Hi Heather and welcome to HJ! We’re so excited to chat with you about your new release, Highland Justice!
Hi HJ and all you wonderful lovers of romance! I’m excited to be here today.
Please summarize the book a la Twitter style for the readers here:
16th century Scottish Romance
Raised to judge without mercy, what will Gideon do with a woman who breaks all his laws?
Please share the opening lines of this book:
Gideon Sinclair held up three velvet pouches. “Gifts for ye,” he said, tossing one to Cain, his eldest brother and chief of the mighty Sinclair Clan of northern Scotland. Cain balanced his eight-month-old daughter, Mary, over his shoulder as he caught it.
“Your second brother is dead,” Joshua Sinclair said, smiling wryly as he snatched out of the air the pouch Gideon threw at him.
“Do not believe everything chiseled on tombstones,” Gideon said, referring to the false grave marker Joshua had left behind on Orkney Isle, which declared his death.
Please share a few Fun facts about this book…
- Cait’s name changed at least three times while I was writing HIGHLAND WARRIOR. I kept using names I’d already used in past projects. It’s hard to find 16th century-ish Scottish names that I haven’t used in my previous twenty+ books.
- The aerial acrobatics in the book weren’t recorded in historical records until centuries later, although tumblers and trapeze were known. So I took some literary liberty with Cait teaching herself aerial silks, because my youngest daughter has been practicing the art for five years.
- My oldest daughter is in law school, which is who I dedicated the book to.
- I love writing younger characters (like the children in the book), because they often say things adults would never say. Trix and Libby were so much fun to write!
- We see the fourth brother, Bàs, question Gideon about their roles as the biblical horsemen. Gideon’s views change in the book, and I feel like Bàs watched it very closely. These observations will influence Bàs in his book next: HIGHLAND BEAST.
What first attracts your Hero to the Heroine and vice versa?
Gideon first sees Cait turning in circles with her face tipped up to falling snowflakes. He’s never seen such honest and simple enjoyment before, and he’s curious to know more about her.
Cait is more concerned than attracted at being confronted by a massive man in the woods, but when he jumps in the icy water to save one of her wards, she can’t help but notice his strength, compassion, and kindness. Unfortunately, that’s not enough to stop her from stealing from him so she can buy medicine for the orphanage.
Using just 5 words, how would you describe Hero and Heroine’s love affair?
creative, hot, redemptive, secret, vigorous.
The First Kiss…
Dressed all in black to blend into the shadows, it was difficult to make out the form. But the shadows couldn’t hide the softness of a woman’s body as he pulled her against him.
He grabbed her wrist, but with a twist and a yank, she escaped his hold and tried to turn back to the window. “We’re three stories up, lass,” Gideon said. “Ye will split your head on the hard ground if ye go that way.”
She lunged onto the window’s ledge, apparently not deterred. Was death preferable to being caught by him? He grabbed her around the waist, tugging her back inside, his face pressing against the back of her neck where a mound of dark hair was pinned. “Who are ye?” he asked.
Gideon turned the woman around to face him. Instead of rearing back, she threw herself into him, hugging around his chest with both arms as if he were a huge tree she wished to climb or uproot from the ground. He grunted, and her covered face tipped up to him. She pressed upward against his body, her arms rising as she stretched onto her toes and held his shoulders. He had no time to react as she grabbed behind his head, pulling his face down to hers to kiss him.
Bloody hell! What was she doing? Gideon certainly wouldn’t let a lass dupe him like Ella had tricked his oldest brother with a kiss, to escape him when they first met.
Fingers tugging his hair, she pressed her lips hard against his. The kiss was clumsy, frantic, like a virgin caught in her first storm of passion. But when her warm palms caught his face, and she slanted across his mouth, deepening the kiss, he wondered if she possibly had some experience.
