Thursday, March 17, 2011

Book Club: The Chief by Monica McCarty

By: Aly Hackett

Scouring the darkest corners of the Highlands and Western Isles, Robert the Bruce handpicks ten warriors to help him in his quest to free Scotland from English rule. They are the best of the best, chosen for their superior skills in each discipline of warfare. And to lead his secret Highland Guard, Bruce chooses the greatest warrior of all.

The ultimate Highland warlord and a swordsman without equal, Tor MacLeod has no intention of being drawn into Scotland’s war against the English. Dedicated to his clan, the fiercely independent chief answers to no one—especially not to his alluring new bride, bartered to him in a bid to secure his command of the deadliest fighting force the world has ever seen. The treacherous chit who made her way to Tor’s bed may have won his hand, but she will never claim his heart.

Although her husband’s reputation is as fierce as his manner, Christina Fraser believes that something softer hides beneath his brutal shell. But the only warmth she feels is in their bed, in glorious moments of white-hot desire that disappear with the dawn. When Christina’s reckless bid to win her husband’s love goes awry and thrusts them into danger on the eve of war, Tor will face his ultimate battle: to save his wife and to open his heart—before it’s too late.

I am not a Historical Romance reader. I have admitted to being a snot about Historicals because I would much rather read Austen, Dickens, Bronte, etc. Recently some people—ahem Book Club Wenches this is you!—kept telling me that I was missing out. So a month or so ago I read my first Historical and it was a fun, enjoyable! And now I have found myself in a very dangerous place with the second Historical I have read—falling in love with Historical Romance. Or at least those written by Monica McCarty!

Monica McCarty does a fantastic job with the history aspect of her story and I think that is what I loved most about The Chief. The weaving of fact and fiction is done so well that part of me wanted The Chief to be a true piece of history. But it isn’t just the story that Ms. McCarty does so well.

The characters in The Chief are fabulous! Tor definitely comes across as a hard, obstinate, dedicated Highlander. But we get these glimpses of his soft side. His merry cast of men also have some intriguing qualities to their character. We only learn a little about each one in The Chief so it definitely makes you want more and more…and luckily enough for us, there are more and more!

Christina was a female character that I really enjoyed. She was naïve without coming across as an idiot and that is so important to me. She was intuitive enough to know not to let on that she was educated but still inexperienced enough to go out without an escort.

In the end The Chief was a fantastic read that kept me riveted and wondering who and what was around the next corner. I can’t wait to read the rest of the books in the series.

Monica will be here with us today to chat about the book and the series. She's giving away a copy of The Hawk to one lucky reader today, so let us hear from you! Find out more about Monica and her books on her website.

And as for recipes…well Aly is not nearly as talented as the rest of the Book Club Hostesses so here are two very easy recipes from some fabulous blogging ladies!

Chicken and Dumpling Bake
From the Kitchen of Deep South Dish

3-4 cups of cooked chicken (or 3 to 5 pieces of raw chicken)
2 cups chicken stock/broth
1/2 stick of unsalted butter
1 cup self-rising flour
1 cup milk
1 can Campbell's cream of chicken soup

Preparation Instructions
Use precooked chicken or poach raw chicken in the chicken broth or stock in a medium sized saucepan. Cook on a low simmer for about 15 to 20 minutes or until chicken is mostly done. It will finish cooking in the oven. Remove the chicken and set aside to cool but reserve the stock.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

In a Pyrex measuring cup, melt 1/2 stick of butter in the microwave and pour that into the bottom of a 9 x 13 inch baking pan. Shred the chicken and spread it on top of the butter.

In that same Pyrex cup, whisk together the milk and the flour and slowly pour that over the chicken taking care not to disturb the chicken too much. Don't stir it up!

Strain the chicken stock through a colander into the same Pyrex cup (now you know why I wanted ya to melt that butter in it!) and whisk in the cream of chicken soup. Very carefully pour that over the flour and milk mixture and again, don't stir it up!

Bake uncovered at 400 degrees for 35 to 45 minutes, or until top is light golden brown.

Does not freeze well.

*Use chicken breasts, mixed chicken parts, leftover chicken, rotisserie chicken, or canned chicken


And for dessert….

Apple Dumplings

2 whole Granny Smith Apples
2 cans (8 Oz. Cans) Crescent Rolls
2 sticks Butter
1-½ cup Sugar
1 teaspoon Vanilla
Cinnamon, To Taste
1 can (12 Oz.) Mountain Dew Soda

Preparation Instructions
Peel and core apples.
Cut each apple into 8 slices each.
Roll each apple slice in a crescent roll.
Place in a 9 x 13 buttered pan.
Melt butter, then add sugar and barely stir.
Add vanilla, stir, and pour entire mixture over apples.
Pour Mountain Dew around the edges of the pan.
Sprinkle with cinnamon and bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes.
Serve with ice cream, and spoon some of the sweet sauces from the pan over the top.


Ronlyn said...

