The Saint is the fifth book in Monica McCarty’s Highland Guard series.

  The Saint knows how to handle that axe btw ladies. Do you all love these covers or what!!!! But as good as the covers are what’s inside is even better.  So another cover to love… I know that’s A Given.  Another Given…..You are going to cry….so have a box of tissues ready.

So the King of England is dead and now the Bruce continues his push to unite Scotland under his rule with his elite Highland Guard by his side. But even as he visits his newest allies who were his enemies a few months before, danger surrounds him and it is up to The Saint and the Highland Guard to protect him and those they love as well.

The Saint is our Tall and Silent type. Magnus MacKay received his war name the Saint because he never talks about women like most warriors do. He is highly valued as a Guard because he is a well-rounded warrior, he is good at everything he does, including hiding his feelings for his best friends betrothed. I love Magnus, I love how he is loyal, a rock, steadfast, someone to have your back til his last breath leaves his body; especially if you are the woman he loves.

Our Heroine Hellen Sutherland has loved Magnus since she was a young girl on the cusp of womanhood and she found him with his dog on the beach. Their families are great enemies but she didn’t know who Magnus was when she stopped him from killing his injured dog.  She just helped him with her healings ways, stealing his heart piece by piece every year they met. Each year at the Highland Games they would meet in secret and their love for each other grew and grew until Magnus decided he was done waiting.

It is finally time, time for Magnus to show Helen and her family that he is the best warrior and therefore worthy of her hand. Of her, Helen, who is sweetness and light and innocence herself, all he wants as a wife. First though he must win all the events in the Highland games including besting the champion in Swordsplay….Munro, the Sutherland’s henchman, then he’ll ask her to marry him, their families be damned. There is heartache in store for our hero when Helen who is still young is forced to choose between her family and Magnus.

The journey these two make is heart wrenching at times and like I said I cried and cried some more; the  angst is so worth the read. I’m going to stop there because there are just to many spoilers if I go any further and all I can say is: “You have to read it for yourself!”

The Saint definitely has earned a Five Tail Swishes from me.

Robert the Bruce consolidates lands and loyalty in a bold war  for Scotland’s independence, as his elite team of warriors, the Highland  Guard, fight for king, country… and love.

Magnus MacKay is the ultimate Highlander: tough, proud, able to  master any terrain, and best even the most ferocious enemy. Called  “Saint” for his refusal to discuss women, as well as for his cool and  steady leadership, Magnus’s war name hides a far more painful truth. It  isn’t virtue or piety that keeps him silent, but a wound of love and  loss that cuts so deep he cannot bear to speak of it. But when the woman  who refused him is betrothed to his friend and fellow Guardsman, Magnus  is tested by love’s battle cry.

A wild and innocent beauty, Helen chose family duty over her  desire for Magnus. Now the anger in his eyes mirrors the tormented  regret of her heart. But as deadly subterfuge stalks the King and his  Guard, Helen vows to right her youthful mistakes with a woman’s  determined spirit. Still, Magnus harbors secrets and an iron will not to  weaken to temptation—or heartache—again. But as danger looms, it’s not  the kiss of a saint, but a sinner, that can save them.

Excerpt:

Dunstaffnage Castle, December 1308

He could do this, damn it. Magnus could withstand almost any kind of physical torture and pain. A tough bastard, they said of him. He needed to remember it.

He kept his gaze fastened on the trencher before him, concentrating on his meal and not what was going on around him. But the ham and cheese intended to break his fast stuck in his throat. Only the ale went down easily. Still, it wasn’t strong enough to quiet the tumult eating him up inside. If it weren’t an hour after daybreak he would have asked for whisky.

Although given the celebratory mood around him, he doubted anyone would notice if he did. The festive atmosphere reverberated from the wooden rafters laden with fragrant boughs of pine to the stone floor strewn with fresh rushes. The massive Great Hall of Dunstaffnage Castle was lit up like Beltane, with hundreds of candles and a roaring fire blazing in the fireplace behind him. But the warmth of the room couldn’t penetrate the icy shell around him.

