Monday, January 6, 2020

The Gift: A Highland Novella by Margaret Mallory

Lily's well-honed sense for trouble tells her no healer is safe in London while gangs roam the city looking for witches to burn. In the dead of night, she escapes on a northbound ship, intending to return after Christmas celebrations calm the city's witch fever. But when Lily lands in the wilds of Scotland, her skills for surviving in the city can't save her.  

Roderick MacDonald is on a secret mission for his chieftain when he finds a lass near death on a barren hillside and is forced to take her with him. Though this mysterious Sassenach may have the gift his clan needs - and he burns with passion for her - he's determined to resist the enchantment she weaves on his scarred heart. When love blooms amidst the harsh winter beauty of the Highlands, will these two obstinate souls from different worlds accept the Yuletide gift?

Publisher: Margaret Mallory Author  | Narrator: Derek Perkins | Length: 3 hours, 17 minutes  |  Genre: Historical Romance | Source: Audible Escape | Rating: 4 Cups
Challenges Read For:  - Audiobook Challenge - Literary Pickers : Fireplace 
She’s a stubborn Sassenach and he’s a determined Highlander on a mission. Sounds fun, aye?
Lily’s a healer who has fled to Scotland during London’s witch hunt. Roderick’s on a mission to find the healer/seer his seanmhair (Scots Gaelic for grandmother) has sent him to find. When Roderick rescues a nearly frozen Lily and discovers she’s a healer on her way to learn from a more powerful healer, he’s sure she’s the healer/seer his seanmhair has him searching for. Convincing her to travel with him for her safety, they both find themselves falling for each other although when they return to Roderick’s home, Lily soon discovers he had ulterior motives. Will Roderick be able to convince Lily he’s in love with her?
It’s been a minute since I’ve read Margaret Mallory and I forgot how much I enjoy her writing. She has the ability to draw me in from the start and hold my attention until the very end.
Roderick and Lily made a fun pair—he’s determined, a bit broody, and a complete Highlander, she’s a sassy, stubborn redhead. They have chemistry from the start but they both have their qualms and, after learning of Roderick’s mission, Lily’s hesitant to trust him.
While this one was rather short—the audio was just over 3 hours—it was still a nicely rounded novella. Could it have been longer and would I have liked it to have been longer? Most definitely. Although I was rather pleased with how it was.
This is connected to the Return of the Highlanders series, is a standalone novella.
Derek Perkins is one of my favorite narrators of historical romance but I feel like he was almost a bit too proper sounding for a 15th century highlander. It’s just a personal preference but I like a little more roughness to come across in the Highland burr.
Overall, this was a fun little Yuletide Highland romance. If you’re wanting a quick refresher, then I recommend this novella.

Historical Trivia:
The Gift is set in late 1441 and Lily flees London to escape the witch-hunt of King Henry VI. While the book makes it sound as though the King’s Guard was beating down doors in search of ‘witches’ it wasn’t as dire as that.

While people in England were being accused of witchcraft and sorcery since the 10th century, it wasn’t until 1441 that the accused was burnt at the stake.

The story is an interesting and high-reaching one that started when Eleanor Cobham, Duchess of Gloucester consulted astrologers to divine the future. This wasn’t an uncommon thing in this era or the ones that followed, the trouble lay in what astrologers Thomas Southwell and Roger Bolingbroke (also a physician) were predicting and that was the death of King Henry VI.

When the King’s guard discovered this prediction, they followed the rumors and began interrogating Southwell, Bolingbroke, and John Hum (Eleanor’s personal confessor). Soon after Southwell and Bolingbroke were arrested on treasonable necromancy charges, they named Eleanor as the instigator; she was also tried and charged. It was believed that her mindset was if the king dies, then her husband the Duke of Gloucester would be king. Once again, Eleanor would have the upper hand.

While Eleanor denied most of the charges, she confessed to obtaining potions from Margery Jourdemayne, "the Witch of Eye". These potions and her consultations with the astrologers, Eleanor claimed, were to help her conceive. Failing to believe her, all involved—with exception of John Hum—were found guilty.

Eleanor was banished for life to the Isle of Man. Southwell died in the Tower and Bolingbroke was hanged, drawn, and quartered. In October of 1441, Margery Jourdemayne, ‘the Witch of Eye’ and noted diviner, was burnt at the stake in Smithfield.

It wasn’t until the 16th century that witch hunts in Scotland and England started on a larger scale.


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