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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

An Unexpected Guest...with Margo Maguire and Giveaway

An Unexpected Guest on Christmas Eve - Margo Maguire

Margo Maguire is the author of 20 historical romance novels, translated into 19 different languages. Her last 2 out of 3 books were RT Top Picks. A former Critical Care nurse, Margo switched to writing several years ago, using her fancy-dancy degree in history to add flavor to all her stories.

Places to find Margo:

This story takes place in Scotland, 1690, after the first Highland uprising. Isobel Kincaid lost her beloved during the uprising, and bore his child some months later. Now she struggles on her own in the highlands, and on Christmas Eve, an unexpected guest appears...

A Highland Surprise
by Margo Maguire

The Scottish Highlands. Christmas Eve 1690

Isobel Kincaid did not know what she was going to do. Wee Rory was so very ill, and she was on her own, much as she’d been since that horrid day in June of 1689, when Ket MacGaurie had left Balcraig to join Viscount Dundee’s army in the rebellion against the new British king. Her heart still quaked, all these months later, when she thought of Ket lying dead on the battlefield at Killiecrankie.

She’d called him an arse and worse for leaving her, for leaving their clan to fight for a cause that was doomed to fail. Ach, aye – Isobel wanted King James back on the Scottish throne. Who didn’t? But had that cause been worth his life?

Ach, how she wished she could take back her angry words now, for they were the last Ket had heard from her. ’Twas just that she’d been so very frightened. He was the son of the MacGaurie chieftain, and a prime target for the royalist forces. She’d been terrified that he would be targeted by the enemy.

That she’d been right was of no comfort to her. None at all.

Her wee bairn would grow up without a father now, for there’d been no one like Ket, nor would there ever be another. Isobel had loved him with every fiber of her being. Even now – after more than a year – she could hardly believe he was gone.

And if missing Ket was not bad enough, being cast out and shunned by his mother – and the rest of the clan who followed her, of course – had broken what little piece of her heart had been left after the news of Ket’s demise. The woman even refused to recognize Rory as her grandson, when ’twas well known that Ket and Isobel had had eyes for no others before he’d gone to fight with Dundee.

Only Una MacGaurie denied it. She’d despised Isobel’s mother for being Laird MacGaurie’s first choice for a wife. And her animosity had not abated even when Isobel’s mother had chosen Angus Kincaid and married him instead. In subsequent years, Una’s rancor had extended to Isobel, refusing to accept her as Ket’s choice.

This was nearly the worst Christmas Isobel could remember. Last year, her grief over losing Ket had been raw and overwhelming. ’Twas only through her grandfather’s care and acceptance that she’d survived her pregnancy and moved past the utter devastation of Ket’s loss. This year she had Rory, at least. But Grandfather was gone.

The wind howled and whipped ’round the eaves of Isobel’s croft – the home she’d shared with her grandfather who’d succumbed to age and an assortment of ailments just before the harvest. Somehow, Isobel had gone on, bringing in their crops, and shoring up the cottage against their usual harsh winter. But now, with Rory ill, Isobel was loath to leave him alone, even to visit the privy.

But there was no more peat on the hearth. She needed to go out to the shed to get some more, before the storm got even worse.

She rocked her son in her arms until he drifted off to sleep, then placed him gently on his bed and covered him with a warm woolen blanket. He’d been restless, and Isobel knew he would not sleep for long. But at least his fever had abated and his color was better. She prayed he was on the mend. She quickly wrapped herself in her grandfather’s heavy plaid, pulled on some thick mittens and let herself outside.

The snow was a good many inches deeper than only a few hours before, when she’d ventured out the last time. Now, ’twas up to her knees, and still coming down in thick waves of cottony white. She could barely see the trees on the slopes above her, and couldn’t see the peaks across the valley.

Isobel filled her basket with as much peat as she could carry, but as she turned back toward the cottage, she saw what looked to be a shadowy figure in the distance. ’Twas not easy to make it out, but Isobel was sure the figure was not just a tree. She knew every inch of this land by heart, for she had lived there with her grandfather ever since… well, ever since Ket’s mother had cast her out of Balcraig and caused the clan to shun her.

Isobel could not bear to think of those days, when her own clan had turned its back upon her. ’Twas bad enough that Una MacGaurie had called her a liar and a whore, and refused to recognize her handfast marriage with Ket, the woman had turned her back upon her own bonny grandson.

Isobel put the past behind her and strained her eyes toward the figure in the distance. She decided it must be a man on horseback, though what he would be doing out in the high country during a blizzard was a mystery. Mayhap he’d been on his way to Balcraig and gotten lost in the storm.