Good morning! I'm still blurry eyed and sipping my coffee,,,

I very much enjoyed THE CHIEF. There's a richness about the writing that was very warm and inviting. Christina is probably one of my favorite historical heroines. Her attitude is refreshing and so recognizable as she's trying to find her place. And she herself has the heart of a warrior which comes out in her fierce need to protect her loved ones.
And I admit to wanting to smack Tor on the head a time or two after they returned home. Couldn't he see she was hurting?? *sigh* Men.
I found the idea of an elite Highland Guard a "new" (new because I hadn't considered it before) twist on the old Highland Historicals which I've always loved.

I really hope this makes sense. *off to get more coffee*

Aly said...

:gasp: Ronlyn hadn't thought of something? Dude! I thought you knew and thought of everything! LOL!

I really enjoyed the idea of the elite team. Especially since it threw a bunch of men together that would much rather beat & kill each other than work together. I think the best part was the slow progression of them becoming a team rather than ::poof:: all of a sudden they were a well oiled machine!

Ronlyn said...

oh Hackett. I only *wish* I'd thought of everything. LOL

I agree. The progression of them coming together and forming their relationships/partnerships was very intriguing.

Alison said...

Good Morning All!!

I love Monica's books!! I read her other trilogies before I started on The Chief and they are just as amazing!

I loved The Chief! I really felt for Christina as she tried and tried to reach Tor and make his home a warm, welcoming place he wanted to be. My heart broke for her each time Tor refused her attempts to deepen their relationship beyond the bedroom.

I loved that Tor was so dedicated to his clan and although he was a hard, stubborn man he treated everyone fairly. Several times I wanted to yell at him to stop being so stubborn and show his wife the affection she craved and that he WANTED to give her!

The development of the relationships between the men in the Guard was another great aspect of this story.

I've already read The Hawk and the Ranger...I can't wait to read about the remaining members of the Guard.

Marie Force said...

Morning y'all. Just catching up after a big meeting at my son's school. The head spins. Welcome to Monica and everyone today!

Anonymous said...

I just finished reading THE HAWK, after reading THE CHIEF, and THE RANGER. (I know, out of order, but that happens a lot to me. LOL) I loved these books, and wish there were more right now. :) I love the scenes where the men are training and fighting -- wouldn't it be awesome to SEE that? *fans face*


Sarah L said...

This was a my first Monica McCarty book. I loved this story and immediately went out and bought the rest of her books. It's been a couple months since I read it and I didn't have time to re-read it. Can't wait for the more.

Monica McCarty said...

Top of the morning to you everyone (I'm on the west coast where it's still morning, LOL) and Happy St. Patty's Day! Thank you for all the wonderful comments about THE CHIEF--I'm thrilled that you guys have enjoyed it. There are plenty of times I wanted to smack Tor on the head, too, but I knew he wasn't going to come around easily. For me the harder the nut to crack the more rewarding when it finally does, LOL. I"m so glad to hear that so many of you enjoyed the Special Ops aspect of the series as well. I LOVE Black Ops/Navy SEALs books, and I really wanted to try to find a way to blend my two favorite sub-genres together. When I started doing research, I had one of those serendipity moments (as I mentioned in the Author's Note), when I read about Bruce--if he didn't have an elite team of warriors he easily could have. :) Thanks for the warm welcome, I might have to try those recipes...sound delicious!

Stacey said...

The Chief was my first MM but it won't be my last. I really enjoyed the characters, especially the interaction between this reluctant "band of brothers". Though they may not have liked each other, there is respect.

I can't wait for the rest of the series, and will be downloading Monica's other books to the Kindle :) Sigh, so many books, so little money.

Ronlyn said...

Morning Monica! (I'm a West Coastie too, so I'm still sipping my coffee and starting my day)
When you were writing, was it always part of the plan to have Tor lead, despite his reluctance? In my mind, I could see it going either way.
And, ok, to give Tor his due, he was wonderful about realizing that Christina had been used and was just as much of a pawn as he was. And when he protected her from her father ~swoon~. Gotta love the man. That's probably why I got so mad at him: I could SEE he was a good guy. LOL

Aly said...

Monica, I am wondering if mixing some true aspects of history with fiction is difficult to write. I know that my brain would get very muddled with it! :P

flchen1 said...

Hi, Monica!!! I'm embarrassed to admit that The Chief is sitting on my TBR but I haven't had time to read it yet! I know I'm going to love this series once I get started though--loved your previous one! The idea of a special-ops highlander force is EXCELLENT :) All the good stuff rolled up into one idea!

Hope said...

Good morning everyone...yep still morning here on the left coast. I haven't read this series yet, but it sounds very intriguing, can't wait to start it.

Aly, that dumplin' bake sound delish and I will be keeping that one in my "go-to" binder.

Monica McCarty said...

Ronlyn, it was always my plan to have Tor lead--I really wanted to start off with the reluctant Braveheart type hero--the guy who wants to stay out of it until he's dragged in (Rob Roy was like that, too, come to think of it). He was definitely always a good guy, he just needed Christina to bring it out. :)

Hey Aly,
The true history part is one of the biggest challenges, but it's also what I love most about the process (if that makes sense?). To me, it adds authenticity to it--it's fiction, but it COULD have happened, right? At least that's what I want to think. It adds to the fantasy for me. The history is also what feeds my plots, which in some cases can make it easier.

