I'm happy to host one of my favorite authors today and especially excited because it's in celebration of her new book, The Highlander Who Protected Me. I have to say, I really do love that cover! Vanessa Kelly introduced her Kendrick brothers in her last book and I am all in with this fiercely loyal, somewhat dysfunctional, rowdy, but loving, group of highlanders just begging for happy endings. Welcome back, Vanessa!
Make ‘Em Laugh
Hi, everyone, and my thanks to PJ for hosting me. The Romance Dish is one of my favorite places on the world-wide-interweb, and I love being here!
I’m particularly thrilled to be celebrating the release of THE HIGHLANDER WHO PROTECTED ME, the first book in my new Scottish historical romance series. The series features the brawny and sometimes rambunctious brothers of the Kendrick Clan, who were first introduced in THE HIGHLANDER'S PRINCESS BRIDE (Improper Princesses 3).
THE HIGHLANDER WHO PROTECTED ME is Royal and Ainsley’s book. For me, it’s very close to what authors call “the book of the heart.” Both Royal and Ainsley are emotionally wounded—Royal, from his wartime experiences, Ainsley, from the result of an assault. But they are fierce survivors, each of them battling the circumstances and people trying to hold them back. I love these two because they never, ever give up—even when they’re fighting with each other! And I also have to admit I cried more while writing this story than with any of my other books.
So, THE HIGHLANDER WHO PROTECTED ME has lots offeels but it has quite a bit of humor, too. Over the years, I’ve discovered that much of the humor in my books comes from secondary characters. In this book, it’s Royal’s grandfather, Angus. He’s an old-school Highlander curmudgeon who was first introduced in THE HIGHLANDER’S PRINCESS BRIDE, and he’s been trying to take over the series ever since (I’ve had a few stern discussions with him about that). Angus is crusty as heck, but he’s devoted to his family and clan, and will do anything to protect them—including insulting Ainsley on a regular basis, since he’s absolutely convinced she’s not good enough for his grandson. Ainsley being Ainsley, she doesn’t take it lying down, and the two have a fairly lively relationship.
And let me just say that Angus has a way with words. His favorite label for Ainsley is Sassenach saucebox (which she kind of is), but he really hits his stride when it comes to nicknames for the villain of the book—Lord Codpiece is the first that comes to mind, and it goes from there.
Here’s a short snippet from the book, which takes place on Royal and Ainsley’s wedding night. They’ve retreated to Castle Kinglas, the family estate in the Highlands, hoping for some quiet time for themselves, and Ainsley’s infant daughter, Tira. Royal has been desperate to get Ainsley alone, and he finally achieves his goal.
They were just about to sink down onto the plump cushions of the chaise when the library door flew open and thudded against the wall. Ainsley jerked back, her foot tangling around his boot, and they almost tumbled to the floor as Angus stomped into the room.
“Oh, my God,” she gasped as Royal set her upright.
His grandfather scowled at them. “I’ve been lookin’ all over the bloody castle for ye.”
Ainsley leveled an accusatory glare at Royal. “You promised your family would leave us alone. You promised.”
“I bloody well didn’t ask him to come,” Royal protested. “Why the hell are you here, Grandda? It’s practically the middle of the night.”
“Och, it’s not that late,” Angus replied with a casual wave. “I’ve been here for at least a half hour, after a nice ride up from Glasgow. And that glad I am to be away from the stinkin’ city and back home.”
Royal felt like the top of his head was about to fizz up like an exploding squib. “But why are you here?”
“I couldna sleep knowin’ that the little lassie would be missin’ her grandda. So here I am.”
“Oh, my God,” Ainsley repeated, sounding utterly appalled.
“Do Nick and Victoria know you rode up?” Royal demanded.
Angus hunched his shoulders and gave him a placating smile. “Dinna fash yourself, lad. I left them a grand little note to explain.”
“Grandda, this is our wedding trip.” Never had Royal been closer to throttling Angus than he was at this moment.
“Aye, that’s the point. I can watch out for Tira while ye and the missus have a wee bit of private time. Ye’ll hardly even know I’m aboot the place.”
Ainsley switched her Medusa glare to Angus. “You are so irritating. I’m supposed to be looking after my daughter, in case you’ve forgotten.”
“Aye, and ye can bloody well use all the help ye can get,” the old man retorted, “especially since the puir wee bairn is feeling poorly. I could tell Tira was off her feed before ye left. It’s no wonder I decided to follow ye.”
When Angus tapped the side of his nose, trying to look wise, Royal had to hold back a scoff. The excuse sounded like complete bollocks to him.
Ainsley went from irate to anxious in a matter of seconds. “What do you mean poorly? I was with her an hour ago, and she was asleep.”
“She’s not sleepin’ now. That’s why I came down to fetch ye.” He flashed her a toothy smile. “As ye say, yer her mother. I knew ye’d want to be with her.”
Ainsley picked up her skirts and pelted out of the room.
Sighing, Royal followed in her wake, Angus falling into step beside him.
“Is Tira really sick, or was that just an excuse to come to Kinglas?” he asked his grandfather.
Angus shrugged. “Probably just another tooth coming in, but ye never know.”
Royal shot him a dirty look. “One of these days, Grandda, I will kill you.”
Angus snorted. “Laddie, none of ye would know what to do without me, least of all yer new missus. Even for a Sassenach, she’s bloody hopeless.”
You can read longer excerpts from the book on my website:
I often find secondary characters easier to write than my main characters. As a reader, I think a great secondary character can really add texture and color to a book. Sometimes, those characters are so strong they even demand their own stories!
Who are some of your favorite secondary characters in novels, romance or otherwise?
One person who comments will win signed, print copies of THREE WEEKS WITH A PRINCESS and THE HIGHLANDER’S PRINCESS BRIDE (Improper Princesses 2 & 3), plus some fun book swag.
Lady Ainsley Matthews, heiress and darling of the ton, was expected to make a magnificent match. Instead she’s hiding on a remote Scottish estate, terrified that her vicious former fiancé will use her pregnancy to force her into marriage. One man can help her—Royal Kendrick, son of a distinguished Highland clan. Though a mistake drove them apart long ago, Royal is the only person Ainsley trusts to protect her baby—even if that means agreeing to never see either of them again . . .
Scarred in body and soul by war, Royal suddenly has a purpose—caring for an innocent babe and thereby helping the woman he can’t stop loving. But when Ainsley ultimately returns to Scotland, determined to be a real mother to her child in spite of the risk, there’s only one solution: marriage. And only one likely outcome: surrendering to the desire that’s simmered between them for so long, no matter how dangerous it may be . . .