Scottish Highlands, 1351
Shrouded in mist, Loch Nis loomed, dark and foreboding, in the distance. Lachlann pulled the packhorse along swiftly, anxious to be home before nightfall. He needed to see his family, to hold his son. He checked his sporan. The wee leather ball and wooden horse figurine were there, safe. He could hardly wait to watch Iain’s little face light up when he gave him the toys.
Allasan should be pleased that he’d found everything on her list. He grinned. They had their differences, but if there was one thing about his wife, she knew what she wanted. She was the most stubborn Gael alive. Despite fever, nausea, and a sick three-year-old to care for, she’d almost pushed him out of the door.
“You have to go,” she’d urged, her brown eyes unnaturally bright. “I want the dye and you’ll find it in Inbhir Nis. You promised! I didn’t work day and night all summer to be disappointed because of a paltry ailment. I have my family and yours all around me if I need anything. Go! You’ll only be in my way here!”
He had to admit, she’d been right. The Lùnastal festival in Inbhir Nis was much larger than their local fairs, with a wide variety of merchants in attendance. Not only had he found her purple dye and wax candles, but all sorts of vegetable seeds as well, even Norse favorites such as horseradish and mustard.
Thanks to a bountiful harvest and the cloth that Allasan wove so skillfully, he’d had plenty with which to barter. He’d even been able to choose gifts – Iain’s toys, silk ribbons for his wife and sisters-in-law, and iron gall ink for the bard.
He only wished that Allasan and Iain had been able to go with him as planned. He’d worried about them the whole week.
What was wrong with the horse? He tugged lightly on the rope. The beast stalled, its ears flat back. He tugged harder, then smelled it, the foul stench of smoke.
“Come on,” he urged the animal. “Someone’s just burning something.”
But burning what? As he drew closer to the village, he saw black smoke billowing from the mountain. His gut clenched. Something was wrong. He moved faster.
The packhorse resisted.
Damn it! He had to get home. When the animal continued to balk, he tied it to a tree and ran.
By the time he reached the outskirts of his village, his eyes were burning. Smoke was beginning to choke him.
He ran faster.
Someone grasped his arms, swinging him to a halt.
“You’re going the wrong way! You need to get out of here!”
Gaelic, but the accent was odd. Dimly, through the smoke, he saw a stranger standing before him, his face shrouded by a hood.
“I’m going to my family!”
“They’re gone. You need to turn around and head back to Inbhir Nis.”
“What do you mean, they’re gone?”
They must’ve moved away from the fire. He pushed forward. He’d be able to help.
The stranger stopped him again.
“You’re the farmer, aren’t you? The Norseman they call ‘Ox’?”
“I’m sorry, friend. Your family is gone. Your entire village was wiped out.”
“Explain yourself!” Lachlann roared, his heart suddenly pounding in his ears.
“They’re all dead. The plague… It took your whole village in less than a week. They’ve been burning everything – bodies, houses, clothing, bedding. There’s nothing left.”
Lachlann began to run.
“Turn around!” the stranger shouted after him. “A Dhaimh, sàbhail thu fhèin!”
He ran as fast as he could, the fetid smoke filling his nostrils, burning his eyes and throat. He rushed through the village without pause, not slowing until he reached his longhouse. He stopped then, gasping, his heart beating in his ears. The thatch roof was gone, the stone blackened with soot.
“Allasan! Iain!” Racing inside, he found only ashes. He stared. Ashes. Their iron kettle nestled on the floor of the hearth, blackened, smoldering. On shaking legs, he walked the short length of the house. Not a sign, not a hint. Where were they?
They had to be all right. Just a week ago, Allasan had been cooking, weaving, arguing. Iain had been playing, laughing. They couldn’t be… They must have fled.
He stumbled back out. Black smoke whirled around him like fingers of death.
Gasping, he ran to his parents’ home. The stone structure still stood, blackened, roofless. Heat seemed to radiate from within. He stared at it, unable to move as dark flakes fell around him. Ashes!
The house built by his grandfather’s grandfather, the oldest and largest in their village, the home he’d grown up in, was reduced to a blackened pile of stones. A shuffling sound caught his attention. His heart leapt.
A hen fluttered from behind the house.
Lachlann turned away, tears burning down his cheeks as dread clamped coldly around his heart.
Where was everyone? He glanced wildly about him. They couldn’t all be gone, not the whole village.
Castle Chisholm! They would have sought refuge at the castle. Allasan and Iain would surely be there. It had been Allasan’s home. He beat the trail up to the castle. The smoke was thinner as he approached the unfinished stone structure. The gates were closed, but he knew the guards.
“My family,” he said urgently. “I want to see my family!”
Brian, an old friend, stepped forward, grimacing.
“Lachlann…” he faltered.
The Gael shook his head. “I’m sorry.”
“Where are they?”
His friend’s hands grasped his shoulders.
“They’re not here, Lachlann,” he said quietly. “They died.”
“They can’t be dead! I just left them a week ago!”
“It happened quickly. Your whole village was struck.”
“My parents, my brothers…”
“To the best of my knowledge, you’re the only survivor.”
Lachlann’s knees buckled. Brian’s hands braced him, held him up.
Allasan, Iain, Mother, Father, Ivar, Vali, their wives, their children…
How could they all be dead? It wasn’t possible.
“Allasan’s parents?” he choked.
“I haven’t seen them, but they could be here.”
“Can I go and look for them?”
Brian shook his head. “The chief forbids any of the Norse to enter, if there are any left besides you. The sickness started in your village, but we’ve already lost some of our own people.”
