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It has been five years since King Stephen took the English throne. The border lands are fraught with tensions. Loyalties are uncertain. Only the strong will hold their lands, and behind every strong man is an even stronger woman.
The eldest of five daughters born to King Henry's mistress, Elspeth fears she and her sisters will be used as pawns in the wars to come. When her sisters are wrenched from the Blak Montayne Priory that has sheltered them since Henry's death, Elspeth alone escapes, only to find herself indebted to, of all men, a Scotsman, whose loyalties are in question…
Left to face the wrath of a new sovereign, Malcolm MacKinnon has sworn his fealty to Stephen of Blois in order to keep the demesne he won by slaying his grandfather. In doing so, he has pit himself against Scotland, and even his own father. Even as he realizes there is no turning back, his bartered bride may offer him a chance to atone. But will giving in to his passion bring nations to war?