When it comes to historical romance, everyone loves a Highlander. There’s something romantic about Scottish history, a masculine energy that draws readers in. It all comes together in six feet of rugged warrior who speaks with a lilt and carries a broadsword.
But what happens when you take the Scot out of Scotland?
My MacKinnon’s Rangers series tells the story of three Scottish brothers who were exiled from the Isle of Skye as children and grew up on the rugged American frontier as neighbors, and eventually blood kin, of the Mahican people. They grow into men who embody the best of both worlds — the strength, honor and courage of Scottish Highlanders combined with the skill and fierceness of Mahican warriors.
Forced by Lord William Wentworth, an unscrupulous British commander, to fight for the British during the French and Indian War, they form a company of Rangers, becoming the elite special operations force of their day. Think Last of the Mohicans with a touch of Seal Team Six, and you start to get the idea.
SURRNEDER, the first book in the series, was released in 2006 and told the story of the oldest of the three brothers, Iain MacKinnon, and the woman he abandons his mission to save, Anne Burness Campbell. SURRNEDER went on to become a RITA finalist and remains one of the most popular books I’ve ever written. I think the conflict between Iain, the son of Jacobites, and Annie, the daughter of Scots allied with the British crown, together with the battles with Wentworth, made it a reader favorite.
UNTAMED, the second book, was published in 2008, and tells the story of the middle brother, Morgan, who is taken captive by the French and faces torture and a horrifying death—at least until convent-raised Amalie finds a way for him to escape that fate. Morgan and Amalie’s story earned a starred review from Publishers Weekly, despite the fact that more than 25 pages had been cut from the book in order to make it adhere to the publisher’s maximum page count.
Of course, 2008 was four years ago. And for a time the MacKinnon’s Rangers series has been in stasis. I left the original publisher, and for a time I thought the series was dead. That broke my heart, as I loved the characters dearly. Fortunately, Berkley bought the entire series, saving it from oblivion.
I just finished writing DEFIANT, the third book in the series, which tells Connor MacKinnon’s story. The youngest and most hot-headed of the MacKinnon brothers, he finds himself in a world of trouble when a mission to save the life of Wentworth’s noble niece, Lady Sarah Woodville, from captivity among the Shawnee goes awry and leads to the worst possible of all things — love.
To celebrate the July release of DEFIANT, my new publisher for this series, Berkley Sensation, reissued both SURRENDER and UNTAMED with new covers and new content. SURRENDER, reissued in December, contains new and expanded scenes written specifically for this release, while UNTAMED, just reissued this month, includes all of the previously cut pages, including the villain’s original death scene.
I am overjoyed to have the series on shelves again because it offers readers who missed the series the first time a chance to catch up. And I’m thrilled to have Connor’s book completed because now finally I have something to tell the readers who email me every day asking about his book. Yes, it’s done, and it will be out on July 3.
In honor of the reissues of SURRENDER and UNTAMED and to celebrate finishing DEFIANT, I’m sharing an excerpt from DEFIANT today. Comment below to win a signed copy of UNTAMED!
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Sarah was still lying down, facing away from the door, when she heard him enter. She lay there unmoving, childishly feigning sleep, as if refusing to open her eyes would somehow keep the world at bay.
Major MacKinnon called to her softly. “My lady?”
Do not behave like a witless girl, Sarah. Where is your courage?
She wiped the tears off her cheeks, then slowly sat up, the dread in her heart seeming to weigh her down. “Major MacKinnon.”
“’Tis sorry I am to disturb your sleep, but I must speak wi’ you.”
She stood, turned to face him, whatever she’d been about to say momentarily forgotten as she took in the sight of him. His jaw was clean-shaven, his face startlingly handsome. His chest and belly were smooth now, the dark curls she’d seen before gone, his skin oiled to a fine sheen, the cut she’d stitched and the other smaller cuts he’d gotten during the fight giving him a dangerous air. His hair was damp, a striped brown feather tied at the end of one of his braids. His leather breeches rode low on his hips, a knife sheathed at his side.
But what she noticed most was the anguish in his eyes. It was a match for the anguish she’d heard in his voice when he’d spoke to Joseph outside.