“Rónán and his family?”
“Last time I heard, the bard’s family was all right. I thought Rónán would be with you.”
“With me? Why would you think that?”
“He set off for Inbhir Nis on one of the chief’s horses to find you and tell you of your family.”
“Rónán went to Inbhir Nis?” He could hardly fathom it. Rónán hated riding.
“That’s where he said he was going. He left a few days ago.” The Gael held out a flask. “Take this. I’m sorry, Lachlann, but you have to go.”
“Where are the bodies?” His own words sounded distant, as if someone else had spoken them.
Brian gazed at him, tears in his dark eyes. They’d shared many a meal through the years.
“I haven’t been to the village, but from what I’ve heard, all were burned.”
Lachlann’s stomach roiled.
“Did the chief order this?”
The warrior shook his head. “We bury our dead. But with a sickness like this…” He shuddered. “In the end, some of our people helped. The chief might order the same here to stop the disease from spreading.” He pushed the flask into Lachlann’s hands. “Drink.”
Lachlann accepted the flask and tried to swallow. But his throat was clogged with smoke and tears. He gagged. Wordlessly, he handed the flask back to Brian and nodded a farewell.
He had to check all the houses. He would bury any bodies he found. His family, his people… He headed back to the village on legs he no longer felt. Only his mind worked.
Find your dead.
But where? The scant structures all looked the same, scorched and black with soot. Piles of ashes were everywhere, some still smoldering.
He wandered from house to house, looking, listening for signs of life. But there were none. Silence taunted him, stark and pervasive, broken only by his own shallow breaths. What should he do? His mind felt numb.
“What are you doing here?”
Starting violently, Lachlann turned to see the hooded stranger striding towards him. A cloth covered his nose and mouth.
“Why are you here?” the man asked him.
“I seek my dead.”
“I told you, they burned everything. You’ll find no bodies.”
“Where did they burn them?”
The man stepped closer to place his hands on Lachlann’s arms.
“In their homes,” he replied quietly. “Mostly in their beds, where they died.”
Oh, God. He couldn’t see, couldn’t breathe. Iain. Lachlann fell to his knees, gasping for air, gagging on it. His chest… He couldn’t…
“Breathe.” The man pressed his shoulders, sounded long, even breaths.
“Breathe,” repeated the voice. “Steady.”
Lachlann tried to mimic the rhythmic breathing of the stranger crouched before him.
“That’s right. Keep going. Good.”
He didn’t know how long they knelt there as he struggled for control. But the pressure remained on his shoulders until he stopped shaking.
“There’s nothing left for you to do here.” The voice, with its strange accent, finally penetrated his consciousness. “You must leave. You could still get sick.”
“Where will I go?” Lachlann asked hoarsely. “I should have helped my people.”
“There was nothing you could have done.”
“Then I should have died with them.”
“But you didn’t,” came the quiet response. “You’re obviously not meant to die yet.”
Lachlann swayed. The man shook him slightly.
“Go back to Inbhir Nis. Return in spring.”
Inbhir Nis. Rónán had gone to Inbhir Nis. He could find him. Slowly, he rose. The man rose with him.
“Go,” he urged again.
Nodding, Lachlann turned away. When he reached the edge of the village, he glanced back. The stranger stood watching him, a lone, upright figure swathed in smoke, surrounded by ruin.
Lachlann began running, pausing only when he reached his fields. They were cloaked in the same deathly smoke that was choking him. He hurried on until he reached the loch.
Collapsing to his knees, he howled, the sounds of a tortured animal ripping from his chest.
How could they all be dead, and he still lived? He should have been here. He might have helped them.
He might have died with them. Death would have been preferable to this.
Gasping, he yanked at his tunic, ripping it away from his neck.
“Nei!” he bellowed.
He sobbed and raged until his throat was raw, until he could hardly breathe.
He was suffocating.
Up. He had to get up or he would die here in the ashes. He had to find Rónán.
He trudged onward, his legs shaking so hard that walking seemed impossible. But he didn’t stop. He forced himself to keep moving, one foot in front of the other. Walking. Stumbling.
Night fell. The smoke dissipated, then disappeared altogether. Stars twinkled in the dark, clear sky. Tears poured from his burning eyes, down his cheeks, as he pressed on.
His whole family, his whole village… they’d all been dying whilst he bartered for vegetable seeds and ribbons.
Please, Rónán, be alive and well.
The ground suddenly trembled. Lachlann glanced at the loch. The water was rippling, but there was no breeze. He moved away from the water and kept walking. But this wasn’t the mild sort of tremor they usually had in the glen. The earth shook violently. Ahead of him, an enormous pine tree uprooted completely.
Voices! Was someone calling his name?
“Rónán!” he called urgently.
In the moonlight, cracks appeared in the earth. He heard the ground breaking. All around him, it was breaking! Twisting, turning, Lachlann desperately tried to find safe ground. Suddenly, there was a terrible roar, like a giant screaming in pain.
A crack raced towards him, widening into a chasm beneath his feet. He shouted as he slipped, grasping desperately at the earth. It crumbled beneath his hands.
He tried to climb out. He was sliding.
“Lord, have mercy on my soul!”
I’m proud and excited to be interviewing Mary Morgan, award-winning author of the series Order of the Dragon Knights. Mary is a prolific writer with a brilliant and beautiful imagination. I just finished reading/listening to the second book of the series, Dragon Knight’s Medallion. And yes, I do mean reading and listening. It’s hard to be very active and busy and enthralled by a story at the same time – but I’m managing it!
