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text 2018-09-20 11:00
Blog Tour with Excerpt! A Highland Emerald (Highland Treasures #3) Brenda B. Taylor!

 

 

ABOUT THE BOOK:

 

Title: A HIGHLAND EMERALD
Author: Brenda Taylor
Publisher: Bethabara Press
Pages: 268
Genre: Scottish Historical Romance

 


BOOK BLURB:


Aine MacLean is forced into an arranged marriage with Sir William, Chief of Clan Munro, yet her heart belongs to a handsome young warrior in her father’s guard. She must leave Durant Castle, the home of her birth on the Isle of Mull, and travel across Scotland in a perilous journey to her husband’s home on Cromarty Firth.

William agrees to a year and day of handfasting, giving Aine an opportunity to accept him and his clan. He promises her the protection of Clan Munro, however, Aine experiences kidnapping, pirates, and almost loses her life in the River Moriston. She doubts the sincerity of William’s promises and decides to return to Durant Castle when the handfasting ends. William determines to win Aine’s heart.

Will the brave knight triumph in his fight for the bonnie lass?

 

A Highland Emerald is the third book in the award-winning Highland Treasures series. The novel tells the story of Aine MacLean and William Munro and is the prequel to A Highland Pearl.

 

 

Add A Highland Emerald to your shelves at:

 

Goodreads –
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36207443-a-highland-emerald

 


BookBub – https://www.bookbub.com/books/a-highland-emerald-highland-treasures-book-3-by-brenda-b-taylor

 

 


A Highland Emerald is the 3rd book in the Highland Treasures series –

 

Goodreads- https://www.goodreads.com/series/140606-highland-treasures


Amazon - https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07G8FHJN5?ref=series_rw_dp_labf

 

 

which includes –

 

1 A Highland Pearl
2 A Highland Ruby
3 A Highland Emerald
4 A Highland Bride

 

 

 

in print or ebook at –

 

Amazon - https://www.amazon.com/Highland-Emerald-Treasures-Book-ebook/dp/B073N1VD4V/

 

B&N - https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/a-highland-emerald-brenda-b-taylor/1126682551?ean=2940158821653

 

 


Chapter One

Isle of Mull

 

Isle of Mull

Scotland, 1486 A.D.

 

 

My father sat on his usual chair in front of the crackling fire, staring at the flames with dim eyes, a fur robe wrapped around his broad shoulders, the deerhound curled at his feet.

 

“Where are you going, Aine?” he asked with his back turned toward the stone, spiral staircase where I stood. “Come, sit with me for awhile.”

 

I pushed the arisaid from my shoulders, letting it drop to the floor, then stepped over the wrap, making my way to the stool where my mother's embroidery frame stood. I took a seat and watched the flames.

 

Without turning his head, my father, Lachlan Og MacLean, eighth Chief of Clan MacLean and fourth Laird of Durant Castle, asked, “Where are you going?”

“How did you ken 'twas I?”

 

He never ceased to amaze me with his uncanny knowledge of events around him although his eyes, so dimmed by injury, saw very little.

 

“I heard the rustle of your skirts.” Da extended his hand for me, so I rose and hugged his neck. He smiled, embracing my arms. “And I ken your scent, lass. ’Tis so like your mither's. You use the same scented soap as she.”

 

“Aye, but from so far away and with the smell of burning wood and dog in your nostrils?”

 

“Your odor is a different pleasantry among the usual burning wood and dog. It stands out in my memory as does the pleasant odor of your mither.”

 

He smiled broadly, showing still straight, white teeth beneath a greying beard. I could almost feel his penetrating gaze upon me as in the days before a battle injury took his sight.

 

He asked, “Where are you going this dreary night?”

 

“Here, Da. To sit beside you and talk of the feast on the morrow.”

 

“Don't try to deceive me, lass. I heard the sound of your arisaid dropping to the floor. You are planning a tryst, I feel certain.”

 

His dimmed gaze pierced through to the depths of my soul.

 

“I could see the turn of your head toward him each time he spoke at the eve’s meal.” A line formed between my father’s brows and a shadow darkened his face. “You are to marry the Munro.”

 

“I dinna love William Munro.” My voice began to rise, and I struggled to control the cry climbing from the depths of my heart. “I wanna marry him, Da. You promised I could wed for love, not convenience.”

 

The cry emerged from my lips. I buried my head on his shoulder and sobbed.

