Capturing the Highlander’s Heart (Preview)

Chapter 1

Early November 1750, London, England

 

Amelia Parker rose with the sun shining through the large bay windows of her bedroom. Her blue eyes squinted at the light. Even though the maid would always close the bed curtains every night, Amelia would open them up just a crack after she’d left. She liked to see the beautiful morning light stream in, and it gave her enough light to read. She loved to feel the morning warmth on her face and savor those few moments of peace before she experienced the busy movements of the day.

 

Her lady’s maid, Beth Smith, entered quietly.

 

“Good morning, Miss” Beth said with a curtsy. “Let me assist you to dress.”

 

“Thank you, Beth.” Amelia removed the covers and touched her toes on the cold floor. She shivered, since she was just in a white, linen shift. While Beth was busy at the closet, Amelia asked. “Beth, will my father be joining us this morning for breakfast?”

 

Beth looked uncomfortable and kept her head down. “No, miss. No one has seen Lord Parker since he left last evening.”

 

Amelia’s face scrunched up in concern. She sighed, “I suppose he’s making quite a habit of it lately, coming in reeking of whiskey and smoke.” Where could he be again? And why every night? What was so important about drinking and smoking in dark clubs with other old men?

 

Beth’s eyes widened in surprise at her mistress’ confidence. She simply nodded and replied, “Yes, Miss.”

 

Amelia’s mind snapped back to reality. “Oh, forgive me. I’m ready now.” She stood in front of the long mirror and held out her arms.

 

“Pardon me, miss, for my delay. Let me get your stays and gown.”

 

Amelia stood in front of the mirror while Beth gathered the pieces of clothing. Her father’s continual nightly adventures continued to prey upon her mind.

 

Beth began to lace up her stays tightly. Amelia had to hold onto the cabinet next to her as the corset kept getting tighter and tighter. Thankfully, she didn’t need her corset to be laced as tightly as some women, as her breasts were already quite large and the tops of them peeked out coquettishly from the brim of her stays.

 

Her blond braid fell over her shoulder as Beth did her work. But, then a smile crossed Amelia’s face.

 

“I forgot! Today is the day Mother and I will search for my wedding trousseau! Oh, I have been waiting for this day for so long! Beth, I must look my best today. We can’t forget a single detail!”

 

“Yes, Miss,” said Beth as she pulled the gown over Amelia’s head and adjusted the fit. “I’m so excited!” Amelia started dreaming of her wonderful fiancé.

 

“Lord Charles Devereaux is a viscount, you know, Beth. I can’t believe I will be marrying him!” She clapped her hands in front of her. Charles was tall, young, and deliciously handsome, with a swirl of thick blond hair and dark green eyes that put a spell on every young woman, even the old ones too. Amelia and Charles had met at a ball recently; her father had introduced them. The viscount was known to be quite a lady charmer, but as soon as Amelia saw his face and danced with him, she was in love, and knew that she could change him. She knew then from his winning smile and clever wit as they danced, that she had found the one.

 

Last week, he had proposed marriage!

“You are going to be a beautiful bride, Miss.” Beth smiled at Amelia in the mirror while continuing to smooth her dress.

“Thank you, Beth. I was surprised at so quick a proposal, but I can’t say I’m not blissfully happy!” He and her father had talked long in the study after their union, and she could barely contain her excitement. Me and the most eligible bachelor in all of London society–to be married! And he loves me, and I love him!

Before Amelia could continue with her daydreams, Beth said, “Please, sit, Miss. Let me make your coiffure.”

 

After an hour or so, Amelia glided down to breakfast with her hair curled atop her head just so, and a smile on her face. Her blue eyes matched the lovely blue gown Beth had chosen.

 

But her face fell slightly as she watched her mother sitting alone at the breakfast table once again. “Hello, Mother. Good morning. How are you feeling today? I see Father has decided not to join us once again.”

 

“Good morning, my dear,” said Amelia’s mother Henrietta with a slight, almost imperceptible sigh. Amelia was about to inquire further, but then Henrietta looked up and smiled at her beautiful daughter.

 

“Don’t you look absolutely lovely? You’ll be a sight to see on our shopping trip. Are you excited for today? But, first, have some breakfast.”

