I’d like to thank Tasty Book Tours, Avon Impulse, and Jennifer McQuiston for the opportunity to be a part of this event! If you’d like to see all of the blogs participating in this tour, please click on the banner above. I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Publisher: Avon Impulse
Date Published: January 27, 2015
Series: Second Sons 2.5
Let the Games Begin…
William MacKenzie has always been protective of his Scottish village. When Moraig’s economy falters, he has the perfect solution to lure wealthy Londoners to this tiny hamlet: resurrect the ancient Highland Games! But for this to work, William knows he needs a reporter to showcase the town in just the right light.
A female journalist might be a tolerated oddity in Brighton, but newly minted reporter Penelope Tolbertson is discovering that finding respect in London is a far more difficult prospect. After receiving an invitation to cover Moraig’s Highland Games, Penelope is determined to prove to her London editors just how valuable she can be.
Penelope instantly captures William’s heart, but she is none too impressed with the gruff, broody Highlander. However as she begins to understand his plans, Penelope discovers she may want more from him than just a story. She’s only got a few days…but maybe a few days is all they need.
This was my first foray into McQuiston’s writing, as well as my first introduction to the Scottish town of Moraig, and I must admit that I’m anxious to pick up the first couple of books in this series and give them a read. This was a delightful novella with memorable characters and a sweet story plot that is guaranteed to be a favorite of all historical romance readers.
I love Penelope (Pen) and William (MacKenzie). They are a perfect pair. I’m not sure what I enjoyed more about them: their playful, almost impish banter, or their dedication (her to her writing and his to the town of Moraig). Pen’s sweet loving, independent, and driven, but also a bit timid due to her stuttering speech. MacKenzie is loyal, determined, gracious, and also a bumbling idiot at times, which only serves to make him more attractive as a character. He’s not exactly a push over, but he’s not like the alpha males that I’ve been introduced to in other books. MacKenize is definitely the kind of guy I would want to spend my time with if the opportunity presented itself, and Pen reminds me a lot about myself in many aspects. They are real characters, easy to relate to, and hard not to fall in love with.
As my first try with McQuiston’s writing, I found myself enchanted with her descriptions of the Scottish town of Moraig and its people. I felt like I was in the story, seeing the landscape before me and hearing the sounds of the town, the animals, and the ocean. If such a location was real, I’d certainly want to visit it. As it is, I’m now fighting the urge to hop on a plane and fly to Scotland for a vacation. I also enjoyed how smoothly McQuiston’s plot flowed and developed in this novella. Usually I’m not a fan of novella stories because I am always left feeling like something is missing because of how short novellas are, but with this one, I was satisfied with the ending and couldn’t help but smile at how sweetly it wrapped up.
Overall, as much as I enjoyed reading this story, I do sort of wish that I had read the first two books in the series prior to this simply because I would have had a better understanding of some of the other characters in the novella, but I do like that this was written in a way that a newcomer to the Second Sons series doesn’t feel too lost. I may not know what lead to Duncan/Caroline and James/Georgette respective marriages, but the little snippets I got from this book definitely make me want to go back and read about them in more detail.
If you are a fan of historical romances and are looking for a sweet read that is going to make you laugh, then Her Highland Fling is perfect for you. =^.^=
Fling (n.): “Vigorous dance” (associated with the Scottish Highlands), from 1806.
“Period of indulgence on the eve of responsibilities,” first attested 1827.
From the Online Etymology Dictionary
Moraig, Scotland, 1843
All the world hated a hypocrite, and William MacKenzie was no exception.
But today that trouser-clad hypocrite was his brother, James, which made it a little hard for William to hate him like he ought.
As James sauntered to a stop beneath the awning of Moraig’s posting house, his laughing gaze dropped to William’s bare knees and then climbed northward again. “If you’re trying to make a memorable impression,” he sniggered, “all that’s missing is a good breeze.”
“You are late.” William crossed his arms and tried to look menacing. “And I thought we agreed last night we would share this indignity.”
“No, you agreed.” James shoved his hands in the pockets of his trousers and offered up a shite-eating grin. “I listened and wisely withheld a formal opinion.”
