All About the Highland Guard
Need to get caught up in the series? Wondering who’s who? Missed a book or reading out of order? Here is your one-stop destination to get the latest on the Highland Guard. But beware: spoilers lurk ahead!
Introduction to the Series
What’s sexier than a man in a kilt? How about Special Ops in kilts. The Highland Guard series marries Monica’s love of strapping, sexy Highland warriors with her other love for navy SEALs and black ops. Think Suzanne Brockmann meets Braveheart.
Where the legend of the Highlander began... Journey back to the time of Braveheart, when Scotland was fighting to free itself from English tyranny, and Robert the Bruce was fighting for a crown. To defeat the superior forces of the heavy mounted English knights, Bruce knows he needs a new kind of warrior. He looks to the barbarian lands, to the most feared warriors in Christendom, to the ultimate guerilla fighter . . . to the Highlander.
Scouring the darkest corners of the Highlands and Western Isles, Bruce handpicks eleven warriors to form a secret elite fighting force like the world has never seen. They are the ultimate “Special Forces,” the best of the best, chosen for their superior skills in each discipline of warfare and brought together into one elite fighting force known as the HIGHLAND GUARD. Bound together in a secret ceremony, they are a phantom force, identifiable only by their extraordinary skills, their war names, and the lion rampant tattooed on their arm.
Vowing death before surrender, Bruce’s band of shadow warriors will stop at nothing but invincible warriors will face the one thing they can’t defeat: love, and the remarkable women who claim their hearts.
(“war names” in quotes)
With King Robert Bruce:
Tor "Chief" MacLeod: Team Leader and Expert Swordsman
Erik "Hawk" MacSorley: Seafarer and Swimmer
Gregor "Arrow" MacGregor: Marksman and Archer
Eoin "Striker" MacLean: Strategist in “Pirate” Warfare
Ewen "Hunter" Lamont: Tracker and Hunter of Men
Lachlan "Viper" MacRuairi: Stealth, Infiltration and Extraction
Magnus "Saint" MacKay: Survivalist/Outdoorsman and Weapon Forging
William "Templar" Gordon: Alchemy and Explosives
Robert "Raider" Boyd: Physical Strength and Hand-to-Hand Combat
Alex "Dragon" Seton: Dirk and Close Combat
Arthur “Ranger” Campbell: Scouting and Reconnaissance
Helen “Angel” Sutherland MacKay: Healer
Kenneth “Ice” Sutherland: Explosives & Versatility (i.e. the Utility Guy)
If you want to see Monica’s dream cast for the Highland Guard check out her “StoryCasting” page for The Chief.
Ing from As The Pages Turn did a great summary of the characters (& added pictures of her own dream cast), check it out here »
Note: this is greatly simplified. You can also catch up by reading the “foreword” of each book. For the non-fiction version of the background events see my historical background section. This summary is through The Saint, the fifth book in the series.
William Wallace (Braveheart) has died a horrible death at the hands of England’s King Edward, and Robert Bruce makes the momentous decision to bid for Scotland’s crown. To have a chance at defeating the powerful English knights, Bruce knows he will have to change the way he fights. He decides to form an elite fighting force made up of the best warriors in each discipline of warfare—his own secret guard. Or, in this case, his own secret Highland Guard. He taps Tor “the Chief” MacLeod, hailed as the greatest warrior of his age, to lead and train ten men in “pirate” warfare. But one of the recruits, Arthur Campbell, is forced to leave the group when he fails a challenge.
Although initially reluctant to join a war he perceives as not his own, MacLeod changes his mind when his new bride is threatened and taken prisoner by the English. An attack by MacLeod and the Highland Guard on the English garrison holding her launches the rebellion.
Bruce’s initial forays against the English are successful, and he races to Scone to be crowned king. Actually, he is crowned twice: the second ceremony takes place amongst the ancient and mystical standing stones with the Highland Guard and Isabella MacDuff, the Countess of Buchan, who defies her husband and the most powerful king in Christendom to take her family’s traditional place as the crowner of Scotland’s kings.
Bruce’s rebellion rouses the full force of King Edward’s fury. He raises the Dragon Banner (giving no mercy—even to women), and forces Bruce to flee Scotland a fugitive. With the help of his Highland Guard, and the seafaring skills of Erik MacSorley in particular, Bruce takes refuge in the Western Isles.
