True short historical background by Celtic Barb ( Reviewer)
It was a difficult time for Scotland so much was taken away from them including their land and homes. In the early 1800’s it was a forced eviction called The Clearances. It resulted a change from farming to sheep raising, an agriculture revolution. This was carried out mainly by aristocratic landowners and would be practiced until the early 1900’s. Many had Factors like a foreman or manager to carry the landowners order and clearing the land. Some of these Factor were nothing more then terrorizing bullies. So when one of the largest the Rising Fair came every March many of these starving and homeless evicted Scots came hoping to find some work even if it was onky for a season. Will to do anything for roof over their heads, and coin in their pockets.
Book: The Hiring Fair by Laura Strickland (Help Wanted Series)
Reviewed By: Barb Massabrook
Heat Rating: Mild
Overall Rating: 5/5 Stars
Oban, Western Scotland
In this story: Tam Sutherland, is one of those bitter evicted former farmer and landowner and has come to “The Rising Fair” looking for work. He is starving, clothes are filthy and torn, wearing soleless shoes and has been sleeping in a ditch! His heart is as torn as is clothing, guilt ridden over deaths of people he loved and failed to protect! Plus he walked the entire long way, but he wouldn't be surprised if no one would offer him any work he only had one working hand! He was desperate and broke,hoping against hope, he would get offered some work.
Afterall Tam was damaged as his hand and fingers were crushed! A painful reminder of what happened when trying to protect his family - from their vicious heartless factor! They had been evicted them into the cold snow with only the clothes on their backs! The Factor and his men burned their home right in front of them to the ground!
Even the neighbors were fearful to offer aid fearing they would be next, the harsh weather elements and illness killed his family. So this poor man was desperate, hungry and alone, resolved never to care for another living soul again! After all he was useless with one working hand and felt responsible family's deaths not being able to protect or save them.
Healer and landowner, Annie MacCallum was desperate and afraid! After her sole protector, her Uncle died, now threats from her cruel brutal factor Ned Randleigh had increased tenfold. Randleigh is obsessed with her, and and wants her for a wife which turns her stomach! Annie knows she's running out of time feels she must find a protestor immediately. If she doesn't agree with Randleigh terms, he will clear her and home, farm and land! In addition harm those she loves and cares for, as he's a cruel, sadistic, monster in the worse possible way!
Annie knew his threats would become a reality if she didn't get protection immediately! Problem is she had no coin as offer for payment plus she needs it to for a permanent position. As Randleigh, the heartless brute has been taking advantage of his authority while their Laird has been convalescing away in Edinburgh. The rumors was he had taken ill, but most of the the people just feel their Laird has abandoned and forgotten them. As the Factor, he has totally taken advantage of the situation, Lording it over everyone, by lying and using the Lairds name, to get his wicked way! Example: like raising rents when they can't even pay the exorbitant rents he charges now! This is just to line his own dirty corrupt pockets!
Ned Ranleigh is beyond evil taking advantage of all the young women in the worst possible way! If they reveal his dirty secrets, he threatens with violence and clearing their homes and lands. If they don't do as he commands he gives them a thrashings! As he will beat and makes things difficult with anyone in getting in his way of what he wants! What he wants is Annie MacCallum and anyone who is the obstacle in his way of will suffer! Plus everyone fears him, because if the people try to fight him their loved ones with suffer. Many have no protection only bairns and the elderly to protect, so they feel they have no choice but to agree to all his disgusting desires. Feeling t it would only cause severe beatings and possibly death of the victim and their families. Randleigh is sly as a fox using his own corrupt officials magistrate, Priests and crooked dishonest officials lining their pockets most likely with their rent increases!
Annie believes if she had a husband that would be her answer to her problems. So when she goes up to the Rising Fair platform proposing for her hand in marriage, but no coin but a roof over their head ans food in their bellies. She know many were suffering from both. Tam who had noticed he beauty right from the beginning but now thinks she's mad! Though after being rejected and the The Rising Fair had emptied he reluctantly accepted her offer which she made clear was in name only. As she knew the paying offers would declined him as soon as they saw his damaged hand. A hand that throbs with pain everyday. Annie was blunt and told him no other offers would come his way, of course he knew deep inside she was the answer to his prayers. Being able to sleep with a roof over his head and food in his belly was a miracle indeed. Deep inside Annie was relieved this handsome but filthy man was her answer. No matter much how this couple denied it you could feel the sparks and connections at first glance. So off to the Priest they went even if Tam did feel Annie was a wee bit insane.
Was she a madwoman of an angel of mercy? As she was a land owner of a small farm. Once she revealed her story he knew the threat Randleigh and she feared for others more then herself. Tam felt this was his redemption having experience with cruel Factors if he could only help and protect this good woman. This was when Tam starts feeling things he didn't want to feel and the gates of his cold heart start to open. Feeling he got the better deal in this bargain. It was all for others her people and animals who live under her roof. Some might call them misfits or broken. It was a place these souls could feel cared for , safe and loved. Well it had been before that unfortunate miscreant Factor showed upon their land! Annie, as her mother before her, also let them live under her roof to care and protect them. Annie like her mother before her were healers and all the people on her village came to her for potions, cure or her healing touch. It was when she touched his broken hand and fingers that really surprised him!
He doesn't see himself the way Annie does as a protective braw honorable handsome man. Wondering if her affection is only fleeting, like her feelings toward him is another damaged one she can care for? Annie has many insecurities, she too has self esteem issues and feels guilty she has dumped Tam into her mess, living with so much guilt. Perhaps the safest and nicest thing she can do is to let him go? Plus the Factor does not react the way she hopes when he hears of her sudden marriage and people. Randleigh mocks Tam for his mangled hand and his obsession for Annie only deepens, as his threats and actions start become deadly. This couple has no choice but to make the ultimate sacrifice! What that will be you will have to read this exquisite story to find out!
Will this star crossed couple have a chance or will they go their separate ways? Both love and carry lots of guilt, as optimistic Annie starts to loose her way and wonder if she should chose a darker path. Can Tam lead her on the right path or shall he join her in the darkness? Both hold so much guilt, not being able to reveal their true feelings out of fear and now it might be too late for either of them.
The secondary characters brought so much depth and meaning into this story as well. Some parts so emotional for me, that tears were running down my cheeks, for the humans as well as the animals. Being a dog advocate this affected me deeply as the entire captivating story deeply touched my heart .
As Laura Strickland does it again with a riveting well researched, depth with emotion, appealing characters that you just can't help but love! Another roller coaster ride, full of twists and turns not knowing what might ensue next! An absolute intriguing and enthralling story that had me totally captivated from start to finish! Of course she weaves my favorite combination - lining true history with a beautiful fictional Scottish romance that come to life!
Superbly written, perfect setting, magnificent dialogues, fast paced flow and mesmerizing plots. Plus appealing characters that glide off pages aimed straight into the reader's heart!