Authors: Arnette Lamb
“Hark! The Herald”
A HOLIDAY OF LOVE
NEW YORK TIMES
BESTSELLING AUTHOR ARNETTE LAMB
“With the depth of emotion, unforgettable characters and love of the Highlands that have made Arnette Lamb's romances âkeepers' comes this utterly enthralling tale.Â .Â .Â . Here is a real treasure!”
“Arnette Lamb has scored another dazzler.”
“Maiden of Inverness
is an action-packed medieval romance that readers will enjoy immensely. Ms. Lamb comes across as a lion when it comes to bringing alive Scottish romances.”
The Paperback Forum
“This, readers, is the stuff of which romances are made!”
“No one describes the Scottish Highlands better than Ms. Lamb. With
Maiden of Inverness
she succeeds in enhancing her reputation as the mistress of Scottish historical romance.”
Affaire de Coeur
“Powerful, emotionally intense, sexually charged,
typifies Arnette Lamb's storytelling talents.”
is an excellently written and powerfully moving Medieval romance novel.Â .Â .Â . All-in-all, another superb read from the pen of a master storyteller.”
Affaire de Coeur
“Vintage Arnette Lamb. This irresistible tale warms your heart, tickles your funny bone, and delights your senses.”
“Deep and sensuousÂ .Â .Â . sexually stimulating and very fast paced. Its theme is love heals the human heart. You will bask in its afterglow.”
“All that a historical romance should be: fast-paced, funny and hot-blooded.Â .Â .Â . One of the best of the year.”
âDetroit Free Press
“An excellent tale of high adventure.Â .Â .Â . Ms. Lamb has written a choice story filled with humor and a special understanding of human motivation and love.”
Affaire de Coeur
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This book is dedicated to the readers who embraced the Highland rogue and encouraged me to write about his daughters. You know who you are, and my gratitude and appreciation defy words.
My very special thanks to Alice Shields, Pat Stech, and Vivian Jane Vaughan for their help and support during the writing of this book.
arah traced the wooden bindings on a collection of children's stories and waited for her father to share his troubling thoughts. To her surprise, Lachlan MacKenzie, the duke of Ross and the once-notorious Highland rogue, fumbled as he filled his pipe. His hands were shaking so badly his signet ring winked in the lamplight. His beloved face, more ruggedly handsome with the passage of time, now mirrored the strife contained within his good heart.
Sadness had begun this winter day, and Sarah wanted desperately to help ease the burden of his loss. She touched his arm. “Agnes and I used to fight for the privilege of doing that. Let me fill your pipe.”
His broad shoulders fell, and he blew out his breath. “I'm not yourâ” Halting, he gazed deeply at her. Affection, constant and warm, filled his eyes. With obvious effort, he forced the words. “I'm not your father.”
Although she knew she'd misunderstood, Sarah went still inside. He'd acted oddly five years ago when her half sister, Lottie, had married David Smithson.
When another of Sarah's half sisters, Agnes, had left home on an unconventional quest, he'd tormented himself for months. The day Mary demanded her dowry, so she could move to London to perfect her artistic skill with Sir Joshua Reynolds, Papa had ranted and raved until their stepmother, Juliet, had come to the rescue. His fatherly vulnerability was born of his love for all of his children, especially the elders, his four illegitimate daughters: Sarah, Lottie, Agnes, and Mary.
This time Sarah was sure he was bothered by her upcoming marriage to Henry Elliot, the earl of Glenforth, a man whose husbandly abilities he questioned. But Sarah had made her decision and for months had countered Papa's objections.
She must reassure him again. “Just because I'm to wed Henry in the spring and move to Edinburgh doesn't mean I'll stop being your daughter.”
His blue eyes brimmed with regret. “Name me the grandest coward o' the Highlands, but I'd sooner turn English than admit the truth of it. Oh, Sarah lass.”
It was his special name for her. His voice and those words were the first sounds she rememberedâeven from the cradle.
“Tell me what, Papa? That I cannot at once be daughter and wife, sister and mother? I'm not like Agnes. I will not forsake you, but I want my own family.”
Always a commanding man, both in stature and in influence, today Papa seemed hesitant. He touched her cheek. “You were never truly my daughterânot in blood.”
She stepped back. “That's a lie.”
Unreality hung like a pall in the air between them. Of course he was her father. After her mother's death in childbirth, he'd taken Sarah from the hospice in Edinburgh and raised her with her half sisters. It was a tale as romantic as any bard could conjure. Those of noble blood were expected to leave the care of even their legitimate offspring to servants. Not Lachlan MacKenzie. He'd taken his four bastard daughters under his wing and raised them himself.
A stronger denial perched on her lips.
He took her hand. His palm was damp. His endearing smile wavered. “â'Tis God's own truth. I swear it on my soul.”
Words of protest fled. Sarah believed him.
Moved by a pain so fierce it robbed her of breath, she jerked free and fled to the shelter of the bookstand near the windows.
On the edge of her vision, she saw him touch a taper to the hearth fire and light his pipe. She felt frozen in place, a part of the room, as natural in this space as the books, the toys on the floor, the tapestry frame near the hearth. This was her place, her home. Her handprints had smudged these walls. Her shoes had worn the carpet. Reprimands had been conducted here, followed by joyous forgiveness.
“You cannot think I do not love you as my own.”
His own, and yet not. Bracing her fists on the open pages of the family Bible, she struggled to draw air into her lungs. The familiar aroma of his tobacco gave her courage. “How can you not be my father?”
“I said it poorly.” He slammed the pipe onto the mantle and came toward her, his hands extended. “I
am your father in all that counts. You are my own, butâ” His gaze slid to the Bible. “I did not sire you.”
“Who did?” She heard herself ask the question, but felt apart from the conversation.
New sadness dulled his eyes. “Neville Smithson.”
Neville Smithson. The sheriff of Tain, a man Sarah had known most of her life. He had lived at the end of the street. She had taught his children to read. Absently, she touched the string of golden beads around her neck. Neville had given her the necklace for her twenty-first birthday. Lottie was married to Neville's son, David. Less than an hour ago, both families had stood in the cemetery and laid Neville Smithson to rest.
His heart, the doctors said. He'd been conducting assizes. He had died in Papa's arms. His unexpected death, which had come as a blow to every household in Ross and Cromarty, now took on a greater meaning to Sarah.
She was neither the love child of Lachlan MacKenzie nor one of his bastard daughters. Their illegitimacy was common knowledge, always had been. But in his special way, Lachlan had presented his lassies, as he called them, to the world as cherished daughtersâand pity anyone who made sport of it.
Sarah thought of her half sisters. To obscure the details of their births and allay speculation, they all shared a common birthday, even though they had different mothersâa result, he boasted, of his first visit to court as the duke of Ross. “Did you sire Mary, Lottie, and Agnes?”
“Aye, but it changes nothing. In my heart you are their sister and my daughter.”
At 10, Sarah had shot up in height. She was of an age with Lottie, Agnes, and Mary, but stood taller than them. Other differences came to mind. Sarah had always been bookish and quiet. Lottie often swore that Sarah needn't come with them to court, for she'd sooner find merriment in the nearest library. Sarah had been a shy child; as a young woman, she held back, not for lack of gumption, but because her sisters were better leaders than she. They were gone now, each pursuing their own lives. Soon she would do the same.
The timing of her father's admission was curious. “Why did you wait until now to tell me?”
He folded his arms over his chest. “Twas Neville's last wish. You were still in swaddling when I took you for my own. He didn't even know about you until you were six, after we came here to live. When I told him, we agreed 'twas best you did not know.”
“We feared your life might seem like a lie.”