Friday, 28 January 2011

Alas, the Party's Over...

But what a party! :)

I have to say a HUGE thank you to our wonderful guests of honour over the last week - Marta Acosta, Kimberly Killion, Donna Grant, Toni Anderson and Julianne MacLean. You've been most entertaining and generous and I thoroughly enjoyed learning more about you and your books.

And an equally huge thank you to EVERYONE who joined the party - you made it go with a great swing, and there's no doubt it's been FUN!

I have details now for most of our party winners - still need an email address from one of Kimberly's winners - Gabrielle Lee. (Gabrielle, please send it to me at Marie@MarieTreanor.com.).

And while I'm talking about winners, the winners of the pre-party contest for followers still need to get in touch with me: TAMSYN, you won the paperbacks, and MARY PRESTON won the ebook.

Now, the NEXT PARTY!

This will be 21st to 28th February, and the exciting theme will be Urban Fantasy... Hope to see you all back here then!

Marie

Welcome Julianne MacLean!

For the final day of our Scottish Romance party, I'm thrilled to welcome as our guest of honour Julianne MacLean - bestselling author of passionate historical romance!

Julianne MacLean - Why an Author Might Change Settings and Time Periods

Hello everyone – and thank you to Marie for inviting me to your Scottish party!

If any of you have read my books before, you’ll know that in the past, I’ve written about English dukes and earls in the late-Victorian period, so I’ve done my share of London ballroom scenes.  I wrote nine British historicals for Avon, and you’re probably wondering why I decided to change time periods and venture north into the Scottish Highlands.

It’s always been important to me to keep every story fresh, not to write the same thing over and over again, and to be honest, I just needed a change.  I was getting tired of describing gloved footmen delivering letters on silver salvers, or dukes ringing for their valets.  And all those rules of etiquette to follow…

I love the research that goes into writing a historical novel, and I knew that a different setting would allow me to immerse myself in a very different world, and would bring something new and exciting into my whole writing life.

So I proposed a Highlander trilogy to my editor and wound up moving from Avon to St. Martins in the process.  The first two books will come out back-to-back in March and April, with the third will hit stores in March.

Let me tell you, writing these books was a big, fat, wonderful breath of heaven!  Not only was the setting different – oh, the bliss of describing a green Highland glen or a fast, rushing river with no liveried footmen in sight! - but the plots took on a more adventurous element, and it was easy for me to gallop at a break-neck speed through every scene and chapter.



And the characters…  I shall let out a dreamy sigh here.  What a joy it was to describe a rugged, muscular, sword-wielding warrior who fights for freedom and honor.  And he’s not just at war with England (this trilogy is set during the aftermath of the Jacobite Rebellion of 1715).  He’s also at war with the heroine, who is his political and personal enemy on so many levels.  The conflicts were deep and broad, both internal and external, and I can honestly say that this trilogy was the most challenging and rewarding writing experience of my career so far.

On that note, I must introduce you to a short story prequel I wrote for THE MAMMOTH BOOK OF SCOTTISH ROMANCE.  It’s called “The Rebel,” and I will be giving away a copy of the MAMMOTH anthology to one lucky person who posts a comment here about whatever you want!

But there’s more!  For each and every one of Marie’s Scottish theme party guests – I have a free coupon for you to use in order to download the Ebook edition of “The Rebel.” This coupon is valid at Smashwords.  Here is the link and the Coupon Code:
 http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/36910
Coupon Code:  YJ49S (not case sensitive)

Simply type in this code at checkout, and The Rebel is free!  I encourage you to share this coupon code with others on your favorite blogs and message boards, where readers like to know about free LEGAL downloads.  Important info – this promotional offer expires on Friday, Feb 4, 2011, so I hope you’ll take advantage now.

Happy reading, and thanks again for letting me be a part of your party!

Excerpt from The Rebel:

November 13, 1715
On the field of Sherrifmuir, six miles northeast of Stirling Castle...

      At the sound of the bagpipes and the roaring command of his chief, Alex MacLean drew his sword and broke into a run, charging up the north face of the hill.