“Please… Please sit, major.” She sat, reaching down out of habit to shift her skirts before she sat, only to feel doeskin against her hands. “I wish to apologize for my fit of temper earlier. You have risked much for me. It was wrong of me to—”
“Shhh, lady.” He pressed a finger to her lips and sat facing her. “You’re far beyond the world you ken, aye? ’Tis natural for you to be feelin’ afraid and angry about what has befallen you, but you must trust me if we’re to reach Albany alive.”
He looked away for a moment, his face growing more troubled as he seemed to consider what to say next, his brow furrowed. “I fear I have failed you, for it is on that same troublin’ matter that we must speak.”
She watched him struggle to find the words to tell her what he’d just told Joseph, something inside her touched by his obvious turmoil. “I… I overheard you speaking with Joseph just now.”
His head came up, surprise written on his face, his gaze meeting hers, seeming to study her face. “That’s why you’ve been weepin’. I see the tearstains on your cheeks.”
She raised her palms to her face to wipe the telltale sign of weakness away.
“You understand the choice that lies before you, aye?”
She nodded, folding her hands in her lap. “I must decide whether to chance escape, knowing that you and Joseph will die terribly should we fail, or whether to marry you after the Indian fashion and spend tonight as … as your wife.”
“Aye, that’s the way of it. ’Tis a hard choice you’re bein’ asked to make, but life is no’ always fair.”
Sarah knew that only too well.
Major MacKinnon went on. “Is there augh’ you would ask me afore you decide? There is little time, I fear.”
She shook her head. “No, sir.”
She’d made up her mind before he’d entered the lodge.
She met his gaze, tried to keep the fear from her voice. “I cannot ask you to chance being burnt at the stake, major. You’ve already risked your life once for my sake. As highly as I value my virtue, it is not worth two men’s lives.”
What an irony that her father’s decision to send her away had led her to this — her true undoing. No doubt there were many in London who believed she had no virtue, yet she had left London as a virgin. She would not return as one.
He watched her through dark eyes. “Are you certain, my lady? For I willna take you by force. You must come to me as willingly as I come to you — each of us for the sake of the other.”
She hadn’t thought about it in quite that way, but when he spoke the words, some of the dread lifted from her heart. “Aye, major, I am certain. But…”
“You’re afraid.” He closed one big hand over both of hers, his thumb stroking her knuckles. “I promise I shall treat you this night wi’ the same care and devotion I would if you truly were my bride.”
Then to her astonishment, he cupped her cheek, lowered his lips to hers — and kissed her.
Softly, so softly he kissed her, brushing her lips with his again and again, the mere whisper of a touch making her shiver. She might have objected had the sensation not been so… enthralling. Slowly, his touch became more insistent, his lips caressing hers, nibbling them, her lips tingling, going pliant, yielding to his exploration, her eyes drifting shut. Then his tongue traced the outline of her lower lip.
Startled, she gasped, and her eyes flew open.
He was watching her, his blue eyes dark, his voice a whisper. “My lady.”
And she thought it was over.
But then one big hand slid into her hair to cradle her head, and he drew her against his bare chest, his mouth closing over hers. There were almost too many new sensations to take in all at once, her girlish notions of what it would feel like to be kissed by a man vanishing in a heartbeat. The iron-hard feel of his body surrounding her. The warm scent of his oiled skin. The firm pressure of his lips against hers as he tasted her, his tongue teasing its way inside her mouth with silken strokes.
Then his tongue touched hers, his lungs stealing her surprised intake of breath as he sealed her mouth with his. Her body seemed to melt, and she sank boneless against him, her hands sliding up the smooth skin of his chest, her lips parting to accommodate him, her tongue meeting his. She felt something pound against her palm, and realized that his heart was beating every bit as hard as hers.
Slowly, his kiss stilled, his lips brushing her cheek, her temple. “My lady.”
Breathless and amazed, she looked up into his eyes.
He drew back slightly, his arm still encircling her. “Now you ken the taste of my kiss. Think on that, and dinnae be afraid of what is to come, aye?” * * *
Now that you’ve gotten a taste of Connor, too, I’m giving away a signed copy of UNTAMED to one commenter.
Be sure to stop by my blog, where I’ll be hosting fun contests and games, as well as giving readers a look at the real history behind stories. You can read excerpts from SURRENDER and UNTAMED on my blog, and on my website.