William bit back a growl of frustration. For Christ’s sake, he knew well enough he looked like a fool, standing in the thick heat of early August, draped in the MacKenzie plaid. And there was no doubt he would be teasing James unmercifully if the reverse were true.
But today they were both supposed to look like fools.
And James had a far better set of legs.
As though summoned by his brother’s fateful words, a ghost of a breeze stirred the wool that clung to William’s sweat-moistened skin. He clapped a hand down over his sporran, ensuring the most important parts remained hidden. “You live in Moraig, just as I do,” he pointed out to his errant brother. “You owe it to the town to help me make a proper impression for the reporter from the London Times.”
“Oh, aye, and I will. I had thought to say something properly memorable, such as ‘Welcome to Moraig.’ ” James raised a dark, mocking brow. “And we shouldn’t need to put on airs. The town has its own charm.”
“Well, the tourists haven’t exactly been flocking here,” William retorted, gesturing to the town’s nearly empty streets. Hidden in the farthest reaches of Scotland—far enough, even, that the Atlantic coast lapped at its heels—the little town of Moraig might indeed be charming, but attempts to attract London tourists had fallen somewhat short. If William had anything to say about it, that was going to change, starting today.
The only problem was he should have said it a half hour ago.
He took off his Balmoral cap and pulled his hand through hair already damp with sweat. While he was willing to tolerate looking like a fool in order to prove Moraig was the perfect holiday destination for Londoners seeking an authentic Highland experience, he still objected to having to look like one alone. “We’ve an opportunity to get a proper story printed in the Times, highlighting all Moraig has to offer.” He settled the cap back on his head. “If you have an issue with the plaid, you could have at least bestirred yourself to put on a small kilt.”
James burst out laughing. “And draw attention away from your bonny knees?”
As if in agreement, a series of catcalls rang out from a group of men who had crowded onto the sidewalk outside the Blue Gander, Moraig’s inn and public house.
One of them held up his pint. “Lovely legs, MacKenzie!”
“Now show us your arse!”
William scowled in their direction. On another day, he might have joined them in raising a pint, but not today. Moraig’s future was at stake. The town’s economy was hardly prospering, and its weathered residents couldn’t depend on fishing and gossip to sustain them forever. They needed a new direction, and as the Earl of Kilmartie’s heir, he felt obligated to sort out a solution. He’d spent months organizing the upcoming Highland Games. It was a calculated risk that, if properly orchestrated, would ensure the betterment of every life in town. When David Cameron, the town’s magistrate, had offered to invite a reporter up from London, it had seemed a brilliant opportunity to reach those very tourists they were aiming to attract.
But with the sweat now pooling in places best left unmentioned and the minutes ticking slowly by, that brilliance was beginning to tarnish.
William peered down the road that led into town, imagining he could see a cloud of dust implying the arrival of the afternoon coach. The very late afternoon coach. But all he saw was the delicate shimmer of heat, reflecting the nature of the devilishly hot day.
“Bugger it all,” he muttered. “How late can a coach be? There’s only one route from Inverness.” He plucked at the damp collar of his shirt, wondering where the coachman could be. “Mr. Jeffers knew the importance of being on time today. We need to make a ripping first impression with this reporter.”
James’s gaze dropped once more to William’s bare legs. “Oh, I don’t think there’s any doubt of it.” He leaned against the posting house wall and crossed his arms. “If I might beg the question . . . Why turn it into such a circus? Why these games, instead of, say, a well-placed rumor of a beastie living in Loch Moraig? You’ve got the entire town in an uproar preparing for it.”
William snorted. “Sunday dinners are enough to put this town in an uproar. And you know as well as I that the games are for their own good.”
Though, God forbid his nolly-cocked, newly married brother lift a hand in the planning.
Or be bothered to put on a kilt, as it were.
William could allow that James was perhaps a bit distracted by his pretty wife and new baby—and understandably so. But given that his brother was raising his bairns here, shouldn’t he want to ensure Moraig’s future success more than anyone?
James looked up suddenly, shading his eyes with a hand. “Well, best get those knees polished to a shine. There’s your coach now. Half hour late, as per usual.”
