Susan Sarah here, in the midst of a sleety storm in bitter temperatures, thinking about upcoming Christmas and an upcoming new book release. We put up our Christmas tree last weekend (family tradition being to wait until the December kid has had an un-Christmasy birthday, and even though he's not a kid now, the tradition lingers) … this year we put all white lights on the tree, along with glass snowflakes and an assortment of glittery angels and garlands of pearl strands. Very pretty, dazzling enough to attract any magpie… and that tree glows like a nuclear blast.
In my enthusiasm for a simple but beautiful tree this year, decorated with some of the many angels people have given me over the years, I did not anticipate that the thing would require sunglasses indoors. Though a tad on the snowblinding side of the light spectrum, it’s gorgeous and very cheerful. And easy to see from the street…next year maybe we'll go back to the multi-colored lights!
The glow in our living room reminds me of something else that is very bright on my living room table just now – the hot ‘n sunny cover of my latest Sarah Gabriel release for Avon, THE HIGHLAND GROOM, in bookstores on December 30. The gorgeous cover is a classic romantic clinch, beautifully rendered, and the eye-catching palette will pop on bookstore shelves on a winter day! Some may think that’s not exactly a Highland palette, and yet I’ve seen some hot gold sunsets in the Highlands that are breathtaking. And the colors are reminiscent of the golden illicit whiskey that is central to the story. I love the cover, and especially appreciate that the Avon art department did an amazing job of capturing the hero and heroine.
In a future blog I'll tell you more about the story, the whiskey trade, a great wild game called The Ba' that's featured in the book , and you'll have a chance to win a copy, once I have copies to give away! In the meantime, here's a bit of an excerpt.
Happy holidays, one and all!
Sarah Gabriel's THE HIGHLAND GROOM . . .
To help her brothers claim their inheritance, despite its odd clauses, Fiona MacCarran must marry a wealthy Highlander–and soon. But first, she must fulfill her agreement to teach at a poor glen school in the misty Highlands, where she does not expect to find a groom acceptable to her family … until she meets Dougal MacGregor. The laird of Glen Kinloch is just a smuggler —yet when the handsome rogue pulls her into his arms, she forgets about obligations, the law, or finding that perfect Highland groom to please her family….
Moving his finest whiskey—and fast—is the only way Dougal can protect his glen and its people. That should be simple, yet nothing proves easy with Fiona MacCarran around. He cannot allow himself to be distracted by the sensual, enticing schoolmistress— and a Highland rebel and a law-abiding Lowland lass could never have a future together. . .or could they? Soon Dougal and Fiona are caught between honor and desire…
“A lovely tale mixed with a bit of fairy magic…Gabriel lifts spirits and warms as a tender-hearted Highland laird and a sassy lady discover that love is worth any risk and doing good is far better than gaining material riches." – Romantic Times
“…engaging…new and exciting…delightful dialogue and breathtaking beauty…well worth the read.”
— Coffee Time Romance
"The romance that simmers between Fiona and Dougal sparkles and Ms. Gabriel makes it fun to be swept away into the beautiful Highlands, where legends…fill the countryside." — Fresh Fiction
An excerpt from The Highland Groom ….
So wondrous wild, the whole might seem
The scenery of a fairy dream.
— Sir Walter Scott, “The Lady of the Lake”
Scotland, The Highlands
Dougal MacGregor stopped short, and the girl bumped into his shoulder. He set his hand firmly on her arm, to signal to her that he intended to keep hold of her, having found her wandering his Highland property chipping away at rock, or whatever the devil she had been doing. Later, he would have to let her go—but not yet.
Narrowing his eyes, he estimated the king’s revenue men to be two miles away along the loch road. He could see them, but was sure that the mist and angles of the rocky slopes would obscure their view of the man and woman standing on the hillside. Nor had they seen the approaching cart, though soon enough its creaking noises would be audible.
Keeping hold of the girl’s arm, Dougal ran with her toward the road.
“Let go,” she said breathlessly. “The officers will take me to Mrs. MacIan’s home.”
“I will see you there myself. You would not be safe with revenue officers.”
“I am hardly safe with you,” she pointed out.
He whistled again, a curlew’s soft trill, and the squeaking wheels slowed. His comrades knew his call. Dougal hurried down the slope with the girl in tow and headed for the cart, where two men rode on the crossbench. The vehicle rolled to a quiet halt in front of them, and Dougal nodded to the driver and the older man beside him, while pushing the girl ahead of him.
“Miss, meet Ranald MacGregor and his son Andrew, my uncle and cousin,” he said. “And this is—ah—” He realized that he did not know her name.
“Fiona MacCarran.” She turned to his uncle and cousin and smiled so warmly at them that Dougal suddenly, sharply wished she would bless him with a smile like that. Instead, she sent him a furious glare.
“Miss MacCarran,” he said. “Into the cart. Now,” he added, low and fierce.
She blinked. He had not noticed before that her eyes were a sparkling blue. For a moment, he felt something essential and intangible within him shift somehow—and become a need, a craving. He frowned, and offered his hand.
Ignoring it, she turned to his kinsmen. “Gentlemen, I am pleased to meet you. I have come from Edinburgh to Glen Kinloch to teach at the glen school here.”
She had not introduced herself to him so sweetly as that, Dougal thought, scowling.
“The new dominie! A bonny one, too.” Ranald’s hand looked like a paw closing over her slim gloved fingers.
Andrew, at fourteen easily dumbstruck by a pretty girl, nodded. “We thought you’d be old and ugly, Miss,” he blurted.
“She’s neither of those, but she is a problem nonetheless,” Dougal snapped. “Hurry, all of you.” He took the girl by the waist, his hands fitting the taut shape. “In you go.”
“No,” she said, as he dumped her over the side into the hay.
Dougal tossed the knapsack inside after her, and set a foot to the hub of the wheel to leap inside. Kneeling on the hay, a hand on the girl’s shoulder, he saw his kinsmen gaping at him. “Gaugers on the road,” he told them. “Two of them, a league or so away.”
“Och!” Ranald said. “Hide! Cover yourselves with the old plaidie that is back there. If they see the teacher with us, they will surely want to know why.”
Dougal snatched a folded plaid in the cart bed and tossed it over both of them. As the girl gasped out in surprise, he took her by the waist to push her down beside him in the hay, pulling her close under the covering. . . .
To read on, click here: The Highland Groom