She stroked fingers through his hair, her warm lips moving over his, and her frantic desperation began to calm. As the stiffness he’d felt in her faded, so did his thoughts about Ella tricking Cain and whether this soft creature in his arms was a maiden or not. Even the questions about how she got in and her ultimate purpose washed away with the growing warmth of her response. Perhaps it was the darkness, or the mystery of who she was, or the scent that plucked at his memory, but fire ignited inside Gideon. His arms encircled her, pulling her soft body against his hard frame.
Gideon lifted her, backing her against the wall. She was all womanly curves and softness. His fingers tangled in the twist of hair at her nape. Pins fell, plinking on the stone window frame next to her, and her heavy braid slipped down over one shoulder. He pressed his face to it, inhaling along the thick length as they both pulled shallow breaths. It was silky and fragrant, tugging at that memory that wouldn’t reveal itself. Who was she? Would she stay the night?
His mouth fell upon her neck, tasting the light saltiness there as he trailed kisses over her smooth skin. Her head tipped back against the wall, her breath coming in shallow rasps. He moved back to her parted lips where the kiss swept them both up again. The woman’s scent, her warmth and curves, the mystery around her… It all ensnared him. Like a siren in Homer’s Odyssey.
He held her between him and the stone wall beside the open window. Cold air had no effect on him with such fire growing inside at her response. He captured her face in his hands, feeling the mask. It was wool and tied tightly. He reached behind her head to pluck at the knot. As if the lass had been under the same spell as he, his tugging on the ties startled her into action. She gasped, turning her face away before he could free the knot. She shoved at his chest, her knee rising, but he shifted so she missed his groin.
“Hold still,” he said, but her hand whipped out toward him, and Gideon felt the sting of a blade across his arm. Surprise made him release his hold for a second. Apparently, that was all the time the lass needed to hurl herself out of his window.
“Nay!” he yelled as she disappeared, leaping to her death.
Without revealing too much, what is your favorite scene in the book?
*I love scenes where the children and Cait slowly soften Gideon’s brittle ways.*
Trix poked her head out to grin at him, her teeth bright. “She likes living in the house with us. Just like Boo.”
“Boo?” Gideon asked.
“My bird. I named her Boo for Boudica, the Celtic warrior queen, because I hope she becomes strong again just like her.” She fetched a box from the corner, bringing it close so he could see a small wren inside with an outstretched wing.
“Boo hit our door yesterday, and I’m keeping her warm until she can fly again,” Trix said.
The child would probably cry when it died. “There’s a law against keeping wild animals in homes,” Gideon said.
Trix’s easy smile dropped, and she took a step back, sheltering the little bird in her arms. “Boo will die outside,” Trix said, her voice small.
“There are good reasons for laws and rules,” Gideon said. “Wild animals can hurt people, and they must be fed and are dirty.”
Cait moved between Gideon and Trix, flapping her hand behind her to get the girl moving away. “The bird won’t hurt anyone, it eats crumbs that are too small for anyone, and the poor creature is cleaner than Jack.”
“I bathed her in warm water,” Trix called from the corner near the fire where she clung to her pet.
“It will probably die anyway,” Gideon said, his voice lowered. “The law can be of help. She will think it flew away.”
Libby stood before Trix and her bird. “We’re keeping the bird inside,” she said with force, as if protecting her sister and not the bird.
Cait frowned. “Your brother owns a falcon, which lives inside Girnigoe Castle. Is he breaking your law?”
“Eun is a trained warrior,” Gideon said. “He flies above during battle, signaling us with colored flags that Cain gives him.”
Cait stared without blinking. “Then we’ll have to get some advice from your brother, since that’s exactly what we’re training Boo to do when she heals.”
“The wren? Flying above the battlefield with flags?”
Gideon noticed all the frowns in the room. He rubbed the back of his neck. “I think I’ve lost more points,” he said, looking at Cait.
“’Tis as easy as breathing to you, isn’t it?” she said.
