Lessons in Loving a Laird

As rugged and bold as the Scottish hills, the Highland Knaves take no prisoners when it comes to love…

A DEFIANT APPRENTICE

Thrust into indentured servitude as a child, Shona Slayter is counting the days until her twenty-first birthday, when she gains her precious freedom.  Unfortunately, the new laird of the estate has other plans—and he’s determined to keep her bound to him.  The only way for Shona to be free of her bonds is to marry the man who holds the key.  But seducing a handsome laird is not what she was trained for, and the more she tries to win his heart, the more she loses hers.

A HARD MASTER

With a young son to raise and a crumbling Scottish estate to manage, Conall has enough to worry about without the brazen, beautiful Shona challenging him at every turn. But their heated spats are starting to turn into real sparks…and soon the Scottish hills are ablaze with their forbidden attraction. Yet no matter what Shona is willing to do to buy her freedom, Conall has no intention of letting her go…

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Reviews  |  Trailer  |  Excerpt

Raves for Lessons in Loving a Laird

“Marcos is a masterful storyteller.”
—TERESA MEDEIROS, New York Times bestselling author

“A satisfying story of Scottish love overcoming all obstacles, with the reader solidly rooting for fiery, funny Shona.”
Publishers Weekly

“5 Stars!  A definite keeper! Ms. Marcos brings the tale to life with her outstanding storytelling talent. I absolutely loved this book! A sexy, fun read, LESSONS IN LOVING A LAIRD, is a sensual and emotion-packed historical romance. If you are looking for a great read with plenty of spice and humor, LESSONS IN LOVING A LAIRD is the book for you.”
Romance Junkies

“True page turner from its shocking beginning to its stunning end!”
Fresh Fiction

“TOP PICK!  4 1/2 Stars!  Ms. Marcos will grab you and keep you from the beginning and you’ll have a hard time putting the book down. A MUST READ!”
Night Owl Reviews

“4 1/2 Stars!  You can never go wrong with a novel by Michelle Marcos. Pick up Lessons in Loving a Laird and prepare yourself for an amazing tale of love, betrayal, and a passion that cannot be denied.”
Single Titles

“4 Stars!  Marcos’ deeply moving romance features strong, atypical protagonists, a witty and fast-moving plot with surprising twists, and a truly passionate love story with a different take on the Regency.”
Romantic Times Book Reviews

“4 Stars! Lessons In Loving A Laird is a delightful read. It’s fast paced, well written and fun.  Shona and Willow are great leading ladies.
The Romantic Reader

“A terrific humorous tale of love conquers all.  Shona with her fierceness, a wicked sense of humor, and her business acumen brings freshness to the entertaining storyline, while Conall proves he is no chauvinist pig when it comes to economics. Fans will enjoy the education of Shona and Conall as each learns Lessons In Loving A Laird.
Genre Go Round Reviews

“4 Stars!  A high-spirited, passionate and earthy book about opposites attracting and two people healing one another. Shona is somewhat “in your face” but endearingly so as she blusters her way through life. Conall is a man adrift in life with many responsibilities. These two each have their preconceived notions about each other, and it was most amusing watching them unravel the friction this caused. With wonderful little plot twists and a charming premise, this book worked well.”
Fallen Angel Reviews

“Enjoy the sparks flying between Shona and Conall in this highly enjoyable romance. The riveting plot and varied characters are equally well crafted. Don’t miss this excellent romance.”
Romance Reviews Today

“Shona is a feisty, unconventional heroine.  Conall is bossy, but honorable, gentle and fair.  The chemistry between these two is genuine.  A truly memorable story.”
All About Romance

“When I want a great historical romance, I’ll reach for anything by Michelle Marcos!”
LISA KLEYPAS, New York Times bestselling author

Awards

2013 Booksellers Best Award

Best Historical Romance of the Year
2013 New England RWA Bean Pot Award

Best Short Historical Romance of the Year
2013 Booksellers Best Award Finalist

Trailer

Excerpt

Some time after breakfast, the boy arrived on the estate with Hume’s cows.  Despite Shona’s happiness at seeing Daisy and Precious again—she’d known them since their birth—their arrival reminded her of a depressing reality.  Nothing in her life had really changed.  She had been a farmhand at Hume’s, and she was a farmhand still.  Three months, ten days, and fifteen hours to go…

