Knights of the Bruce

Today we welcome Scottish historical author Gerri Russell back to the Lair. Next month is the official launch of her new series about the Scottish Knights Templar with volume one, To Tempt A Knight. Which has a very tempting cover, as you’ll see. I’ve read the first part of this book, which has dynamic action and heart-wrenching romance, and I can’t wait to finish it. Gerri will tell us what inspired the series and give us a peek inside the book. Welcome, Gerri!

I’m thrilled to be back in the lair with so many of my favorite people to celebrate the release of my new book, To Tempt a Knight. This book starts a new series for me based on a group of men in Scottish history that were know as Robert the Bruce’s special guard. These men were the best of the best, specially-trained in the military arts, and handpicked by the Bruce himself.

Anyone familiar with 14th century Scottish history knows that the reign of Robert the Bruce was anything but peaceful. The English were a constant threat to Scottish lands and their way of life. The Bruce had wanted desperately during his lifetime to go on crusade to the Holy Land. Some theorize that it was a way for him to make peace within himself over the slaying by his supporters of John Comyn, his rival for the throne of Scotland. The incident led to the excommunication of the Bruce from the Catholic Church.

As the king’s life neared its end, he called on his men to grant him one last favor. After he died, he asked that his heart be removed from his chest and taken on Crusade to the Holy Land for burial in the church of the Holy Sepulchre. Faithful to their king, they cut the king’s heart out at his death, placed it in a specially designed cylindrical vessel, and in the spring of 1330, the Bruce’s inner circle of knights, supported by twenty-six squires and a retinue of men, set off on a Crusade from Scotland for Jerusalem, fighting the infidel along the way through enemy territory.

On the morning of August 25th, 1330, the Scottish knights joined King Alfonso of Castile in a battle that was intended to crush the Kingdom of Granada, which was held by the Moors at that time. A false battle cry sent the Scottish knights into battle before they had adequate reinforcements. They were outnumbered a hundred to one. And even with the heart of the king on their side, they were doomed to failure. The knights were crushed by the Moors, and their mission failed. Five of the ten knights died, along with hundreds of foot soldiers.

When I read about the devastation Robert the Bruce’s knights suffered, I knew I had to write the stories of these knights. What would it be like to lose everything—their friends, their family (they gave them up to be Templars), their purpose, their confidence, and their faith? In the series I explore how three of these men recovered from that kind of devastation.

Of course, we all know it takes the help of a good woman, despite the fact they’ve all taken vows of chastity, to get them back on track. Here’s a snippet of some of that recovery from the pages of To Tempt a Knight.

A primitive jolt of desire rocked William as he gazed down at Siobhan. Sweet Mary, he groaned silently. The blood pounded in his veins and quickened in his loins to a point he had never experienced before. He’d lost himself all right. He’d lost himself, body and soul, in the feel of her body next to his.

Firelight flickered across her red hair and gilded the softness of her alabaster skin. When had the sun vanished from the sky? He hadn’t noticed light or dark, nothing but the woman who stood not two paces from him.

He wanted to reach out to her, to shatter the tension between them and end this madness. Surely, once he tasted her, his senses would return to normal and they could move forward with their journey.

His thoughts stopped him. You’re a monk. And with that designation comes certain responsibilities. William clenched his jaw, fighting desire. He had dedicated himself to something other than the concerns of mortal men.

He felt very mortal at the moment, and vulnerable to the desires of men. Suddenly, the question he usually asked himself in times of great fear sprung forward in his mind. What’s the worst that can happen?

William clung to the question like a lifeline. The worst might be that he’d want more than a sampling of what Siobhan had to offer. The worst might be that he’d be forced to recant his vows, to leave the Templars, to take up a secular life. Or worse yet, that God might turn his back on him.

Never had he been so tempted to turn away from his vows. He took a step closer, reminding himself that God would forgive his failings. He forgave all men their imperfections. William swallowed roughly as he moved closer. Her delicate fragrance filled his senses. Forbidden or not, he wanted her.

“Siobhan,” he whispered her name. He could feel the warmth of her against his chest, yet they did not touch. He lifted the end of her damp plait where it hung across her shoulder and curled it around his finger. Slowly, slowly, he increased the pull. Not hurting her, simply drawing her forward until her hips touched his.

He toyed with the single strand of hair at the end of her plait that she’d used to hold the whole tight. His thumb brushed the end backwards and forward until it gave under his gentle caress.

He could not stop the low groan that came from his chest when the ends of her hair came free. He worked the plait apart, higher and higher. “You should let your hair go free.” He kept his manner light, but he couldn’t hide the desire that deepened his tone.

A shiver moved through her as he continued. With each fraction of an inch he moved up the length of her hair, unplaiting it, he drew her closer. Her breasts brushed his chest. He brought the fall of her hair up to his mouth. He brushed the silken texture against his lips.

He let it fall back against her neck and followed it down, pressing the softest of kisses to her hair and the flesh of her shoulder beneath. Her skin was exquisitely soft, and he lingered there, unable to pull away.

She shuddered at the contact. “William, we should not,” she whispered.

“I know.” His body pulsed and ached as he shifted his gaze from her to the pool beyond them. Mist crept across the moonlit waters and a whisper of a gentle breeze chased through the silver-backed leaves overhead. “Everything in my head says nay, but you here in my arms feels right.” His voice was shaking, and shivers ran down his limbs.

She pulled him closer.

He buried his face in her hair and drew in the soft scent of heather that lingered there. He felt the curve of her body against his. All the blood in his body ran erotic, beating with longing, with the need to not just take her, but possess her as his own.

She wanted that too, he could feel it in the beat of her heart against his chest, feel the ripening of her breasts where they pressed against him.

Being near her without possessing her was pure hell. The emotions that drove them to this moment, the force of their passion was a gift given freely by the Maker above. They had every right to explore that gift. He was only a man, and man was flawed. He knew what his sins were. He knew what his judgment would be. And he found he didn’t care what it cost him.

He wanted to lose himself, to put an end to his self-imposed isolation with the woman in his arms. He was always alone, had wanted to be alone, until she came along. He held her tighter. “Tell me if you want to stop,” he breathed as the flame inside him burned ever brighter. He would use that fire within himself to incite her, to please her, and make a world where only he and Siobhan existed as they became one flesh.

I hope you’ve enjoyed a peek inside To Tempt a Knight as much as I’ve enjoyed sharing it with you.

Now it’s your turn. What kind of hero captures your heart? Is there a particular hero that stayed in your thoughts and your heart long after the book was over?

One commenter will receive a copy of To Tempt a Knight.

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