Exclusive Excerpt: The Laird of Blackloch

33094

Revenge might be sweet, but love is far sweeter…

Sarah wasn’t sure when she first noticed the mysterious man dressed in black, watching her. Perhaps it was when Malcolm had escorted Damaris out onto the ballroom floor for a minuet.

Movement and noise surrounded her: laughter and chatter and the elegant strains of the small orchestra filled the air; the swirl of opulent silks and satins and velvets, and the flash of jewels dazzled the eye as dancing couples floated by. But lingering in the shadows on the other side of the room was a tall, dark stranger. He stood perfectly still, his attention focused solely on her. She could almost feel the weight of his gaze like a physical, intimate touch upon her—or so she imagined—and her cheeks grew hot, first with embarrassment and then silent indignation. How rude. Where were his manners?

With a lift of her chin, she turned her head away and directed her gaze back to Malcolm and his sister. But it was all for naught; her eyes kept straying to the man in black. There was something inexplicably compelling about him. Even though he was some distance away, she could tell he was handsome beneath his black half-mask. Unlike many of the other gentlemen of the party, including Malcolm, he was sans peruke. His raven black hair was clubbed at the nape, revealing the sharp cut of his square jaw above the frothy white lace of his jabot. Aside from white silk stockings and a touch of white lace at his cuffs, everything else he wore, including his cloak, was as dark as midnight.

Who was he? And why was he so interested in her? Since her father’s passing six months ago, she’d been in mourning and hadn’t been out and about that much. And considering she had only been in Scotland since Hogmanay, she wasn’t all that well acquainted with Edinburgh’s polite society yet.

She was about to ask Aunt Judith, her erstwhile guardian, if she’d noticed the stranger’s pointed interest when a young, fair-haired woman, in a scandalously low-cut gown of scarlet and gold brocade, touched his arm in a familiar fashion before murmuring something in his ear. The man’s wide, well-shaped mouth curved into a slight smile and his attention shifted to the dancers. Was he studying Malcolm now? How peculiar. Sarah’s nape prickled with unease.

Something odd was going on, she was sure of it. She would discreetly mention the stranger to Malcolm when he returned to her. Perhaps they were just old acquaintances …

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Friday Five: Amy Rose Bennett

2707Name: Amy Rose Bennett
First published with Escape: May 2016, The Master of Strathburn
Favourite romance trope: Forced proximity
Ideal hero (in three words): Honourable, considerate, intelligent
Ideal heroine (in three words): Smart, compassionate, strong-willed
Latest book: The Laird of Blackloch

What began your romance writing career? Why do you write romance?

I’ve been writing stories since childhood so becoming a published author has always been an ambition of mine. I fell in love with Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre when I was nine years old and from that time onwards, I always knew I wanted to write historical romance. However, it wasn’t until I was in my thirties that I actually began to write a romance novel. It took me eight years to get around to finishing that book—The Master of Strathburn—so to have it published with Escape was a dream come true. I guess I write romance because I have this need to create stories that are my own versions of Jane Eyre. Stories that are full of heart-felt emotion and high stakes. Stories that will make readers cry, laugh, and fall in love too. I particularly love the challenge of creating an emotional roller-coaster of a journey. In a nutshell, I suppose I just love writing about the most wondrous thing in the world, love!

How do you write? What is your process like?

I write full-time and in the last year, I’ve become really disciplined. I’ve started to set myself a time frame of two to three months to complete my single title length novels and I try very hard to achieve my daily word count goal. To make sure I don’t get stuck during the first draft phase, I plot out the novel from start to finish before I begin to write—not in huge detail but I like to know the major turning points and ‘the end’. And I really get to know my characters. As I write historical romance, I also spend a fair amount of time researching the era and the setting before I begin the story … although I have been known to get lost in research rabbit holes during the writing process too!

What do you do when you’re stuck with a scene?

I often handwrite the scene out. Or I jot down the dialogue and then flesh out the rest of the scene later. If all that fails, I step away, do something mundane (like wash the dishes), and then a way forward usually pops into my head. My wonderful husband is a great sounding board for ideas too; he’s particularly adept at helping me get the male point-of-view right.

Where is your favourite place to write? (Pictures please!)