Shona walked the cow into the milking pen, and locked her neck into the stanchion.  She shoveled some sweetened grain into the feed bucket to entertain Precious while she was milked.  After some cooing words and a few reassuring pats, Shona gently cleansed Precious’s teats with a soft cloth to wipe away any dirt and hair.  Precious’s poor udders were stiff and full, and they had begun to leak.  Using her thumb and forefinger, Shona encircled Precious’s teat high up, and then squeezed each finger around it until a stream of milk came out.  Precious’s flesh felt familiar and warm, and the soft teats filled up with milk just as soon as they were emptied.  Shona’s practiced hands soon rendered a full pail of thick warm milk.  She lifted the heavy pail, and poured it out into a five-gallon milk bucket.

Behind her, a shadow filled the doorway.  The sunlight inside the dairy dimmed.

“Good morning, Shona.”

The Englishman.  His deep voice resonated through her, and she was startled by the unexpected flutter it caused inside her.  His accent made her name sound different—somehow more refined—and for just an instant, it took her out of a dairy in the Scottish Lowlands and put her in a salon in a London palace.  She turned in his direction, suddenly uncomfortable with her appearance.  Her clean apron was now dotted with drying milk drops, and her faded russet-colored dress was also her most frayed.  A tendril of hair escaped her cap, and she pushed it back from her face.

“Mornin’,” she replied.

He walked over to her with slow, easy steps.  What was it about this man that made her feel so ill at ease?  Perhaps it was his clothes, which bespoke a level of wealth that no one in her circle of acquaintances had ever aspired to, let alone achieved.  Perhaps it was his Scottish birth but foreign ways, which made him such a puzzle to her.  Or perhaps it was his handsome face and heavily muscled body, which called up sexual desires that she had no intention of admitting to him, let alone expressing.

“I see the cattle have arrived.”  The Englishman placed a leather-clad hand on Precious’s head.  His thick dark eyelashes dropped as he regarded the animal.  The sleeves of his royal blue tailcoat stretched over his thick arms, and her gaze drifted to the cream-and-gold waistcoat that gleamed across his chest.  His face was freshly shaved and washed, evident from the still-damp hair at his temples.  Spikes of dark hair fell forward over his forehead, stealing years from his age.

“Aye.  ’Twas a long journey from the farm, but they are none the worse for it.”

“Glad to hear it.  I’ve sent the young man back for the goats.  They’ll be here this afternoon.  I trust you’ll see to them as well.”

She nodded, waiting for him to say how beautiful the dairy looked.  She had really outdone herself trying to make it spotless.  In some measure, her efforts were for the benefit of the cows.  But, in truth, she really wanted her new master to notice.

He took a deep breath and a crease deepened in his forehead.  “I came to talk to you about your sister, Willow.”

Her heart squeezed tight, but she swallowed the crushing disappointment.  “That doesna surprise me,” she muttered, anger fomenting within her.  It had to be a blind man that did not notice—and desire—Willow’s beauty.  But this man . . . it bothered her that he took such an interest in her pretty twin.

“Yesterday evening, I noticed that Willow had a mark on the back of her hand.”  He gestured with his own hands.  “It was a scar . . . a sort of brand.  Where did that come from?”

A thread of panic coiled within her.  She moved to the other side of Precious, instinctively hiding her own hand from his sight.  “Did ye no’ ask her?”

“I did, but she wouldn’t discuss it.  When I pressed her to tell me who had done such a thing to her, she became quite flustered and flew out of the library.  I saw her again this morning, and she’d taken to wearing gloves.  I can’t imagine what she’d done to deserve such a horrible disfigurement.  She seems very ashamed of it.  I thought you might be a little more forthcoming.  How did she come by the brand?”

Shona stroked the cow’s neck, her eyes feathering over her own burled scar.  She never forgot about the mark.  Never.  How foolish of Willow to drop her guard and leave her hands uncovered.  “I canna say.”

He narrowed his eyes.  “You cannot?  Or will not?”

“Either way, it is the same.  ’Tis a private matter.”

He expelled a tortured breath.  “Are you always this obstinate?”

Her back stiffened.  “Are ye always this meddlesome?”

