Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Excerpt & Giveaway ~*~ Highland Guard by Hannah Howell

Highland Guard
Murray Family # 20
By: Hannah Howell
Releasing March 3rd, 2015


New York Times bestselling author Hannah Howell brings back the daring Murray family in a brand-new tale of dangerous love rekindled. . .

Lady Annys MacQueen has no other choice. The deception that enabled her to keep her lands safe is on the verge of being revealed by a cruel kinsman. To shield her young son from the sword and her people from devastation, she must turn to the one man she could never forget. . .

He lives for duty and honor. So the only way Sir Harcourt Murray could repay the laird who saved his life was to agree to father a child with Sir MacQueen's wife. . .Lady Annys. Now the passion he still feels for the lovely strong-willed widow is as all-consuming and perilous as securing her lands. But to convince her that his love is forever real means confronting her most wrenching fears--and putting everything they treasure most at stake.

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Waiting was pure torture, Lady Annys MacQueen decided. She looked down at the small shirt she was mending, sighed, and began to pull out the appallingly crooked stitching. It was hard to believe Sir Harcourt would ignore her cry for help yet it had been a very long ten days since she had sent him the message. Ten days and not even the young man she had sent out with the message had returned. Annys prayed she had not sent young Ian to his death. She doubted Sir Harcourt would hurt Ian but the journey itself would not have been without its dangers.

“M’lady, mayhaps ye should have a wee rest,” said Joan as she sat down beside Annys on the padded bench.

Smiling at her maid, Annys shook her head. “’Tis much too early, Joan. Everyone would wonder if I was ill and that would only add to the unease they all suffer from even now. I must try to be strong, and most certainly must at least always appear to be.”

Annys wondered why her words made Joan frown. The woman was only ten years older than her but often acted in a very motherly way. Round of body and face, Joan did not even look her age yet she could lecture one like a grandmother. That frown often warned of a lecture being carefully thought out. Annys was not in a humor to endure one but also knew she loved Joan too much to hurt the woman’s feelings by revealing that displeasure with some sharp words. They had been friends and companions, as well as lady and maid, since the day Annys had first come to Glencullaich to meet her betrothed.

“Ye are a lass,” Joan began.

“I have come to realize that. I was slow to see it, but the breasts refused to be ignored.” Annys was not surprised to receive a scowl from Joan that clearly said her maid was not amused.

“No one expects constant strength from a wee lass who has but recently buried her husband,” Joan continued. “Ye are wearing yourself to the bone trying to be the laird and the lady of this keep. Ye dinnae need to be both. All here willingly heed the lady, have always done so, so trying to don Sir David’s boots is unnecessary.”

“And if I dinnae do it, who will?”


Annys thought on that for a moment. The man had arrived almost five years ago. He had claimed that he had spent enough time selling his sword for a living and now wished to settle in one place. David had welcomed the man with open arms, readily training him to lead the other, less well-trained men at Glencullaich. Fortunately, no one had complained or taken offense at how the stranger had so quickly moved into place as David’s right-hand man. In truth, they had all welcomed his skills. She even had to admit that he had been immensely helpful since David’s death.

“Mayhaps he can,” she conceded. “He certainly has been most helpful thus far. Yet, I have always wondered why he ne’er just went home to Wales to settle.”

“A long journey for a mon who says there is no one left there for him.”

“True enough.” Annys shrugged and tossed the little shirt she had yet to finish back into her mending basket. “’Tis nay that I dinnae trust him, for I do. I but puzzle o’er it now and then. I will try to put more of the work into his hands, but nay so much that it hinders his ability to keep the men weel trained. Their training cannae be allowed to lag.”

“Nay, ye are right. It cannae.” Joan nodded. “It is badly needed, sad to say. E’en weel trained as they are now, ’tis a constant battle to keep that bastard from trying to destroy us. If he sniffed out a weakness he would be on us like carrion birds on a fishermon’s catch. Have ye heard anything from that Sir Murray yet?”

“Nay. I begin to fear that I have accomplished naught but to send poor young Ian to his death.”

“Och, nay, m’lady, dinnae allow that fear to prey on your mind. Ian kenned the risks and he is a clever lad, one who kens weel how to slip about quietly and hide weel when needed. There are many reasons one can see for why he hasnae returned yet. Many. And a sad fate is but one of them.”


