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Speak of Love

Honora, a duke's daughter, knows better than to expect her marriage to be a love match, but her uncles' choice of a vain, greedy widower won't do either. She has her welfare and the future of her sisters to think of. "I'd rather marry the devil himself," she tells them, and then she meets ... Brec McCloud, the mysterious new Laird of the Isle of Myst. He seeks a lady for his castle for his own dark reasons, and he is willing to give up much to win Lady Honora's hand in marriage. One suitor rejected and war on the horizon, Honora is forced to accept his magical courtship and passionate attentions. Ultimately she accepts his proposal of marriage which sets her on a journey to the western isles and world of healers, pirates, and sinister superstitions. At the Laird's ancestral home where she reigns as the lady of the castle, she discovers a kelpie, a fairy flag, a tale of murder and cruel betrayal. With a woman's special strength, she fights for her Laird as an enemy's lies threaten to tear them apart...before they can speak of love.

A Hard Shell Word Factory Release

Linda Madl

     Linda Madl's work includes ten novels and many novellas, short stories, and nonfiction articles. Besides a good story, she relishes chocolate, classical music, and a good bookstore or library. The settings of her books are as varied as her own travels. Cornwall, Scotland, the Rockies, and the Kansas River banks have all served as locales for her work. She resides with her husband, dog, and parakeet in the Kansas Flint Hills. Family, friends, and travel fill her non-writing hours. Find more information and a list of her book titles atwww.lindamadl.com.


"SPEAK OF LOVE is a wonderful Scottish love story. This is a fantastic story filled with all kinds of political intrigue and true feelings and one I highly recommend to all lovers of Scottish love stories."

Chere -- ParaNormal Romance Reviews

"Oh, the sheer perfection of this book! Every time I read a Linda Madl book, I feel as if I am being blown away right into the wonderful story and into the wonderful characters' lives. SPEAK OF LOVE has all the elements that I look for in a good romance novel. Linda Madl is fast becoming a must-read author, in my opinion."

Kristal Gorman -- Romance Reader at Heart

"The Scottish setting well researched which provides a wild and romantic backdrop to the story. The characters are captivating and the fast paced story and plot twists will keep you turning pages to the very end. Wonderful engaging and poignant story."

Qetesh -- TCM Reviews

"A wonderful, compelling love story, rich with the flavor of the Scottish Isles and filled with characters who will warm your heart."

Elizabeth Grayson -- author of Moon in the Water.

"This is a delightful tale--humor offsets mystery and weaves a page-turner. Highly recommended."


Chapter One

Edinburgh, Scotland
Spring 1644

THE STORM'S WRATH swelled to a pitch almost equal to Honora's anger. Raindrops beat a stinging tattoo against the diamond-pane windows of her uncles' town house. Thunder rumbled across the heavens. Wind wailed like a banshee through chimney tops and howled along the city's narrow wynds.

She sucked in a breath and drew strength from the tempest's passion. How can Lanie do this to me? Across the room her serving woman—the same motherly soul who'd kept all Honora's and her sisters' childhood secrets—confessed everything to Uncle John and Uncle Malcolm.

Lanie's sobs splintered the tension inside the library. "Aye, yer grace, I carried Lady Honora's notes across town, and I accompanied her when she met with Mister Parrish in secret. She made me promise to tell no one."

The betrayal carved a hollow feeling in the pit of Honora's stomach. She regarded her uncles' faces as they considered Lanie's words. Their deepening frowns told her there would be no talking her way out of this one. She wouldn't even try. After all, she'd done no wrong—other than omitting the truth. With a defiant lift of her chin, she set her shoulders and waited for her uncles to speak.

"I'm so sorry, milady." Lanie bowed her gray-streaked head, cowering before Honora and the two scowling Scotsmen who sat by the fire. "Yer uncles reminded me that they are the same as yer father now, the first duke. God rest his soul. I had to tell."

Of course her uncles had given Lanie no choice. The serving woman sniffled again and attempted to wipe away her tears with the corner of her brown wool shawl. Out of pity and exasperation Honora thrust her own handkerchief at the poor dear.

"Now, Lanie, tell me," Uncle Malcolm said, "was Lady Honora ever alone with Mister Alexander?"

"Never," Honora replied, short, terse, and indignant over the innuendo. "Lanie was always present. Tell them, Lanie. Alexander and I meet to read poetry and sing lyrics. Nothing more."

"Then why did you keep the meetings secret?" Uncle John demanded.

"Because I know how you dislike Alexander Parrish." And because she intended to make her own choices. Her uncles seemed unable to understand that in the whole of Edinburgh there wasn't a suitable man for her, except Alexander. She wanted friendship and to be treated as a partner. He gave her that.

The suitors her uncles presented wanted marriage with the Lady Honora, a wealthy Covenanter duke's niece—a late duke's daughter. They didn't give a fig about who she truly was or how she felt about issues.

"You may go now, Lanie." Malcolm rose from his fireside chair and paced to the door as a signal of dismissal.

Everyone remained silent until Lanie left. Malcolm's footsteps rang firm on the wood floor; his sharp shadow angled across the bookshelves filled with gold-imprinted, leather-bound volumes. His golf clubs leaned in the corner by the door. On the wall the brass-faced lantern clock, a favorite of Honora's, ticked on steadfastly.

Uncle John, the second-born Maitland son, heir to her deceased father's title, remained seated, his white hair shining in the firelight. The wood fire crackled, spewing bright sparks across the stone hearth. Uncle John preferred wood fires, especially apple wood, to coal and was willing to pay the difference. He contemplated the burning logs and puffed on his long-stemmed clay pipe.

Uncle Malcolm spoke first. "You understand, Honora, that Lanie told us about these assignations with the Parrish lad for your own good." He stopped at his writing desk and toyed with a leather golf ball. "Alexander is completely unsuitable. The Parrishes are little more than rich horse traders. Besides that, the lad is a fourth son. He has absolutely no prospects."

"Not to mention that he pales at the sight of a sword, and despite what he prattles, he's a poor poet," Uncle John added without turning away from the fire.

"Are we seeking a husband for me or a warrior for your Covenanters' army?" Tense and angry, Honora clasped her trembling hands before her and put on her bravest face. But inside she feared that those wonderful hours with Alexander were lost to her forever.

"My dear niece," Malcolm implored, his voice lowering to a kindly note, "you are nineteen and you've been seeing to your own household for five years now, and you've cared for your sisters most admirably.

"The fact is your Uncle John and I have been remiss. We should have contracted your marriage sooner, before Scotland joined the war between Parliament and King Charles. Honora, you're a practical lass. Surely you see the necessity of making a suitable match soon—for your sake and your sisters' as well."

Honora looked away from Uncle Malcolm, unable to meet his gentle blue eyes. Of her two uncles, he was her favorite. He was most like her father—straight and thin, kind and generous. She liked dour Uncle John, too, but his cold outlook on the world was more difficult to love. They were compassionate men who, in their own way, always meant well. But she knew they would never tolerate an alliance with Alexander Parrish.

And she prided herself on being sensible, if a touch romantic by nature. She'd always known that her marriage would be expected to benefit the Maitlands as well as the bridegroom's family. But she'd always hoped to find a man who saw her as more than a suitable acquisition. She was wary of this sudden insistence on making a match.