He took a step toward her, his large frame looming high above her.  “What do you think I am . . . a gossiping fishwife?  I am master of this estate.  It is my responsibility to know the kind of persons I have in my service.  Was Willow in trouble with the law?”

She shook her head as she grabbed hold of Precious’s halter.  “I canna tarry.  I must see to milking Daisy now.”  She spun the cow around to put her back in the stall.

The Englishman stepped in front of them both, his anger barely leashed.  A fire ignited in his blue eyes, and the tone in his voice was just a breath away from dangerous.

“I can appreciate your loyalty to your sister,” he said through clenched teeth.  “But I am your master, and your first loyalty should be to me.  When I ask you a question, I expect you to answer it.”

“Ye may be my master, but ye dinna own me.  I belong to no man.”

“That’s where you’re mistaken.  While you are apprenticed to me, you are my charge.  It is my responsibility to feed you and clothe you and teach you a trade.  It is your responsibility to work diligently and to do as you’re told.”

“I have done so!” she said, pinning a fist to her hip.  “See you the dairy?  It is clean, as ye commanded.  See you the cow?  She is milked, as ye commanded.”

“And now I command you to answer my question.  What does the mark signify?”

“Ye want an answer?  Very well.  She tried to brand a horse, and the iron slipped.”

His lips pursed.  “You must take me for a complete idiot.”

“Oh, so ye can read minds as well?”

The look of shock on his face gave her a perverse thrill.  It was just a taste of revenge, but it was sweet on her tongue.

He crossed his arms at his chest, barricading her between the cow and his imposing body.  “If you think your disobedience will go unpunished, you are gravely mistaken.  Defy me and I shall bring you before the magistrate and hand you over as a willful and indolent apprentice, for which the punishment is imprisonment in a house of correction until such time as you are agreeable to serve.  And for every one day you spend in prison, the law adds two days onto the end of your indentures.”

The sweet taste quickly turned to bile.  The hope of her imminent freedom was the only thing that kept her going, and his threat to delay it silenced her.  Three months, ten days, and—

“Was the brand inflicted for robbery?”

“No.”

“Brawling?”

“No.”

“Murder?”

“No!”

His expression chilled to suspicion.  His eyes narrowed to slits as he regarded her with renewed awareness.  Suddenly, his hand shot out and clamped around her wrist.   She tried to wrench it away, but gained nothing—the man’s body was stone.

He brought her hand up to his gaze.  There for him to see was the hideous scar that disfigured her hand.  A gruesome S burned into her flesh so many years before, marking her as well as her sister.  Inside, she was quaking.

“Must have been quite a horse to make the brand slip onto both your hands.”

Her body was flattened against his, her wrist trapped in his strong grip.  “Let me go.”

“Now I understand why you were so reticent to speak.  Honor among thieves.  Answering for your sister would mean betraying yourself as well.”

He loosened his grip, and she tore her hand away.  “We’ve done nothing wrong.”

“Two women branded for all to see.  Now it’s clear to me what the S upon your flesh stands for.  You’re a couple of slatterns!”

A violent anger sprang up within her at that accusation.  Instinctively, she swung her open hand and slapped his arrogant face.  Hard.

His face stilled in the direction of her smack.  But when his face swung back at her, she immediately regretted her impetuous outburst.  The blue eyes that she had found so seductive the day before were now glaring hotly at her.

“I shall enjoy spending the next three years making you regret your disrespect.”

His threat made her heart pound an uncomfortable beat, but two words alone stood uppermost in her mind.

“Three years?  What do you mean?  I reach maturity in three months, ten days, and fourteen hours.  Upon that day, I will claim my freedom from my apprenticeship.”

“No, my sweet,” he said, a cheerless smirk touching his reddened cheek.  “The sand in the glass has just started falling on your newest indentures.  To me.”

The tasty dish of freedom she had so long hungered for was now dashed to the floor.  Three more years locked in her indentures was appalling enough.  But trapped in submission to the arrogant Englishman would feel like three centuries.

“No…no!”  Shona ran from the estate as fast as her legs could carry her.

 

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“Shona is a feisty, unconventional heroine.  Conall is bossy, but honorable, gentle and fair.  The chemistry between these two is genuine.  A truly memorable story.”