Susan Sarah here… in muggy Maryland, where it has been so hot and sweltery that we’ve scarcely gone outside for the past week. Stepping out the door is like getting slapped with a hot, wet washcloth. As I understand it, we’re in some crazy geographical pocket in this area that traps heat and humidity like a bowl holds steam.
And that’s perfect weather for reading in a nice air-conditioned room! I had a summer-reading blog planned for today, but Loretta’s Beach Read Blog on Monday was so fabu that it’s a hard act to follow. So I’ll go with a twist on the summer reading theme. With the heat driving so many of us inside, or to the beach, or perhaps (if it’s not too hot where you are), to a lovely hammock in a shady spot ….
It’s been a while since we called for a reading game, so let’s have some fun with that today. Whatever the temperature is where you live — take that number, find the corresponding page in the book you’re currently reading, and quote a little something from the book! Just a brief snippet — a sentence or two, whatever strikes you on that page. I’ll post a longer excerpt, but then, I hope you’ll indulge me, as it’s my Blog Day! 🙂
I happen to be reading the galley pages for my December Avon, TO WED A HIGHLAND BRIDE (and I’m reading them slowly, carefully, in the painstaking way that galley-reading requires, with red pencil in hand Just In Case — but the Avon production department has done their usual excellent job, and the page proofs are very clean, yay!). I’m inside, though it’s not as horrid out there today as last week. Our temperatures have finally come down a little — it’s only supposed to be 94 today.
94 degrees … let’s see … what’s on page 94 of TO WED A HIGHLAND BRIDE by Sarah Gabriel:
First, a little set-up … Our hero, James MacCarran, Viscount Struan, formerly of the Highland Watch and now a professor of natural physics and geology at Edinburgh University, has traveled into the Highlands to the house he has inherited from his grandmother … he’s there to honor some decidely odd requests in her will: he must complete a manuscript of fairy lore that she was writing, and he must find himself a Highland fairy bride. Oh right, he thinks, that sounds next to impossible … Meanwhile, James finds himself stranded in some very bad weather with a very lovely and rather mysterious local girl, Elspeth MacArthur, who knows rather more about fairies than she’s willing to admit …and while she is strongly attracted to the new viscount, she is not about to marry a Lowlander, and she’s not about to give up the secret she and her family have been protecting for generations ….
(and yes, I confess, it’s a built-in PR opp to be reading my galleys just now, but hey, that’s one of the benefits of an author blog! *g*)
…James poured himself another cup of tea, and added to her cup when she held it out. “While I’m here in the glen, I intend to explore some the rock formations in these hills. If agate was found nearby, that could have real significance for my work.”
“If you wander these hills, you may even encounter the Daoine Sith,” she said.
“The—dowin-shee?” He looked at her, puzzled.
“The people of peace, in Gaelic. It is one of the many names we use for the fairy folk. They live in various places in the earth, but the caves and hills are their special territory in this glen. Do geologists ever take into account the otherwordly creatures who inhabit the subterranean earth?” She smiled.
“Not if they value their reputations. Fancy and science do not mix well in academia, I assure you.” He sat forward. “For now, though, I have agreed to study fancy on behalf of my grandmother and her legacy of work.”
“Perhaps you will learn something about rocks to surprise you. Fairies are plentiful among caves and live inside hills,” she said, smiling mischievously.
“I do not expect to encounter any. But I’ve made a promise and I will honor it. Tell me about this curious fairy riding custom. I suppose you know all about it?”
“I do. They ride at the time-between-times, when the curtain between our world and theirs is very thin—dawn, twilight, midnight, mist, and so on.”
He tapped fingers on the table, thoughtful. “At times when visibility is poor enough to allow for tricks of the eye and mind. I see.”
"I think you do not, actually,” she murmured. “Though you could if you want.”
“Well, the custom seems to have frightened the living wits out of some of my staff. Between the banshee in the foyer, the ghosts in the house, and the garden fairies, two of the maidservants packed up in haste and left for Edinburgh.”
“Southrons,” she said with a little huff. “Highlanders do not mind such things.”
“Even the Highland staff has gone, now. They avoid the place this time of year.”
“They are not foolish enough to risk being taken by the Fey folk. You should not be here yourself, nor should I.”
“I will not be intimidated by nonsensical tales.” He smiled then. “But I am not surprised you are an authority on this, being part fairy yourself.”
Elspeth caught her breath. “What do you mean?”
“One of the housemaids must have seen you in the garden, and took you for a fairy. She packed her things and departed.”
“Me? She might have seen one of the Struan fairies, but not me, unless it was just before you came outside.”
“Ah. Of course there’s an explanation.” He sat back. “Entertaining stories are part and parcel of folklore, but no more than that, to my mind. By the way, I understand that your grandfather is very knowledgeable concerning local traditions. I thought it would be good to speak with him myself regarding my grandmother’s research.”
“Will you speak with him before or after he learns that we spent tonight alone at Struan House?” Seeing his quick, wry expression, Elspeth laughed a little. Sitting here with him, quiet and peaceful, she liked him very much, despite the stubborn skepticism that seemed part and parcel to him. She stood.
Struan took the lamp from the big pine table. “I’d best close up the house. There are no servants here to attend to that, either.”
“A Highland laird often sees to the shutting of his house, with or without servants. Even in fine houses, it is the laird’s responsibility to bolt the doors.”
“I hope locking up is custom rather than necessity in this glen,” he said.
“We have not had cattle raiders or feuding clans for two generations and more. There are some smugglers in the hills, but they stay to themselves except for bringing whiskey along the lochs and rivers to the sea.” She paused. “What disturbs the peace of a house in this glen, sir, is not kept out by bolts, but they be of iron.”
“Iron keeps the fairies away.” He nodded. “I read about it recently in my grandmother’s research.”
“If the wildfolk want to come in, they will find a way.”
He laughed softly. She knew he thought it all harmless superstition, yet she found his practical approach intriguing, wholly masculine, a bit of a challenge. She tilted her head, wondering about him. Standing in that cozy, quiet kitchen while rain pounded at the windows, she felt an unexpected sense of ease and comfort in his company. She did not want this night, this visit, to end quickly.
Tender, unforgettable kisses shared months earlier had stayed with her, and as she recalled those, gazing at him, she could almost feel his hands upon her again. And an urge to be in his arms again, to experience not only the kisses but the passion and the cherishing that had been part of them, made her breath deepen, made her yearn. Love, the thought came to her then. Love feels like this.
TO WED A HIGHLAND BRIDE will be out December first — when the weather will be delightfully cool, oh ok maybe even so c-c-cold that we’ll be missing the swelter of August. For now, I hope you all enjoyed a little preview.
So, back to our reading game for this hot, sunny summer day — whatever the temperature is where you live, take that number, find the corresponding page in the book you’re currently reading … and quote a brief something from the page. Be sure to identify the book and the author!