Da rose, grabbed my hand and pulled me to face him, wrapping his powerful arms around my shoulders. He stroked my hair and planted a kiss atop my head. Disturbed, the great dog stood.

 

My heart ached to please Da, I loved him so. His tender embrace brought back memories of my childhood when he comforted me after a fall or some aggravation caused by my three older brothers. We stood for a long time.

 

He gently pushed me away, looking into my eyes and planting a kiss on my forehead. “I only want the best for you, sweetling. You’re my heart, you ken. I dinna wish to leave this world without you being in the care of a good mon. The Munro is a good mon.” He hesitated then added, “With wealth and title.”

 

I looked into his faded blue eyes that once shone with the brilliance of the azure sky on a sunny day. He could only see the outline of my face whilst standing close, now. “If you truly desire the best for me, you'll let me marry the love of my heart, not some bloat because of his title. Titles mean naught to me, Da.” Tears streamed from my eyes, wetting my cheeks. I pulled away from his grasp, swiping at the wetness with a sleeve.


“The Munro is a good mon and a fierce warrior. ’Tis nae better for a husband. He’ll be here on the morrow. We’ll have a feast to celebrate your marriage.”

 

“He’s old. I’m only eighteen summers. I shan’t attend.” Sometimes the stubbornness of my nature overtook good sense. I knew not to speak to my father in such a manner.


He also possessed an immovable streak, and his word overruled my desires.

“He’s no’ old, Aine. A few years your senior, but no’ old by any means. When he’s my age, then he’ll be old.”

 

I continued to sniff, wetting the front of his léine.

 

“All right, Aine. If that’s the way this game is to be played. You'll be watched until after the celebration and you depart with the Munro.”

 

The words spewed from Da’s mouth. A sinister, dark shadow cloaked his face. Muscles twitched in his jaws and his hands clenched in tight fists. I stepped back. He abruptly turned, making his way up the stone steps to the upper story bed chambers, feeling the wall for security. When his foot struck the arisaid I’d dropped on the stair, he reached down, seized the garment, flung it with a vehemence I rarely witnessed from him, and continued up the staircase. The large dog followed at his heels. Not knowing what to do, I grabbed the arisaid, wrapped it closely around my shoulders, pulled the hood over my head, then ran toward the door of the great hall. Ellic waited in the garden. I wanted to be near him, feel his embrace, and listen to the sweet words he would whisper in my ear.

 

I pulled on the large oaken door, reinforced with bands of iron, and stepped into the damp, grey air of gloaming. The large figure of Da’s luchd-taighe, Sion MacLean, filled the portal when I tried to close the door. He put up a massive arm, keeping the door from closing. I stared at him, and he back at me.

 

“Did Da send you to watch me?” I asked the huge brute.

 

“Aye,” he answered, stepping out of the keep, but leaving the door open.

“I’m going to meet Ellic Garvie, in case you are wondering. He waits for me in the stables, so be sure to report my tryst to Da. He kens, anyway.”

 

Ellic Garvie, one of the warriors in Da’s slaugh and a member of his luchd-taighe, held an attraction for me and I for him. I turned on my heels.

 

Sion grabbed my arm, jerking me toward the door. “You're no’ going to the stables this eve.”

 

I tried to jerk my arm from his powerful grasp, but he held tightly whilst pulling me toward the door.

 

Pushing me inside, he said with a hiss, “Stay put, lass, or Laird MacLean will lock you in your room.”

 

I didn’t answer, only returned his gaze. The big oaf. The door closed in my face, and I heard him walk away. Giving the guard time to leave the keep’s vicinity and enter the outer bailey housing the stables, I carefully opened the large door to squeeze through so only a slit of light shone on the cobblestones, closed the door, then made my way to the garden enclosure beside the keep. Upon entering the garden, I glanced back to make certain no one followed, then took the rose-lined garden path to the very end. Ellic’s dark form emerged from the shadow of an apple tree beside the stone wall. I rushed into his strong, powerful arms. He pulled me close, and I buried my head on his chest. Tears fell from my eyes, wetting his jacket.


Ellic held me away, my eyes met his in the last light of gloaming. Their dark color grew darker and ominous as his lips brushed mine with a tender caress. I could not help but respond. The kiss grew harder, more passionate until he broke away, holding both my arms.

 

His ale-tainted breath fanned my face. “I love you, Aine. You must come with me to Oban. My aunt works at Dunollie Castle as the lady’s maid. We’ll be married there and I can join the slaugh of MacDougall and perhaps become part of his luchd-taighe. The Laird of Lorne provides well for his people.”

