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Book cover of Sheep Are Simply Less Trouble Than Scotsmen by Lisa Brookhouse

Sheep Are Simply Less Trouble Than Scotsmen

by Lisa Brookhouse

Description

Kittie always hoped she'd marry for love. But her father had other plans...

It is 1794, and Scotland is in turmoil. Almost fifty years after the battle of Culloden and subsequent decimation of the clans, new landowners are mercilessly clearing their tenants to make way for more lucrative sheep.

Married off to a debaucherous Duke twice her age and thrust into the wilds of Scotland, Kittie enjoys a comfortable though passionless life. Yet she's a valuable pawn in a dangerous game of power and greed.

Abruptly torn from her home by a band of Highlanders determined to preserve their way of life at all costs, Kittie must navigate desolate captivity while struggling against a growing attraction towards her enigmatic captor, Moehill. Passionate, handsome, and tender, he's nothing like the Scotsmen her husband always warned her about. But she's a bargaining chip in a game she hardly understands and falling for him would be a very bad idea...

He'll stop at nothing to protect his clan. She'll stop at nothing to escape.

As passions ignite and her husband's arrogance casts a dark shadow over negotiations, Kittie must weave the treacherous paths of loyalty, betrayal, and forbidden attraction - but at what cost?

Find out in this captivating work of historical fiction that will keep you riveted until the very last page.

Details

  • Genre: Historical Fiction / Romance
  • Publication Date: 4 November 2023
  • Language: English

Reviews

'This work combines familiar romance conventions to stirring effect. The historical Scottish setting comes to life on the pages, through evocative descriptions.'

The BookLife Prize

'I adored this beautiful debut novel by Lisa Brookhouse. It was easy to fall into the beautiful Scottish setting, she describes it so well and I found the story refreshing and the relationship development between the two main characters exhilarating! The dialogue throughout was entertaining and realistic and I loved learning more about Scottish history and culture.'

Elin de Ruyter, author of Mother of Light

Enjoyed reading this book? Leave your own review on Goodreads or Amazon.

Excerpt from Sheep Are Simply Less Trouble Than Scotsmen

Copyright 2023 Lisa Brookhouse

Chapter 4

Barbarians, only clean ones.

Kittie and Moehill stood on the sandy bank of a wide river. To the north, it opened into a wide, stretching loch flanked by swollen grassy hills, the western bank blessed by an ancient forest and a vast covering of bluebells—evidence spring was well and truly alive in the Highlands.

A small single-masted cutter lay at anchor in its mouth, surrounded by an airy flotilla of pale-grey-and-white gulls, the nimble thieves following the fishing boat in noisy hope of offal for their lunch. An old, hairy captain stood sturdy on deck, his clothes as worn and weathered as his character. He acknowledged them with a gnarly hand before nimbly climbing the rail and descending into a tiny dinghy, sending forth a flurry of high-pitched karrs and kek-keks into the air around him.

He rowed ashore with slow, solid heaves on the oars. “I am Captain Cook,” he announced, with no hint of humor.

Kittie saw that his skin was bronzed and tanned to a thick rich leather by years and years of copious application of both sun and salt. “Captain Cook?” she repeated, with abject contempt. “I believe that you are dead, sir. And have been for some fifteen years past.”

With vibrancy, and a number of rough slaps, the man patted down the length of his torso in mock assessment. “It is a miracle!” he declared with vigor and then exploded in boisterous laughter, revealing the black holes of several missing teeth. “Welcome aboard my Whaler.”

“Whaler?” Kittie eyed the vessel and then the man before her in turn, certain she was being practiced upon once more. But a quick shot at the anchored vessel revealed a weathered nameplate bearing that title. She didn't laugh, certain that “Whaler” was only one harpoon away from a watery grave.

Once on board, the captain ran the sail up the solitary mast as Moehill heaved the anchor from its watery depths, and the trio set a steady pace up the sparkling blue waters of the long loch, embraced by the large swell of rolling hills and nodding carpet of blue wildflowers on the western bank. The Whaler's cargo consisted entirely of four bulging barrels—known as casks—three people, two pottery vessels, and one large bucket of slimy fish livers—repugnant to all but the karring contingent of trailing gulls. Kittie cut a look of malice at her captors. And these two miscreants, certainly.

She had settled herself onto the seat at the front of the boat, hand gripping the rail tightly as her eyes ran up the tall mast, with its delicate swell of crisp linen eight months gone under a steady breeze. She took a deep breath, craving fresh air and the steady influence of this bright spring day to calm her frazzled state. Instead, her nostrils flared with the putrid scent of warm fish livers, which churned her stomach into a whirlpool, and the cutter's timber sides, all imbued with the foul reek of a thousand fish—if not more. Its “Captain Cook” was seasoned likewise.

Had Kittie not been prisoner, she would have been happy. It was warm for the end of April, the sun high and unshadowed—for now at least; it was Scotland after all!—and distant wisps of steely clouds moved across the sky, pursued by darker ones the color of cold slate, billowing on the horizon. It wasn't raining. Well, not yet.

