She wants to take off his head. He wants to win her heart.
Hugh Cullane, accused of murder and sentenced to hang, is forced to deliver a message of betrothal to four-year-old Queen Mary of Scotland. He faces death yet again when, in rejecting the proposal, the queen’s guardian orders his severed head sent back to England in a jar.
Trained to protect her queen at all costs, Katherine Payne can show no mercy to the handsome messenger, despite the way his stolen kiss unsettles her single-minded sense of duty. Trapped between the English and Scottish armies, she must escape with Mary. Hugh joins her as they are chased by men determined to murder the young queen in their own quest for power.
Hugh Cullane is facing a hangman’s noose, but once receiving a royal pardon, he goes to Scotland at the behest of the Duke of Somerset in order to offer marriage to the child Queen of Scotland for the English child king.
As the queen’s guardian, Katherine “Kit” Payne must protect the young Mary no matter how much Hugh’s unexpected kiss thrilled her. When secrets are revealed and both the English and Scottish armies want to hurt Mary, she will have to trust Hugh to help her and Mary.
I really enjoyed this story. The young queen, Mary, was adorable and every bit a secured, well-loved child. Hugh is so charming and witty, but he meets his match in warrior Kit, especially when she orders him beheaded. Luckily for him, Kit’s sweet and determined elderly friend, Lady Juliana, saw fit to push the unlikely lovers together.
I liked Ms. Furlong’s use of Scottish words and how she weaved flashbacks into the current narrative as a character was telling a story. The POV occasionally switched between characters without scene or chapter breaks, but I followed along with minimal confusion.
I’ve always been fascinated with English and Scottish history, so this revisionist story really drew me in. The ending is bittersweet, and though I was hoping a few things would turn out differently, I fully enjoyed the story.