I’m glad the series went back to the 1300s. The last book was set in the 1800s so I didn’t get to see all the characters that I’ve grown to love. Now it is back in the 1300s but the children of the leading characters from book one, two and three are grown up or growing up.
This book is about Ciara, daughter of Duncan and Marion from the third book in the series. Ciara was five in that book. Now she is an adult. She is well educated and has been training with Duncan, her step-father to negotiate contracts with him for the clan and her parents are looking for a betrothal for her that will be good for the clan. Ciara has already turned down two offers because she has always been in love with Tavis, one of the guardsmen for Clan MacLerie.
Tavis was between a boy and an adult when he met Ciara. He had gone with Duncan to negotiate a contract between the Robertson clan and his clan when Duncan was forced into a handfested marriage with Ciara’s mother, Marion. On the ride back home, Tavis made wooden animals for Ciara to play with and befriended her. Since then he has always been her friend.
Tavis was married and in love but his wife died while she was pregnant. He blames himself for some reason and has decided to never marry again. A few years after her death, Ciara came to him and proposed marriage. He turned her down because of his love and guilt for his wife and at that time, he still thought of Ciara as a young girl.
Ciara was humiliated after Tavis turned her down but decided that maybe he was right and she was holding onto a childish infatuation so she accepted the next betrothal. It’s been a year since her proposal to Tavis. She has to travel to Perthshire which is about a week’s ride from her home in Lairig Dubh in the Highlands of Scotland to meet her betrothed, James Murray whose family needs the money from her dowry because they have fallen on hard times. If she agrees to the betrothal they will then travel back home so they can marry in Lairig Dubh.
Tavis has started to notice Ciara as an adult now. At first, he was not going to with Ciara as one of her guardsmen but then he changed his mind at the last moment to keep her safe. On the ride there, he realizes he has feelings for her but he still can’t get over what happened with the death of his wife so he doesn’t act on his feelings.
When they reach the Murray’s home in Perthshire, James kisses her when he walked her to her room. She liked it and told her best friend Elizabeth who had come along as her companion that it was “nice” but that was all. After the kiss, Ciara realized that she has left her shawl in the great hall so she went to go get it but before reaching her destination, she overheard a conversation between James and his father. James told his father that he had kissed her and it was lack-luster for the daughter of the Robertson Harlot and then went on to say terrible things about her mother like how she was caught in bed with a few noblemen but nobody knows who the real father is but at least, Ciara has a nobleman for a father. They also said that they didn’t care if Ciara was a virgin or not because they need her dowry.
The truth of Ciara’s parentage was told in the 3rd book of the series. Her mother, Marian Robertson, was helping her brother’s wife in childbirth while her brother Iain was sexually entertaining some men in another part of the castle. He had only married because it was his duty. When his wife failed to have a child, she agreed to let Iain bring other men to their bed so when she got pregnant, she didn’t know whose child it was. That night, Marian was trying to get Iain to come help or get the midwife but he was too busy. Her father finally came and when he saw what Iain was doing, he figured out that the baby was probably not Iain’s. The father threatened to kill the baby if it was a boy. Iain’s wife was Marian’s best friend and before she died, she begged Marian to take care of her baby. Marian’s father had to protect Iain from scandal because he was his heir so he poured wine all over Marian and stripped her and let the clansmen beat her and shave her head. Then she was banished from clan lands. The baby was snuck out of the castle and went with Marian. After her father died, Iain let her come back and live in the village with Ciara as long as she dyed her hair and went under the guise of being a widow named Mara. But nobody but Marian, Iain and her father knew any of this. When Marion married Duncan she told him the truth but they never let Ciara know any of it.
After hearing James and his father’s conversation, she ran to Tavis to ask him what he knew. He told her that he had heard of her mother being the Robertson Harlot but when her mother and Duncan moved to Lairig Dubh, Connor and Duncan forbid anyone to ever speak of it again. Then Tavis kissed Ciara which showed her that he did have feelings for her but he told her she needed to marry James because it was right for the clan since they need access to the ports in Perthshire and the Murrays could give them that. Also, Tavis said Connor and her father would never agree to them being married and he still wasn’t over the guilt of what he did to his wife. He thought he was the cause.
Ciara agreed to the betrothal after James apologized for talking about her mother. On the ride back to Lairig Dubh, her friend Elizabeth and James seemed to have gotten close to each other but Ciara didn’t really notice since she was wrapped up in her own misery.
When they arrived in Lairig Dubh, James seemed to be distant and even asked her if she knew any way out of the betrothal. Elizabeth caught James and Ciara kissing and gave James a dirty look. James had only kissed Ciara to see if he felt anything. He didn’t.
Without giving up the ending, I can’t say much more but I think you get the gist of it.
I think the next books will be about the other children of the couples in books one, two and three; Connor and Jocelyn, Rurik and Margriet and Duncan and Marion.