Isobel was gripped by a moment of alarm, but as she looked closer, she could see that the rider was slumped over the horse’s neck. He was hurt, or possibly ill. Mayhap he was frostbit, for ’twas bitter cold.

She quickly let herself into the cottage and placed her basket on the hearth. She checked on Rory, and found him still sleeping, his breathing sounding far more normal than it had in days. Moving quietly, Isobel pulled her blanket off the bed and carried it outside.

The horse and man were closer now. ’Twas as though the horse sensed a place where it could shelter, and was coming for it, despite its rider’s inaction. Isobel trudged down the snow-covered trail toward the man, and when she reached him, she tossed the blanket over his shoulders. She went to his far side and pulled the heavy wool down over him, then took the horse’s lead.

The way uphill was a challenge in the wind and snow, and Isobel was worried that her nine month-old bairn would awaken and find himself alone. She moved as fast as she could and somehow managed to get them to the cottage where she helped the man slide down. He stayed on his feet, but just barely, leaning heavily upon Isobel for support.

She pushed open the door and let him in, and he staggered toward the fireplace. In half a second, he was lying down before it, shivering violently.

“I-I’ll be right back,” she said, a bit nervously.

She was reluctant to leave the stranger with Rory, but could not ignore her visitor’s horse. The man appeared to be no threat. At least, not now. She left the cottage and hastily led the beast into her shed where it nickered a greeting to her own gelding. Removing the saddle, she made sure their water was not wholly frozen, and put out some feed for both horses. Then she went back into the cottage.

The man had not moved. He lay huddled under the blanket on his side by the fire, still trembling with the cold.

Isobel tried to get a glimpse of his face, but he was heavily bearded and the blanket covered most of his head. She worked ’round him to add more peat to the fire, and then she heard him groan.

“I know you must be frozen to the bone,” she said. “I’ll heat some—“

“S-stay.” His hand shot out and grabbed her arm.

Isobel yanked it back. “I do not welcome your advance, sir, and if you persist, I will turn you out into the cold to fend for yourself.” Her grandfather’s muzzle loader was hanging over the bedstead and she could have it loaded and ready to fire before her frozen guest could rise to his feet.

“No, I…”

“You may stay here and thaw, but then you must be on your way. Balcraig is only a few miles north. You will find more hospitable lodgings there.”

Isobel took a cautious step back when the man pushed himself up. The blanket fell away from his head, and with trembling hands, he fumbled to cover one of his eyes with a circle of cloth that hung ’round his neck.

Or what was left of it.

Isobel did not recoil at the sight of the man’s scarred face. She’d seen many a clansman return from battle with terrible wounds – lost limbs, horrid scars, damaged or lost eyes.

Her visitor was scarred, too, and when he looked up at her with his one good eye, Isobel’s heart lurched and she dropped to her knees before him. No living man had eyes so very green or black lashes quite so long. No one but her own wee bairn.

“Ket?” she whispered, afraid even to think of the possibility. “Oh dear Lord. Ket?”

It could not be. Not when their clansmen had come home from Killiecrankie, vividly recounting his mortal injuries and death on the field of battle. She clutched her chest where her heart tattooed impossibly hard and fast. Her throat thickened almost painfully.

He took a deep, shuddering breath and nodded. “I did’na think you would know me, lass.”

She let out a sob and reached for him.

He opened the blanket and pulled her into his arms. “Belle.”

She wept against his chest. “How?” She felt her tears running into his plaid, but did naught to stanch them.

She thought never to hear anyone call her Belle again. “They said you were killed at Killiecrankie.”

He gave a jerky nod, still shivering from the cold. “I was w-wounded. Badly. B-but someone found me and took me to a surgeon. They said I was close to death for weeks—”

“Oh Ket!”

“When I came to, I could’na remember my own name.”

Isobel cupped his beloved face in her hands and kissed him, enveloping him in the heat of her body. He drew her closer still, and kissed her with the kind of passion she remembered, though it seemed an eternity since she’d felt it.

She pulled back a wee bit, just to look at him, touching his cheeks, his chin, his mouth. ’Twas all too much to take in. “Oh Ket, I missed you so.”

“Aye, lass,” he said. “And I you. I’d hoped to g-get back to you by Ch-Christmas. Did I m-make it?”

“Oh aye, Ket. You’ve made this the best Christmas of my life.”

He frowned. “But what are you doing up here in your grandfather’s croft? Why are you not in Balcraig?”

None of that mattered now. Ket was home, and that was all Isobel cared about. “We’ll speak of that later, love,” she said. “We’ll warm you, and then there’s someone I want you to meet.”