Friday 5-Amys Office

This will probably sound really dreadful, but my favourite place to write is in my lounge room, on the couch. I’ve never had a dedicated office space. And I can pretty much write anywhere—coffee shops, on planes, on long car trips, in bed. As long as I have my trusty laptop with me, I’m good to go.

Besides writing, what is something else that you’re really good at?

Cooking! I love baking and creating challenging savoury dishes. I have a ton of cookbooks and read them for pleasure. And if we throw a dinner party, I’m in heaven. My very sweet (and totally biased) husband tells me I’m his blonde Nigella, lol.

 


33094Revenge might be sweet, but love is far sweeter…

Following the Battle of Culloden, Alexander MacIvor returns to his ancestral home, Blackloch Castle, only to find the Earl of Tay, chief of the rival Clan Campbell, has laid waste to everything he holds dear. In the face of such devastation, Alex seems doomed to live the life of a fugitive Jacobite…until a stroke of good luck allows him to escape the Highlands and begin again.

Years later, styling himself as a wealthy Englishman, Alexander reclaims his forfeited estate, becoming the new Laird of Blackloch. But it’s not nearly enough to quell his thirst for vengeance. Hell-bent on destroying Lord Tay, he single-mindedly sets about driving his nemesis to bankruptcy. When he learns the earl intends to marry the very beautiful English heiress, Miss Sarah Lambert, thus escaping penury, he devises a devious plan: kidnap Miss Lambert and ransom her to hasten Tay’s ruin.

When Sarah Lambert learns Lord Tay is not the man she thought he was during a masquerade ball in Edinburgh, she is devastated. Reeling from her discovery, things go from bad to worse when a mysterious yet charming guest by the name of Alexander Black turns out to be a true devil in disguise. Abducted and whisked way into the wild Highlands by Black, Sarah is imprisoned in a remote, island-bound tower. Refusing to be a pawn in Black’s diabolical plan for revenge, she determines that somehow, some way, she will regain her freedom. If only she could unlock Black’s secrets…

Living in such close quarters, Alexander quickly discovers the spirited Sarah is more than a match for him, and even the best laid plans can go awry when passion flares and the spark of love threatens to revive his long-dead heart. When the shadows of the past begin to gather, will Alexander and Sarah find their way forward…or will the threatening darkness destroy them both?

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The Highlander didn’t wear plaid – a brief history of the kilt

by Amy Rose Bennett

The kilt is regarded as a quintessential part of traditional Highland dress and is synonymous with Scottish patriotism and clanship. And nothing really says ‘Scottish historical romance’ as clearly as a handsome Highlander sporting a kilt on the cover! Yet the Jacobite heroes in my stories The Master of Strathburn and my upcoming release The Laird of Blackloch, rarely wear kilts or anything made of tartan.

Why not?

The reason is rooted in the tumultuous history of eighteenth century Scotland, the period in which my two Highland Rogue Series novels are set. During that era, there were two major rebellions against British rule: the first Jacobite Uprising occurred in 1715 and the second, in 1745. But before we visit that period of history and why Highlanders—and my two Jacobite heroes—could no longer where plaid following the Forty-Five, let’s explore the earlier backstory of the kilt.

The evolution of the kilt is quite fascinating. Although there is still some debate about when Highlanders first began to wear the kilt or ‘plaid’ it may have been as long ago as the tenth century. Early plaids were thought to consist of a long woollen cloak, perhaps six yards by two, and were reminiscent of a Roman toga. These garments were fashioned from plain wool or simple tartans containing only two or three natural shades such as white, brown, green, and black. The dyes would have been extracted from parts of plants and trees such as roots, berries, bark, flowers, and leaves. Some historians maintain that fabrics with distinctive setts—checked patterns—only came into widespread use during the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and tended to be associated with regional areas or districts rather than particular clans. Indeed, many of the brightly coloured clan tartans we’re familiar with today were actually designed during Queen Victoria’s reign in the nineteenth century.