Great to "see" you! Hey no need to be embarrassed, you should see my TBR pile. I hope you enjoy it when you get to it. :)

Hope you get a chance to check it out Hope and enjoy it. :)

Tara said...

Happy afternoon and thanks, Monica for joining us!

Every week my recipe binder and tbr pile gets a little bigger after bookclub.

This series looks good......but, I have never read a historical.
I am intrigued by the elite team concept so this might just have to be my first.

I guess my question today is for everyone, why historicals?

Thanks all and have a great day!

Jolene Allcock and Family said...

oohh, I love my some highlanders! I've only read a few highlander books but I can't wait to get ahold of some more.

Ronlyn said...

oh Jolene! I'm SO going to take you for some Highlanders when you come to visit. :-) YAY fun!

Amy in CA said...

How sad that as much as I love books (and I LOVE THEM!!) I think the anticipation of new recipes are becoming a favorite of mine!

I'm embarassed to admit, but I haven't read The Chief. I'm not a fan of historicals but if it involves a strong, hot man in a kilt (and an A+++++ review from here) I'm going to go out and get it!

Yep, been added to the list!

You guys have never steered me wrong yet!

Monica McCarty said...

Hey Tara,
Hope you like it if you pick it up--if you like special ops books it would be a good historical to try out. :)

Jolene, nothing like a strapping man in plaid. :)

Hope you are all enjoying your St. Patrick's Day. I'm on my way out for some corned beef and cabbage!

Thanks for the nice welcome and hope you all enjoyed the book!

Kara C said...

Aly, I'm a lot like you in that I don't read a lot of historicals, although I seriously doubt I'm *ever* a snot about it. ;) Christy Reece first recommended The Chief, and I decided to try it out. SO glad I did. I really enjoyed it, for all the reasons already mentioned, and I have the next book in the series in my TBR pile.

oklanannie said...

Hey everyone - late again!! I haven't read this book but have it, along with "Ranger" in my TBR stack. I haven't read anything by this author but because of the high recommendations by book lovers whose opinions I admire and respect, I picked up these two and am looking forward to reading them. I liked the blurbs about each book.

Thanks to Aly for hosting and Marie for always welcoming us. And Monica McCarty for visiting our book club.

Kay said...

Hi There, Better late than never. It's been a while since I read The Chief, but I just finished Ranger and I Luuuuuuved it. Great characters and a plot that I just couldn't see how it was going to work out. Thanks for the enjoyable read.

Mary G said...


Mary G said...

Hi All.
Sorry I'm late. Happy St Patrick's Day.

I've heard nothing but wonderful things about your books. I'm a huge fan of your BFF's Jami Alden & Bella Andre. It's time I tried one of yours although I don't read historicals very often. The first issue of Romantic Times magazine I ever bought had you, Jami & Bella on the cover.

I thought it was wonderful that you had each other as friends and writing support. I've never forgotten that.

Marie Force said...

I think that was my first issue of RT as well! LOL! Enjoyed all the chat today. It was another insanely busy day around here. Thanks for holding down the fort, ladies.

It was nice to meet you and to hear about your books! I have The Chief on my Kindle and look forward to reading it when I whittle down my TBR pile!

Crystal said...

:::sigh::: this is another book I have yet to read. I know I am seriously slacking! I promise it isn't intentional. I've not had the chance to sit down and read more than two sentences since we found out we were moving.
Monica I have heard nothing but great things about this book. I promise it is in my TBR (soon)mountain. This book is right up my ally!

Monica McCarty said...

Thank you so much for trying it out--I'm so glad you enjoyed it (and thanks to Christy for the recommendation!). Hope you like THE HAWK. :)

Oklanannie, I hope you enjoy it, I love hearing that there's some good word of mouth out there!

Kay, so glad that you enjoyed THE RANGER! They did have a hard time of it, didn't they? :)

How fun! We're actually going to be on the cover again in a few months (conference issue). You definitely have to check out the books if you like Jami and Bella. We all write in different genres, but we share the same sensibility--probably the reason our CPing (new word, LOL) has worked out so well. :)

Thank you so much for having me! Too funny about the RT issue. :) Hope to see you at one of the conferences this year? Thanks for trying out The Chief. :)

LOL, Crystal, I hope you enjoy it when that pile gets a little lower. Hope the move went well!

Thanks to everyone for the great welcome and for trying out the book!

Mary G said...

If 'same sensibility' means HOT, I'm in! LOL.

Jolene Allcock and Family said...

I'm all for it Ronlyn, introduce away :)

Marie Force said...

Hey there!
Thanks to Monica for being our special guest this week and to everyone who came by to play! I am now using a random prize drawing system that Pamela Clare introduced me to (after seeing my paper snippet posting on FB after the Fatal Wedding!) So every week, I am entering EVERY name and this week's winner is....

Mary G!!!!!

Mary, send your address to me at and we'll get it to Monica.

Next week: One Night Stand by Cindy Kirk! See you then and have a great weekend everyone!

Mary G said...

OMG Thanks so much. I'm looking forward to it.

Alison said...

Woohoo! Way to go Mary!