Valiant and Wise
Hearts of Caledonia Book 2
by Laura Strickland
Genre: Scottish Historical Romance
Wick map Radoc has lost his direction. Following the death of his parents in a brutal raid, the Caledonian tribesman surrenders his place as chief and flees to the Scottish countryside. Tracked through snow by a band of enemy Gaels, he escapes by way of an unexpected transformation and stumbles upon a neighboring tribe, the Caerena. Is it chance, or has he been led there?
Verica, widow of the Caerena’s slain war chief, has lost her faith. Leading her tribe by raw grit and sheer determination, she awaits a miracle. When Wick arrives cloaked in enchantment, she hopes she’s found the help she so desperately needs. Yet Wick doubts his own courage, and Verica has sworn she will never love again.
Verica and Wick could restore one another’s belief… Together, will they discover the true strength of a Caledonian heart?
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Before he could draw breath to object, she stepped in and propped her shoulder beneath his.
The action brought her body up against him, her side pressed close, one of her arms wrapped around his body in a supportive gesture. He could feel the heat of her, could feel one small breast cleaved to his chest. Sensation slammed through him, stealing what breath he’d managed to hoard. Softness. Warmth. Strength.
How could all these things be present together, in one woman? She proved smaller, there beneath his arm, than she’d appeared, given her staunch stance—the top of her sleek black head barely reached his ear. And he could smell her—spice, old leather, and the intimate, arousing scent of woman.
Could she smell him, also? By the goddess, he must reek of filth and blood.
“All right?” she puffed. “Don’t go down, or you will surely tear that wound open.” Her fingers dug hard into his side, and he felt her body flex. He closed his eyes against a fierce wave of desire, and she looked at him doubtfully.
“Perhaps we should return you to the bed.”
Perhaps they should.
Loyal and True
Hearts of Caledonia Book 1
For the first time in his life, Loyal is unable to rise and follow his mistress. When he appeals to the Goddess for mercy, she grants him leave to return on one condition: it must be in the form of a man. And only if Barta recognizes him for who he truly is will he be permitted to stay.
Loyal never suspects that, as a man, his connection with Barta will deepen, becoming passionate enough to transcend nearly any change. Will Barta recognize him before he’s lost to her forever?
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He remembered the battle—he could see it all now in patterns of black and white. Violence had its own aura as did so many things in the world, a combination of sight and smell. People smelled different when angry or afraid.
He’d fought at Barta’s side as he always had and always would, and taken a number of wounds. They didn’t matter; only her welfare mattered, and his presence at her side.
For him, battle felt like a game, a violent one. So long as Barta remained with him and protected, he cared little what else happened, even to him. He existed to be with her, to protect her—nothing more.
But now she arose from the place where they’d both gone down—where he’d thrown his body in defense of hers—and he could not follow.
For the first time in his life he could not follow.
Oh, unbearable agony. For, faintly, he could still feel her, smell her tears, sense her touch. And he could feel her starting to move away from him, feel her spirit tug at his. They were bound together, always had been, by a silver cord stronger than leather and more potent than magic.
Do not leave me here, Mistress. I cannot rise. I cannot follow you.
Like hers, his spirit howled at the sky.
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Some women love a man with tattoos—I happen to be one of them. I also love a good, romantic Scottish historical tale. So when I can combine the two, I’m a pretty happy lassie.
Most Scottish Romances I’ve read, and written, focus on the “Mac” clans with whom we’re so familiar...those bold MacDonalds and MacLeods, for example. But another race of people once populated the misty hills and glens, and they took body painting to a fine art.
The Picts, or as I like to call them, Caledonians, once owned all of Scotland, until those pesky Mac clans came and chased them eastward. The Romans called them Picts precisely because they wore so many pictures on their skin. Historians debate as to whether a natural substance called woad was pricked under the skin or a combination of copper and carbon was used. Some think the blue designs were painted on rather than placed under the skin.
So why did these men—and women— cover themselves from head to toe with body art? I like to think the spirals and intricate, interlocking designs denoted not only the tribe into which a child was born, but the status of his/her parents and other ancestors. It makes sense to me that following a battle, a brave Caledonian warrior might wish to commemorate his valor, or perhaps remember a fallen comrade, with a marking. A Caledonian’s tattoos were a sign of pride, loyalty…perhaps even magical ability. Why boast about yourself, when it can be written all over you?
Ah, the very idea makes this lassie swoon!
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