 

My voice hitched remembering Da’s words. “I canna. Da is having me watched now. The Munro is arriving on the morrow for our marriage ceremony.”

He looked around. “Where is your guard?”

 

“I sent him to the stables looking for you, but I feel certain he will come here soon.” His lips hushed my words, taking my breath away. I turned my head from his and snuggled into his broad chest, feeling the prickly wool of the great plaide draped over his shoulder on my cheek. “I love you so,” I whispered.

 

He took my chin, raising my face to his. “Then come with me tonight.”

 

Suddenly, a vision of my life wed to William Munro flashed through my mind. He was an older man and lived a long distance from Durant Castle, my home. I wanted a young, powerful warrior like Ellic. Da may disinherit me and no longer call me his daughter, but my heart could do naught else.

 

“Aye. I will come with you. Tell me the way.”

 

“Who is your guard?” He stepped back, rubbing his chin in deep thought.

“The brute, Sion. He will ne’er let me slip by him to meet you.”

 

Ellic grew silent, then backed to the stone wall, pulling me with him and gathering me into his arms. We kissed as a full moon rose in the east, casting white, silvery light into the garden. His brown hair glisten in the moonbeams. Ellic was the most handsome of Da’s guards. The thought of leaving him to marry another twisted the inner most part of me into a tight knot. I knew at that moment, I could never marry the Munro.

 

“Sion will drink and make merry along with the others at the feast. He’ll sleep instead of watch at your door, then you can slip out and meet me by the postern gate.”

 

“What of the guards at the postern gate? Da will have extra posted during the festivities with so many warriors inside getting drunk.”

 

“Fret no’, my men and I will take care of the guards. A birlinn is ready to take us across the Straight of Mull to Dunollie.”

 

The thought of leaving with Ellic made my heart thump until I felt certain he could hear its beating.

 

“Now go. Sion will find us soon, and you shouldn’t be seen with me.”

He gave me one last lingering kiss, then pushed me toward the garden gate. I hastened down the path, glancing back for one last look at my love, but he was gone. The bright moon lit the pathway out of the garden. I emerged, but did not see Sion in the bailey. Suddenly, a large hand grasped my arm, pulling me along toward the keep. I tried to jerk free, but could not escape the clutches of the powerful guard.

 

“So you sent me on a wild goose chase to the stables whilst you kept the tryst in the garden. Laird MacLean will be anxious to hear all about it.” He pulled harder.

“Stop you big oaf! I’m no’ a sack of barley to be dragged about.” I wrestled, yanking at his grasp once more and tried not to budge from the spot, but he kept pulling until I stumbled.

 

We reached the keep’s entrance. He pinned me in front of him, using both hands to open the heavy door, then pushed me through the portal. I tripped on the threshold and fell to the stone floor, bruising my hands and knees. Sion grabbed my arm, helped me up, and pulled me to the spiral staircase. Several of the luchd-taighe milled around the great hall. Some glanced our way, but said nothing. They never interfered with another’s orders. I saw none of my family. Sion followed me up the stairs then to my bed chamber. Opening the door, he pushed me through.

“I’ll send for Breda to care for you, for you'll no’ be coming out until the feast on the morrow.” He stood, eyes stormy. “I’m sorry you fell. I dinna mean to push so hard, but what I do and tell you is for your own good. The laird is determined to keep you away from Garvie or whomever you're meeting.” We continued to stare at each other. Determination rose like bile in my throat. “Do you understand, m’lady?”

 

“Where are my brothers? They’ll no’ let this unfair treatment continue. I wish to speak to Gillian.”

 

“Sir Gillian is telling Garvie of the laird’s wishes. Since the mon is a member of the MacLean’s guards, he’ll be allowed to stay and enjoy your marriage feast. Make nae mistake, m’lady, he will be watched.”

 

The door slammed closed, and my face burned with rage. Where are my brothers and my mother? They would never allow such rough treatment inflicted on my person. Surely, they would come to my rescue if they knew. Surely. I flung myself onto the bed, sobbing. My tears wet the coverlet, so I sat up on the side of the feather mattress, reached for a hand kertch on the small table, and blew my nose. Removing the arisaid and flinging it to the floor, I examined my bruised hands, then pulled up my heavy skirt to look at my knees. A small cut bled on one knee, but they were mostly scrapped and blue. I dabbed at the cut with the hand kertch.

A knock sounded. “Who is it?” I rose and rushed to bar the door if necessary. Sion was not coming back into my room.

