Ashe Barker is here today with her wonderful novel The Laird and the Sassenach. This is a story of a man with justice to mete out, and a dilemma to face. Sometimes the truth seems to stare us in the face, at other times it may be not so clear where the blame lies. In the middle ages, of course, matters of crime and punishment, guilt or innocence were simple enough. The social hierarchies of the time placed authority and power in few hands and there were no qualifications required which entitled the privileged to rule. They were just handed the job and the common folk had to hope their leaders would turn out to be wise and fair. Sometimes they got lucky, and The Laird and the Sassenach is a story of one such instance.
Side note: Sassenach is a Scottish Gaelic term that literally means Saxon but more broadly refers to non-Gaelic speaking Brits.
A highland warrior with a score to settle
After her half-brother attacks the kinsmen of Blair McGregor, Lady Roselyn of Etal is brought before the stern highland laird to answer for her reluctant, unwitting role in the crime. Once she has told her story, she throws herself at his mercy.
Blair soon realizes that Roselyn is as much a victim of her half-brother as anyone, but his people’s demands for justice cannot be ignored entirely, so he strips the young Englishwoman bare and chastises her firmly with a switch applied to her naked backside.
The painful, humiliating punishment both assuages Roselyn’s guilt and leaves her yearning to be even more thoroughly mastered by the handsome laird. Though Blair makes it clear that she is free to return home, she instead chooses to remain with the him in his castle… and in his bed. Their passion soon blossoms into romance, but can the highlander protect his beautiful Sassenach when the villain who caused them both so much pain tries to tear her away from him?
Publisher’s Note: The Laird and the Sassenach includes spankings and sexual scenes. If such material offends you, please don’t buy this book.
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“I shall have to trouble you to remove your gown, Roselyn. And your shift. I require you naked to the waist.”
Her eyes darkened to a shade close to violet. “I cannot. You cannot ask that of me.”
“I am not asking. It is not a request, it is a command. You will remove your clothing, or I shall summon a couple of my guards and they will remove it for you.” He stood and reached for her thin shoulder. Apart from offering her his arm to lead her into the solar this was the first time he had touched her and he was oddly pleased that despite her predicament and obvious fear she did not shrink away from him. He squeezed gently. “I do not intend to harm you, Roselyn, and this will be easier for you if just the two of us are present. If you require assistance I shall be pleased to aid you.”
She turned her face in his direction. “You really believe there might still be bruises.”
“It is possible, aye. Shall we find out?” He deliberately gentled his tone, sensing that she was willing to do even this if it would help to bolster her case.
There was a brief pause. She chewed on her lower lip and twisted her fingers nervously. Moments passed, then she raised her face to grant him a tremulous smile. “Very well, my lord. Thank you.”
“For your offer of aid. I believe I shall require it for my hands are shaking.”
Fuck. He took no pleasure in that knowledge, though why he should care was beyond him. Blair turned her to face him and with a few deft movements untied the laces which held her kirtle closed at the neck. The garment was simple enough, and practical. He was glad of that as he separated the two halves and slid it off her shoulders and down her arms. Beneath she wore just a woollen leine, loose enough not to require any fastenings. The lower portion disappeared into the skirts of her kirtle, still held at the waist by her belt made of plaited leather. Blair loosened the belt to free the fabric beneath, then pulled the leine up out of the confines of her outer clothing. Despite her acquiescence Roselyn made a grab for the garment as he started to lift it higher.
Blair paused. “Roselyn?”
She released her grip on the soft wool and raised her arms obediently in order to allow him to draw it over her head. She was naked beneath.
She was his enemy, but that was no reason not to speak his mind. Blair made no pretence of not observing what was displayed before him.
“You are quite lovely, Lady Roselyn.”
She gulped and laid her hands over the plump mounds. “Please…” she whispered.
He leaned in to murmur in her ear. “Do not be afraid. I mean you no harm here. I will touch you now, and if I hurt you, you must say so. Do you understand?”
“Yes, sir.” Her lovely eyes were closed and she continued to worry her lower lip between her small white teeth. Despite his reassurances she was plainly terrified. The view was delightful but even so he opted to conclude their business as quickly as he might.
“Turn to the right, if you please, to better catch the light from the window.” Not that he particularly required the benefit of improved illumination; the yellows and faint purplish smudges on her skin were plain to see. Blair was familiar with injuries acquired in battle and in training. He had sustained enough himself and had no difficulty in recognising the remnants of a severe battering. Both sides of her slender torso were similarly marked from just below her arms almost to her waist. He could not accurately date the original attack, but saw no cause to dispute her account of it.
He stroked the contours of her ribs on her left side, careful to exert no pressure. Even so, she winced. “Does it still pain ye, lass?”
“Your hands are cold, my lord.”
Blair chuckled. “Ah, I apologise.” He stepped around to better examine the right side also. This time when he laid his fingers on her she remained still.
“Are there bruises, my lord?”
“Aye, there are.”
“Then this will prove my account? You believe me?”
“It helps, without doubt. ‘Tis a pity we have no witness to support your story, though I daresay I could dispatch men to Kelso to question the Reverend Mother.”
“You would do that?”
He was surprised to realise that he would. Indeed he would, for he found he badly wanted to prove the mitigating circumstances which might help excuse Lady Roselyn’s actions. He was not a fool, Blair knew his people well. He would have to present convincing evidence of coercion in order to satisfy the members of Clan McGregor who would demand retribution for the deaths of their kinsfolk. As matters stood they would expect him to hang the English wench and would consider that a merciful end. It might yet come to that, but despite his earlier intentions he now found he had no real stomach for heaping his vengeance upon this fragile wench.
More about Ashe Barker, in her own words:
I love to write historical stories. I am especially drawn to Highland fantasies, and why not? Who can resist the soaring Scottish scenery and sexy men in kilts. I find myself fascinated by that heady cocktail of honour and lawlessness, the atmospheric sensuality of the time and the way an all-powerful laird will reveal his soft centre just when it matters. But the Sassenach in the story also has her little quirks and faces some unique challenges. And look out for an unlikely star of the show. Freya the wolfhound has her part to play and I absolutely adored her.
I hope readers enjoy The Laird and the Sassenach as much as I loved writing it
Question and answer with Ashe Barker:
Tell us a bit more about Blair. He’s stern and sexy, with a twitchy palm, but what else is there to know?
Well, I think you just about covered the basics there. Blair has a strong sense of duty, and of justice. He knows that he has to satisfy the demands of the McGregor clan who expect to see justice done but he is unwilling to do so at the expense of an innocent woman. Blair is determined to know the truth and to apportion blame where it should lie, but he is also an implacable enemy. If he discovers that Roselyn is to blame he will not hesitate to make her answer for her crimes.
Why do you enjoy writing historical fiction?
History was my favourite lesson at school, though some periods are more fascinating to me than others. I always preferred the medieval or even earlier times, though the Victoriuans were an interesting bunch too. In many ways life was simpler in the past, if a lot more brutal, and of course some of the moral issues we would have to deal with in a contemporary setting don’t apply. Inequality was the norm. Women were expected to obey – or else. A spanking author can have a field day.
Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
I think it was always there, though I only started writing properly about three years ago. I have always tended to plot stories in my head though, often when sitting in traffic jams on my daily commute. I now work at home so all that time spent inhaling exhaust fumes is finally paying off.
If you had to describe yourself using three words, it would be…
Resilient. Creative. Calm.
What would you do if you were the last person on this earth?
Turn out the lights.
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