Taking a lesson from a spider, Bruce bides his time until he can gather troops to “try, try, and try again.” He puts Erik “the Hawk” MacSorley in charge of securing the mercenaries to attempt to retake his kingdom. But the attempt nearly fails when Erik is forced to take a captive, not realizing that she is the daughter of the most powerful earl in Ireland (who also happens to be a close ally of the English king), setting the entire English fleet on his tail.
Unbeknownst to Bruce and the Highland Guard, while they are trying to escape the English in the west, Bruce’s womenfolk (his wife, daughter and sisters) and Isabella MacDuff are captured and imprisoned—Isabella and his sister Mary in cages—and one of this brothers along with many of his loyal friends in arms are executed.
With MacSorley’s help, Bruce wages one of the greatest comebacks in history. The northern prong attack on the English in Turnberry is successful, as are the skirmishes that follow in the succeeding months—thanks in no small part to Ellie DeBurgh, the captive Erik decides to make his wife. Unfortunately however, the southern prong of the attack fails, and two more of Bruce’s brothers are executed.
From “his headquarters in the heather” Bruce’s military victories over the English have renewed his bid for the throne—a bid that gets a huge boost when King Edward dies.
With England distracted by the death of Edward I, Bruce’s fight turns to the powerful Scottish nobles who stand against him. One by one he vanquishes his enemies, cutting a swathe of destruction across their lands that will be remembered for generations. First he subdues the MacDowells in the south, before starting his march north into the Highlands, where he captures the castles of Inverlochy, Urquhart, Inverness and Nairn. But just when victory appears to be in his grasp, Bruce is felled by a strange illness, leaving the would-be-king hovering near death.
But even from his sickbed Bruce will not be defeated. Pinned down near Inverurie by John Comyn, the Earl of Buchan, Bruce is carried into battle by his men. His heroic appearance at the head of his army causes his enemy to falter, sending Buchan scurrying to England in defeat.
The tide is turning, but there is still one more powerful enemy to subdue: the MacDougalls.
It’s finally time for the seed planted over two years ago to take root. Arthur Campbell was supposedly kicked out of the Highland Guard during training for failing a challenge, but in reality he’s a spy for Bruce in the English camp.
Arthur has provided key information for Bruce during his bid to retake his kingdom, but his mission to discover what he can about the MacDougalls is threatened when he realizes that the one woman who can unmask him is his enemy’s daughter, Anna MacDougall. Imprisoned and tortured when his true allegiance is uncovered, Arthur escapes with the help of Anna and the Highland Guard in time to warn Bruce of an ambush.
Thanks to Arthur’s information, Bruce turns the tables on the MacDougalls by ambushing the ambushers, achieving a seminal victory at the Pass of Brander. With the MacDougalls defeated and John of Lorn fleeing to England like Buchan, the Earl of Ross submits to Bruce. Bruce now holds Scotland north of the Tay, and his kingship is solidified enough for him to plan his first parliament.
Bruce is finally able to turn his attention to those who are still suffering for his cause: the women captured and imprisoned in cages by Edward of England. Hung high in a cage above Berwick Castle, Isabella MacDuff, Countess of Buchan, has suffered greatly for her role in crowning Bruce. No one is more anxious to see her rescued than the mercenary “pirate” of suspect loyalty, Lachlan MacRuairi.
MacRuairi was in charge of the ladies’ party on their escape north nearly two years before, and feels responsible for their capture. After one failed rescue attempt, he leads a second and successfully rescues Bella while she is being transferred to a nunnery.
But as a known member of Bruce’s Highland Guard, MacRuairi is one of the most hunted men on both sides of the border. Evading capture and second imprisonment, MacRuairi proves his extraction skills—and his loyalty—by seeing Bella safely returned to Scotland.
MacRuairi and Bella return to Scotland in December of 1308, just in time for Bruce’s first parliament and the long delayed wedding of William Gordon, who finds out on his wedding night that his bride, Helen Sutherland, is the woman his partner Magnus MacKay has been pining for for years. Immediately called away on a mission to aid Edward Bruce, tragedy strike the Guard for the first time when Gordon is killed in an explosion.
With England’s king Edward II busy trying to rein in his troublesome barons, Bruce agrees to a truce and enjoys a much needed reprieve from warfare in 1309. To reward his loyal subjects—as well as ensure the continued loyalty of newly converted subjects such as Ross and the Sutherlands—Bruce decides to take a royal progress through the Highlands.
