat increase and her belly tighten. The way he stared at her, as if there were no one but the two of them in the great hall, made her overly hot. He did not smile or talk, just continued to move her among the other dancers. He stared at her unwaveringly, determinedly. She wanted him to speak first, to set the tone of their conversation, but after several minutes, she understood that he would not say anything until she did.

Robert twirled her around again, but this time they ended up at the outer edge of the dance floor where no other dancers were close enough to hear their conversation. “I did not think you weak, Robert,” she said, deciding that staying as close to the truth as she could would aid her in not tripping over her own necessary lies. Her stomach coiled into knots of self-loathing.

He quirked his eyebrows and his mouth turned up at the corners as if her question amused him. “And now ye do?”

She moved her feet in time with his as he twirled her once more. “It seems you are a turncoat, and if that is the case, then yes, I would say you are a weak man.”

“Perhaps I’m a wise man and simply know when the battle has been lost,” he replied.

“The man I saw at the Moray holding and spoke with in Ireland seemed willing to fight to the death to free his people.”

His expression immediately darkened with unreadable emotion, and just as quickly, his face became blank, as though all his feeling had been wiped away by an invisible hand, or perhaps his will. “That man,” he growled, “watched many of his vassals die for a cause that seems near hopeless. I saw my lands burned and those who counted on me with no place to lay their heads, no food to put in their stomachs. I came to court to do what I must. Do ye intend to stand here in judgment of me?” he demanded. “Can ye say ye would do differently if ye were me?”

“No,” she whispered, struck to the core by his words. He circled her again as the other dancers moved. The dais came into view, and she watched the king lead the queen off the dais and onto the dance floor. It was rare for the king to dance, and her palms began to sweat, knowing he would most likely be heading for them. “I—” She swallowed hard, furious at her father, the king, and herself that she was forced to do such a dire deed as tricking and seducing a man she actually admired. For even in his defeat, she could see the courage it took to come here, the pride he had to let go of to make peace with the king. He came for his people.

“I’m sorry,” she said. “I judged you unfairly. I find it admirable that you think of your people and how best to help them.”

“You do nae need to apologize,” he said, a brooding expression passing briefly over his face. “If we are speaking truths, I must admit, I am judging ye, as well.”

She frowned. “You are judging me?”

His mouth twisted wryly. “Aye,” he drawled. “Ye seem surprised.”

“I am,” she admitted. “What is it you are trying to discern about me?”

He pulled her a bit closer, as if someone might overhear what he said, but no one was near enough. His heat reached across the small space between them and curled deliciously around her. “I wonder,” he said, his voice silken, “whether ye are dancing with me of yer own accord or if ye are a puppet whose strings are being pulled by yer father and the king.”

Her breath caught at his question, and the intensity of his dark gaze upon her. She licked her lips, knowing the exact right thing to say and realizing with a deep, gut-wrenching awareness that the truth might well be the thing that made him less wary of her and not more. “I’m a woman, therefore I’m but a puppet,” she replied, hearing the disgust in her own tone. His eyes narrowed, and she rushed to say the rest of what was in her heart. “But I swear to you, though they think they command my every move, I wanted very much to dance with you.” And that was the bitter truth. She found him fascinating, compelling, alluring. It would not be a horrible hardship to spend time with him, but it would be horrible to deceive him, to goad him into revealing things and then passing on his secrets.

From the corner of her eye, she caught a glimpse of the king and queen approaching. “So,” she said on a deep breath, unable to perceive how her words had affected him. His expression was carefully neutral. “Have I disappointed you?”

“Nay,” he said, releasing her hand and brushing a finger over the slope of her cheekbone. “Ye have beguiled me, bean bhàsail.”

“I’m no temptress,” she whispered, her heart beating with the intensity of how his light touch made her feel.

His hard expression gentled. “I think ye know ye are, which is why they set ye in front of me.”

His words sent a tingle up her spine. “What will you do?” she asked, hope and dread colliding.

He stared at her, unspeaking for a moment, and she could feel him considering, weighing, judging. His face became calm, serious. “I will dance with fate,” he said, and then the king was there, clasping him on the shoulder and exclaiming at them both what a handsome pair they made, how charmingly they danced, how captivated they both looked.

She heard it all but she didn’t. Her heart was thundering. Her palms were damp. Her mind was racing. Then all contact with Robert was broken as he stepped away from her, and she wrapped her arms around her midriff, wanting to hold onto the memory of how he had truly made her feel. If her emotions were so real and intense, perhaps she was not seducing him at all; perhaps he was seducing her… The thought did not lessen the sharp bite of guilt as she looked at him.

A deadly game of war entangles them. Deception endangers them. Only an impossible love can save them.

When headstrong Elizabeth de Burgh’s evil father threatens to kill her beloved cousin unless she seduces his enemy Robert the Bruce, she begrudgingly agrees. But as she grows close to the arrogant leader of the Scottish rebellion whose savage good looks whisper of pleasure, she discovers that behind Robert’s facade of coldhearted traitor lies a noble fighter who will risk all for the freedom of his country. Now, she can no longer imagine aiding in Robert’s destruction. But does she have a choice?

Fierce Scottish warrior Robert the Bruce would do anything to release his country from English rule and claim his rightful throne. Enemies on both sides surround him, however, and Robert must dance a dangerous line between truth and duplicity. One misstep could topple his nation and cost him his life. Yet one irresistible woman tempts him—and jeopardizes his mission—as no other ever has. Robert is in no position to entangle himself with the enemy, especially one who may be plotting his defeat, but the feisty, determined, blue-eyed beauty ignites a longing in Robert that he has never known. But is she his biggest threat or greatest source of strength?

Bound by duty and honor but ensnared by uncontainable desire, Robert and Elizabeth must decide how much they are willing to sacrifice for the one thing they thought they’d never find—extraordinary love.

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Check out the Renegade Scots series:

Up For Grabs:
  • 1 $20 Amazon Gift Card + a signed copy of When a Laird Loves a Lady

To Enter: 
  • Please leave a comment or question for the author.
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  1. Loved the excerpt. Made me want more

  2. Thank you for the chance to win your Giveaway.

  3. Outlaw King is hands down one of the best books I have ever read. On the edge of my seat pulsating romance....loved it!! Merry Christmas

  4. Love the cover and the excerpt! Sounds really good. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Have not read this one yet. I'm looking forward to it.

  6. Sounds like it draws inspiration from the legend of Robin Hood.

  7. Love the exceprt. Can't wait to read this.

  8. Fun excerpt! Hope love wins out!

  9. Ooh, definitely need to add this to my Want To Read list!

  10. Oh hugh sigh!! Love this excerpt! Happy Holidays!

  11. Great excerpt look forward to reading the book Thanks for the chance

  12. sounds wonderful! Thank you so much!

  13. Outlaw King sounds great! Love the cover!

  14. Love the excerpt can't wait to read this book.

  15. Enjoyed reading the excerpt and looking forward to reading the full book.

  16. This sounds like a heart wrenching situation!

  17. Outlaw King is now on my wish list!

  18. The story sounds so endearing! I really can't wait to read it!!

  19. Thank you for the excerpt!! Sounds wonderful!!

  20. I just love the way you write! Thank you so much for the chance, Julie. Merry Christmas to you and yours. xox