But Kittie was a prisoner, and she was miserable. She was also used to having her own way. “Take me back, now!” she commanded for the tenth time in the last hour, employing both spirit and voice of one used to charging servants with orders and then having them fluster off to cater to her every whim. “You have no right to hold me against my will.”

“And yer husband has nay right to run off families born to this land, for centuries past. And yet he does,” Moehill said dispassionately.

With a shrewd eye, he assessed the lagging swell of sail and made a subtle correction on the tiller, drawing the long timber handle towards his chest. Captain Cook deftly adjusted the length of hemp rope at his hip, pulling it taut, and then tied off the remaining length to a cleat on the rail with a flourish.

Kittie thrust her chin defiantly in the air. “His Grace has every right. That is your problem—isn't it? He owns the land now, not you. It was given to him by His Majesty King George III, no less,” she added haughtily.

“Look, lass, the Doiter o' Dudley—” the captain began.

“The Duke of Dudley,” she corrected.

“Aye, I ken weel enough what ye mean, but I meant Doiter—it means blundering fool, lass.”

Kittie huffed in indignation.

Moehill broke in. “Ye may purr”—he rolled his Rs intentionally—“about it all ye want to, my wee Kittie, but it willna change the fact that ye are my prisoner now. And yer circumstances will remain sae until yer husband grows some sense.” Moehill turned to the captain. “I ken the man . . . it may be some time.” The pair laughed.

Kittie folded her arms with a scowl. “His Grace has perfect sense, I assure you. And, what is more, it is becoming clearer to me by the second that moving sheep onto the land and you off it is a perfectly sensible substitution. Sheep, Moehill, are simply less trouble than Scotsmen.”

The two men caught each other's eye and burst out laughing, their disconcerting mirth loud enough for Kittie to hear mocking echoes of their contempt off distant cliffs. She squirmed uncomfortably and then rolled her eyes. “Argh. Really?”

“Aye, ye're right about one thing, lass.” Captain Cook pointed a gnarly arthritic finger at her, and she now saw that the remaining curled fingers were tattooed with the letters H-O-L-D on one hand, and F-A-S-T on the other. “Sheep are definitely less trouble than braw Scotsmen.”

“Aye, and ye had better hope—for yer ain sake—that the Doiter o' Dudley kens the truth o' it weel enough. Or ye and I may find ourselves out here together—in the middle o' nowhere—for some time.”

Kittie turned her back upon them, sitting statuesque with her arms tightly folded beneath the swell of her breasts. A shining vision in striped silk, she rocked back and forth as Whaler rode the gentle waves, mumbling oaths under her breath about annoying Scotsmen, the immorality of men in kilts—bare-kneed, no less!—and foul reeks.

Moehill snorted in response to her defiance—much to her displeasure—a sound irritatingly joyful in its timbre. “If ye've got something to say to me, lass, then I suggest that ye just come right out and say it.”

Enraged, she bounced to her feet and rounded on him. “I said,” she bellowed, “the sheep also smell much better than you stinking Scotsmen!”

The men locked eyes around the swell of sheet and then boomed with laughter, rolling on their seats. Their insolence turned Kittie's pale face the glowing hue of day-old sunburn, and she clenched her fists at her sides in fury.

With a glint in his eye, Moehill gave a sudden hard jerk upon the tiller, and with the instinct of a seasoned sailor and the twitching reflexes of a cat, Captain Cook grasped the edge of the cutter as the sail sagged. The boat lurched to a sudden stop with a startling heave which flung Kittie into the front well with the anchor rope, a mass of screeching silk stripes, white-ruffled petticoats, and red silk stockings clad in kicking black shoes.

“What are ye doing down there, Yer Grace?” Moehill asked, coming to his feet. “I canna ha' ye flapping about in the bottom o' the boat like a wee landed trout. Come along, get ye up.”

“Och, ye must take care on the seas, lass.” The captain reached forward to help his confederate, and together they dragged the squealing form out of the hole, depositing her, puffing and indignant, back onto her seat. “Ye'd best be careful, or ye'll pitch fair ower the side and drown.” He turned to Moehill, his brown leather face pleated in wrinkles of delight. “Then what will we do?”

“We'd ha' to put ye in a dress and call ye Duchess Doiter, and then send ye home to His Grace as a replacement,” Moehill put in helpfully.

“D'ye think he would ken the difference?” The pair laughed.

Kittie folded her arms. Overtly aware that her face was glowing red hot with a potent mix of embarrassment and fury, she huffed in frustration, and then rolled her eyes over the side of the cutter, searching for peace beneath the depths of crystal-blue water. A seagull landed lightly on the rail at her side and screamed a high-pitched karr of contempt in her face. She violently slapped the thing away and watched with envy its effortless glide on the brisk breeze across the loch, towards its home.

She could not get to her own soon enough.

Excerpt from 'Sheep Are Simply Less Trouble Than Scotsmen', Copyright 2023 Lisa Brookhouse

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