 

Amelia went to the sideboard to make her selections of toast, jam, sausages, and eggs, before returning to her seat. The butler poured her a cup of steaming tea, and she began to eat quickly. “Mother, I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited! What do you think Charles, I mean Viscount Devereaux, would like most? What colors, what fabrics?”

 

“I don’t know, my dear, but we’ll be sure to make the best selections.”

 

From a side door, the butler quietly entered with a silver tray which held a solitary envelope and opener, and he paused in front of Henrietta.

 

“The post has just come, my lady.” The butler bowed his head as Henrietta took the letter.

 

“Thank you, Stevens.” She turned the envelope over in her hands. “Hmm…no sender’s address, and it’s a very plain envelope. I wonder who it could be from?”

 

She smiled at Amelia next to her who was still eating happily and cut open the envelope. Suddenly, Amelia was jolted out of her wedding reverie by her mother crying out and slumping over in her chair.

 

“Mother!” She yelled. Stevens rushed into the room once again. “Please! Send for the doctor! I believe Mother has just fainted!” Stevens nodded and hurried off to send a boy for the doctor. Henrietta awoke with a groan and tears were in her eyes.

 

“What is it mother? Are you all right?” Amelia’s face was poised in concern as she took her mother’s hands and felt her forehead gently.

 

“Look. Look at the letter,” Henrietta whispered, and her body wracked with sobs. Amelia decided to first help her mother over to the couch in the sitting room next door before hurrying back to the dining room for the letter. I wonder what could cause her to faint so?

 

She picked up the letter, written in a hurried hand on rough, grayish paper.

 

My dears,

It is time I admitted the truth. You must have noticed my nightly disappearances and my recent absences from the breakfast table. The authorities have taken me in from the gambling hall last night. I’m afraid I’ve gotten a taste for the wretched habit in recent months, and my dear Henrietta and dearest Amelia, I’ve gambled it all away. There is nothing left. The creditors will be at the house by morning to organize and evaluate all furniture and other belongings to be sold for repayment. There will be nothing left for a dowry. I am so sorry. I have arranged for you to go live in a small cottage in Brechin, Scotland tomorrow morning by carriage. The carriage will arrive at dawn and knows where to take you. Take whatever money you have saved. Send all the servants away. Please do not come by the prison. I cannot bear the shame.

I love you, but I am not worthy of you.

Be well,
Jonathan Parker
1750

 

Amelia sank to her knees to the ground, a few stray curls falling from her coiffure. She could not cry; she could not even speak. The letter fell to her side, and the only question in her mind as she stared at the carpeted floor was What are we going to do?

 

Chapter 2

Early December, Brechin, Scotland, Kinnaird Castle

 

“Och, ye dinnae need a companion, ma,” said James Kinnaird to his mother, Fiona, as they sat in front of a roaring fire in the main hall. James had a pint of ale in his hand, and he turned to his mother with concern.

 

“And why not? Ever since your father died, I’ve been so lonely. We haven’t been to any social functions or had any balls, and it’s far too cold for me to travel for visiting.” She stared into the flames, and discretely wiped a tear from the corner of one eye.

 

“But ye have me, dinnae ye? Am I not companion enough?” James moved to kneel by his mother, and he took her hands in his, looking into her soft brown eyes.

 

Fiona smiled and squeezed his rough hands. “Ach, Jamie, you are a wonderful son, of course! But it’s time I had a little female company. Women need other women, you know, my dear. I would love a young girl with a good education to come and read to me and discuss the gossip of the day. I’ve already sent out an advertisement in the newspaper.”

 

Jamie sat back down, sipping his ale again. Fiona chuckled.

“Now, why do you look so concerned?”

“‘Twill be a stranger, ma, in our house! I don’t very much like the idea of leaving ye alone with someone we don’t know while I’m away on business.”

 

Fiona lifted her chin stubbornly. “I’m left all alone with no one to speak to while you’re away. Think of the danger of that in such a cold and lonely place!”

 

Jamie said, “Aye”, and he stared into the flames.