Mary has two other series, Legends of the Fenian Warriors and Highland Holiday Books. Her new romance, To Weave a Highland Tapestry, is latest in the Order of the Dragon Knights series.
I’ve already met a few of the Fenian warriors in the Dragon Knights series, and I have to say that I think I might already be madly in love with … all of them? But enough gushing. I have burning questions.
Welcome, Mary. Thank you so much for joining us. I’ve fallen in love with your beautiful characters and the world you’ve created. How in the world did you come up with these stories/legends? What was your inspiration?
Thank you so much for the wonderful welcome, Anastasia! I’m delighted to be here, and thrilled you’re enjoying the first few stories in the Order of the Dragon Knights series.
My inspiration began when I took my first trip to Scotland twenty years ago. The birth of a series--the Dragon Knights were born one evening while I was sitting on a boulder in the Highlands surrounded by the magic and the mists of the land. However, on the second half of my trip, I visited beautiful Ireland. As I wandered the soft rolling hills in various shades of green, the land spoke to my soul and urged me to place the Dragon Knights here as well. It would be several more years before I decided to use both countries—Scotland and Ireland as part of my stories. A perfect solution to a problem I had been debating on for the Dragon Knights—my mythical Highlanders.
It's a perfectly wonderful solution and we, your readers, are benefitting from your decision. You mention the magic of the land. You felt it, then? There’s no shortage of references to the magical quality of Scotland and Ireland. In your travels, have you found this to be true?
Definitely, Anastasia! In truth, I blame part of the magical quality on my own DNA: Irish, Welsh, Scottish, and a wee amount from Sweden. The land speaks to my soul, especially in Scotland and Ireland.
Your affinity for these lands comes across in your stories. Is there a particular location that has impacted you more than others?
The Highlands touched my soul first. Each time I’ve returned, I know the precise moment we’ve crossed the border from England into Scotland. No matter if I’m reading or eating on a train, I have this spark of awareness within my soul that I’ve come home.
I understand that feeling of homecoming. It’s a beautiful thing. With all this in mind, if you could magically transport to just one location at your earliest convenience, where would you go?
Whisk me away to Urquhart Castle in Scotland! I finally had a chance to visit these incredible ruins three years ago. My husband never uttered a word of complaint as I stayed and roamed the area for almost four hours. In addition, he took many phenomenal photos and captured the epic landscape and castle ruins.
I just finished reading and listening to Dragon Knight’s Medallion. It has one of the most emotional endings I’ve ever come across in a romance. I was stunned. Once I finished listening to it, I actually read it just to prolong the experience. I appreciate that you put your characters through torture, but not through unnecessary angst. Will you tell us more about your writing?
I write from my heart and soul. Life and love are messy. In my humble opinion, love is the greatest power—it can bring such joy and sorrow. Yet the rewards are epic. Everyone should experience love at least once in a lifetime. I’ve been blessed to find my own knight in shining armor, so I believe in happy ever after.
I’m really excited to continue the journey with your characters, especially since we get to move on to those gorgeous Fenian warriors. Did you always mean to have a special series for them, or did their characters demand it as you wrote?
Absolutely! The moment Fenian Warrior Conn MacRoich stepped into the scene in Dragon Knight’s Sword, I knew his story had to be told. And he made his demands known, too. By the end of the series, the MacGregor brothers (Rory and Liam) would also have tales to be written. As far as their leader, Aidan Kerrigan, I made a promise to my editor that I would write his and Rose’s love story. I won’t give away any spoilers for your readers, but let me say it was important to honor this couple with their own story.
It’s also such a boon that we have a new Dragon Knights book to enjoy. Will you tell us a little about To Weave a Highland Tapestry?
This is the third spin-off (Highland Holiday Books) from the Order of the Dragon Knights. I felt it was time to give the hero, Patrick MacFhearguis, brother to Adam MacFhearguis from Dragon Knight’s Ring his own happy ever after.
He’s been a secondary character since my first book and series, too. I sensed he was brooding at his home in Scotland. What he needed was a wife and a purpose. I wove his castle, Leòmhann, as the center of this love story, along with an ancient yew tree.
What began as a Highland holiday novel, morphed into a much broader story—one that connected the past and present-day Clan MacFhearguis. And incorporating the Dragon Knights (Clan MacKay) into the story meant I was in for an even larger scenic tale. If you’ve read my stories, nothing is straightforward with these two clans. They dominate every scene they enter, each fighting for control. While they started out as bitter enemies, they are now allies and good friends. With this friendship, there also came loss. I realized both clans still mourned the absence of family members.
Now that I’m in the middle of Dragon Knight’s Axe, I can really appreciate your giving Clan McFhearghuis some spotlight. With all of these wonderful characters, do you have a favorite or two?
Oh, Anastasia, all my characters are favorites. They are my fictional family within my mind and heart. The only time one will edge out above the others is when I’m writing their story. Currently, it’s a Viking/Scot hero called Magnar.
A Viking/Scot? Maybe Magnar is my favorite already! More seriously, that’s how I feel when I read your stories. My favorite hero is the one I am reading about, but really, I love them all. Can you tell us a little more, clue us in? What can we look forward to next?
I’m delighted to announce that this summer comes a brand new paranormal historical series set in thirteenth century Scotland and the Orkney Islands. Mercenaries, spies, thieves, rogues, and seducers. These men are known as the Wolves of Clan Sutherland—Protector of King William The Lion of Scotland. Look for the cover reveal of Magnar, known as the Barbarian and leader of the wolves next month!
I can hardly wait! So exciting!