Some believe the war attire of medieval Highland clan warriors a la Braveheart wasn’t actually the plaid or kilt, but rather a long, pleated or quilted tunic of linen, leather, or canvas which came down below the knees—the leine croich. It was often paired with a hide jerkin or, in some instances, chain mail to protect the neck and shoulders, and topped off with a conical metal helmet. There’s some evidence this garb was worn until the end of the sixteenth century; it can still be seen on tombstones of Highland soldiers in places such as Argyllshire and the Isles of Scotland.

The forerunner of today’s kilt, the belted plaid—fhéilidh breacan or fhéilidh mor in Scots Gaelic—began to appear during the sixteenth century, but didn’t become popular everyday wear for Highlanders until the seventeenth century. It consisted of several yards of thick woollen fabric gathered up into pleats around the waist and was secured by a wide leather belt. It was worn over a long, knee length undershirt and donned in a rather complicated fashion; the wearer placed his belt on the ground, laid the plaid over it, then folded one end into pleats. After lying on top, he then fastened the belt around his waist with the pleated section becoming the kilt. The upper part of the plaid could be arranged in various ways; often it was drawn up over the back and draped over the shoulder, and then fastened in place with a pin or brooch. The Highlander’s sword arm was usually left free. The extra fabric could also be drawn up over the head and shoulders like a cloak to provide protection from the elements in inclement weather. And apparently at night, the plaid was used as a blanket. A very useful garment indeed!

At some point during the late seventeenth or early eighteenth century, a shorter kilt called the philabeg or ‘small kilt’ emerged, although the belted plaid was also still worn. Sewn in pleats and belt loops became a feature. Although it’s still a topic of dispute amongst some historians, around the same time it also appears that Highland clans, families, and military regiments began the practice of using certain tartan patterns or ‘setts’ as a means of identification. After the Restoration of 1660, a permanent force of Highlanders loyal to King Charles II—the ruler of Great Britain and Ireland—was established to ‘keep watch upon the braes’. Known as the Highland Independent Companies, individual regiments began to wear plaid with particular setts—a tartan uniform.

Following the first Jacobite Uprising in 1715 in which the exiled ‘Old Pretender’, James Francis Edward Stuart, attempted to claim the throne of England, Ireland, and Scotland, the British government raised the famous Black Watch regiments to police the Highlands. Commanded by clan leaders loyal to the Crown, these troops were to be ‘employed in disarming the Highlanders, preventing depredations, bringing criminals to justice, and hindering rebels and attainted persons from inhabiting that part of the kingdom’. The members wore a distinctive darkly hued tartan of green, blue, and black which became known as the Black Watch tartan. It’s still in use today.

And now at last we come to the period The Master of Strathburn and The Laird of Blackloch are set in—the second Jacobite Rebellion of 1745! Many Jacobite rebels—just like my Highlander heroes—wore tartan kilts as an informal uniform during the uprising. Bonnie Prince Charlie, the Young Pretender—so named because he was the son of the Old Pretender —attempted to wrest the British throne from George II.

492px-William_Mosman_-_Prince_Charles_Edward_Stuart_1720_-_1788._Eldest_son_of_Prince_James_Francis_Edward_Stuart_-_Google_Art_Project

However his bid failed when the Jacobite army was roundly defeated at the fateful Battle of Culloden on the 16th April 1746. Immediately following the Rebellion, the Dress Act was imposed by the British government; the wearing of plaid or tartan in any form was banned in an effort to suppress Highland culture and Scottish nationalism, in effect, to crush the spirit of the Highlanders who’d rebelled. Only the Black Watch was exempted. The penalties for breaching the ban were severe—six months imprisonment for a first offense and for the second, transportation to the colonies for seven years. The Dress Act was in place for thirty-six years and wasn’t lifted until 1782. Other punitive measures that were introduced to pacify the rebellious clans included proscribing the Gaelic language and the ownership and use of firearms.

The_Battle_of_Culloden

So now you know why my heroes, Robert Grant and Alexander MacIvor don’t wear plaid. But then, I also think braw Highlanders look quite fine in form-fitting buckskin breeches and boots. And because I write historical romance, a cravat, cambric shirt, waistcoat, and jacket are,of course, entirely optional.

