Oh yeah, see that wee little Viking Birlinn? the storm? or the leather arm band? Ok what about the sword??? OK. OK I know you see the ever so loverly man but I love the covers…. they give us clues about what wonderful things await us inside the cover.

The second book in Monica McCarty’s Highland Guard is The Hawk. The Hawk is Erik MacSorley’s war name and he is one of Scotland’s best warriors that The Bruce has brought together to be his elite fighting force. Each warrior is the best at his skill and MacSorley is the best seafarer to be had, it helps too that he can swim like a seal too.  Oh, and let me tell you that MacSorley has another talent…he can charm women out of their clothes by just breathing; no woman has ever said no to him….until now that is. The Hawk loves women…all women of all shapes and sizes and they love him so he is flabbergasted when one wee little wren is immune to him. MacSorley is engaged in some dangerous secret negotiations arranging for additional troops for The Bruce when they are discovered by a little wet mermaid pulled from the water. He must act fast to save both his mission and the woman.

Lady Elyne has just won another Virgin’s Plunge so how did she land herself into this mess??? She has been caught trying to escape from what is obviously a secret meeting and one brigand wants to slit her throat while the other wants to take her in his ship to whatever horrors he’ll think up and dump her into the sea. When she finally realizes he is speaking the truth that she is in no real danger but still afraid to reveal her true identity she leads MacSorley to believe she is the family’s nursemaid when he assumes that’s what she is. Lady Elyne or “Ellie” was born a plain Jane into a family of beautiful people and knows when someone is used to their “beautiful face” getting them everything and Erik MacSorley is one of those “beautiful people”. She is so used to her brothers using that trick that she doesn’t let him get away with anything when he flashes his pearly whites at her.

This story was so fun with Erik doing his best to win the girl with his natural charms, charms that she seems to be immune too. It drives a bit crazy but it makes him have to change his tactics and learn some new moves. Ellie does a good job pretending not to be attracted to Erik even though she does grow to like him as time goes by.  In this story we learn how the Highland Guard gets their inkings on their arms. We get to learn more about our warriors and what makes them tick.  Monica has done a great job, I love her stories, I could be right there with Erik on his Birlinn while he is harnessing the wind and flying across the seas. I so hope everyone gets a chance to read these wonderful stories.

I give The Hawk a 4.75 tail swishes.

   Official Blurb:

Erik MacSorley is unrivaled on the seas, a brilliant seafarer who has never encountered a wind he could not harness nor a woman he could not win—until he drags a wet, half-naked “nursemaid” out of the waters off the Irish coast. Ellie’s ordinary appearance belies the truth: she is in fact Lady Elyne de Burgh, the spirited daughter of the most powerful noble in Ireland, and a close ally of the English king. Worse, this confounding, fascinating, irresistible woman is determined to prove herself immune to his charms—a challenge he cannot resist.

Her captor may look every inch a powerful, rugged warrior, but Ellie vows it will take more than a twinkle in his blue eyes and a wickedly suggestive caress to impress her. Erik is as wild and untamed as the wind, sweeping away her resistance with a desire that resonates deep within her heart. Still, he is a man driven by loyalty, and she is a woman with secrets that could threaten his mission and jeopardize Bruce’s chance to reclaim his throne.  As the battle for king and country sounds across the shores, will Ellie’s love be enough to finally tame the legend known as the Hawk?

Official Excerpt from Chapter One:

“St. Columba’s bones, Ellie! When is the last time you had any fun? You’ve become positively boring.” Matty emphasized the last with all the exaggerated drama of a girl of eight and ten, making it sound as if Ellie had caught some hideous disease akin to leprosy.

Ellie didn’t turn her attention from the swathes of fabric strewn across her bed, answering her younger sister automatically, “I’m not boring and don’t blaspheme.” She lifted a light sky blue silk up to her chest. “What do you think of this one?”

“See!” Matty threw up her hands in utter despair. “That’s exactly my point. You are only a few years older than I am, yet you act like my nursemaid. But even ol’ pinched-faced Betha was more fun that you. And Thomas says St. Columba’s bones all the time and no one says a word to him.”

“I’m sixyears older, and Thomas isn’t a lady.” Ellie wrinkled her nose at her reflection in the looking glass and discarded the blue in the growing pile of unbecoming colors. The light pastels that were so favored right now did nothing for her dark hair and eyes. Matty—whom pastels suited perfectly—narrowed her big blue eyes.

There was nothing that annoyed Mathilda de Burgh more than having the freedom that her twin brother enjoyed pointed out. Her adorable chin set in a stubborn line, making her look like a mulish kitten. “That is a ridiculous reason, and you know it.”