Before we go, I feel it important to mention Mary’s wonderful website and blog. On her blog, Mary’s Tavern, readers can find book reviews and wonderful recipes. One of her last foodie posts is about honey – something the characters in Dragon Knight’s Medallion uniquely enjoy. Having just finished the book, I recalled the scene with delicious clarity and a big grin. I will definitely be trying her recipe for Honey Butter.
Following are links to Mary's books as well as her blog and social media. There is also a special treat -- an excerpt from To Weave a Highland Tapestry.
Mary, thank you for sharing your time and imagination with us.
O WEAVE A HIGHLAND TAPESTRY (A Tale from the Order of the Dragon Knights)
By Mary Morgan
Release date: December 9, 2019
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Time-travel/Scottish medieval/Paranormal Romance
Patrick MacFhearguis, hardened by battles won and lost, desires what he can never have—peace within his heart and soul. Yet, the ever-meddling Fae weave a new journey for him to conquer—a task this highlander is determined to resist.
When skilled weaver, Gwen Hywel, is commissioned to create a tapestry for the MacFhearguis clan, she embraces the assignment. While seeking out ideas, she finds herself clutching the one thread that can alter the tapestry of her life and heart.
A man conflicted by past deeds. A woman with no family of her own. Is it possible for love to unravel an ancient past, in order to claim two badly scarred hearts? Or will the light of hope be doused forever?
Gwen approached quietly by his side. “Pity. It was a great throw.”
“Aye,” he acknowledged softly. “One of my best. My brother, Adam was a champion at this game. I should have studied him more.”
“Interesting,” she mused.
Straightening, Patrick started forward. “I can help ye pick more mushrooms. Are they for the Midwinter feast?”
“Yes. Apparently, they’re for an onion and cabbage dish. Sounds delicious. I’m amazed at how all the women have managed here in this time-period.”
“I had heard it was a struggle in the beginning for them.” He glimpsed sideways at her. “How do ye find being here? I cannot fathom what ye must miss.”
She shrugged. “There’s simplicity here. I’d almost call it serenity. I’ve learned a lot this past month. Whereas, in my town you can go crazy trying to keep up with everything.” Gwen waved a hand outward. “And don’t get me started on city life. Traffic congestion, speedy drivers, people always on their cell—” She giggled. “Sorry. Too confusing for you.”
Patrick smiled, trying to perceive everything the lass was saying. Each time she spoke, her face would light up. There was a musical lilt to her voice that soothed him. He found her enchanting, regardless of the words spewing forth from her.
Noting a group of mushrooms, he moved away from Gwen.
“Since you have lost, what about my end of the bargain? I believe I can claim something of value.”
Patrick froze in his steps. Glancing over his shoulder, he stared at her in disbelief. “Ye wish to claim a reward?” Hope soared within his heart as if the sun’s rays stoked the emotion.
Her tongue darted along her lower lip. “Absolutely.”
He turned slowly around. “Name your reward.” Tension coiled within his muscles.
She approached him in an unhurried fashion. “You might have requested one kiss as your reward, but I’ll take four—the same number of times you skipped the stone over the water.”
His heart hammered against his chest. His mind refused to understand the magnitude of her words. “Four?” he uttered in a hoarse voice.
“Four,” she affirmed, stepping closer. “Do not keep me waiting.”
In one swift move, Patrick crushed her to his chest. Her soft curves were warm against his body. “Start counting, leannán.”
She never had a chance to respond as he hungrily covered her mouth with his lips.
Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/to-weave-a-highland-tapestry-mary-morgan/1134375461?ean=9781509229079
About the Author:
Award-winning Celtic paranormal and fantasy romance author, Mary Morgan resides in Northern California with her own knight in shining armor. However, during her travels to Scotland, England, and Ireland, she left a part of her soul in one of these countries and vows to return.
Mary's passion for books started at an early age along with an overactive imagination. Inspired by her love for history and ancient Celtic mythology, her tales are filled with powerful warriors, brave women, magic, and romance. It wasn't until the closure of Borders Books where Mary worked that she found her true calling by writing romance. Now, the worlds she created in her mind are coming to life within her stories.
If you enjoy history, tortured heroes, and a wee bit of magic, then time-travel within the pages of her books.
Connect with Mary at these places:
FACEBOOK AUTHOR PAGE: https://www.facebook.com/MaryMorganAuthor/
AMAZON AUTHOR PAGE: http://www.amazon.com/Mary-Morgan/e/B00KPE3NWI/
AUDIBLE AUTHOR PAGE: https://www.audible.com/author/Mary-Morgan/B00KPE3NWI
CAPTIVATING QUILL: http://www.thecaptivatingquill.com/Author/Mary-Morgan
since feeling is first
since feeling is first
who pays attention
to the syntax of things
will never wholly kiss you;
wholly to be a fool
while Spring is in the world
my blood approves,
and kisses a better fate
lady i swear by all flowers. Don’t cry
-- the best gesture of my brain is less than
your eyelids’ flutter which says
we are for each other; then
laugh, leaning back in my arms
for life’s not a paragraph
And death i think is no parenthesis
E. E. Cummings 1926
He had dreamed so often of his family, his farm. Had they existed? What was real? Stuck as he was, he sometimes wondered if he really was in hell or purgatory. He couldn’t imagine what he’d done to warrant hell, but wouldn’t there be hope in purgatory?
Suddenly, it seemed there might be. Now, small though it was, there was a flicker of a hope of a dream, or a dream of a hope – that, one day, he might be whole again.
How could he sleep when he felt he was just waking, just coming back from the dead?