 

“’Tis Breda, Lady Aine. I’ve come to help you prepare for bed,” the maid called through the door.

 

“Come,” I answered with a sob.

 

The door opened slowly. Breda entered and observed my cut, bruised knees. She searched my eyes, hers filled with anxiety. “I’ll fetch the healer, Lady Aine. That cut should be cared for.”

 

“Nae, Breda. Washing with a clean cloth is all that’s needed.” I dabbed at the blood. “Rinse this in the basin, then wash the cut again. It’ll be much better with the cleansing.”

 

Breda poured water from the pitcher into the bowl, then rinsed the cloth. She brought it back and began to rub on the cut knee. The cold water felt good and stopped the bleeding. She rinsed the rag then washed the cut once more.

Handing me the cloth, she said, “I’ll empty this bowl and fetch more water. Are you certain you dinna wish for me to call the healer?”

 

“Nae. Bring my mither, and if you see my brothers, send them also.” I needed their broad, understanding shoulders to cry on. My brothers usually took my part in any squabble I had with Da and Mam. Da complained they spoiled me ’til rotten, which in truth they did. One major problem my siblings’ overprotectiveness afforded was their interference with beaus and suitors. No man was good enough for their young sister, and Da encouraged this attitude.

 

The large oak door opened with a bang. My brother, Young Lachlan, strode to the bedside and pushed Breda aside, examining my knee. He took both my hands, turned them over, then looked into my questioning eyes.

 

“I’ll speak to Da about Sion,” he said with shards of light glinting in his eyes.

 

“Nae. Please dinna make matters worse with my father. These are naught but scratches.” I didn’t want my brothers interfering in my relationship with Ellic. They probably knew about our courtship since they knew all the comings and goings in Durant Castle. My brothers were Da’s eyes and ears now.

 

“You ken the Munro is coming to finalize the marriage contract.” Lachie dropped my hands, lifting my chin to search my eyes. “What are your feelings on the matter, Aine?”

 

“I care no’ to meet the mon, much less marry him. He’ll take me away to that godforsaken place on the other side of Scotland he calls Ferindonald.” Tears brimmed my eyes. “Away from my family and home. Away from you, Lachie. I dinna care if he’s titled. I’ll no’ go with him.”

 

“I’ll speak to Da this eve, before the Munro arrives. You're a bonnie woman, Aine. Surely he can find a suitor closer to Durant.”

 

I buried my head in his wool plaide and wept, wetting the garment.

He stroked my hair for a long while, then pushed me away and planted a kiss on my forehead. “Take care of your wounds, now.”

 

Lachie turned on his heels with his sword clanking in the scabbard buckled around his waist. Breda began washing the cut on my knee again. She was a good caretaker and I planned to keep her with me wherever I may go, especially if the object of my journey happened to be Fàrdach Castle on the Cromarty Firth.

 

Mother pushed past Lachie in the doorway. He addressed her, then moved on. She rushed to me, taking the wet cloth from Breda and wiping the wound on my knee. She examined the cut, then turned to the maid and told her to fetch, Màdra, the healer. I tried to tell Mother I did not need the healer, but she would not listen.

“You may get blood on your night shift and bed linens. The cut needs a bandage and the scrapes need plantain salve.” She searched my eyes. “Perhaps willow bark tea for pain, also.”

 

“Mam,” I protested. “The wounds are small. I dinna need willow bark tea or anything else.”

 

Mother told Breda to fetch the healer anyway. The maid left, gently closing the door whilst Mam took a clean shift from the trunk at the foot of the bed and told me to stand. She assisted with the laces of my kirtle, then took the garment over my head. She did the same for the blouse, and hung both from a peg on the opposite wall. I grabbed the shift from the bed and put it on. Although a fire blazed in the fireplace, the air felt cold on my body. I moved closer to the fire. A knock sounded on the door. Mother answered, then Breda and Màdra entered the room. Breda held a mug.

 

I sat in a small upholstered chair beside the fire whilst mother took the other. Màdra quickly examined my hands, opened her leather healer’s bag and withdrew a small glass container of salve. She spread the cool balm over the scrapes and bruises on my hands with nimble fingers, then raised my shift and examined the cut on my knee. Shaking her head, she wiped the seeping blood away with a clean cloth, smeared plantain salve on the cut, then placed a linen square over the wound, tying it in place with another, larger strip of linen.

 

Màdra searched my eyes, then motioned for Breda to hand me the mug. “I can tell by your eyes, you’re in some pain, m’lady. Please drink the willow bark tea.”

