The Recruit  The Recruit

Book six in A Highland Guard series By Monica McCarty.

I was waiting for this one to come out, Monica McCarty is one of my all time favorite authors of my  beloved Highlander stories.

Lets start with the cover , love the red and the flames behind Kenneth Southerland. He is a fiery man and the cover depicts his character perfectly. We met Kenneth in a previous book, The Saint and we saw the chip on his shoulder and how his temper could overtake him. Monica has truly been blessed by the cover Gods as I’ve said before. So Kenneth is sure there is a secret army commanded by The Bruce and he is sure his soon to be brother by marriage is in it. It makes him mad and he wants in and he’ll roll over anyone in his quest to gain the notice of The Bruce and get in. So he has his game face on when he enters the Highland Games and beats opponent after opponent until he faces the last man standing between him and total victory, his worst nightmare; his future in law MacKay. Kenneth lets MacKay’s taunts get to him until he losses his temper, the match and the girl Lady Mary of Mar. Lady Mary who he had just bedded the night before not knowing she was the noblewoman The Bruce wanted him to marry, she rides away as he losses his shot to be the Highland champion.  The Bruce has taken notice though and gives Kenneth the chance to go through training with the Highland guards and he is determined that nothing will stop him this time.

Lady Mary of Mar is the former sister in law of The Bruce and she is sent to visit him by the King of England as a pawn, the King figures she will be able to spy for him without seeming to be a spy because of the family connection. Mary just wants to be left alone to live her life and for her son to be returned to her, the King took him away from her when he was just a baby in order to control her and him. While she is visiting The Bruce with the King’s envoys The Bruce thinks to get her to marry one of his men so that he can hopefully get her and her son to follow him.  The Bruce has picked Kenneth Southerland who unwittingly beds her thinking she is a simple Lady’s companion instead of the Lady he is to woo. I like Mary because she has learned to pick her fights and has the heart of a loving mother willing to do what is needed to protect her son. She plays down her appearance so as not to attract attention, attention could mean bringing the eye of the crown on her and another husband chosen for her.

Our hero and heroine meet again as Kenneth is given his first mission, to go to England as a spy, to gather info for The Bruce. He is sent to the stronghold of an King’s man, telling his tales of lies that he and his brother have had a parting of the ways over supporting The Bruce in order to gain entrance. After a short stay in the Dungeon he is released and grudgingly accepted and as he is escorted to his room he’ll share with his watchdog he spies another object of unfinished business…Lady Mary. Only now she is no longer hiding as she did in the past and she has blossomed into a lovely woman to drive many a man mad with want. I loved this story and I’m going to leave it to you to join Lady Mar and Kenneth as they fight their attraction while each dealing with their own set of problems. Kenneth’s spying and Lady Mary trying her best to connect with her son who is in training under the Knight who is also interested in wooing her.

5 Tail Swishes

From the author’s website:

The Recruit  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 4:

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.

Now just in case you need to be reminded about the rest of the books in this series I have no problem showing you the covers again.

The Chief  An elite fighting force like the world has never seen…

Scouring the darkest corners of the Highlands and Western Isles, Robert the Bruce handpicks ten warriors to help him in his quest to free Scotland from English rule. They are the best of the best, chosen for their superior skills in each discipline of warfare. To lead his secret Highland Guard, Bruce chooses the greatest warrior of all.

The ultimate Highland warlord and a swordsman without equal, Tor MacLeod has no intention of being drawn into Scotland’s war. Dedicated to his clan, the fiercely independent chief answers to no one—especially not his alluring new bride, bartered to him in a bid to secure his agreement to command the deadliest fighting force the world has ever seen. The treacherous chit who made her way to his bed may have won his hand, but she will never claim his heart.

Although her husband’s reputation is as fierce as his manner, Christina Fraser believes something softer hides beneath his brutal shell. But the only warmth she feels is in their bed, in the glorious moments of white-hot desire  that disappear with the dawn. When Christina’s reckless bid to win her husband’s love goes awry and thrusts them into danger on the eve of war against England, Tor will face his ultimate battle: to save his wife and open his heart—before it’s too late.

The Hawk   The legend of the Highland Guard continues…

Handpicked by Robert the Bruce to help him in his quest to free Scotland from English rule, the Highland Guard is an elite fighting force unlike any the world has ever seen. They are the best of the best, chosen for their superior skills in each discipline of warfare. But when Bruce is          forced to flee to the Western Isles, his bid for freedom rests on the shoulders of one extraordinary warrior.

