Alanna tightened her grip on her hood, fighting the storm for control of it. The wind bit through the thin leather of her gloves, made her fingers useless stumps. Her feet stung inside half boots meant for much lighter outings than this, and the cold crept through her cloak like a thief. She had never been so cold.
How much farther? She couldn’t recall how far she’d come. She’d walked out through the orchard, up into the glen, past the loch and the ruins of old Glen Dorian Castle. She’d climbed a steep path and had stood for a moment, breathless, to look at the view. The hills had been spread out around her, and the waterfall tumbled down into the glen , silver lace against the brown landscape, like a bridal veil. She’d turned away from that thought, refused to look, walked on when she should have turned back. Had the clouds been gathering even then? She’d left the roar of the falls behind her as she’d reached the moorland. The wind had been brisk but benevolent, cleansing.
It wasn’t kind now. It had turned angry, sharp tongued, and merciless. Panic flared in Alanna’s breast, a small flicker of useless heat. Surely if she looked hard enough through the snow she’d see Dundrummie Castle in the distance, and be safely home in a few minutes. If not, someone would come out to look for her. She scanned the white world hopefully, seeking the dark figure of a rescuer, but she was entirely alone. She suppressed a gasp of dismay.
How foolish—she’d purposely left the castle without telling anyone she was going out. Mama would have stopped her, saying there was too much to do before Lord Merridew’s arrival. Eleanor would have insisted that someone accompany her, just in case of—well, this. Her younger sister, Sorcha, would have wanted to come too, and she would have babbled incessantly, when Alanna wanted to think. Of course, thinking was no use at all. There was no way out of it—the wedding, she meant. Or the storm.
Oh, she was cold. The snow had reached the top of her boots, slipped inside to freeze against her ankles, gnawing her skin with sharp, icy teeth. How much farther? Surely such a sudden, terrible rage would blow itself out quickly enough and die away, like a tantrum. She listened for a change in the whine of the wind, a softening, but it screeched on. She blinked, felt the weight of ice on her eyelashes, rubbed it away and pushed back the urge to cry, since tears would only freeze.
Link to Follow Tour: http://www.tastybooktours.com/2014/10/once-upon-highland-christmas-once-upon.html
Lecia Cornwall lives and writes in Calgary, Canada, amid the beautiful foothills of the Canadian Rockies, with four cats, two teenagers, a crazy chocolate Lab, and one very patient husband. She is hard at work on her next book.
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Iain MacGillivray, Laird of Craigleith, has unexpectedly inherited an English earldom, and is now also the Earl of Purbrick. He isn’t overjoyed with this because while visiting England years ago, he was mocked by his relatives for being Scottish. He also knows this will take him away from his beloved Scotland, but he’s resigned to do his duty. He is immediately descended upon by his Aunt Marjorie, who is determined to “civilize” him and make him over into the perfect English earl. She also brings along her two daughters, with the intention of marrying off the eldest, Penelope, to Iain.
Alanna McNabb has agreed to marry an English marquess she barely knows in order to please her mother. The day before her wedding, she goes for a long walk to ponder her fate. An unexpected (and magical?) snowstorm whips up, causing her to lose her way and to have a nasty fall and injure her leg.
As Iain is riding, he spots Alanna in the snow, unconscious, and in very bad shape. The weather is so bad now, that he carries her to a small hut to shelter them. He tends to her injury, and keeps her warm with his own body heat. The next morning, he finds that Alanna had somehow wandered twelve miles from her home, and the way back there is impassable, so he takes her back to his home until the weather breaks.
It’s obvious that Iain and Alanna have developed an instant attraction to each other, but it’s an impossible situation, as she’s about to be married, and he is resigned that he must propose to Penelope. The magical snow keeps them snowbound, and as each day passes, their attraction grows. Penelope is horribly wrong for Iain – she is vain, selfish, and unscrupulous. She’ll do whatever she has to in order to get Iain to finally officially propose, although in truth, she secretly scorns him, and is only interested in becoming a countess.
Iain is the kind of hero I adore, he’s quiet, but kind, generous, polite, and conscientious. He’s even willing to marry someone he has no love for, just because she may help him be more acceptable to the English. Even in the face of Penelope’s blatant machinations, he’s unfailingly polite and honorable. Though I greatly admired the type of man he was, there were times I wanted him to just flat out tell the odious Penelope to go to the devil.
Alanna was perfect for Iain. She’s caring for others, kind, and also dutiful. Her path to her happy every after was filled with obstacle after obstacle, but love (and perhaps, magic?) won out in the end. This was a very enjoyable read. Lecia Cornwall has a lovely, engaging writing style that I like very much. I highly recommend Once Upon a Highland Christmas for your reading enjoyment at any time of the year.
Reviewed by Rose