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…
I’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.
The 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).
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!
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!
A sweeping, sexy Highland romance about a wanted Jacobite with a wounded soul, and a spirited Scottish lass on the run.