“Love makes its own magic,” says the inscription on the Fairy Cup of Duncrieff that has been handed down through the family for generations, and it perfectly describes Sarah Gabriel’s debut novel, Stealing Sophie. Set in Scotland in the early 1700s, it is a story about the magic of love and the changes it can make in people’s lives.
Connor MacPherson is a man on a mission. His father is dead, having been tried as a Jacobite sympathizer and executed. His mother died soon after of a broken heart, and the MacPherson’s estates have been taken over by the new magistrate, Sir Henry Campbell. Connor is a man with nothing left but his honor and his beliefs.
His friend, Robert, the laird of Duncrieff and chief of the Clan Carran, is captured by the authorities, but not before extracting a promise from Connor to marry his sister, Katherine Sophia, to protect her. So Connor finds himself out on the moors on a foggy night preparing to steal Robert’s sister and marry her.
Sophie MacCarran has spent the last six years in a convent school and has returned home to Duncrieff Castle. Before his death, her father promised her in marriage to Sir Henry Campbell, even though she despises the man. Returning home after a dinner hosted for her by Sir Henry, she is kidnapped by a brigand.
Although Sophie fears she has been captured by the notorious Highland Ghost, a local renegade said to be responsible for all kinds of things from stealing cattle to sabotaging the English troops as they build their new roads through Scotland, she is not really afraid of the man. He is gentle but determined to marry her. Sophie finds herself being dragged through the countryside and eventually married to the rough Scottish rogue Connor MacPherson.
Connor then takes her to the ruins of Castle Glendoon where he now makes his home. Castle Glendoon actually belongs to Sophie’s family, and Connor rents it from her brother. But on the morning after their wedding night, Connor comes to realize that he may have made a grave mistake.
The name on the note from Robert had said, “Katherine Sophia.” Sophie’s real name is Katherine Sophia and her sister’s is Mary Katherine, but she goes by the name Kate. Not knowing that both sisters shared the name Katherine, Connor assumed he was to marry Kate, who is a suspected Jacobite spy, to protect her and not her sister, the quiet convent bred lady. Now Connor is unsure which sister Robert had meant him to marry.
He tries to keep his distance from Sophie until it can all be sorted out, but he finds that he is quickly falling under the gentle spell of her goodness. Sophie has a touch of the fairy magic and can make the plants around her grow with ease. Every moment that Connor spends with her, he fears that he is losing his heart to her. But his honor is all he has, and until he can be sure he has fulfilled his promise to his friend and married the right sister, he tries to keep away from her.
The political climate of the time plays an important role in this novel, but it is somwhat convoluted at times and not really explained. But this is not a political story. It is a story of magic, love, and belief in both. Sophie finds courage she doesn’t realize she has as she is forced to make a new life and take a chance on love. Connor is a man of pride, inner strength and intelligence, but he must also face his past in order to move forward into the future.
Sarah Gabriel has spun a tale filled with family legends that is haunting, magical, and poignant. Her characters are complex and very real as they deal with their problems and inner fears. The relationship between Connor and Sarah is special and readers will enjoy watching their story unfold on the pages of Stealing Sophie.