He exhaled, raising his voice. “I’ll amend the law tonight. Wild animals being trained to aid us in battle are allowed to live indoors.”
If your book was optioned for a movie, what scene would be absolutely crucial to include?
“I know ye are here somewhere,” Gideon said. “Your footsteps pounding through the brush went silent.”
Damn. In a full-out sprint, she couldn’t keep quiet any more than he could. Cait looked at the limb above her. Could she reach it with her rope? Climb up there before Gideon descended upon her like a bloodthirsty wolf?
No. Perfect stillness and a miracle were the only ways to outsmart the infamous Sinclair Horseman. When stars started to spark before her eyes in the darkness, Cait parted her lips and drew in a silent stream of air and released it the same way.
She listened to his footsteps as he walked along the trail on the other side of the tree. “Your kiss was cold and hard, lass. And it didn’t distract me enough for ye to escape.”
You are a cold fish of a woman. Benjamin’s words sneered in her memory.
“If ye come out, ye can give it another try,” Gideon said, his voice just on the other side of the thick tree. When she didn’t answer, not even with the crack of a twig, he went on. “What were ye doing up in my room? Did I interrupt a robbery? If you had braved my bedroom for a tryst, ye wouldn’t have jumped out the window.”
He walked a little farther up the trail. Could he make out her tracks in the dim light of the moon? Damn snow made them stand out. It seemed God wasn’t interested in trying to save her from this mess. It was all up to her.
Cait let her breath out slowly, listening to his footfalls crunch in the mix of snow and dead leaves. She nearly jumped when she felt a tug on the coil of rope that she held. Damn. The end had uncoiled several lengths on her run and lay on top of the leaves before the tree.
Cait tried to inhale, but her breath kept stuttering in her chest as Gideon slowly coiled the loose rope, which had become a trail directly to her. He rounded the side of the tree and stopped. The darkness cloaked him in shadow, making his solid form look even larger. Gideon Sinclair stared directly at her.
Readers should read this book …
For an epic, 16th century adventure full of true love, witty banter, and lessons of the heart.
What are you currently working on? What other releases do you have planned?
I’m currently writing the fourth Sons of Sinclair book: HIGHLAND BEAST. I’ve already fallen in love with Bàs Sinclair, the youngest of the brothers. He needs a strong woman to heal his soul. Releasing April 2023
This August (2022), the third book in my Brothers of Wolf Isle series will release. Callum is the third Macquarie brother, and he must journey down to England to rescue a lass who doesn’t want to be rescued.
Thanks for blogging at HJ!
Giveaway: My giveaway is a signed copy of HIGHLAND JUSTICE and a Highlander gift package (US only). An international winner would receive a $15 gift card to Amazon (Canada or UK or other country if they can receive a US gift card).
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Excerpt from Highland Justice:
Dong…! Dong…! Dong…!
Cait jumped at the first loud bell chime from the watchtower. “God’s teeth!” The children all stopped to stare up at the bell, Trix and Libby covering their ears with their child-sized, cupped palms.
“The bell about cleaved my head in two,” Jack yelled over it and hurried on.
They continued after the final tone died away. “All must hear when ’tis time to get inside, bank the fires, and rest,” Gideon said.
“Is that another law? Scurry inside when the bell rings?” Cait asked. “I haven’t seen that one tacked to the chapel door.” She picked up her stride again and waved to her elderly friend Evie. Evie frowned at Gideon and nodded to Cait, watching closely.
“That’s Fiona’s sister. They live together.” Cait smiled brightly. “I’m well treated,” she called out.
Gideon’s gaze went from Cait to Evie and back to Cait. “She thinks ye are being mistreated up at the castle?” he asked.
“Probably. ’Tis why Fiona was at the castle today.” Her gently arched brows rose. “You’d make large strides in winning the villagers over if the sisters liked you.”
“Mo chreach,” Gideon swore. He turned and waved at her, Evie staring back with her mouth agape. Gideon’s gesture looked awkward like he hadn’t ever waved before. Fiona came out to stand next to her sister, frowning.