Haunted by horrors of his childhood, Dugan MacMillan has sworn to protect his clan at any cost . . . even if he must search for a rumored treasure and kidnap a beautiful thief to do it.

The MacMillan laird has never crossed paths with anyone quite like Lady Maura Duncanson. After he saved her from certain death, the comely vixen had the audacity to disappear with his treasure map, his only key to restoring his clan. Dugan has no qualms about taking Maura hostage, especially when he learns she is to wed a wealthy old baron who will pay him a fortune in ransom . . . a fortune his people desperately need.

But, of course, Maura has no intention of returning to her despicable fiancE. And the longer Dugan spends in the bewitching hellion's presence, the less willing he is to surrender her to any man . . . at any price.

Purchase: | Amazon | Kindle | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository |

Want to win some goodies from Margo? Check out whats up for grabs.

Up For Grabs:

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**Don't forget to head over to Not Another Romance Blog to check out author, Vanessa Kelly's story.

Good Luck and Happy Holidays =)
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  1. Sounds like the perfect historical romance to read while wrapped up in a cozy blanket on a cold day. Thank you for the giveaway.

    Lori P

  2. New author for me but the giveaway being for US only i won't have the opportunity to try to win your book this time^^

    i'm keeping it in mind for another opportunity though because i think i would love it

    all the best and happy holiday

  3. I love stories about Highlanders. Thanks for the exerpt

  4. What a lovely story. Margo is a new author for me. The Warrior Laird sounds fantastic. Can't wait to read it.

  5. Hi, Margo!

    "The Warrior Laird" sounds like a terrific novel. I could just feel the cold seeping into my bones as I read the excerpt. How in the world did people survive these harsh conditions?

    I'm curious as to what caused you to switch from being a critical care nurse to writing. Did reading help you to distance yourself emotionally from the terrible illnesses of patients that you cared for? I would think that one would have to have a really creative outlet after doing the intensive work that you did. Thank God for people like you!

  6. What a wonderful Christmas reunion!

  7. You would think I have been living under a rock that inside of a cave because this is yet another author I haven't heard of but that I should know of because it sounds wonderful.

    Thanks so much!

  8. That was a very touching story. Thanks so much for sharing and bring hope to the holiday.

  9. Very touching story! It left me wanting more, lots more!

  10. Loved A Highland Surprise - and I'd certainly love a Highland surprise of my own. :D I love your books Margo and I'm looking forward to reading many more.

  11. Love the cover!

  12. The characters sound interesting.

  13. I just read my first romance with a Highlander and now I am hooked. Thank you for the short and I can't wait to read The Warrior Laird.

  14. Great holiday short with Ket's miraculous return.

  15. Gotta love stories involving Highlanders.

  16. You are a new to me author. I love the cover for this book. It's super sexy. Is this book part of a series? What is a normal writing day for you?

    luvfuzzzeeefaces at yahoo dot com

  17. Oh I recently started loving Highlander books <3 and your book really does sound like an amazing read love the premise.

  18. I absolutely LOVED A Highland Surprise. I've read your books and have enjoyed everyone of them Margo. I have Thew Warrior Laird on my TRL. Happy Holidays.
    Carol L
    Lucky4750 (at) aol (dot) com

  19. I'd love to read this.
    Theresa N

  20. Thank you for a wonderful story Margo. I thoroughly enjoyed it.


  21. Hi Margo -

    What a wonderful story for Christmas - a story of love, hope for the future and faith renewed!

    Your stories always bring a readers heart into the story and for that I thank you!

    Best wishes for a wonderful holiday season!

  22. Thanks for the story and the chance to win!

  23. Thank you so much for the wonderfully heart-warming short. I'm looking forward to reading the Warrior Laird! Have a Merry Christmas!
    smoofrog at gmail dot com

  24. I have not read any of your books but I have put you on my Christmas list. So if Santa is willing I am able.

  25. Hi, Margo! I love your books, and really enjoyed Isobel's and Ket's love story. It made me cry. Thanks for the giveaway! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

    kscathy AT yahoo DOT com

  26. I loved this short. It was so touching! Thank you for the chance to win The Warrior Laird. Happy Holidays!
    winnie968 at yahoo dot com

  27. A highland Christmas... LOVE it!!!

  28. I haven't read Margo's books yet but I love books about Highlanders so I'll have to check them out.

  29. Hi Margo! I have several of your books and I love them! I can't wait to read your next one. Merry Christmas!

  30. I love your books! Can't wait to read this newest book. I've gotten behind on my TBR stack however I will get caught eventually ;)
    Happy New Year,

  31. This was highlanders! thanks for sharing...I'll check out your books!

  32. This story is right up my reading alley! Thank you for the chance in the giveaway. :)