“If you keep looking like you want to murder someone, we’ll have to change your name.”

Magnus turned to the man seated at the trestle table beside him and shot him a warning glare. Lachlan MacRuairi had an uncanny ability to find a man’s weak spot. Like the viper his war name professed him to be, he struck with deadly precision. He alone of the other members of the Highland Guard had guessed Magnus’s secret, and he never wasted an opportunity to remind him of it.

“Aye,” MacRuairi said with a shake of his head. “You look decidedly unsaintly. Aren’t you supposed to be the calm and reasonable one?”

During the training for the Highland Guard, Erik MacSorley, the greatest seafarer in the Western Isles, had taken to calling him Saint in jest. Unlike the rest of them, Magnus didn’t spend his nights around the fire discussing the next woman he wanted to swiv. Nor did he lose his temper. When it had come to choosing war names to protect their identities, Saint had stuck.

“Sod off, MacRuairi.”

The impervious bastard just smiled. “We weren’t sure you were going to make it.”

Magnus had stayed away as long as he could, volunteering for any mission as long as it would keep him far from here. But he’d left Edward Bruce, the king’s brother and newly created Lord of Galloway, two days ago to join the other members of the Highland Guard at Dunstaffnage for the wedding of one of their own. The wedding of William Gordon, his best friend and partner, to Helen Sutherland.

My Helen.

Nay, not his. She’d never belonged to him. He’d only thought she had.

Three years ago he’d joined Bruce’s secret guard in the attempt to escape his memories. But fate had a cruel sense of irony. Not long after arriving, he’d learned that his new partner had been recently betrothed to Helen. The Sutherlands hadn’t lost any time in ensuring she didn’t change her mind about marrying him. Magnus had anticipated a quick betrothal; he just hadn’t anticipated it would hit so close.

For three years he’d known this day would come. He’d come to terms with it. But if it were anyone other than Gordon, Magnus would have found an excuse to stay away. Despite his appellation, self-flagellation was not something he succumbed to willingly.

“Where’s Lady Isabella?” he asked by way of a response.

MacRuairi’s mouth curved. It was still strange to see such a black-hearted bastard smile, but these past few weeks since MacRuairi had won Lady Isabella MacDuff’s freedom a second time—as well as, it seemed, her heart—the sight had become more frequent. If a bastard like MacRuairi could find love, he supposed there was hope for anyone.

Except for him.

“Helping the bride get ready,” MacRuairi replied. “She’ll be here soon enough.”

Bride. That pricked. Even knowing that MacRuairi was watching, he flinched.

The smile left MacRuairi’s face. “You should have told him. He deserves to know.” Magnus shot an angry glare back at the man who made it hard as hell to like him—though somehow Magnus did. “Back off, Viper,” he said in a low voice. Gordon didn’t need to know anything. Helen had made her choice well before their betrothal. “There is nothing to tell.”

He pushed back from the bench, not wanting to listen to any more of MacRuairi’s prodding, when he noticed a group of men entering the Hall.

Ah hell. He muttered a curse, seeing the impending disaster and knowing there wasn’t a damned thing he could do to stave it off.

His partner in the Highland Guard and closest friend, William Gordon, broke into a wide smile and headed straight for him. “You made it. I was beginning to wonder.” Magnus didn’t have a chance to respond. The other man he’d noticed—the one who’d provoked his reaction—prevented it.

“What the hell is he doing here?” Kenneth Sutherland demanded angrily.

Magnus held very still, but every battle instinct flared. Sutherland’s hand had gone to the arming sword at his waist. The moment he moved, Magnus would be ready. MacRuairi, too, having sensed the threat, had tensed with readiness at his side.

“He’s my guest, as well as my friend,” Gordon said to his foster brother and soon-to-be brother-in-law—what the hell Gordon saw in the bastard, Magnus couldn’t fathom. It wasn’t often that the good-humored Gordon sounded angry, but there was a distinct edge of steel in his voice now.

