The Royal Mile ($18.95, 400 pages., ISBN:978-1-60381-855-1), a novel by Mary Daheim, is set in the time of Mary, Queen of Scots. A young girl left destitute by her father’s death meets a pirate in the service of the Queen.
The Royal Mile was originally published in 1983 under the title, Love’s Pirate.
“Mary Daheim’s novels are a rare treat for the lovers of deeply detailed, highly historical love stories that bring history to vibrant life.”
—Romantic Times Magazine
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As her father lies on his deathbed, Dallas Cameron joins the crowd gathered at Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh to witness the triumphant entrance of Mary Stuart into Scotland in 1561. On Dallas’ way home, she is rescued from a group of lecherous ruffians by a dashing stranger. Iain Fraser escorts her home where Dallas’ mortally ill father recognizes her savior’s name and tells him a secret he has never shared with anyone—the identity of Iain’s father.
Donald Cameron’s death leaves Dallas and her two sisters destitute. She tries to earn money by selling meat pies and family heirlooms, but her efforts are in vain. Taking pity on the poor lassie, Iain spares her further humiliation by giving her a loan. Later, she accidentally stumbles across his ship hidden in a cave and discovers that not only is Iain one of Queen Mary’s favorite courtiers, but he’s also a pirate. To ensure her silence, Iain agrees to marry her, but love isn’t part of their strange bargain. She gains respectability and security while he moves on to enjoy his freedom.
Iain’s dedication to Scotland and the Queen often takes him away from his wife, whose loyalty wavers during times of loneliness. As Dallas’ passion is awakened, she realizes that the only man she really loves is her lawful husband. But before they can attempt to heal the emotional wounds they have inflicted on each other, they must first find a way to survive the political and religious turmoil plaguing the dangerous court of Mary, Queen of Scots.
Says the author, “Almost 50 years ago, I spent three months in Europe with my cousin, Judy, and two of our friends. We visited Paris, London, Rome, Vienna—just about every major must-see place in Western Europe. They all lived up to expectations, but the city I fell in love with was Edinburgh. Of course all the other places I saw in Europe had plenty of their own history, but Edinburgh—especially the High Street or The Royal Mile as it’s known—reeked of it.”
Mary Richardson Daheim, a Seattle native, began her publishing career with the first of seven historical romances before switching to mysteries in 1991. Since then she has published at least 55 books. Click here to find Mary the Web.
Keep reading for an excerpt:
Breathless from exertion and terror, Dallas was reduced to writhing helplessly in their grasp. They had passed the second row of houses on the hill when a voice that sounded oddly familiar called out behind them, “Kidnappers end up in the Tolbooth, you know.”
Drunk as the young revelers were, they recognized authority in that cool, almost casual tone. They stopped in their tracks, dumping Dallas unceremoniously onto the cobblestones. Struggling to her feet, she looked up to see that her savior was the dark man she had encountered near Holyrood Palace. He stood outlined against a whitewashed house, his hands at his hips, his head to one side.
“We—we’re handfasted,” blurted the redhead. “We’re just having a bit of fun, my mates and I.”
“Handfasted?” One dark wedge of eyebrow lifted. “No, I think not.” The man took a step forward, and though he moved indolently, there was something menacing in his attitude. His hands remained at his hips but the eyes of all four revelers fastened like magnets on the lethal-looking dirk shoved into the stranger’s belt. There was only the briefest hesitation before the four young men took to their heels and scuttled off down the wynd and into the sanctuary of the night.
Dallas had remained huddled against an iron railing while the brief exchange took place. She was still out of breath, her thick brown hair half-covered her face, and a wild trembling had overtaken her limbs. The dark man approached her and gently took her hand.
“You should not have stayed out so late without a proper escort, lassie,” he said reproachfully. “Unless,” he added with a glint of mockery in his hazel eyes, “it is to your profit to do so.”
Dallas pulled her shaking hand away and felt her spirits revive with a jolt. “Pox on you for such impertinence!” she railed. “I go where I please, and never has any man pestered me until this night.”
He lifted one shoulder in a gesture of indifference. “As you say. You live nearby?”
“Aye,” she muttered. The shaking had stopped and her hands worked at pulling the thick hair from her face.
“Then you won’t call out the watch if I walk the remaining distance with you to your door?” He saw a stormy look but went on before she could speak. “My name is Iain Fraser and I live close by, in Mungo Tennant’s former home. You know the house in Gosford’s Close?”
“Aye, it’s a beautiful place,” Dallas asserted, trying hard to keep a check on her emotional turmoil. “Though I’ve heard it said that Mungo Tennant had torture chambers in the cellar and engaged in strange doings to gain his wealth.”
Fraser shrugged. “He accumulated sufficient funds to take over the house when the monks were turned out.” He glanced at Dallas. “Why do you look so puzzled, lassie?”
“Your name—Fraser … why is it familiar to me?” But her thoughts were still muddled by the encounter with the drunken youths.
“It’s not an uncommon name, even this far from the Highlands,” Fraser said lightly.