 

Fiona sighed next to him, “When your father was here, every hall of this old place was filled with laughter. He was always so kind to everyone, from the kitchen cook to your angry cousin Donald.” She laughed slightly to herself, remembering. “He was the love of my life.” She turned and placed her hand on Jamie’s. “I wish as much for you, my dear.”

 

Jamie thought back to when his father, Laird James, had died four years prior in The Battle of Culloden. He saw his father, pride in his eyes, fall victim to an English bullet and release his lifeblood into the grassy hills. Since Jamie returned home alone limping from the battle, released from prison and spared his life, a light had gone from his mother’s eyes, and no matter how hard he tried, he hadn’t been able to replace it.

 

Fiona’s hand upon his shoulder roused Jamie from his dismal reverie. “All will be well, my dear. We shall hear a response from someone, I hope, in the next few weeks. But, I must retire to bed. Good night, my son.” Fiona bent down to kiss him on the cheek and placed her hand on his brown hair.

 

“Good night,” Jamie replied with a weak smile.

 

After his mother left, Jamie went to lean against the mantle, his muscled shoulders stretching as they angled upwards, and he stared at the flames. He began to pace the floor in front of the fire.  He disturbed the sleep of his dog, Prince Charlie, and the dog began the pacing rhythm with him. “Charlie, I hope ma is making the right choice. It has been so long since I’ve seen her smile. But will this bring her the happiness she so desires?” He couldn’t bear the thought of his mother being disappointed after so many years of sorrow.

 

Feeling hot from the pacing and the proximity to the fire, James removed his dark green wool coat and the linen stock from his throat. His white shirt was damp with sweat, and it hung loosely on his body. His brown hair was hanging below his shoulders, and its ragged look matched the multiple emotions he felt swirling around in his belly. It wasn’t only his mother. Something else was tugging at his mind…

 

***

 

Late November, journey to Brechin

 

Amelia felt her mother squeeze her hand as they bounced along roughly in the carriage. Amelia turned her head from the window and smiled weakly at her. Henrietta looked tired with heavy circles etched under eyes, but she was all out of tears for now. Amelia and her mother had left their London home the morning after receiving her father’s letter, early enough to avoid being seen, and it had been several days since. She assumed the creditors were finished their work, having picked over each and every one of their belongings, evaluating it for sale.

 

Her throat thickened with impending tears, but there was also another feeling that reared its head: disgust. Her father, a man she had so trusted and depended on, turned out to be utterly flawed. How could he have treated his family with such callousness? He is weak to have let his base urges ruin his entire family. I hope we never see him again.

“How could father have done this? Leave his family to starve?” Amelia said aloud to the air. But, Henrietta grabbed her wrist, a fresh batch of tears making their way down her face.

“Please dear. I can’t bear it. I don’t know how we’ll survive.”

 

Henrietta was a beauty, with her blond hair still full of color and pale skin with full, red lips. Amelia had inherited her mother’s beauty in full, but that was the farthest thing from her mind.

Her mother’s whole body seemed diminished somehow, as if it lost the confident countenance of a wealthy English lady, and she was practically curled up on the seat next to Amelia. Once she spoke to Amelia, she swallowed and turned her head to the window, her gray eyes looking unfocused.

 

Amelia touched her mother’s hand and attempted to make her voice sound as strong as possible. “Mother, I will take care of us. Please, don’t worry.” Henrietta turned back to her daughter, her eyes wide, and she spoke in a loud whisper, “Amelia, please, we must see if we can bring your father back! Oh, I can’t even imagine how he’s faring in such a horrible place. We must try!” Seeing the desperation, fear, and fatigue in her mother’s eyes, Amelia knew that she would have to do whatever it took to get him out of prison and restore her mother to her original good spirits, and she turned her face forward, resolve formulating in her mind.

 

 

Along with the morning carriage another letter had come, bearing the seal of Devereaux. Amelia had thought perhaps Charles would offer his assistance in such a time. But, in the world of the English aristocracy, word traveled fast, especially about calamity, and saving face was everything. It was two lines:

Amelia, We can no longer be wed. My family’s reputation is at stake.
Best of luck in your endeavors. C.D.

