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Book: The Laird
Author: Grace Burrowes
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
He left his bride to go to war...
After years of soldiering, Michael Brodie returns to his Highland estate to find that the bride he left behind has become a stranger. Brenna is self-sufficient, competent, confident-and furious. Despite her anger at Michael's prolonged absence, Brenna has remained loyal to her husband, though Michael's people, and most especially the uncle who held the estate together for him, make it clear they expect Michael to set Brenna aside.
Though his most important battle will be for her heart.
Michael left Brenna when she needed him most, and then stayed away even after the war ended. Nonetheless, the young man who abandoned her has come home a wiser, more patient and honorable husband. Brenna is hurt, bewildered, and tired of fighting for the respect of those around her, but if she trusts Michael with the truths she'd been guarding, he'll have to choose between his wife and everything he holds dear.
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Grace Burrowes' bestsellers include The Heir, The Soldier, Lady Maggie's Secret Scandal, Lady Sophie's Christmas Wish and Lady Eve's Indiscretion. Her Regency romances have received extensive praise, including starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Booklist. Grace is branching out into short stories and Scotland-set Victorian romance with Sourcebooks. She is a practicing family law attorney and lives in rural Maryland.
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Guest Post – The Difference a Decade Makes by Grace Burrowes
I set myself a challenge when writing The Laird, in that my hero and heroine had married nearly ten years earlier—when she was sixteen (the age of consent for Scottish women in the early 1800s) and he was twenty-one. They then immediately separated when he went off to war.
When I think of myself at sixteen, and then compare that to me at twenty-six…yikes! As a sixteen year old, I hadn’t finished high school and much preferred horses to boys. By twenty-six year I had two college degrees, was self-supporting, enrolled in law school, and, um, dating.
Michael and Brenna each have to adjust to a spouse who has changed that much, and in Michael’s case, the years were spent at war in enemy territory. They’ve endured trauma, marital frustration, years of missing each other despite a difficult parting, and now they’re facing the even greater challenge of falling back in love.
They’re at the same disadvantage we all face when we go home to visit mom and dad. In Brenna’s mind, Michael remains the very young man upon whom she had an adolescent crush, not a battle-hardened soldier bristling with muscle. Michael comes home, expecting the shy, plump sixteen-year-old Brenna to greet him, and his reception is very different indeed.
Worse yet, as a spouse, each protagonist harbors a self image that’s ten years out of date. Brenna still feels very much like that awkward teenager, unsure of her fellow, overwhelmed with the role of wife, and insecure about her attractiveness. In his own eyes, Michael is not a well traveled, experienced man of the world, he’s a new husband who has bungled badly by running off to war, and doesn’t quite know where to start with the resourceful, self-reliant woman his wife has become.
If only they could talk!
What saves the marriage is Michael and Brenna’s ability to take the courage and patience they learned standing alone, and turn it toward rebuilding their relationship. In small gestures, each courts the other’s trust and eases away from the wounds caused by the separation. They do talk, they touch, they spend time together, they listen to each other, and when an enemy tries to drive them apart, they instead stand together.
The fascinating aspect of this progression to me was that as Michael and Brenna’s trust grew, so too did the accuracy of their self images improve. Brenna eventually saw herself as Michael saw her—competent, precious, honorable—and Michael came to regard himself as Brenna saw him: dear, worthy waiting for, and trustworthy.
When has somebody else’s view of you helped you see yourself more clearly? Is it your faults or your strengths you tend not to notice?
Brenna wound down through the castle and took herself out into the courtyard, equal parts rage and gratitude speeding her along.
She’d had endless Highland winters to rehearse the speech Michael deserved, years to practice the dignified reserve she’d exhibit before him should he ever recall he had a home. Alas for her, the cobbles were wet from a recent scrubbing, so her dignified reserve more or less skidded to a halt before her husband.
Strong hands steadied her as she gazed up, and up some more, into green eyes both familiar and unknown.
“You’ve come home.” Not at all what she’d meant to say.
“That I have. If you would be so good, madam, as to allow the lady of the—Brenna?”
His hands fell away and Brenna stepped back, wrapping her tartan shawl around her more closely. “Welcome to Brodie Castle, Michael.” And because somebody ought to say the words, she added, “Welcome home.”
“You used to be chubby.” He leveled this accusation as if he were put out that somebody had made off with that chubby girl.
“You used to be skinny.” And now he was all over muscle. He gone away, a tall, gangly fellow, and come back not simply a man, but a warrior. “Perhaps you’re hungry?”
She did not know what to do with a husband, much less this husband who bore so little resemblance to the young man she’d married, but Brenna knew well what to do with a hungry man.
“I am…” His gaze traveled the courtyard the way a skilled gunner might swivel his sights on a moving target, making a circuit of the granite walls rising some thirty feet on three sides of the bailey. His expression suggested he was making sure the castle at least, had remained where he’d left it. “I am famished.”
“Come along then.” Brenna turned and started for the entrance to the main hall but Michael remained in the middle of the courtyard, still peering about. Potted geraniums were in riot, pink roses climbed trellises under the first floor windows, and window boxes held all manner of blooms.
“You’ve planted flowers.”
Another near accusation, for nine years ago, the only flowers in the keep were the stray shrubs of heather springing up in sheltered corners.
Brenna returned to her husband’s side, trying to see the courtyard from his perspective. “One must occupy oneself somehow while waiting for a spouse to come home—or be killed.”
He could bed his wife. The relief Michael Brodie felt at that sentiment eclipsed the relief of hearing again the languages of his childhood, Gaelic and Scots, both increasingly common as he’d traveled farther north.
To know he could feel desire for his wedded wife surpassed his relief at seeing the castle in such good repair, and even eclipsed the relief he’d felt that Brenna didn’t indulge in strong hysterics at the sight of him.
For the girl he’d left behind had been more child than woman, the antithesis of this red-haired Celtic goddess wrapped in the clan’s hunting tartan and so much wounded dignity.
They reached the steps leading up to the great wooden doors at the castle entrance. “I wrote to you, Brenna.”
She did not turn her head. “Perhaps your letters went astray.”
Such gracious indifference. Michael was capable of bedding his wife—any man with blood in his veins would feel desire for the woman at his side—but clearly, ability did not guarantee he’d have the opportunity.
“I meant, I wrote from Edinburgh to let you know I was coming home.”
“Edinburgh is lovely in summer.”
All of Scotland was lovely in summer, and to a man who’d scorched his back raw under the Andalusian sun, lovely in deepest winter too. “I was in France, Brenna. The king’s post did not frequent Toulouse.”
Outside the door she paused and studied the scrolled iron plate around the ancient lock.
“We heard you’d deserted, then we heard you’d died. A few of the fellows from your regiment paid calls here, and intimated army gossip is not to be trusted. Then some officer came trotting up the lane a month after the victory, expecting to pay a call on you.”
Standing outside that impenetrable, ancient door, Michael accepted that his decision to serve king and country had left wounded behind at home as well as on the Continent.
And yet, apologizing now would only make things worse.