With a near groan of relief, William stood at attention on the posting house steps as the mail coach roared up in a choking cloud of dust and hot wind. Scrawny chickens and stray dogs scuttled to dubious safety before the coach’s barreling path, and he eyed the animals with a moment’s concern, wondering if perhaps he ought to have tried to corral them into some hidden corner, safely out of sight.
But it was too late now.
A half hour off schedule. Perhaps it wasn’t the tragedy he’d feared. They could skip the initial stroll down Main Street he’d planned and head straight to the inn. He could point out some of the pertinent sights later, when he showed the man the competition field that had been prepared on the east side of town.
“And dinna tell the reporter I’m the heir,” William warned as an afterthought. “We want him to think of Moraig as a charming and rustic retreat from London.” If the town was to have a future, it needed to be seen as a welcome escape from titles and peers and such, and he did not want this turning into a circus where he stood at the center of the ring.
As the coach groaned to a stop, James clapped William on the shoulder with mock sympathy. “Don’t worry. With those bare legs, I suspect your reporter will have enough to write about without nosing about the details of your inheritance.”
The coachman secured the reins and jumped down from his perch. A smile of amusement broke across Mr. Jeffers’s broad features. “Wore the plaid today, did we?”
Bloody hell. Not Jeffers, too.
“You’re late.” William scowled. “Were there any problems fetching the chap from Inverness?” He was anxious to greet the reporter, get the man properly situated in the Blue Gander, and then go home to change into something less . . . Scottish. And, God, knew he could also use a pint or three, though preferably ones not raised at his expense.
Mr. Jeffers pushed the brim of his hat up an inch and scratched his head. “Well, see, here’s the thing. I dinna exactly fetch a chap, as it were.”
This time, William couldn’t suppress the growl that erupted from his throat. “Mr. Jeffers, don’t tell me you left him there!” It would be a nightmare if he had. The entire thing had been carefully orchestrated, down to a reservation for the best room the Blue Gander had to offer. The goal had been to install the reporter safely in Moraig and show him a taste of the town’s charms before the games commenced on Saturday.
“Well, I . . . that is . . .” Mr. Jeffers’s gaze swung between the brothers, and he finally shrugged. “Well, I suppose you’ll see well enough for yourself.”
He turned the handle and then swung the coach door open.
A gloved hand clasped Mr. Jeffers’s palm, and then a high, elegant boot flashed into sight.
“What in the blazes—” William choked on his surprise as a blond head tipped into view. A body soon followed, stepping down in a froth of blue skirts. She dropped Jeffers’s hand and looked around with bright interest.
“Your chap’s a lass,” explained a bemused Mr. Jeffers.
“A lass?” echoed William stupidly.
And not only a lass . . . a very pretty lass.
She smiled at the men, and it was like the sun cresting over the hills that rimmed Loch Moraig, warming all who were fortunate enough to fall in its path. William was suddenly and inexplicably consumed by the desire to recite poetry to the sound of twittering birds. That alone might have been manageable, but as her eyes met his, he was also consumed by an unfortunate jolt of lustful awareness that left every inch of him unscathed—and there were quite a few inches to cover.
“Miss Penelope Tolbertson,” she said, extending her gloved hand as though she were a man. “R-reporter for the London Times.”
He stared at her hand unsure of whether to shake it or kiss it. Her manners might be bold, but her voice was like butter, flowing over a body until it didn’t know which end was up. His tongue seemed wrapped in cotton, muffling even the merest hope for a proper greeting.
The reporter was female?
And not only female . . . a veritable goddess, with eyes the color of a fair Highland sky.
Dimly, he felt James’s elbow connect with his ribs. He knew he needed to say something. Preferably something that made the ripping first impression he’d planned.
He raised his eyes to meet hers, giving himself up to the sense of falling.
Or perhaps more aptly put, a sense of flailing.
“W-welcome to Moraig, Miss Tolbertson.”
About the Author:
A veterinarian and infectious disease researcher by training, Jennifer McQuiston has always preferred reading romance to scientific textbooks. She resides in Atlanta, Georgia with her husband, their two girls, and an odd assortment of pets, including the pony she promised her children if mommy ever got a book deal. Jennifer can be reached via her website at http://www.jenmcquiston.com or followed on Twitter @jenmcqwrites.
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