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?

The Ranger   The legend of the Highland Guard continues…

Handpicked by Robert the Bruce to help him in his quest to free Scotland from English rule, the Highland Guard is an elite fighting force unlike any the world has ever seen. They are the best of the best, chosen for their superior skills in each discipline of warfare. As the tides of war turn, one elite warrior is all that stands between victory and defeat.

Embedded deep behind enemy lines, Arthur “Ranger” Campbell is Bruce’s secret weapon as he wages his final assault on the enemies who stand against him. Recruited to join the Bruce’s secret elite fighting force for his prized scouting skills, Arthur’s razor sharp senses and ability to blend into the shadows make him the perfect spy. But when this shadow warrior must infiltrate the clan of the chieftain who murdered his father, his heart is locked on revenge. Inside he faces unexpected resistance from the sweetest of obstacles—a honey-haired siren who is his enemy’s daughter. But the vivacious, enchanting Anna MacDougall is a woman whose skill at uncovering deception rivals his own.

Intrigued by this ruggedly handsome newcomer to her father’s forces, Anna accepts the challenge his determined indifference to her arouses. Though anxious for the war to end and yearning for a quiet life with a good man to love, Anna is drawn to this mysterious knight whose eyes devour her but whose words push her away. But as danger, treachery, and the threat of looming war draw them closer into each other’s passions and secrets, a warrior made of steel must make a choice from the heart: love or revenge.

The Viper   The war for Scotland’s sovereignty rages on- as Robert the Bruce is crowned king and the Highland Guard, his elite fighting force of legendary warriors, battle for land… and love.

Prized for his snake-like stealth and deadly strikes, Lachlan “Viper” MacRuairi is a warrior to enlist but not to trust. His only loyalty is to his purse, his indifference sealed by bitter betrayal. All that changes when Lachlan is tasked to protect and deliver Bella MacDuff to the king’s coronation—and the proud, lushly sensual countess unwittingly challenges him to his greatest battle yet: to love again.

Passionate and devoted, Bella has defied Britain’s king and her own husband to place the crown on Bruce’s head—and pays a terrible price. She loses her daughter and her freedom to her husband’s vengeance. Imprisoned with barbaric cruelty, she vows to reclaim her child, even if it means selling her soul—and her body—to a dark, lethal warrior whose eyes glint like steel, but who makes her skin tingle and her breath race. Together they embark on a rogue mission with sinister twists and turns that threatens not only Bella’s gamble to save her daughter—but also her heart.

The Saint   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.

The Recruit   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?

As an wee little treat here is a look at book 7 The Hunter, ooh I’m so excited!

The Hunter   The war for Scotland’s freedom continues, as King Robert the Bruce battles on. At his command is an elite army of trained warriors, soldiers dedicated to their king, country—and the remarkable women they love.

Prized for his unbeatable tracking skills, Ewen “Hunter” Lamont accepts a dangerous assignment: locate a missing undercover courier. But this is no ordinary target. Ewen has met her before as “Sister Genna,” a fiery, forbidden woman who was forever etched in his memory after one stolen, sinful kiss. Now that he knows her real identity, he’s more determined than ever to keep her safe. But without the protection of the veil between them, fighting the allure of the beautiful lass may be the toughest battle this extraordinary warrior has ever faced.

After her ill-fated attempt three years ago to rescue her twin sister, Janet of Mar finds salvation acting as a courier for her king—until she surrenders to a darkly handsome, hard-edged warrior whose rough, sensual kisses stir feelings the woman in her can’t deny. But when betrayal leads to danger, and a crucial message is put in jeopardy, Janet has no choice but to put her faith in the hunter who can find anything—perhaps even her heart.

If you click on The Hunter you can go read an excerpt on Monica’s site and add this next book to your TBB list. You can go here to check Monica McCarty out and I hope you all will fall in love with her Highland Guard just like I have. Oh and Monica sent a wee little something for a giveaway coming soon!

http://www.monicamccarty.com/index.php    http://monicamccarty.blogspot.com/

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Monica-McCarty/18042425673?ref=ts&fref=ts     http://twitter.com/monicamccarty

Z Seawitch

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