Countdown Sale: $1.99 Sunday, May 24 thru Monday, May 25
I'm proud to welcome Brenda B. Taylor, author of more than one wonderful series. I'm a big fan of her Scottish historical romances. And now, I'll leave the post to Brenda.
I became interested in genealogical research after retirement which led to researching family ancestry. The lives of my ancestors grabbed my interest and curiosity. I researched and traveled to their homes and wrote about those in post-Civil War Missouri and Scotland. I found my Scots Munro ancestor who immigrated from Scotland to North Carolina early in the 19th century. Immediately a story about the adventurous Clan Munro of the Scottish Highlands turned over in my mind. Since historical romance was my favorite genre to read, I crafted romances into the plots of the stories.
The research for the Highland Treasures series was difficult but interesting and exciting. I traveled to Scotland four times for first-hand experience of life in the Scottish Highlands. Scotland’s museums, ancient castles, and other points of interest were filled with historical artifacts. On the first trip, my husband and I traveled from Edinburgh to Inverness in a rented car on the wrong side of the road. What a journey, but we arrived safely at our destination and enjoyed the stay in a lovely bed and breakfast. While there, I noticed an advertisement on the bulletin board for Munro Highland Tours. I immediately got in touch with George Munro, the tour guide. George took us on a beautiful tour of the land called Ferindonald, the clan lands of Clan Munro. He arranged a tour of Foulis Castle, seat of the clan and home to Chief Hector Munro and his family.
The chief’s mother, Mrs. Timmie Munro, took us on a lovely tour of the castle and grounds. I cannot describe the wonderful time my husband and I enjoyed during our first trip to the Scottish Highlands.
While in Inverness we visited the Scotland People’s Center and researched my ancestor, Duncan Munro. I found one entry for Duncan Munro born in Cromarty, Scotland consistent with the time I calculated for his birth. I then assumed Cromarty, on the Black Isle, as the place of Duncan’s home and mentioned the burgh in the three Highland Treasures novels. We also spent time in the Inverness Interactive Museum. While there, I actually donned a great plaide, a man’s garment of old Scotland, which required pleating on the floor, lying down on top, and then belting the plaid around my waist. All three novels in the Highland Treasure series includes a description of wearing a great plaide.
I visited and took photos where possible in Scotland’s National Art Gallery and the National Museum of Scotland while in Edinburgh. Each contained a treasure trove of life in old Scotland. Paintings helped me with the lifestyle in general of the clans—their dress, habits, homes inside and out, and of course the majestic castles, rivers, lochs, and highlands. The experiences and photos assisted me in recreating the rugged life in the 16th century Scottish Highlands.
On the two visits I made with cousins, we attended a Munro gathering with over three hundred Munros from around the world. What fun to meet cousins from the various countries. We found our hosts, the chief and residents of Foulis Castle, to be very interesting folk. They staged games and demonstrations of life in old Scotland. We also enjoyed present day entertainment of Scottish dancers and musicians. Hopefully, another gathering is scheduled for the near future.
George became the tour guide on three subsequent trips to Scotland that I took with cousins. We traveled from the east coast to west and from the farthest northern point on mainland Scotland to the south. Truthfully, I have been all over the country, but haven’t seen everything I wish to visit. Mayhap another trip is in the making.
The Highland Treasures series consists of six books—three novels and three novellas. The novellas tell the story of Davina and Alistair Munro, secondary characters in the series’ second novel, A Highland Ruby. The third and last novella, A Highland Home, is now on pre-order from Amazon.
Plot Summary: Despite intrigue, theft, and murder, Davina and Chief Alistair Munro fashion a home in the Highlands of Scotland with the bond of their faithful love for each other. Cattle reiving plagues the Munro lands of Fàrdach Castle leaving many clan families destitute during the fierce winter. When a faithful servant is slain in the castle stables, Alistair suspects Struan Sutherland, the husband of his former wife, Bridget. The couple controls the chief’s vast inheritance of Contullich Castle and lands through his young son, Blane.
Davina takes Blane under her wing when Alistair brings him to Fàrdach. She and the castle residents grow to love him, but the lad misses his mother. After the slaying of a faithful servant, Blane is kidnapped from Fàrdach and returned to Contullich Castle. With help from within the castle, Alistair takes his son from the Sutherlands. He kills Struan when the angry man demands a duel. Attacks on the Munros stop after Struan’s death, but the cattle must be found and returned to their owners.
While out trying to find the outlaws, a friendly MacKenzie tenant tells the Munros stolen cattle and thieves are located near his steading. Alistair and his warriors hurry to find them. The chief is wounded in a fight and taken to the MacKenzie’s cottage.
Davina learns she is pregnant while her husband is away. With the help of the Lord, she gathers enough courage to carry on and wait for Alistair. Will the chief return to his wife and clan?
Pre-Order Link: Amazon
Brenda’s Bio: Brenda and her husband make their home in beautiful East Texas where they enjoy spending time with family and friends, traveling, and working in Bethabara Faith Ministry, Inc. She crafts stories about the extraordinary lives of ordinary people in her favorite place overlooking bird feeders, bird houses, and a variety of blooming trees and flowers. She sincerely thanks all who purchase and read her books. Her desire is that the message in each book will touch the heart of the reader as it did hers in the writing.
Book Bub Author Page
I am pleased and honored to welcome author Sherrie Hansen, here to tell us about her latest novel, SEASIDE DAISY, a Wildflowers of Ireland Mystery. I’ve enjoyed Sherrie’s romantic Wildflowers of Scotland series and find it exciting that she’s now writing mysteries. Welcome, Sherrie, and thank you so much for joining us.
