Guest Post: You’re Sixteen, You’re Beautiful, and You’re… Married?! By Grace Burrowes

Many a venerable Regency mentions the custom of eloping to Gretna Green, just over the Scottish border from England. Why? Because the age of consent for marriage (for females) was sixteen in Scotland, as opposed to twenty-one in England. Thus, to have Brenna, my Scottish heroine in The Laird, marry her swain at age sixteen was perfectly legal and binding.

Also challenging for her. While she’d known Michael since childhood, and had a towering crush on him, she married him because she expected to go through life at his side. Michael, on the other hand, as a young fellow of twenty-one, married Brenna to ensure she’d have a place of respect among his people, then promptly departed to take the King’s shilling and see the world. (Also to run from a few troubles….)

In the Napoleonic conflicts, British wives often “followed the drum,” or accompanied their spouses to war. Women were useful in army camps as cooks, seamstresses, laundresses, and, well, yes, that too. Michael denied Brenna the chance to follow him into war, though she begged him to take her with him.

Our heroine was thus abandoned by her spouse while she was still a new, and adolescent, bride. Worse, because Michael did not want to risk leaving his widow with a child to raise, he went off to war without consummating the marriage vows.

As The Laird opens, my heroine and hero are thus in the posture of people who marry between her sophomore and junior year of high school, but then separate until she’s acquired a master’s degree in self-reliance and Running the Castle.

What’s a husband to do? Brenna knows everything there is to know about resilience, loneliness, and rejection, and nothing about trust, affection, self-confidence, or flirtation.

Michael’s first smart move is to acknowledge that his soldiering made a casualty of his marriage, and to state a desire for reconciliation. His second smart move is to give Brenna the words—of regret and recommitment.

He tells her he loves her. He’s known her since she was eight years old, from little up, she’s been special to him.

And then, slowly, slowly, he earns her trust with his affection, until Brenna’s heart overcomes her hesitance, and the happily ever after can begin. But Michael’s first attempt to steal a kiss, undertaken as Brenna dozes on a picnic blanket, doesn’t meet with much success…

Brenna had been dreading the business of measuring her husband for his new kilts, and so, of course, she dreamed of his knees, which managed to be handsome, for all they were knees. She dreamed of how sunlight caught the red in the hair on his arms, and of the way his back curved down from broad, muscular shoulders.

And between one thought and the next, her sleepy awareness became filled not with adult masculine muscle and contours, but with a particular combination of panic and nausea familiar to her from long acquaintance.

She tried to sit up and strike out in one motion, though something prevented her from rising. “Get off me! Get off me now!”

She flailed about wildly, and had just recalled that a stout kick in a certain location would win her free, when reason intruded.

“Brenna Maureen, cease!”

Michael had flattened her to the blanket with the simple expedients of his weight applied to her person and his hands manacled around her wrists.

“You’ll unman me, you daft woman.”

“Get off me.” She’d meant to crack to words over his idiot head, but they’d come out as a whisper.

“Nothing I’d like better.” He rose, first on his hands and knees, then to kneeling, his expression suggesting he feared for her sanity.

Brenna scrambled away to sit up and wipe the back of her wrist over her mouth. “What were you about? Did you try to kiss me?”

“Yes. Yes, I did try. On the cheek. You looked so pretty, and there’s nobody about, and a man should kiss his wife every now and again because she sure as hell isn’t showing any signs of kissing him.”

For all his faults, and for all the errors and omissions he had committed, Michael wasn’t wrong about this. He was also sporting a red patch along one side of his jaw.

“I’m sorry if I struck you. I don’t like kissing.” Brenna positively loathed the seething dread suffusing her every limb and organ.

And yet, if she’d asked her husband to rejoin his regiment, he could not have looked more confused. “I kissed you last night, Wife.”

“On the—” Brenna touched her finger between her brows. “Here, and I was awake.”

Michael settled beside her on the blanket, sitting tailor fashion, his bare knees much in evidence. “You don’t like kissing, or you don’t like my kisses?”

“Kissing isn’t sanitary.”

“For God’s—” He peered over at her, likely to see if she’d spoken in jest. “You’re serious.” Another look, full of consternation. “Kissing is just kissing, Brenna. It’s harmless. It’s sweet and tender and arousing and—”

If he kept up that litany, Brenna would soon cry, but he fell mercifully silent.

The river babbled by, and a breeze riffled the grass. The scent of horses in the next field graced the air, and Brenna’s shawl—woven with a goodly complement of lamb’s wool—was soft beneath her fingers. She concentrated on those simple realities while her breathing gradually slowed and despair edged out panic.

“So no kissing you awake of a morning,” Michael said. “In case you’re interested, I would not object if you sought to take a comparable liberty with my person.”

As if she could. “I’ll remember that.”

They gathered up the remains of the picnic, Brenna carrying the blanket and Michael the hamper. In a fit of contrariness Brenna could not explain to herself, she wished Michael might take her hand as they walked.

And when he didn’t, she wished she might have the courage to take his.


TheLaird graceburrowes