“Your friend?” Kenneth said, aghast. “But he—”

Realizing he was about to say something about Helen, Magnus got to his feet and slammed his flagon on the table. “Leave it. What is between us has no bearing on today.” He eyed his old enemy intently, and then forced himself to relax. “The feud is in the past. Just like imprudent alliances,” he added, unable to resist prodding him.

The Sutherlands had aligned with the Earl of Ross and England against Robert Bruce. But after Bruce’s victory over the MacDougalls at the Pass of Brander in August, the Earl of Ross had been forced to submit. The Sutherlands had reluctantly followed suit a month ago. Magnus knew Sutherland’s pride must have still been smarting.

From what Gordon told him, Sutherland had acquitted himself well in battle and was considered a formidable warrior—equal to if not surpassing Donald Munro and his elder brother, William, who’d become earl on his father’s death two years ago. But to Magnus’s mind, Sutherland had one fatal flaw: his temper. And if the angry flush on Sutherland’s face was any indication, it hadn’t lost any of its volatility.

“Bastard,” Sutherland growled, taking a step forward. But Gordon held him back.

The air, which only moments before had been light with celebration, was now charged with strife. Swords had been drawn, if not in fact then in spirit. In response to the threat, two sides had formed. Sutherland’s men had gathered behind him and the members of the Highland Guard who’d been nearby had come to stand beside MacKay, with Gordon caught in the middle.

“Let him come, Gordon,” Magnus said idly. “Mayhap the English have taught him something.”

He and Sutherland were of a similar height and build, but Magnus had no doubt he could still best him in a sword fight—or with any weapon, for that matter. It seemed that most of his youth had been spent with the purpose of besting Sutherlands. If it wasn’t Munro, it was one of Helen’s brothers.

Sutherland bit out a crude oath and tried to break free from Gordon’s hold. He might have succeeded if a new group hadn’t entered the Hall. A group not armed in leather and steel but in silk and satin.

Focused on the threat before him, Magnus hadn’t seen the women approach until one woman stepped forward. “Kenneth, what’s wrong? What’s happening here?”

Magnus froze at the sound of her voice. The muscle slid from his limbs. For a moment he felt boneless, empty but for the fire burning in his chest. The fire that it seemed would never die.

Helen stood before him. Every bit as breathtaking as he remembered—yet different. There was nothing unconventional about her beauty now. The freckles that had once been smattered across her nose had vanished in the creamy perfection of ivory skin. The rich auburn hair that had tumbled about her shoulders in wild disarray—when it hadn’t been chopped indiscriminately—had been tamed into a maidenly coronet of braids. The tiny, pixie features were no longer quirked with laughter and mischief but were soft in repose. Only her eyes—a clear crystal blue—and lips—the reddest he’d ever seen—were the same.

But it wasn’t her beauty that had drawn him to her, it was the irrepressible good humor and untamed spirit that made her different from any other woman he’d ever known. A lively sprite who was as hard to catch as quicksilver.

He saw no evidence of that girl in the woman standing before him now, but it didn’t change the fierceness of his response. His chest felt as if it had been put in a vise of longing.

He’d thought he was prepared, damn it. Thought he could do this. But nothing could have prepared him for the shock of seeing her after three long years. Three years of war and destruction. Three years when he didn’t know whether he’d live or die. Three years of telling himself he was over her.

Three years of delusion.

To read the whole excerpt just click on the cover. And because the sixth book comes out tomorrow here is The Recruit.

  As you can tell the fiery cover matches Kenneth’s fiery temper.

Scotland’s King Robert the Bruce is retaking his kingdom from the invading English. To win, he’ll need all the grit and courage of his elite band of warriors, the Highland Guard, men who fight without fear and love without limits.

Fiery, aggressive, and bold, Kenneth Sutherland is a true champion—skilled with any weapon and driven to win. Now Kenneth is ready for his greatest challenge: joining Robert the Bruce’s secret army to fight among the elite. Kenneth’s best chance to attain that honor is by winning the Highland Games. Focused and prepared for victory, he is caught off guard by a lovely wisp of a woman—and a stolen moment of wicked seduction. Her innocent arousal and her shameless hunger fire his blood. He will win his place in the guard—and in Mary of Mar‘s bed.

