Maggie McCallum’s dreams about her new fiancé aren’t the romantic sort. It’s not just that she was bartered to Owen Duff like a piece of property to end a clan feud. She’s also haunted by premonitions of his death on their upcoming wedding day. Yet the exasperating Highlander won’t let her call it off, even though his life and his clan are both in jeopardy.
Owen has wanted Maggie in his bed since he first glimpsed her years ago. If their union restores peace between their clans, so much the better. But while lusting after another chief’s sister had its risks, growing to trust Maggie is far more dangerous. Owen is falling deeply in love with the one woman he cannot hope to claim…and survive.
Maggie McCallum was only sixteen and Owen Duff eighteen the autumn their families spent in Edinburgh. Her mother had said she was too young for courtship, but Maggie secretly scoffed at that. Men looked at her now, and she was finally allowing herself to give a flirtatious look back.
And then at a dancing assembly, she saw Owen, Viscount Duncraggan, heir to the earldom of Aberfoyle. She’d met him only once before, at a dinner with their parents. She’d been twelve, he fourteen, and he’d ignored her. Now a friend giggled and pointed him out.
“He’s from the Duff clan,” the girl said. “Even I ken that the McCallums and the Duffs have always despised each other.”
Maggie nodded without really listening. She was staring at Owen with wide, curious eyes. He did not wear a belted plaid as so many of her family did, but an expensive tailored coat and waistcoat over knee breeches, and the polished sword at his hip sparkled in the candlelight when he strode across the dance floor to bow to a blushing girl. He had a thin face and bony shoulders that hinted at the broad strength of the man he would become. His sandy hair was gathered in a haphazard queue on his neck, loose strands brushing his cheeks as if he were too busy to be bothered fastening it more securely.
“Isn’t your brother to marry his sister? Ye’ll be practically family.”
Family or not, Maggie knew better than to be the McCallum who approached a Duff in public, right in front of her mother. She thought of her brother’s misery at marrying a woman he didn’t know or love, the way he’d done foolish, reckless things in anger when he’d first discovered his fate at thirteen. Maggie had pitied him, and felt guilty that she was secretly glad it wasn’t she forced to marry a Duff.
Her next meeting with Owen wasn’t auspicious—she merely passed him on the stairs outside her flat on High Street, as dusk settled in dark waves on Edinburgh. The tall building with a dozen floors housed all manner of people, from the chimney sweep in the cellar to the dancing master in the garret. The best floors were reserved for noblemen, and though her father didn’t have a title, he was the chief of the Clan McCallum. Her mother had leased the flat to be near the earl’s family, since her son was marrying into them, but she did not want her daughter involved beyond what civility expected.
Upon seeing Maggie, Owen came to a stop on the stairs and grinned that grin that lived in her dreams for many years to come. His warm brown eyes made her think of the chocolate English ladies favored for their morning drink, and as they took her in, skimming her form, she felt as suitably overheated as that cup she’d only once clutched in her hands on a cold winter morning in the Highlands.
She wanted to scold him for his bold gaze but then she saw the round tube he carried.
“Is that a telescope?” she demanded.
Those eyes now brightened with more than warmth. “Aye, I’m heading out to gaze upon the stars. Have ye looked through one before?”
She shook her head. She’d done nothing more intellectual than read passages from the Bible—she hadn’t been allowed more, had no access to other books. Knowing there was a whole world of knowledge out there made her ache with regret and frustration.
He held out a hand. “I’m Owen. Do ye want to come?”
She hesitated, realizing he didn’t recognize her. In that long moment she thought of her grandparents already preparing for bed, the fact that she’d just seen her mother into a sedan chair to meet with friends, and that her brother lived in his own flat near the university. She was alone.
Owen stood a couple stairs below her, and that put them at just about the same height. She stared into his eyes again, and the admiration and curiosity made her unfurl like a blossom in springtime.
But she had to be honest. Taking a deep breath, she said, “I’m Maggie McCallum. ’Tis my brother who’s to marry your sister.”
He looked at her for a long moment, and the first feelings of regret and resignation washed through her.
But Owen didn’t rush away, only extended his hand closer to her. “Nice to meet ye, Maggie. Do ye still want to come with a dreaded Duff?”
She bit her lip to keep from giggling like a foolish girl. She was sixteen, a woman now. He obviously didn’t remember her from four years before. Maybe that was for the best. Putting her hand in his, she let him lead her out into the twilight.
During the next few weeks, Owen was the excitement in days that were once dreary and repetitive. Sneaking away to ride down to the shore at the Firth of Forth, boating, exploring the grounds of Edinburgh Castle, or even meandering through shops seemed like wild adventures when she was at Owen’s side.
Publisher and Release Date: Avon, March 2016
Time and setting: Scotland, 1727
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 4 stars
Review by Vikki
The Groom Wore Plaid is an emotionally-charged romance with engaging characters and an intriguing plot. The pacing is excellent and made it an easy and quick read. The prologue pulled me in, and it smoothly transitioned to the first chapter, which is set ten years after the couple first met.
Margaret McCallum is the sacrificial lamb. By marrying Owen Duff, the Earl of Aberfoyle, it will end the long feud between their clans, but there is a problem. Maggie has dreams that foretell the future. She has had a dream showing Owen dying in her arms on their wedding day. How can she place him in harm’s way by marrying him?
Owen Duff remembers Maggie and the desire he felt for her all those years ago. He knows he wronged her and that she has not forgiven him, even though she has agreed to the contract between the clans. His desire for her has not lessened – in fact, it is stronger than ever, so he has to overcome his future bride’s determination to find another way to fulfill the contract. Can Owen convince Maggie to marry him, or will her desire to protect him from his possible death prove too strong to circumvent?
I truly enjoyed Maggie’s character. She is sincere, loyal to her family and determined to protect the man she has always desired, even though their youthful romance did not end well. She has depth to her character, and I was able to figure out what made her so afraid to form friendships. I could feel her terror about putting Owen in a situation that could mean his death.
Owen Duff has every reason to avoid attachments. His father was an uncaring chief, milking the clan and ruling from a distance, more concerned about his ties to England spending most of his time there. As a result, the clan is mistrustful of Owen, and he has a lot to prove and I loved his determination to do just that. Even though he has trust issues, he truly wants Maggie to become his bride, and is just as determined to win her over as he is the members of his clan.
The Groom Wore Plaid is very well-written, and Ms. Callen does an excellent job with the suspenseful scenes. My only problem with this story is the lack of a strong sense of Scotland. Her dialogue did not give me what I love about a Scottish tale, and other than the use of ye and lass, it could have been set in England. However, I did enjoy the romance between the hero and heroine a great deal, and would certainly recommend it to anyone looking for a moving story with strong characters and an element of suspense.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
After a detour through fitness instructing and computer programming, GAYLE CALLEN found the life she’d always dreamed of as a romance writer. This USA Today bestselling author has written more than twenty historical romances for Avon Books, and her novels have won the Holt Medallion, the Laurel Wreath Award, the Booksellers’ Best Award, and been translated into eleven different languages. The mother of three grown children, an avid crafter, singer, and outdoor enthusiast, Gayle lives in Central New York with her dog Uma and her husband, Jim the Romance Hero. She also writes contemporary romances as Emma Cane.
Visit her website at www.gaylecallen.com