 

And with one swipe of the pen, Amelia had not only lost her home and father and possessions, but also her fiancé. Over the past few days, Amelia and Henrietta had had to stay in filthy little inns to rest and take their meals and take care of their needs. Amelia had been saving a bit of money she’d received as an allowance, and so they were able to pay for scant meals and dirt-covered rooms. It had been their first time in such places, and they clung to each other tightly in the bed they shared, fearing who or what might be next door to them.

 

The journey was over 800 kilometers, and while she brought a few books and her poetry journal to keep her mind focused on something other than the painful carriage ride. Her eyes wandered down to the small, thin volume in her hands. It was a book of Thomas Gray’s poems, one of her and her father’s favorites. Her father had gotten her this volume as a gift a few years ago, and she’d been attached to it and poetry ever since. Just the thought of her father made a solitary tear slide down her cheek.

 

She thought of her leather journal in her bag, filled to the brim with her few whimsical rhymes, hoping to mold them into finely crafted poems one day, worthy of publication. There weren’t many female poets, but she hoped to become one of them. These two items were the only possessions she had in the world now. Were they tainted with her father’s betrayal?

 

Despite her mind being busy enough swirling with thoughts and questions and plans, Amelia was tired of travel. It would take over a week to get to Brechin, and each bump of the carriage reminded her of their new fate. She held onto the note she was to give to the cottage landlord; it kept her focused on their goal.

 

“Shall we stop soon for the night, mother? You need to rest with some warm food in you.”

 

“No, dear, I can make it for a few more hours. We need to try to cover as much distance as we can each day.” Henrietta laid her head against Amelia’s shoulder and soon fell asleep.

 

After 12 days of monotonous travel, in and out of inns, barely able to get enough food or a proper bath, Amelia and her mother were riding through the Scottish countryside on a cloudy afternoon, and Amelia spotted a small cottage coming into view as the horse’s hooves made their tattooed rhythm on the soft ground. The cottage was made of gray stone, with ivy climbing the walls, twisting and turning around the corners, and it covered the whole left side of the house with its little green fans.

 

Looking around her at the surrounding Scottish wilds, she was overwhelmed with a vision of green. It covered the hills for as far as she could see. Other than the river, and a small cemetery a little farther to her left, closer to the river’s far bank, the land was the cottage’s only companion. To Amelia, this seemed like the loneliest place in the world. And suddenly, the carriage stopped right in front of the stone cottage.

 

 

Chapter 3

Early December, Brechin, Scotland, Kinnaird land

 

Once they alighted from the carriage, Amelia and her mother stood motionless in front of the cottage, a little unsure of their next move. The carriage driver dropped off one bag from the back of the carriage, and without a word, continued, the sound of hooves growing fainter and fainter with each passing moment.

 

Both of them had lost weight in the past 12 days and looked drawn and tired. They were dirty and in much need of bathing and rest. Amelia took her mother’s hand, and with a voice as confident as she could muster, said, “Come, Mother, we will bear it as best we can.” Henrietta smiled weakly and nodded her head.

 

She moved to open the door of the cottage. A cry of “Ahoy!” made Amelia turn her head towards the sound. She saw a ruddy-faced man waving as he walked towards them over the lush green grass.

 

He approached them smilingly and breathlessly greeted them, his hat and head tipped in politeness.

 

“Welcome, ladies. Welcome tae Brechin. Well, I suppose yer outside of the town a wee bit, but Kinnaird land it is. I was informed yer arrival would be around this time, so I’ve been comin’ tae the cottage every day to see if ye had arrived and checking that everythin’ was in order for ye.”

 

Amelia and Henrietta were both so tired that they couldn’t find the words right away to make in reply.

 

Amelia cleared her throat and began. “Hello, Sir. Forgive us. We have had a very long journey. You must be the landlord. Here is the paperwork we were told to give you?”

 

“Aye, I am Laird Kinnaird’s land agent. Fletcher’s me name. I tend to the cottages and farms on the estate.” He peered quickly at the paper Amelia had handed him. “Well, everything’ is in order. Let’s see ye young lasses comfortable.”

 

Mr. Fletcher pulled out a key to open the door to a darkened hallway. He led the way to a side table where he lit a candle and held it up to his face. “Aye, this cottage is a bit drafty this time of year, but I will make ye ladies a fire ye won’t forget!”