References:

  • Way of Plean, George and Squire Romilly (1995). Clans and Tartans. Glasgow: HarperCollins Publishers
  • MacLeod, John (1997). Highlanders: A History of the Gaels. London: Hodder and Stoughton

33094

Revenge might be sweet, but love is far sweeter…

Following the Battle of Culloden, Alexander MacIvor returns to his ancestral home, Blackloch Castle, only to find the Earl of Tay, chief of the rival Clan Campbell, has laid waste to everything he holds dear. In the face of such devastation, Alex seems doomed to live the life of a fugitive Jacobite…until a stroke of good luck allows him to escape the Highlands and begin again.

Years later, styling himself as a wealthy Englishman, Alexander reclaims his forfeited estate, becoming the new Laird of Blackloch. But it’s not nearly enough to quell his thirst for vengeance. Hell-bent on destroying Lord Tay, he single-mindedly sets about driving his nemesis to bankruptcy. When he learns the earl intends to marry the very beautiful English heiress, Miss Sarah Lambert, thus escaping penury, he devises a devious plan: kidnap Miss Lambert and ransom her to hasten Tay’s ruin.

When Sarah Lambert learns Lord Tay is not the man she thought he was during a masquerade ball in Edinburgh, she is devastated. Reeling from her discovery, things go from bad to worse when a mysterious yet charming guest by the name of Alexander Black turns out to be a true devil in disguise. Abducted and whisked way into the wild Highlands by Black, Sarah is imprisoned in a remote, island-bound tower. Refusing to be a pawn in Black’s diabolical plan for revenge, she determines that somehow, some way, she will regain her freedom. If only she could unlock Black’s secrets…

Living in such close quarters, Alexander quickly discovers the spirited Sarah is more than a match for him, and even the best laid plans can go awry when passion flares and the spark of love threatens to revive his long-dead heart. When the shadows of the past begin to gather, will Alexander and Sarah find their way forward…or will the threatening darkness destroy them both?

The Laird of Blackloch is available for pre-order now!

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28512 (1)

A sweeping, sexy Highland romance about a wanted Jacobite with a wounded soul, and a spirited Scottish lass on the run.

Robert Grant has returned home to Lochrose Castle in the Highlands to reconcile with his long-estranged father, the Earl of Strathburn. But there is a price on Robert’s head, and his avaricious younger half-brother, Simon, doesn’t want him reclaim

ing his birthright. And it’s not only Simon and the redcoats that threaten to destroy Robert’s plans after a flame-haired complication of the feminine kind enters the scene…

Jessie Munroe is forced to flee Lochrose Castle after the dissolute Simon Grant tries to coerce her into becoming his mistress. After a fateful encounter with a mysterious and handsome hunter, Robert, in a remote Highland glen, she throws her lot in with the stranger—even though she suspects he is a fugitive. She soon realises that this man is dangerous in an entirely different way to Simon…

Despite their searing attraction, Robert and Jessie struggle to trust each other as they both seek a place to call home. The stakes are high and only one thing is certain: Simon Grant is in pursuit of them both…

The Master of Strathburn is available now!

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Christmas Earworms: God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen

by Amy Rose Bennett

I love Christmas time and aside from all the festive food, decorations, and prezzies, I love me a good Christmas carol sing-along! In fact, my whole family loves whacking on anything from Bing Crosby crooning I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas to Michael Bublé’s Christmas album, or a CD featuring renditions of traditional songs by carollers.

Maybe it’s the history buff in me, but I do love the pomp of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen. I have fond memories of belting this one out in the school choir many moons ago, so perhaps there’s an element of childhood nostalgia linked to it for me too.

Anyway, because I’m a big fan of historical research, I couldn’t resist delving into the origins of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen. Apparently, it’s one of the oldest existing carols and harkens back to the 16th century or perhaps earlier; some accounts mention it was written and sung in Christian churches in the 15th century. The composer of the lyrics and tune is unknown. During the 16th century, bands of itinerant musicians-cum-night watchmen known as ‘waits’ may have sung it as they walked London’s streets at Christmas time. Fancy that. A singing town guard! The earliest known printed edition of the carol appeared in 1760 in a broadsheet, Three New Christmas Carols:

God rest you merry, Gentlemen,

Let nothing you dismay,

For Jesus Christ our Saviour

Was born upon this Day.

To save poor souls from Satan’s power,

Which long time had gone astray.