I looked at Mother who nodded. I could not fight the three of them, so taking the mug from Breda, I drank the bitter tea. The nasty brew would help me sleep and get the rest required to resist the demands of my father. I rose and walked toward the bed. Breda placed the mug with the remainder of the tea on the bedside table, pulled back the bedcovers, tucked the coverlet under my chin, then pulled the fur blanket on top of me.

 

Mother stood beside the bed, brushed the hair from my face, and kissed my forehead. “Don’t hesitate to drink the remainder of the tea if you wake and feel pain.”

 

I hated being treated like a bairn. “Mither, I am fine. Please stop treating me like a bairn.”

 

“You'll always be my wee lassie, Aine. No matter how old you are.” She took Breda’s arm, and the three women left my room.

 

I lay in bed searching the plastered ceiling, thinking of Ellic, and waiting for the potion to take effect on my wakefulness. Mayhap I should do as he asked and slip away with him in the birlinn to Dunollie Castle then beyond. Someplace unknown to my family where we could live in peace the rest of our lives. Maybe I would do just that.

 


ABOUT BRENDA B. TAYLOR


The desire to write historical fiction has long been a passion with Brenda B. Taylor. Since elementary school, she has written stories in her spare time. Brenda earned three degrees: a BSE from Henderson State University, Arkadelphia, Arkansas; a MEd from Sam Houston State University, Huntsville, Texas; and an EdD from Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas; then worked as a teacher and administrator in the Texas Public School system. Only after retirement could she fulfill the dream of publication.


Brenda and her husband make their home in beautiful East Texas where they enjoy spending time with family and friends, traveling, and working in Bethabara Faith Ministry, Inc. She crafts stories about the extraordinary lives of ordinary people in her favorite place overlooking bird feeders, bird houses, and a variety of blooming trees and flowers. She sincerely thanks all who purchase and read her books. Her desire is that the message in each book will touch the heart of the reader as it did hers in the writing.


Her latest book is the Scottish Historical Romance A Highland Emerald.

 

Author Contact Information:

 

Historical Heartbeats
http://www.brendabtaylor.com

 

Facebook
http://www.facebook.com/authorbrendabtaylor

 

Twitter
http://www.twitter.com/rayburnlady

 

Amazon Author's Page
http://amzn.to/2hSKCXt

 

BookBub Author Page
https://www.bookbub.com/authors/brenda-b-taylor

 

Pinterest
https://www.pinterest.com/rayburnlady/

 

Goodreads
http://www.goodreads.com/brendataylor

 

Tumblr
http://www.tumblr.com/rayburnlady

 

Google +
https://plus.google.com/u/0/104377029337086788786/posts/p/pub

 

 

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review 2018-08-07 14:45
Kings & Queens of England and Scotland
Kings & Queens of England and Scotland - DK Publishing;Plantagenet Somerset Fry

Kings & Queens of England and Scotland by Plantagenet Somerset Fry is a 96-page concise reference book about the monarchs of England, Scotland, Great Britain, and the United Kingdom.  Though is primarily focused on the monarchs of England (and successor unions) with each ruler getting their own individual article from 1066-to-present, while the Scottish monarchs were only briefly covered in comparison.  Not all the information given in monarch articles is correct, at least to those readers well versed in history, but overall the book is a good reference book.

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review 2018-06-27 16:11
Blood Magick by Nora Roberts
Blood Magick - Nora Roberts

They were never meant to be together, she one of the three, he the spawn of evil, carrying his mark, yet Branna and Fin still fell in love. Oath, blood and the curse of a dying witch might've kept them apart for more than ten years, but now, as the final battle approaches and the future is uncertain, they must take what moment they can to experience what has been denied them.


And then this happened. After two books of hyping the "epic, star-crossed lovers" tale of the eldest of the three recent descendants of Sorcha, the Dark Witch and the man carrying the blood (and mark) of Cabhan, the evil sorcerer that killed Sorcha and her man, bringing about the creation of the three and prompting Sorcha's curse, this is what we got.
Blah, blah, blah, boohoo to me, I-love-you-but-cannot-be-with-you-no-matter-what-but-have-to-be-with-you-no-matter-what, wringing of hands, cooking, cleaning, blah, blah, blah, let's-make-some-more-witches, let's-make-demon-poison, blah, blah, blah, the end.

This is this third book in a nutshell. Boring.