Thank you for the opportunity to tell your readers about SEASIDE DAISY, my latest novel. SEASIDE DAISY is my first mystery, the first of my books to be set in Ireland, and my first attempt at self-publishing.
That’s a lot of firsts, but thankfully, there are also some familiar things that won’t change. My mysteries will still have a good dose of romance. I think my new “brand” suits both – Explore the Mystery of Love with Author Sherrie Hansen. Some of you are familiar with my Wildflowers of Scotland novels, Wild Rose, Blue Belle, Shy Violet, Sweet William, and Golden Rod, and know that I love drawing parallels between the characters and the flowers they’re named after, weaving the characteristics of the flower into terms and images that define the people in my books. That won’t change either, so you shouldn’t be surprised to learn that my next book is a Wildflowers of Czechia mystery called PLUM TART IRIS. But that’s another story!
Today, I’d like to tell you why I chose to write about Ireland and seaside daisies, formally known as erigeron glaucus. While seaside daisies may look fragile with their thin, tender-looking petals and pale colors, they’re the perfect plant for coastal zones and seaside gardening. Wind and salt spray won’t affect erigeron; in fact, these robust little plants grow well in sandy, dry soils and even prefer soil that isn’t too fertile. They thrive when dead-headed of finished flowers to encourage more blooms. Seaside daisies can be cut back at ground level to encourage new foliage.
I can’t begin to describe how hard the frigid, biting winds were blowing the day my husband and I found seaside daisies growing along the battered Irish shoreline on Dingle Bay except to say, we raced to climb back into the shelter of our car as soon as we’d snapped each picture because we could hardly stand up. And we explored the Wild Atlantic Way in early June! After visiting a living history museum and starting to learn a little more about the history of the Wild Atlantic Way, then seeing a shanty that had been constructed out of wood salvaged from a shipwreck, my mind started to whirl and the plot of SEASIDE DAISY was born.
Here’s a little more about SEASIDE DAISY:
When Daisy Fitzpatrick discovers a treasure trove of gold in a sea cave near her Granny’s shanty on Dingle Bay, she rents out her art studio in Dingle, buys an old mansion in Killarney, and overnight, finds herself a local celebrity with a wonderful new life. But when the real owner lays claim to the gold, she loses everything, including her fickle, new friends. Can Daisy find it in herself to start over? With Cavan’s help, the sea captain’s ghost, and her granny’s quilt to point the way, the quest for more gold is soon underway. But when a priest ends up dead and a pirate takes up the search, Daisy may have to learn the hard way that gold can be a blessing, or gold can be a curse. The Wild Atlantic Way might be a hard foe to tame, but the townsfolk of Dingle soon learn that even the roar of the sea is no match for a Fitzpatrick with her mind made up.
Like erigeron, my Daisy was trimmed back to ground level when she lost the gold she’d thought would solve all of her problems. Her spent blossoms were definitely pinched off. A less hardy plant may have stopped blooming, withered up and died. But like her namesake, my Daisy soon started sprouting new growth. As you’ll soon find out if you read SEASIDE DAISY, the more adversity that comes her way, the more she thrives.
I hope you’ll give my new mystery a try – I’m a firm believer that God makes beautiful things out of broken pieces… it’s been a recurring theme in my life, and in the novels I’ve written. Especially now, when we’re facing the difficulties of a pandemic, I think we’re all learning that the it’s not just the delicate-looking flowers growing along the Wild Atlantic Way – or anywhere the wind blows – that have to be strong and prepared to bounce back when frustrations threaten to get the best of us. Maybe it was fitting when all of my book signings and author appearances for SEASIDE DAISY, carefully planned to coordinate with Irish-themed teas, murder mystery dinners, and other St. Patrick’s Day festivities, were all cancelled due to a certain virus. All the more reason I appreciate Anastasia’s invitation to share at “A Little Romance.” Thank you again
Seaside Daisy is available on Amazon.
I was asked to provide an excerpt, and would like to share a song that I wrote for SEASIDE DAISY.
“Sing the Daisy song! Please?” Scully and Siobhan clasped their hands together and prepared to do the wee Irish jig they always danced to Cavan’s song.
Cavan smiled and took his baritone ukulele down from the shelf. He started to strum, and then, to sing.
Where my Seaside Daisy’s shanty’s
On the Wild Atlantic Way
There’s a treasure at the rainbow’s end
In the caves on Dingle Bay. In the caves on Dingle Bay.
In early morn out on the sea,
The fog gives way to sun.
You can hear the seabirds singing
As the waves come crashing in,
As the waves come crashing in.
Where my Seaside Daisy’s shanty’s
On the Wild Atlantic Way
There’s a treasure at the rainbow’s end
In the caves on Dingle Bay. In the caves on Dingle Bay.
The Captain’s ghost and Granny’s quilt
Are there to point the way
But the pirate’s gold and storms at sea
Are turning the blue skies gray,
Are turning the blue skies gray.
Where my Seaside Daisy’s shanty’s
On the Wild Atlantic Way
There’s a treasure at the rainbow’s end
In the caves on Dingle Bay. In the caves on Dingle Bay.
For gold can be a blessing
And gold can be a curse.
But true love is the greatest gift
Through better and through worse.
Where my Seaside Daisy’s shanty’s
On the Wild Atlantic Way
There’s a treasure at the rainbow’s end
In the caves on Dingle Bay. In the caves on Dingle Bay.