The ruggedly handsome hero-in-the-making stirs a heart that should know better. Mary vows her surrender will be sport only—no promises, no heartbreak, just one night of incredible passion. Nothing, she swears, will persuade her to give up her hard wrought independence and put her fate in the hands of another powerful man. But with every gentle touch and heart-pounding kiss, Kenneth makes her want more. Now Mary wants his heart. But is this determined champion willing to surrender everything for love?

Excerpt:

From Chapter Four

Kenneth was in his element, enjoying every minute of his moment in the sun. He’d been born for this. Fighting. Competing. Winning. Aye, most of all winning.

It had taken him years of hard work, determination, and pulling himself out of the mud more times than he wanted to remember, but he was on the cusp of achieving what he’d wanted: to be the best.

One more event to go and a place in Bruce’s secret army would be his. He was going to do this, he could feel it. He exulted in the cheers of the crowd, knowing they could feel it, too. Fate and destiny had joined forces behind him, and nothing was going to stand in his way. For the first time, there would be no one in front of him. Tomorrow, after the wrestling event, he would be named champion.

He’d already achieved something no man had ever done before, winning all five weapon events. In one more sign that fate was with him, he’d won the archery contest. It had taken the shot of his life to defeat John MacGregor, but he’d done so by less than a quarter of an inch.

He wished he could have seen MacKay’s face. After tomorrow there would be no doubt that he deserved to take his place among the best warriors in Scotland in Bruce’s secret army, and his former rival wasn’t going to be able to do a damned thing to stop it. Kenneth glanced up to the king’s pavilion, pleased to see Bruce clapping along with the rest.

That was when he saw her. His wee voyeur.

He’d found himself looking for her more than once over the past few days—four, he realized—and had begun to wonder whether he’d imagined her. But nay, there she was, sitting serenely and inauspiciously at the end of the king’s platform with Alexander MacKenzie and his wife. Was she one of Lady Margaret’s attendants, then?

Shedding some light on the mystery should have been enough to put the matter behind him. Right now he should be thinking of only one thing: tomorrow’s contest. He shouldn’t be wondering what it would be like to be the one to cut those too-tight laces of hers and release some of the passion she had bottled up tightly beneath that austere facade.

Hell, he knew there were men who fantasized about debauching a nun; he just hadn’t thought he was one of them. But he couldn’t deny the fierce hum that ran through his veins when he thought about ripping off that shapeless black gown that she donned like armor to reveal the wanton he’d glimpsed hiding beneath that fade-into-the-background facade.

He wanted to make her gasp. Wanted to see her lips part and color flood to her cheeks when he touched her. He wanted to be the one to make her shatter for the first time.

To his surprise, when he caught her gaze, he found himself nodding to her.

Acknowledging in some way that he hadn’t forgotten her. He’d never singled out a woman so publicly—or done anything that could be construed as romantic—and the gesture took him aback.

Although he doubted anyone else had noticed, she did. He could have seen her eyes widen from halfway across Scotland, let alone the fifty or so paces that separated them.

He was more amused than surprised when she immediately ducked behind the man in front of her. But if she thought she could escape him so easily, she was mistaken.

He amended his earlier decision. Hell, he’d worked hard. He could afford to relax and enjoy a little pre-victory celebration. He wanted her, and waiting no longer seemed necessary.

He started toward her, but he’d barely exited the arena before he found his path blocked by the first of many well-wishers. He heard some form of “Sir Kenneth, you were magnificent,” from the female contingent, and “Bloody impressive fighting, Sutherland,” from the male.

After working so hard to get here, he should have been savoring every minute of this; it was what he’d always wanted. Yet instead he found himself impatiently scanning the platform and stairs where he’d last seen the lass. But the crowd was too thick and the lass too small for him to pick her out.

He finally managed to extract himself. Threading his way to the base of the stairs, he caught a glimpse of black in the sea of colorful silk moving away from him. He smiled, thinking it ironic that her plain clothing, which he suspected was meant to hide her, was what identified her.