Where was the drama? Where was the angst of this star-crossed, doomed, cursed love? I have no idea. This book sure didn't deliver.
Even the characters and their interactions were boring. There was no sign of friends and family from the previous two books. They were just there for form's sake, to warrant another book, if you will.
There sure wasn't enough material for an entire book in this story, so it had to be filled with ballast and redundant scenes (cooking, cleaning, making of soaps, taking strolls in the woods...)

Even the final confrontation with the big bad wasn't that satisfying. It read like overkill, too large-scale, too much everything; it actually turned into almost a parody (and it would've, if this series had any more books to come).

Come to think of it, the entire arc of the trilogy didn't have enough story meat to fill three books. It could've easily been condensed into a single one (like Three Fates for example). It would've packed more of a punch, instead of spreading itself thin.

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review 2018-06-26 15:38
Shadow Spell by Nora Roberts
Shadow Spell - Nora Roberts

They've known each other since they were children, but they were always only friends. Then, one night after his near brush with death, things change with a sizzling kiss, and their friendship evolves, strengthening the circle against evil...


The evil Cabhan still isn't vanquished (that's why it's called a trilogy folks), but the bonds of family, blood, love and friendship still hold true in this particular trilogy. It was like visiting with old friends, ones you know from childhood, ones you share joy and sorrow, know their deepest secrets. And this is what I love most about Nora Roberts writing—realistic characters. True, they're mostly flawed, with deep-seated issues and scars, but they feel real, normal, living, human. Their relationships and interactions are always a pleasure to read.

This time it was Connor and Meara's turn. It could've gone the icky way, this friendship of theirs "marred" by deeper emotions, but having gotten to know both of them, the reader knows and feels those emotions are already there, they just needed to be dug out.
It brought heartache and annoyance (thanks to the heroine and her abandonment issues), but it also brought joy and laughter. Much needed before the final battle begins; both with Cabhan, but mostly between Branna and Fin.

This was the middle one of the trilogy, so it didn't bring anything really new to the table as far as the big bad is concerned (except for a few new forms of fighting him and him eluding them), and nothing really new about the characters (except for the two best friends turning into lovers), but it wasn't bad.

Well-written and well-paced, it gave us the calm before the storm, some lighthearted scenes, and the warning to brace before the big finale.

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review 2018-06-25 09:15
Dark Witch by Nora Roberts
Dark Witch - Nora Roberts

Iona Sheehan finally found the place where she belongs. She had to travel from America to Ireland to accomplish it, but she did it. And she finally found people, unlike her distant parents, that love her—her Irish cousins, Branna and Connor O'Dwyer and their three best friends, Boyle McGrath, Meara Quinn and Fin(bar) Burke.

There's a connection with her cousins that transcends family, forged in blood centuries ago, when their ancestor, the Dark Witch, Sorcha, shared her power with her three children to vanquish evil. That evil is back, strong as before, thirsty for the power Iona, Branna and Connor share, and it will take their combined magick, alongside bonds of love and friendship shared by the six, to banish the evil forever.


This is very similar (in theme) to the Sign of Seven trilogy, and in drama to Three Sisters Island trilogy (at least the promised showdown between star-crossed lovers Branna and Fin in the last book), but still, it holds its own weight, no matter the similarities.

In such trilogies, it always comes down to family and friends in Nora Roberts books, to the power of love that transcends the familial, to the power of blood bonds forged through life and hardship. True love and true friends are hard to find, and those who are lucky to have them, can achieve all...even fight and banish ancient evil.
That's the metaphor of this book and this series.

The feelings of love and friendships are immediately palpable, as soon as Iona lands on her cousins' doorstep, meets the three friends (even if one of those descends from the same evil they're trying to fight—drama, drama, drama). I loved the easy rapport between them, the camaraderie between friends, the love between the five people who knew each other since childhood, and quickly included the one that's been missing from their life so far.
The romance itself was nothing to write home about—a tad rushed, and quite desperate from the heroine's point of view—but the friendship and bonds of family were top notch.

The characters, once again, shone, with their layers, issues, little idiosyncrasies, their bonds (I know I'm repeating myself), their differences and similarities...And yes, there were those sprinklings of humor I so love with this author.

The paranormal elements didn't dominate the narrative, but what there was served as great augmenter for the suspense, the heightening of feelings of danger and peril the characters were in (and will be in the future). This was more of an appetizer, preparing our palate for the main course.

The same could be said about the entire story, really. A very good appetizer, that makes you really look forward to the main meal.

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