A land of legend and wild beauty ' of clans, lairds, honor, and passion ' Scotland forever stirs the soul ot romance. Noe, in one incomparable volume, four of Avon Romance ' s bestselling authors present stirring tales of hearts won and weddings to be, featuring a quartet of unforgettable heroines about to discover the rapture of love in a world as untamed as the men they will one day marry
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April 26, 2005
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Excerpt from Scottish Brides by Christina Dodd
"Andra didn't tell you about the marriage kilt?" Lady Valery sipped the wickedly strong whiskey and relished the warmth it spread through her aged veins. "My heavens, what did you do to offend? The MacNachtans always drag out that marriage kilt to show everyone, whether they wish it or not." The fire warmed the study, the candles lit the darkened corners, the clock ticked on the mantel, and Hadden sat, long legs stretched out before him, the very portrait of masculine power and grace.
The very image of offended virility.
Lady Valery hid a grin in her goblet. The boy-he was thirty-one, but she considered him a boy-did not take rejection well.
"Andra MacNachtan is unreasonable." He scowled into his goblet. "A black-headed, noodle-brained woman without a care for anyone but herself."
Lady Valery waited, but he said nothing more. He only gulped at his whiskey, his fourth since dinner and three more than the usually temperate drinker ever consumed.
"Yes. Well." She returned to her scheme. "The marriage kilt is exactly your kind of tradition. There's a ragged old plaid cloth that's reputed to bring good luck to the newly-weds if it's wrapped around their shoulders . . ." She paused artfully for effect. "No, wait, let me think . . . if they kiss the sporran . . . no, perhaps it was something about wifely obedience. If I could remember the tale, I would tell you, and you could copy it into your treatise. But I'm an old lady; my memory's not what it used to be-"
Hadden lifted his bloodshot blue eyes to glare at her.
Perhaps that was laying it on a little too thick. Hastily, she abandoned that tack and, in a brisk, no-nonsense tone, said, "And I was never interested in that old-fashioned balderdash. I remember the 'good old days'-smoking fires, galloping clap, gin slums. No, give me my modern conveniences. You young folks can go poking around and call those days romantic and worthy of note, but I don't."
"It's not just your youth I'm recording, Your Grace, much though you would like to believe that."
Surly and sarcastic, she noted, his usual state since his return from Castle MacNachtan almost two months ago.
"It's a whole way of life. Since Culloden, Scotland has changed. The old ways that have existed since William Wallace and Robert the Bruce are disappearing without a trace." He straightened his shoulders, leaned forward intently. "I want to record those fragile fragments of culture before they are gone forever. If I don't record them, no one will."
Lady Valery watched him with satisfaction. He'd been this emphatic and enthusiastic almost from the first moment he'd arrived at her Scottish estate, a skinny, frightened nine-year-old. He'd taken to the open spaces and gray mists of the Highlands. He'd grown tall and hearty as he roamed the glens and braes, and he'd discovered in the clans and the ancient ways of life a continuity his own existence lacked.
Not that his sister hadn't made a home for him-she had-but nothing could substitute for two parents and a place to call his own.
Lady Valery had hoped, when she sent him to Castle Mac-Nachtan, he would find his place there.
Instead, he'd come back silent and grumpy, brooding in a manner quite unlike his normal personable self.
Once Lady Valery had diagnosed the malady that vexed him, she had resolved to set all to rights, and her plan, as always, was working perfectly.