And it was true, Annys thought. It was simply a truth she had a difficult time clinging to. Ian had come to the keep as a young boy, orphaned when the rest of his family had died in a fire, frightened, and painfully shy. It had taken a while, but by the time she had come to live permanently at Glencullaich as its lady, he had blossomed. Still sweet, still quick to blush, but settled and happy. He had fallen into the role of Glencullaich’s messenger as if born to it, but he had never been sent on such a long journey before.


Annys started as the shout from the door yanked her out of her thoughts and she stared at the tall, too-thin young man who had burst into the solar. “What is it, Gavin? Please dinnae tell me there is more trouble to deal with. It has been so blissfully quiet for days.”

“I dinnae think ’tis trouble, m’lady, for Nicolas isnae bothered.” Gavin scratched at his cheek and frowned. “But there are six big, armed men at the gate. Nicolas was going to open the gates for them and said I was to come and tell ye that.”

“I will be right out then. Thank ye, Gavin.” The moment Gavin left, she looked at Joan. “How are six big, armed men nay trouble?”

“If they come in answer to your message?” Joan hastily tidied Annys’s thick braid. “There, done. Now ye look presentable. Let us go out and greet our guests.”

“Guests dinnae come armed,” Annys said as she started out of the room, Joan right at her side.

“They do if they come in reply to a lady’s note saying ‘help me, help me’.”

“I didnae say ‘help me, help me’.”

“Near enough. No gain in talking on it until we actually see who is here.”

 “Fine but I did nay say ‘help me, help me’.”

Annys ignored Joan’s soft grunt even though she knew it meant the woman was not going to change her mind. She stepped out through the heavy oak doors and started down the stone steps to the bailey only to stop short before she reached the bottom. The man dismounting from a huge black gelding was painfully familiar.

Tall, strong, and handsome with his thick long black hair and eyes like a wolf, he had been a hard man to forget. She had certainly done her utmost to cast him from her mind. Each time he had slipped into her thoughts she had slapped his memory away. Writing him that message had brought his memory rushing to the fore again, however. Seeing him in the flesh looking as handsome as he had five years ago told her that she had never succeeded in forgetting him. Annys began to regret asking for his aid no matter how badly they needed any help they could get at the moment.

She fought to remind herself of how he had ridden away from Glencullaich all those years ago without even a quick but private farewell to her. It had hurt. Despite knowing it had been wrong to want that private moment to say their good-byes, despite the guilt that wanting had stirred in her then, and now, she had been devastated by his cold leave-taking.

Then, abruptly, his gaze locked with hers and every memory she had fought to banish from her mind came rushing back so clearly and strongly that she had to fight to stand straight and steady. Annys cursed silently. It was still there. The fascination, the wanting, was all reborn beneath the steady look from those rich amber eyes. This could become the biggest mistake she had ever made in her life.

Author Info
Hannah D. Howell is a highly regarded and prolific romance writer. Since Amber Flame, her first historical romance, was released in February 1988, she has published 25 novels and short stories, with more on the way. Her writing has been repeatedly recognized for its excellence and has "made Waldenbooks Romance Bestseller list a time or two" as well as was nominated twice by Romantic Times for Best Medieval Romance (Promised Passion and Elfking's Lady). She has also won Romantic Times' Best British Isles Historical Romance for Beauty and the Beast; and, in 1991-92 she received Romantic Times' Career Achievement Award for Historical Storyteller of the Year.

Hannah was born and raised in Massachusetts (the maternal side of her family has been there since the 1630's). She has been married to her husband Stephen for 28 years, who she met in England while visiting relatives, and decided to import him. They have two sons Samuel, 27, and Keir, 24. She is addicted to crocheting, reads and plays piano, attempts to garden, and collects things like dolls, faerie and cat figurines, and music boxes. She also seems to collect cats, as she now has four of them, Clousseau, Banshee, Spooky, and Oliver Cromwell.

Author Links:  Website | Facebook | Goodreads

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  1. This will be the third try to post a comment. Ahem. I'm so glad Hannah has a new release out. Her Highland stories are so realistic that I feel like I'm a first hand witness in her stories. Thanks for the post!