 

Amelia almost groaned with pleasure at the thought of being warm and comfortable and not being jolted about a carriage over the rough Scottish terrain. She touched her mother’s hand and led her along the hallway until Mr. Fletcher illuminated the armchair by the fire.

 

“Sit, Mother,” Amelia helped her mother ease into an armchair, and then she felt a curiosity to see the rest of their new home.

 

Mr. Fletcher busied himself with making a fire and making pleasant conversation with Henrietta. “And so, tell me all yer about yer journey, milady.”

 

Henrietta replied, “Thank you, good Sir, for your kindness. Well, we’re a long way from home in London, but the journey was pleasant enough.” Amelia’s mother would always have the politeness of an English lady and would never complain to a stranger. “The scenery is quite breathtaking here,” Henrietta continued while Amelia found another candle, lit it, and took off on her own to explore the cottage.

 

Besides the main room area, she found a small kitchen, pantry, a tiny drawing room, and one bedroom. Furniture was scant, but the necessities were there. A bed was set in the center of the bedroom with fresh sheets. On her search, Amelia had also found a small writing desk and vanity, with only one cupboard for clothing. She spied a small privy around the back of the cottage. Was this it? Just these few rooms? Amelia held back the tears that threatened to course down her cheeks as she took in their new home. Just 12 days ago I was about to buy my wedding trousseau, and now… How will we live? What will we eat? My mother, Lady Henrietta Parker, should never have been subjected to this. I will do whatever I must do to make her comfortable.

 

Amelia took a few deep breaths while alone in the bedroom and steeled her resolve. If her father was to be a weak man with no conscience, no feeling of responsibility or care for those under his care, then it must be totally upon her shoulders. For her mother only, she would find work, she would save, and she would pay the debts. Her father could come back, and her mother would be happy.

 

Amelia pushed her shoulders back and walked back towards the main room. But her reflection in a cracked mirror on the wall made her pause. She approached the mirror. Could this really be me? Her blond hair was darkened with dirt and grime, and it hadn’t been brushed. A rough braid lay down her shoulder, and stray pieces fell by her ears. Her face was covered in dirt and dust from the journey, and her eyes looked heavy with worry and fatigue. She wore a plain gray dress that she was able to buy from the last inn, and she wore no corset. She had sold her last pair of stays to buy food. Once she had been a young lady of tall stature, with elegant gowns and finery, being asked to dance at every ball during the Season, and now, she looked like no more than a pauper’s daughter. She remembered the first day she’d met Charles Devereaux, and how he’d looked at her–hungrily. A sharp pain in her chest made her remember his hurried note and callous tone. All men were self-centered bastards. But, she’d spent her tears already for Charles on the rough pillows along the journey. Now, this is what she was. It made her think of a line from her favorite poem: “Thy sun is set; thy spring is gone—”

 

Amelia turned her face away, not wanting to see any more. She must make the best of what she could. And now, with a fire, she could have a bath! She smiled to herself. That was one small pleasure in this sea of troubles.

 

Amelia heard laughter, if her hearing was correct, coming from the main room. As she entered, the fire was in full blaze, crackling merrily as it filled the small stone room with delicious heat. Her mother was chuckling.

 

“Oh, Amelia! You must hear Mr. Fletcher’s story. I say it was quite restorative after such a dreary journey.”

 

Mr. Fletcher smiled.

 

“Oh, another time, Mother. I believe you need some tea, food, and rest.” Amelia touched her mother on the shoulder.

 

“Oh! I almost forgot to tell ye. Me wife will be comin’ by with a basket full of treats for ye. She’s a lovely woman, and having no children of her own, likes to spoil those on the estate if she can. She should be by shortly.”

 

He stood from kneeling at the grate and dusted off his knees. “Well, now that yer settled, I’ll be takin’ my leave. The rent is due on the first of next month, and I’ve brought ye a newspaper from Brechin, as I’ve been told that,” he cleared his throat and shifted awkwardly before them, “that ye are ladies of good breedin’ and would enjoy a bit o’ readin’.”

 

They thanked Mr. Fletcher heartily for his kindness and help, and then Amelia took a seat in the wooden chair by the fire next to her mother.