Esperanza. Hope. There is life beyond the familiar, beyond the barrios, beyond fear, exhaustion, hard times. Sandra C. Lopez’s Beyond the Gardens is one of the sweetest, most hopeful stories I’ve ever read. It’s simply beautiful.
What’s even more extraordinary is that it rings of reality, too. This isn’t a story about a sexy executive secretary and her billionaire boss finding their happily ever after. It isn’t the story of a tormented celebrity who gets stranded with the girl next door and falls deeply in love. It’s real romance, which isn’t at all about how many ways they can have sex.
Life is never simple. As Esperanza Ignacio pushes herself through her last semesters of college, she meets each challenge head on. She’s not a drama queen. There’s no unnecessary or aggravating angst. But there are enough twists and turns in this book and enough vibrant characters to keep you turning the pages. You want – you desperately want – to see a happy ending.
I’m not going to say anything about the hero in this story. I don’t want to give it away. But read this book. You’ll be so glad you did.
I’ll leave you with a quote that, incidentally, comes at the end of the book.
She is the flower that keeps on growing from a pot of dirt; and she will continue spreading her beautiful petals no matter how hard the rain pours down on her. She is strength and determination; she is everybody’s hope.
It’s just that beautiful. Don’t miss Beyond the Gardens.
"We might have conquered the plague, but so many other frightening diseases have come along to challenge doctors and scientists. Life has never been simple. Humankind has always struggled, always fought, always will." - Tremors
Available now at Amazon.
I started writing this book four years ago, thinking of the struggles, fears, and yearnings we all have. I worked hard to weave those feelings through the story. I have to admit, it was a hard book to write -- my first time travel story, loads of research involved, wanting to keep it both light and emotional. I wanted to relay what courage and hope look like under difficult circumstances, especially since we don't always recognize those things in ourselves, don't see that we're moving forward. Maybe we're afraid. Maybe we're exhausted, lonely, spent. But the human spirit is strong. We've survived so many things - in our own, personal lives and through history. We can get through Covid19.
Wishing you all the best.
So far this month, I've enjoyed some wonderful romances -- and they're so different from each other. I was thrilled to find a favorite author, Irene Hannon, had published a new, inspirational romance, Starfish Pier. Hannon's characters don't avoid difficult issues; they deal with them. Visiting the fictional town of Hope Harbor is always a balm to the soul.
It was with glee that I discovered the latest book in Molly Harper's Mystic Bayou series, Always Be My Banshee. I just love the characters in that series. They make me smile. And while there's tension, Harper spares us unnecessary angst. The books are fun.
When I actually sit down for a few moments, I open my kindle. I'm reading Beyond the Gardens, by Sandra C. Lopez. Set in Los Angeles, it's a YA romance. That's unusual for me, but it has wonderful characters and is full of heart. I'm loving it.
I'll keep you posted, and I'm always open to recommendations.
Today, I have the pleasure of interviewing Sheila Currie, author of The Banshee of Castle Muirn.
Hi, Sheila. I thoroughly enjoyed your debut novel, The Banshee of Castle Muirn. What a beautiful story. It has some surprising elements in it. I know, from taking several of your online workshops, that you are particularly well-equipped to write about medieval Scotland. Won’t you tell us readers a little about your education and background? Why did you choose to study medieval history and languages?
I wanted to find out about my ancestors who came from Scotland and Ireland. Also I’ve studied and taught the medieval and early modern periods, and find it very interesting to find out why things are as they are.
Before I get carried away with my many questions, won’t you please tell us a little about the book?
The book is about a Highland girl, who understands it is her duty to marry a Campbell gentleman. Not unusual in the Highlands. It keeps the dowry in the clan. But she finds out that her prospective suitor has a need for her dowry and a taste for cruelty. She could become a banshee, a powerful fairy, or she could ask a MacDonald for help. But he is a member of a clan who are their traditional enemies. What to do? Should she choose magic or love?
I was fascinated by the many historical details and the generous sprinkling of Gaelic throughout the book. From my experience with Scottish romances and stories, the amount of Gaelic you incorporate into yours is fairly astounding. Along with the scenic descriptions, it helps immerse the reader in the story. I could see myself there, in that place and time. What made you decide to use so much of the ancient language?
Gaelic or Gàidhlig is the language of my ancestors. In fact I’m not sure how much English my father’s family spoke when they came to Canada. I made the effort to learn more about the language and have a degree in Scottish history and Celtic Studies. So I have some idea of how my ancestors lived and why they emigrated.
I love to read Gaelic poetry. I just bought The Highest Apple / An ubhal as àirde which is a excellent book for learning about Gaelic Scotland: history, poetry, the Gaelic church from 600 to the present.
I'm going to have to look for that book! While on the subject of history – I think this question belongs here -- why did you make brave, handsome Alasdair a drover? I’ve never read a Scottish romance with a drover as the hero. Why didn’t you make him a laird?
The hero is a MacDonald, whose territories were confiscated by King James IV. He wants to earn money to buy land. For now these MacDonalds are tenants although he is a duine uasal, a gentleman or nobleman. In Gaelic terms there is no difference between a noble and a gentleman. If you’re descended from kings and chiefs, you’re noble. An Englishman in the 18th century was horrified that ‘a creature of the name of MacDonald’ considered himself the equal of an English gentleman worth several thousand pounds per annum.
In the Lowlands and England nobility is conferred by feudal titles: baron, earl, marquis or duke. When a title is granted, you can assume the grantee is wealthy and possesses land. No land, no feudal title.