Ironically, in this peace time “lull,” Bruce faces the greatest threat to his life yet. Forced to work together after the tragedy of Gordon’s death, MacKay and Helen help save the king, when he narrowly escapes death first from poisoning, and then from the team of assassins who is hunting him over the dangerous Highland terrain.
Battle Cry: Airson an Leòmhann (For the Lion).
Creed/Motto: Bàs roimh Gèill (Death before surrender)
War Names: Started out as joking nicknames by MacSorley, but adopted by the guard to protect their identity. First employed by Robert “Raider” Boyd when Christina (MacLeod’s wife) comes to the training camp, and he doesn’t want to risk telling her his name. Some of the names are based on MacSorley’s jokes (i.e. “Saint” and “Dragon”) and some are based on the men’s skills (i.e. “Ranger” and “Arrow”).
Armor: Blackened nasal helm to obscure face, blackened coif of mail, black leather cotun (war coat) studded with mail, dark wool plaid wrapped in a strange fashion around them (my early tribute to the belted plaid), and gamboissed (padded tubes) black leather chausses. A mishap while cleaning the ovens, leading to ash landing all over Christina’s face, gives MacLeod the idea to use ash to darken their faces (my 14th Century version of camouflage).
Weaponry: Warrior dependent. For example, MacLeod is an expert with the two-handed great sword, MacSorley favors a battle-axe, Campbell a short throwing spear, MacRuairi two short swords, MacGregor a bow and arrow, and Seton a dirk.
Sword Inscriptions: It was customary for warriors to mark their swords with an inscription. MacLeod’s sword is inscribed Beithir or Thunderbolt. MacSorley’s is “Always faithful.” Arthur Campbell’s is Steadfast. Lachlan MacRuairi’s is usque ad finem. Magnus MacKay's is Bi Tren. Be valiant. Be strong. The motto of the MacKays.
Training: Two weeks known as “Perdition.” You probably thought this was my tongue-in-cheek allusion to the Navy SEAL’s “hell week.” It is—but in title only. The SEALs didn’t invent harsh training methods or the idea of having to go through a series of challenges before being admitted into an elite warrior band. As MacLeod points out, the idea actually comes from the challenges of Finn MacCool’s (Fionn mac Cumhaill) Fianna. Indeed one of the Fianna challenges is the spear test that Arthur “fails.” One of the more amusing challenges for the Fianna: having to run through the forest being chased by the other members without disturbing the hair from his braids!
Identifying Marks (aka Tattoos): When Christina notices “Mor” tattooed on Tor’s backside—given to mark him as the first born twin—it gives him an idea. When Arthur Campbell is forced to “leave,” Tor decides to mark the arms of the men with a Lion Rampant to identify them as members of the secret Highland Guard. After Bruce’s famous run-in with the Spider in the cave on Rathlin, a web armband (like a torque) is added to the Rampant Lion crest. Some of the guys have also added personalization (i.e. MacSorley has a birlinn in his).
Will you be writing a story for each member of the Highland Guard?
When I conceived the series, I planned it for between ten to twelve books. Most of the guys will have the stories, but there will be twists, turns, and surprises along the way.
When will you write [fill in the blank]’s story?
Wondering who will be next is part of the fun! See above (re surprises!). To avoid spoilers I won’t announce “who’s next” until I have to—in other words until the book is up for pre-sale on Amazon. One of the things I didn’t think about when I decided to use the guys “war names” as titles was that because the book goes up way in advance on Amazon (which is a good thing!) it gives away the hero of the story. This came into play with The Ranger. Originally, I wanted Arthur Campbell’s role in the guard to be much more ambiguous—i.e. is he with them or not? But I ended up re-writing portions of The Chief and The Hawk when it became clear that my “secret” was just going to be confusing. That being said, however, I will keep the secret about who’s the next hero for as long as I can.
Why did Arthur Campbell leave the Guard? Will he be coming back?
Arthur was forced to leave the guard when Bruce decided to plant him as a spy in the enemy camp. Tor MacLeod is the only guardsman who knows the truth in the beginning, but eventually the others are told. You can find out the full story in The Ranger (Arthur’s story).
What is the order of the books, and do I need to read them in order?
The Hunter (available June 25, 2013)
Like my previous MacLeod and Campbell trilogies, the Highland Guard novels do not need to be read in order. Each story is meant to stand on its own. I’ve even included a foreword in each of the books to catch you up to speed on the background events.
For a great map of the key castles and battles of the Bruce era click here.
Check back often as Monica will be updating this page when each book is published.
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