 

Her stomach growled fiercely, and she wished for Mrs. Fletcher to make her arrival soon.

 

***

 

Jamie awoke the next morning, feeling more rested but still anxious about the worries of last evening. It had been a late night by the fire with Prince Charlie, and he had resolved to be comfortable with his mother ‘s decision to have a companion. He knew it was not his decision to make.

 

Jamie dressed in his shirt, waistcoat, and thick tartan coat for warmth. The stone walls of the castle were no form of insulation, and as soon as his feet hit the floor out of bed every morning in the winter, a chill would run through his body. His hair was tied back in a bun, following the English style. He hated it this way, but it made his mother happy and feel more like she was back at home in England.

 

He hurried down to the main hall for breakfast and was surprised and pleased to see his friend, William Fraser already helping himself to sausages at the wooden dining table with a large fire crackling at the hearth.

 

“Good morning!” yelled William heartily with a mouth full of sausage. “I didnae think you’d mind if I, uh, began early. I’ve had a busy night and need a bit of sustenance to put me back in order.” William winked.

 

Jamie laughed and clapped his red-headed friend on the back. “Of course not, lad! My friend, ye are most welcome, and yer coming is very fortuitous. I have a few issues tae discuss with ye.”

 

William rolled his eyes as he took a sip of morning ale. “Och, it’s about that dim-witted, jealous, power-hungry cousin of yers, ‘tis not?”

 

Jamie sat down across from him but didn’t yet grab for any food. “Aye, unfortunately. He’s been giving me a lot of trouble, lately. He’s spreading rumors that his father was the firstborn and shoulda been the true laird, making him the heir insteada me. What do ye think I should do?”

 

“Well, the only thing I’ve seen the idiot do is visit a few of yer relatives to blather on about his ideas. I donnae think they pay him much mind. I wouldnae worry about it, lad! And if he needs a bit of straightening out, well, ye know we can handle him.” William pounded his fist into his hand and laughed. But then, he paused and cocked his head to the side to look at his friend. “What’s really troubling ye?”

 

“What if me da kept this secret from me all these years? Did he know and willingly steal the lairdship for himself? If that’s true, then I can’t rightly take it from the true heir. And now that he’s gone, I cannae tell for sure.”

 

“Och, ye know that’s ridiculous! Yer father was a good man, a true lord, and he wouldnae taken what wasn’t rightfully his tae take. Ye know that’s true. And ye were left alive after the battle because of yer ma’s English heritage, and the real ownership belongs tae the English crown anyway. So, what could Donald want? Hmm…perhaps we ought tae make a visit tae your cousin, lad?”

 

Jamie laughed and grabbed a plate of sausages and bread. “Aye, perhaps yer right. Now, tell me about this busy night of yers…”

 

“Och, lad, yer going to enjoy this one. See, I’m not one for names, but ye know me, I remember faces. Unfortunately, the faces I remember don’t match with all the names I’ve got in me head. These two lush lassies approach me card table, greet me by name, and ask for another tup like the last time.”

 

“Aye, so you’ve made a big impression on the one whorehouse down in Brechin.”

 

William laughed, “Aye, but I got their names mixed up and called one the other one’s name, and instead of ending up in bed, I ended up with the pint over me head. Ah women…” William leaned back confidently. “Guess they just can’t get enougha me! It’s been a lot easier to get them tae notice me since ye haven’t been there stealing all their gazes.” He winked. “I’ll probably regret this, but why don’t we go taegether one night soon? It’s been a long while.”

 

Jamie clinked his cup of ale with William. “Agreed. Guess I’ll need to be there tae protect ye, anyway.”

 

Then, William began another tale that had Jamie laughing so hard that he forgot his troubles with Donald, for a time.

 

***

 

Soon enough, as if hurried by Amelia wishing it with all her might, Mrs. Fletcher finally arrived. The three ladies were sat around the fire together chatting pleasantly over freshly made cups of tea. “Aye, it does get a bit cold around this time of year, but ye both have each other tae keep warm, and ye must always keep the fire going! Was your journey very difficult?”

 

Amelia and Henrietta glanced at each other briefly before replying politely, “It was as good as can be expected, thank you. It was quite the long journey.”