Which brings tidings of comfort and joy.

Charles Dickens also refers to it in A Christmas Carol, published in 1843. “… at the first sound of ‘God bless you, merry gentlemen! May nothing you dismay!’, Scrooge seized the ruler with such energy of action that the singer fled in terror, leaving the keyhole to the fog and even more congenial frost.”

I love this Bing Crosby version … Enjoy and Seasons Greetings to you all!


28512A sweeping, sexy Highland romance about a wanted Jacobite with a wounded soul, and a spirited Scottish lass on the run.

Robert Grant has returned home to Lochrose Castle in the Highlands to reconcile with his long-estranged father, the Earl of Strathburn. But there is a price on Robert’s head, and his avaricious younger half-brother, Simon, doesn’t want him reclaiming his birthright. And it’s not only Simon and the redcoats that threaten to destroy Robert’s plans after a flame-haired complication of the feminine kind enters the scene…

Jessie Munroe is forced to flee Lochrose Castle after the dissolute Simon Grant tries to coerce her into becoming his mistress. After a fateful encounter with a mysterious and handsome hunter, Robert, in a remote Highland glen, she throws her lot in with the stranger—even though she suspects he is a fugitive. She soon realises that this man is dangerous in an entirely different way to Simon…

Despite their searing attraction, Robert and Jessie struggle to trust each other as they both seek a place to call home. The stakes are high and only one thing is certain: Simon Grant is in pursuit of them both…

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Men in Kilts

Our friends at Google Play are running a promotion after our own hearts – and to curb our ongoing Outlander withdrawals. For the next week, you can grab some heart-melting, kilt-scorching highlander romances at fantastic prices, including some of our favourite Escape titles.

From best-selling, award-winning author, Frances Housden:

There’s no chieftain that won’t meet his match…

“Housden has developed the characters well and weaves an absorbing story of envy, treachery, lies and second chances.” – Morag, Goodreads (The Chieftain’s Curse)

“I love when true history is blended in with the authors fictional romance, to me a history junkie that’s my favorite combination in my reads! Truly a beautiful tale that reader won’t forget.” – Barbee, Goodreads (The Chieftain’s Daughter)

Buy now!


From hot newcomer Amy Rose Bennett:

28512

A sweeping, sexy Highland romance about a wanted Jacobite with a wounded soul, and a spirited Scottish lass on the run.

“The Master of Strathburn is a fast-paced story with plenty of action, suspense and intrigue.” – Vikki, Goodreads

“Ms Bennett has given us a thrilling romance with an historical background that feels authentic, a couple of chase scenes with cliff-hanger consequences, some clever plot twists, and plenty of passion.” – Jude, Goodreads

Buy now!


From fan-favourite Allison Butler:

Curb your Outlander cravings with Allison Butler’s seriously sexy Scottish heroes!

“I loved seeing a bit of history come to life within these pages.” – Goodreads (The Healer)

“A must read book that is full of seduction, change and acceptance.” – RaeLatte, Goodreads (The Protector)

Buy Now!

 

Feed Your Reader: Scots and Second Chances

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From best-selling author Frances Housden comes a brand new historical romance about a Spanish señorita and a strapping Scottish hero…


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Love at first sight is all very well, but sometimes it takes a second chance

Feed Your Reader: Men in Kilts and Witches in Sydney

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From best-selling author Allison Butler comes a brand-new Scottish historical: A charming rogue, a woman with responsibilities, a highland romance you won’t forget…


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The final bewitching story in a trilogy about sexy witches and second chances…

Bundles of Joy!

Do you like big books and you cannot lie?

So do we.

So. Do. We.

So we put together some bundles, just for readers who won’t deny…

Australian Historical Bundle!

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Two thrilling stories about Australia’s convict past and the path to true love.


Billionaire Bundle!

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From the passionate, pacy pen of Alyssa J Montgomery comes a trilogy about powerful men, and the women who own their hearts.


A Bundle to Treasure!

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For the first time in one place, award-winning Kendall Talbot’s fresh new Treasured series is available in one convenient box-set!


The Next Season of Outlander is still months away Bundle!

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May we humbly suggest Allison Butler’s Sexy Scots as a more than suitable stand-in?