Ellie shrugged, neither agreeing nor disagreeing. “That’s the way of it.” “It doesn’t have to be.” Matty took her hand and gave her a pleading look. With her silky blond hair, porcelain skin, red Cupid’s bow mouth and big blue eyes it was hard to resist. But Ellie had had plenty of experience doing just that.

To a one, all nine—eight—of her siblings were ridiculously gorgeous creatures with fair hair and light eyes. She and Walter had been the only ones with their father’s dark Norman coloring. A hot wave of sadness washed over her. Now there was only her.

“That’s why tonight will be so much fun,” Matty prodded, not giving up. “It’s the only night we are allowed to swim with men. This is your last chance. Next year you’ll be off in England with your new husband.” She heaved a dreamy sigh. Ellie’s stomach took a little tumbling dive as it always did at the mention of her impending nuptials, but she pushed through the sudden queasiness.

“Maiden’s Plunge isn’t for women of our position.” She bit her lip, sounding staid even to her own ears. As the pagan celebration of Yule had given way to Christmas, so too had the ancient Norse “Virgin’s Plunge” (re-named the Maiden’s Plunge so as to not further offend church), where the pagans had sacrificed young maidens to Aegir the God of the sea, given way to the celebration of Candlemas—the day marking the end of the epiphany and Christmas season.

The church cast a disapproving glare on the pagan celebrations, but did not try to forbid them. Perhaps because they knew an attempt would fail. Every February 2nd at midnight, the local girls would jump into the icy cold seas, and then race back to the shore to warm themselves by the enormous fires (instead of the saunas the Norse had used). The girl who stayed in the cold waters the longest was crowned the Ice Princess. Ellie had won the crown the last three times she entered.

Walter used to joke that she must be part selkie, since cold water didn’t seem to bother her. “You didn’t used to think so.” Matty shook her head, staring at Ellie as if she were a stranger. “I don’t understand, you used to love swimming and the Maiden’s Plunge.” “That was before . . .” Ellie stopped and swallowed, her throat suddenly tight. “I was just a girl. Now I have responsibilities.”

Matty was quiet for a moment as Ellie turned back to the fabrics on the bed that would become the gowns for her new life in England at the court of King Edward, as wife to his former son-in-law, Ralph de Monthermer. “That’s not fair,” Matty said quietly. “You aren’t the only one who misses them. I miss them, too. But neither mother or Walter would have wanted you to mourn them forever.”

The fever that had swept through the halls of Dunluce Castle two years ago had claimed not only her nineteen-year-old brother, but also her mother, Margaret, Countess of Ulster. For Ellie—at the time twenty-two—the fever had also claimed something else: the spirited young girl thirsting for adventure. As the eldest unmarried daughter, Ellie had taken on most of her mother’s duties as countess, including watching over her younger brothers and sisters.

What kind of example would she be to go frolicking half-naked in the sea?

This was the first time they’d been back to Dunluce Castle since her mother and brother—heir to the earldom—had died. They were supposed to meet her betrothed at Carrickfergus, the main stronghold of the Earl of Ulster, but King Edward had ordered them here instead. Though Ellie wasn’t in her father’s confidences, she guessed it had something to do with the never-ending hunt for Robert Bruce.

Her sister’s luminous eyes misted with tears and Ellie instinctively folded her in her arms. “I know you miss them, too.” Ellie sighed. “And you’re right. They wouldn’t want us to mourn them forever.”

Matty pushed back, a wide smile spread across her face, all vestiges of her tears gone. “Then does that mean you’ll come?”

Ellie’s eyes narrowed suspiciously. Minx. She was as unrelenting as her Godfather, King Edward.

“At least say you’ll think about it,” Matty interjected before Ellie could object.

Ellie had no intention of thinking about it at all, but Matty wasn’t the only one who knew how to get what she wanted. With five master manipulators still in her charge who didn’t like being told “no,” she’d had to adapt to survive. “Very well, I’ll think about it.”

Matty’s eyes widened. “You will?” She clapped her hands together excitedly. “It will be so much fun—”

“I’ll think about it,” Ellie stressed. “If you will help me pick out which of these should be made into gowns.”

So if you want to go and read more just click on one of the book covers above or you can go here to Monica’s site to check out all her books.

http://www.monicamccarty.com/index.php    or visit with her here https://www.facebook.com/pages/Monica-McCarty/18042425673 or her blog here http://monicamccarty.blogspot.com/ or if you twitter http://twitter.com/monicamccarty

Also just to remind you of all the other books in this series.


Z Seawitch