 

Mrs. Fletcher looked off into the distance with a smile. “My goodness, all the way from London. I’ve never been there meself. My Lord, it must be a sight tae see.”

 

Mrs. Fletcher turned to open her basket. “Now, I’ve brought a few things for ye here tae eat yer evening and morning meals. A bit o’ bread and jam and meat. I’ve also picked out a young girl tae help ye both and tend tae yer needs. She will be by in the mornin’. Ye can give her two shillings a week.”

 

Amelia looked at Mrs. Fletcher’s round face and thought of her as their angel of mercy. Perhaps there was some hope after all?

 

“Ah, yes, Mrs. Fletcher, that was something I wished to speak to you about.” Amelia gripped her tea cup tightly. “Thank you so much for all you’ve done, but is there anywhere I could find work? You see, my mother and I are no longer supported by my father, and we will of course need to have income. It would be of great use to me if you could make any suggestions.” She sipped her tea to appear calm and collected, not starving and desperate.

 

Mrs. Fletcher touched Amelia’s knee and smiled at Henrietta. Amelia was grateful for the small kindness. “Aye, there is something!” Mrs. Fletcher clapped her hands. “Lady Kinnaird up at Kinnaird Castle. Ye can almost see it in the distance there on a misty day. She needs a lovely young companion for conversation and company. She’s told me herself she gets quite lonely up there in the long cold winters, especially while Laird Jamie is away. I think this would be suitable for ye.”

 

Amelia’s whole body tensed with excitement at the hopeful prospect of a job, but she didn’t want to appear rude or indelicate and encouraged Mrs. Fletcher to tell her the details. “Laird Jamie? Is that her husband?”

 

Mrs. Fletcher looked down and shook her head. “Och, no, sadly. The older Laird James died in a final battle for Scottish independence four years back now. This is her son, the new laird, quite young and handsome, but a wee brash at times. He hasnae the manners of his late father. But he’s a good boy, I can tell ye that.”

 

“Well, may I write a letter to Lady Kinnaird, expressing my interest in the position? Would you be able to give it to her for me?” Amelia almost cracked her tea cup as she gripped it tightly waiting for an answer.

 

“Aye, of course! Why donnae ye write yer letter, and I’ll help yer lovely mother tae get some food for the evening.” And Mrs. Fletcher took her basket into the kitchen.

 

Amelia hurried away to find something, anything, to write on to send her letter. She had butterflies in her stomach. This could be it! Then, we won’t have to starve, and we can help ourselves out of this mess. Perhaps my mother will gain some comfort. And I’ll be able to save for my father’s return! She eventually spied the small bag her and her mother brought with them from England–their only possessions. Her notebook of poems was inside as well as her ink and a pen. She tore out a page and thought about how to proceed with dignity and respect. She was to be a working woman, but she wanted it to be clear that she would be a well-educated companion for Lady Kinnaird.

 

Dear Lady Kinnaird,
I am writing in response to your advertisement for a companion…

 


  • Well, I’m interested in finding out what’s gonna happen once Amelia gets in the castle and how jamie is gonna fall for her. I love the setting, Scotland, and I can hear their accents in my head. I can imagine being taken back in a time long ago.

  • I’m enjoying the setting, characters and the plot so far. I did find at least 5 typo/grammatical errors which need to be corrected. Can’t wait to see what happens next. Thanks for allowing me to be in the ARC.

  • Wow what a story. I’m hooked for sure. I hope to be able to read the rest of the book. You are a great writer and I can visualize the setting as well.

  • I usually don’t like to read preview chapters but this sounds like a really terrific beginning. I like Amelia a lot, she seems a really strong, confident woman. Jaimie sounds very sweet and caring. Can’t wait to read the fireworks when the two finally get together.

  • I like it. The story is immensely interesting and I’m dying to see how Amelia works out…from rich girl, being taken care of, to poor girl, having to work for a living!

  • Interesting storyline. Characters seem like they will develop nicely. I did notice quite a bit of run on sentences that could be broken down in order to give the scenes and/or dialogue much more effective delivery. In some places that would even give a ‘punch’ to strong emotional moments.