Shona is, of course, a heroine through and through. Did you know she would be a banshee from the beginning, when you first started writing the story? Why or why not? Did medieval Scots really believe that banshees were magical? Were they loved, feared, considered evil?
I had thought of a short story where the heroine pretends to be a banshee by sitting on a rock in the moonlight calmly combing her hair. Any man, who finds a woman like that at night, won’t touch or molest her because he’ll think she is a banshee.
Banshee comes from Gàidhlig ban-sìth meaning woman fairy, a powerful fairy.
Banshees protect women. Scots, especially those in the Highlands, the Gaelic-speaking regions, or those on the periphery believed in fairies of all kinds. They weren’t considered evil, but fairies were believed to possess magical powers and they were tricky. They were treated with respect, but they weren’t loved. Some were feared. My heroine doesn’t care to become a banshee because she is a social being and wants to be liked. Banshees don’t cause death, but they foretell it because they can see into the future.
The element of magic in the story really took me by surprise. I love it. It makes the story all the more interesting without overwhelming it. But why would a historian use magic as a literary device? In your opinion, do the writers of history books give magic and/or the belief in magic enough attention?
I think I’ve used magic as means of making a comment about society. The banshee stands for a woman with a ‘job’ outside the home. Potentially a position of power. Can she be a banshee and a wife? Can she only save friends and clan with magic?
Now, we’re waiting for the sequel, which promises even more drama, history, and magic. Can you tell us a little about The Banshee of Ben Caledon?
The Banshee of Ben Caledon is the story of a cattle drove from Castle Muirn in the Highlands to Edinburgh in the Lowlands. My heroine pretends to be a herd boy and has to learn to manage cattle quickly. She must reach Edinburgh to warn her father about a conspiracy against the king. The climax takes place on Ben Caledon, that is, the mountain of Caledonia. An old and spooky place in my novel.
That sounds fascinating. I can hardly wait to read it. Thank you for sharing an excerpt, which follows this interview.
Before we go, I’d like to mention your online courses. They are so good. You are generous with your time throughout each course and you offer many excellent resources. Are there any upcoming classes we should know about?
I’m preparing to teach Ancient Celts in April and Medieval Castles in July 2020. The courses are sponsored by Hearts through History Romance Writers.
Thank you, Sheila, for sharing your time with us. I look forward to your future novels.
The Banshee of Castle Muirn is available on Amazon.
More information is available on Sheila's website.
Excerpt: The Banshee of Ben Caledon
Scottish Highlands September 1638
Thomas Connington, the man who murdered her uncle, was only a few miles away in Gleann Muirn. Already he might be in the hills searching for her. Shona Campbell’s breath quickened and she wanted to bound away as though he pursued her like a wolf after the red deer.
Every leap over a stream. Every stride through tall grasses. Every step took her farther from marriage to the murdering man. Ahead was Edinburgh, where her father was in danger from plots against the king. Plots formed with Conninton’s guiding hand in the Lowlands, his home.
Light glinted off the grey loch in the weak sun of late autumn. She tramped after the MacDonald cattle, the herd boys round her matching her pace as if they walked from guardhouse door to castle keep. They barely glanced at the hillsides. Their faces showed no concern for raiders. No wolves prowled their dreams.
The cattle before her swayed like moored galleys, bumping and parting. And getting nowhere. One of the boys had cut her a withy, a switch from a willow tree, and she flicked it above the cattle. Come on, come on, hurry up. But neither boy or beast sped down the drove road to Edinburgh.
The cattle slowed at a wide expanse of frosty grass by a river. A drover turned his pony toward the boys at the back of the herd. Alasdair perhaps. A light feeling bubbled up into her chest. Surely he’d find a way for the two of them to talk.
They had almost become lovers at the beginning of the drove. She hoped for more at the end. However, a condition of taking her on the drove was that she go disguised as a boy, not as a gentlewoman of Clan Campbell. She was safer hidden among the MacDonald herd boys.
The drover came straight to them.
Not Alasdair. The lightness in her heart turned heavy.
He spoke to the newest herd boys, Finlay and herself. “Stop pushing the animals forward. We stay here long enough for water and grazing. As short a time as possible. Alasdair wants us to travel fifteen miles again today.” His voice suggested he thought it a bad idea.
Alasdair must be forcing the cattle to go farther to put distance between her and Connington. To protect her. On a good horse Connington could catch up to the slow-moving herd in two days.
“You watch that none head back up the road home. Or the cattle won’t be the only ones to feel my withy.” His eyes pinned her like a rabbit in a snare. A prickling crept up her back and lifted the hair on her neck. Surely he didn’t know this herd boy was a woman. He was making sure she did the job.
She breathed faster. Calm yourself. Speak to the drover as if you had a right to be here. But her throat tightened. “We’re not stopping yet surely. We’ve hardly gone any distance at all.”
Annoyance flickered in his eyes. “You mind yourself. Push the cattle to the water. Now. You’ll soon change your tune about moving on quickly.” Then he said with a cocked head, a hand on his hip and all the disdain of a lord before his tenantry. “What was your name again?”
"I am Sheathan.” She still wasn’t used to the boy’s name she had chosen for herself. Still not a part of her. Still as foreign as these MacDonalds with whom she walked.
“You need not say it. We all know who you are. A Campbell.”
Ah, but you don’t know me. You don’t know what injury I could cause you. But she would not use her banshee powers because she could not control them. Never again would she use that power. Never.
Instead she’d tolerate slights from the MacDonalds. Her safety depended on their behaving as they usually did--bored on a journey they had taken many times before. She was well-disguised. So she hoped.