“I treat everyone well,” he called. “I mean to say, not prisoners, of course.”
“Don’t tease about prisoners,” Cait whispered with a groan.
“Except Cait. She’s a well-treated prisoner. She’s not a prisoner. Any longer…because I am not… She didn’t…” He stopped talking, his jaw moving as if it ached. “Cait is treated well.” He turned away but then stopped, looking back. “Ye are to come to the Hogmanay Festival she is setting up at the castle,” Gideon called. “Everyone must come. Let others know.”
They started walking again. “Must?” Cait said. “As in, they will be judged poorly if they do not attend? Perhaps treated poorly?”
Gideon frowned. “Nay. ’Tis just…a way to say they should come.”
“For a man who spouts laws and rules to his people, you need to be quite careful of the words you use.”
Gideon huffed, turned on his heel, and strode back toward Fiona and Evie. Good Lord. He’d scare Evie into an early grave. Cait rushed after him.
“Excuse me, mistresses,” he said. “What I meant to say is ye both should…that ye are welcome to come to my…to the Hogmanay Festival for your village, which just happens to be up at the castle. There will be food and drink and music. Everyone is welcome, not required, but welcome to participate. And if ye choose not to come, it will not be noted.” He paused as if thinking. “Except, I would miss your kind company, gentlewomen.” Gideon paused as if going over his words. “And Cait is treated well, even though she’s working off her penance.”
Fiona nodded. “We will come,” she said, her lips pursed like they’d been most of the day as she helped Cait up at the castle.
“Very well.” Gideon forced a smile. “Good evening tide.” He turned, but then pivoted back in rapid succession. “And the bell is just a recommendation to close down and go inside for rest. Ye are welcome to…roam about all night if that is your wish. Let others know that, too.”
Cait could barely squash her smile and met Fiona’s gaze. The elderly woman had wrinkles around each eye that cut in deeper as she smiled back, shaking her head. Cait would have laughed at the ridiculous exchange, but she was still irritated. At what? That he’d caught her, put her in the dungeon with blankets and no rats? She had more privacy there to use the privy than at home. And he hadn’t cut off her hand. No, but he’d shamed her before everyone. It stung, although she’d seen how those in the village cared for her.
Cait and Gideon continued walking. “You’ve just given them something to talk about for weeks,” she said.
He met her gaze. “About how approachable and kind I am.”
She couldn’t contain her smile and rolled her eyes heavenward before meeting his again. “Obviously.”
Excerpts. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
As the new chief of Clan Mackay, Gideon Sinclair knows the importance of maintaining order at any cost. To keep the conquered clan in line, Gideon must mete out ruthless justice or risk losing their precious new peace. But from the moment he meets Cait Mackay—aye, from the moment the sweetness of her lips captures his—all of Gideon’s careful objectivity is well and thoroughly compromised.
Cait knows that kissing the brawny Highlander is a dangerous game. It was bad enough she picked his pocket to feed the children in her care, but sometimes a desperate woman must disguise her crimes any way she can. Only her act of deception has made things worse… Because one kiss with the Highland’s most brutal chief leaves her breathless and out of her depth.
Meet the Author:
I am Heather McCollum, USA Today Bestselling author of 16th and 17th century Scottish romances full of adventure and intrigue, sprinkled with humor, history, and spice. Brawny Highlanders and feisty heroines are my favorite characters!
I am also a mom of three kids (ages 15, 21, 23), dog-mom of one rescued geriatric golden retriever, and wife of one 6 foot 4 inch Highlander. When I’m not trying to help my kids make it through the day, baking things I see on The Great British Baking Show, or writing, I’m usually educating women on ovarian cancer (I’m an eleven-year survivor). I love kilted heroes, chai tea lattes, and eating buttered air-popped popcorn for dinner on Friday nights (my dog loves this one too).
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