  • Sounds like it will be an interesting read, just enough Scottish to make it interesting, but not overwhelming. I like the premise, hope to read more.

  • Enjoyed these first three chapters, can’t wIt to read the rest , Amelia sounds like a very strong young woman, with just enough naivety to be very likeable. Needs to be
    re-edited though, we don’t use kilometres in the uk we use miles.

  • I really enjoyed it. The first chapter I was a bit skeptical but the second and third really dragged me in. Can’t wait to read the rest.

  • I began to enjoy the chapters after I had read the beginning, which seemed a little slow but as I read on I realised the situation was so true of that time in England when a nobleman could beggar his family through gambling leaving them destitute with nowhere to go. Fortunately Amelia & her mother have an escape to Scotland with what little money they do have. The characters are fully drawn & no milksop is Amelia. I think Jaime will also prove to be a great hero. I look forward to reading the entire book. Well done Kenna!

  • I normally would not read this genre, but I am glad I decided to read it. At first you think it will be just a story about a spoiled rich girl and her wedding . Then the real story begins you can feel her anger , determination and her tiredness through the pages and I am definitely hooked .

  • Thank you for the opportunity of an ARC and to give my honest opinion. The first chapter seems rather dry. Ameila seems like a typical English girl that you see in a lot of stories. Jamie seems like a mama’s boy. I have to assume that Jamie’s mother is English because I don’t see any Scottish personality in her speech. Jamie seems to switch back and forth between English and Scottish. So it is to see the Scottish side of him.
    By chapter 3, I start to see Amelia coming out of her rich girl attitude and take on the responsibility of caring for her mother. Amelia will make this story a worthwhile read and I hope Jamie can live up to be the man that she needs in her life.

  • As a young woman, you would be about to get married and then be dumped by letter after it is known that your father was in prison. That seems a hard blow to many women, especially when you are used to everything being done for you. Amelia, however, is not suppressed and decides to take a job to support her mother and herself …… a brave woman, curious about her further story ….. And what is that with that cousin Donald.There I would like to find out

  • I agree with the other comments about the quality of the reviews for this book. Looking forward to the full book.

  • This is an intriguing storyline so far and I can t wait to see the rest of the book. Hurry up and send it as I am impatient reader and need more.

  • I think it’s off to an excellent start Kenna. I love the cover! Amelia seems to be a strong and capable young woman and Jamie sounds like a dream. I can’t wait to read it. Thanks so much for the opportunity.

  • This book has a very good beginning. Already I am feeling sadness for Amelia the daughter of the house and her mother who have been left on there own due to their father’s gambling debts. Amelia is looking for work to pay the rent and put food on the table. She and her mother are gentle women and have never worked or taken of themselves.

  • I like the beginning of this book .
    Poor Amelia, a gambling father, fickle fiancee.
    A trip to the highlands,
    Just in time to meet laird Jamie.

    I am looking forward to reading the full arc.

  • Sounds interesting. But if it was me I sure wouldn’t be saving what little funds I made to try & get my father out of prison, just saying!

  • Your new book has definitely left me want more! I hope there are lots of twists and turns. I also like your historical facts you add. Can’t wait for the book to finally be out. I know it is already a big hit👏

  • This is very well written and draws the reader in quickly. Great colorful detail that makes one feel like they are there. Good action, drama, & sense of timing. I can’t wait to read the rest!

  • So far so good…..can’t wait to read the rest of the story. Drew me in with the first paragraph. Great historical facts, wonderful characters, and the fabulous details…. My over-active imagination is working overtime (is that even possible?) guessing the remaining storyline. I have always been a fan of Scottish highlander books. Great job!!!!

  • I do believe this will be a page turner. These first 3 chapters have set the plot and can’t wait for the rest of the story. From other stories I’ve read men can be cruel to their women of the time. Even with love or maybe not, some men are cads no matter what. although when true love was found life was so different. I can’t wait to see how this story plays out. I’m sure you will have some surprises for us in the following chapters. Thank you for a look into this book.

  • I didn’t stop until I got to the end. This is the type of book that I enjoy since it captures my attention. I can’t wait to read the entire book and will make sure that I set aside enough time so that I don’t have to stop reading until I finish it. Very, very enjoyable so far.

  • >