He would have gone after her, but Lady Moira caught him first. “Congratulations, my lord, on yet another victory. Were you by chance looking for someone?” She batted her eyelashes so aggressively he was tempted to ask whether she had something in her eye.

Normally, such coquetry amused him, but right now he found it annoying.

His mouth tightened impatiently as he saw his prey slipping away.

Moira stood with Lady Elizabeth Lindsay, who seemed amused by her companion’s efforts. Lady Elizabeth was reputedly devoted to her husband and nothing Kenneth had seen suggested the contrary. She was friendly and polite, but nothing more. Which suited him just fine. Although she was a beautiful woman, she was shrewd, stubborn, and opinionated. He didn’t envy Lindsay the headache. Challenges were for the battlefield, not the bedchamber.

“We are all trying to figure it out,” Lady Elizabeth said.

“Figure what out?” he asked, glancing over her shoulder, trying to keep his eye on his prey.

“Who the nod was for,” Lady Elizabeth said.

He looked at her, barely hiding his surprise. “Nod?”

“Aye, it created quite a stir. The ladies seated around me were all quite sure you were nodding to them,” Lady Elizabeth said with a smile.

Ah hell, he guessed it had been more noticeable than he realized. Kenneth hid his reaction behind a wicked smile. “I was,” he said.

Lady Moira nearly yelped with pleasure, clapping her hands together. “I knew it. To whom?”

“I’ll leave that to you to figure out,” he said with a playful wink. “Now, if you’ll excuse me. I see my sister, and I need to have her patch me up so I’ll be ready for tomorrow’s competition.”

It was only partially a lie. The blow he’d taken across the ribs was starting to throb beneath his habergeon. The shirt of mail offered scant protection against the impact of steel on bone, and he suspected he had a fairly nasty bruise brewing. He would see Helen to get it fixed up, but after he caught up with his little nun, who was weaving her way through the crowd at nearly a run in her effort to avoid him.

She was only running from the inevitable. Almost as certain as he was that he would win tomorrow, Kenneth was certain that before the night was out, he would have her under him. Or perhaps on top of him.

He felt a pleasant tightening in his groin just thinking about it.

She’d just passed through the gate into the castle when he saw her stop and turn.

“Mary, wait!” he heard someone—a woman—say. He turned, recognizing the speaker as Lady Margaret MacKenzie. “Where are you going in such a rush?”

Mary. He should have guessed. A common, unremarkable name that would draw no attention—just like the rest of her. He was only a few feet away, but she hadn’t seen him yet. “I think the sun—”

She stopped suddenly, her eyes widening and mouth caught in an “o” of surprise as she saw him. On such a severe countenance, it shouldn’t be so sensual. But it was the same expression that had thrown him over the edge in the barn.

In the sunlight, without the glasses hiding half her face, he got his first really good look at her. Her hair was still hidden beneath an ugly black veil and wimple, her gown was still boxy and shapeless, her skin was still pale, her features were still too sharp—especially her cheekbones, which stuck out prominently over sunken cheeks—and there was still an overall gray, ghostlike quality to her, but on closer scrutiny he knew his instincts had been right. The hint of prettiness and intentional obscuring of beauty was even more obvious in the stark light of day.

There was no hiding her eyes, and they were spectacular. Round and overlarge in her hollow-cheeked face, they were a remarkable greenish-blue, and framed by thick, long lashes that seemed incongruously soft on such an otherwise brittle exterior. Her mouth, too, was soft and full, with a sensual dip that made him think of a bow on a package he wanted to unwrap. Preferably with his tongue.

As soon as their eyes met, she instinctively dropped her gaze as if hiding her eyes from his view.

Hiding. That was exactly what she was doing. The question was why, and from what.

Well I hope you have enjoyed meeting all of the Highland Guard and will go out and pick up The Recruit if you liked it.

Here’s where you can find Monica.   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

Z Seawitch

And Happy Halloween Everyone! Tomorrow is Trick or Treat here for us.

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