The I Really Only Read For The Heroes Bundle!

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From the critically acclaimed Ainslie Paton comes three men you’ll never forget – in one convenient package.


We Want More Billionaires Bundle!

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Look, we get it. We can’t get enough of the high stakes romance of billionaires either. So we put together three of our top authors for a billionaire sample pack – satisfaction guaranteed.

My book setting: Scotland

by Amy Rose Bennett

Even though I’m new to the Escape team of authors, when I heard there was the opportunity to participate in a new blog series to showcase the settings of our books, I immediately jumped at the chance.

My first Escape title, due out in May, is a Scottish historical romance! The Master of Strathburn is essentially a tale about Robert Grant, a wanted Jacobite. After surviving the Battle of Culloden, he escapes to France and then the Caribbean. However, after a decade of living in exile, he desperately wants to return to Scotland and reconcile with his estranged father, the Earl of Strathburn. The only problem is, there is still a price on his head. Of course, when he returns to Lochrose Castle, his long-lost Highland home, the adventures and the romance begin…

River Spey 1 copyI’ve long been enamoured with all things Scottish, including the history surrounding the Jacobite Rebellions. I’m sure many of you have read or watched Outlander which focuses on the second and perhaps better-known rebellion, the ’45, when Bonnie Prince Charlie, the Young Pretender, made a play not just for the Scottish throne, but for the throne of England. The rebellion culminated in the Battle of Culloden on April 16, 1746. The Jacobite army was resoundingly defeated by British forces in a bloody battle that lasted little over an hour.

I’ve been fortunate enough to visit Scotland twice to do some ‘on the ground’ research prior to writing The Master of Strathburn. Indeed, my very supportive family has been dragged to many of the locations that feature in the story.

Culloden Memorial CairnThe Battle of Culloden took place at Drumossie Moor, not far from Inverness in the northwest of Scotland. When I visited, it was actually only a few days after the anniversary of the battle and families who’d lost relatives had laid wreaths against the memorial cairn. The moor is actually classified as a war grave and there are small headstones marking the places where particular clansmen fell. It is estimated that 1500 to 2000 Jacobite soldiers were killed or wounded during the brief battle whereas the British army sustained only 50 casualties. Needless to say, visiting Culloden was a very moving experience.

The Earldom of Strathburn is an entirely fictitious hereditary title I invented for my story; however there were Clan Grant lands in and around the stunning Strathspey region of the Highlands, where I set a good deal of my book. Our family actually stayed at a gorgeous B&B just outside of Grantown-on-Spey, the area I imagined Robert’s family seat, Lochrose Castle, was located. The Cairngorm Mountain range where I placed the earl’s hunting lodge—and where Robert Grant and the feisty heroine of my story, Jessie Munroe, have their ‘first meet’—was quite close to the B&B. Even in April, when I visited, there was still snow on the mountains and snow flurries in and around Inverness, to the northwest (about 56km away).

Drumochter Pass

Drumochter Pass

Robert and Jessie eventually leave Lochrose Castle and its environs and head south to Edinburgh. We drove through the Drumochter Pass, one of the main routes into and out of the Highlands even in the 1700s. Again the mountains were snow-covered!

Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle

I love Edinburgh, especially the Royal Mile in the Old Town. The Mile stretches from the brooding bulk of Edinburgh Castle right down to the elegant Palace of Holyroodhouse and its extensive park. Some other places of interest in Edinburgh that feature in The Master of Strathburn are St Giles Cathedral, the old Tolbooth (a gaol which no longer stands, but was adjacent to the Cathedral), and the Whitehorse Inn toward the bottom of the Mile along the stretch known as the Canongate. I think what I loved most about the Old Town was the amazing history around every corner. There are so many fascinating stories associated with the royal residences and the many wynds and closes that lead off the Mile. Edinburgh—indeed the whole of Scotland—certainly fired my writer’s imagination!

I really hope readers get a sense of the stunning Highlands and the other places I described in The Master of Strathburn as they follow Robert and Jessie on their tumultuous journey to a well-earned HEA. If they do, I will be most happy!


master

A sweeping, sexy Highland romance about a wanted Jacobite with a wounded soul, and a spirited Scottish lass on the run.