      A wild frenzy of bloodlust exploded in his veins and fuelled his body with savage strength and determination, as he and his fellow Jacobite clansmen advanced upon Argyll’s left flank. Their lines collided in a heavy clash of bodies and weaponry, and suddenly he was thrashing about in a red sea of chaos. Men shouted and lunged, shot each other at close range, they severed limbs and hacked each other to pieces. Blood splattered onto his face as he spun around and swung his sword at one soldier, then another. Adrenaline fired his instincts. The fury was blinding. His muscles strained with every controlled thrust and strike.

      Keenly aware of all that was happening around him, he raised his targe to encumber the piercing point of a bayonet. Dropping to one knee, he dirked the offending redcoat in the belly.

      Eventually, in the distance, beyond the delirium of combat, the Government Dragoons began to fall back, retreating through their own infantry. The fury was too much for them. Alex raised his sword.

      “Charge!” he shouted, in a deep thunderous brogue. “For the Scottish Crown!”

      He and his fellow clansmen cried out in triumphant resolve and rushed headlong at the breaking enemy ranks, while the Jacobite cavalry thundered past, galloping hard to pursue the Hanoverians into the steep-sided Glen of Pendreich.

       Moments flashed by like brilliant bursts of lightning. The battle was nearly won. The redcoats were fleeing….

       Before long, Alex slowed to a jog and looked about to get a better sense of his bearings. He and dozens of other clansmen were now spread out across the glen with precious space between them and clean air to breathe.

       It was over. Argyll’s opposing left flank was crushed. They were retreating to Dunblane.

       Stabbing the point of his weapon into the frosty ground, Alex dropped to his knees in exhaustion and rested his forehead on the hilt. He’d fought hard, and with honor. His father would be proud.

       Just then, a fresh-looking young redcoat leapt out from behind a granite boulder and charged at him. “Ahh!”

       He was naught but a boy, but his bayonet was sharp as any other.

       Rolling across the ground, Alex shifted his targe to the other hand to deflect the thrust of the blade. The weapon flew from the soldier’s hands and landed on the grass, but before Alex could regain his footing, a saber was scraping out of its scabbard, and he suddenly found himself backing away defensively, evaluating his opponent’s potential skill and intentions.

       Blue eyes locked on his, and the courage he saw in those depths sharpened his wits.

       Carefully, meticulously, they stepped around each other.

       “Are you sure you want to do this, lad?” Alex asked, giving the boy one last chance to retreat with the others in his regiment. “I’ve done enough killing this morning. I don’t need more blood on my hands. Just go.”

       But why was he hesitating? The dark fury of battle still smoldered within him. What difference would it make if he killed one more? All he had to do was take one step forward and swing. The boy was no match for him. He could slay him in an instant.

       “I’m sure,” the lad replied, but his saber began to tremble in his hands.

       Alex wet his lips. “Just drop your weapon, boy, and run.”

       “No.”

       Alex paused. “You’re a brave one, aren’t you? Or maybe you’re just stupid.”

       All at once, the young soldier let out a vicious battle cry and attacked with a left-handed maneuver that cut Alex swiftly across the thigh.

       He gaped down at the wound in bewilderment.

       Musket fire rang out in the distance. The morning chill penetrated his senses, steeled his warrior instincts.

       The next thing he knew, he was whirling around with a fierce cry of aggression. He swung his targe and struck lad in the head. The young redcoat stumbled backward. His saber dropped from his grasp.

       Then, as if it were all happening in a dream, the soldier’s hat flew through the air, and long black tresses unfurled and swung about. The boy hit the ground and rolled unconscious onto his back.

       Alex’s eyes fell immediately upon a soft complexion and lips like red cherries. All thoughts of war and the Jacobite triumph fled from his mind as he realized with dismay that he had just struck a woman.

Remember, everyone can use the code to download REBEL! Julianne's contest for the MAMMOTH BOOK OF SCOTTISH ROMANCE will close at midnight tonight, EST, and her winner will be announced on this thread.

Kilts!

I can't believe we've got to the last day of the party without talking in any detail about kilts!

I know the wearing of kilts fascinates the rest of the world, but why in the world do Scotsmen wear them?

Well, actually, they don't wear them nearly as often as you might think! Big party occasions like weddings and New Year, traditional events like Highland games, pipe band marches, or formal events where other people might wear evening dress, are the times you're most likely to see them in any quantities

They've become a symbol of "Scottishness", of patriotism, but it might surprise you to know that the original kilt looked very little like the Highland dress of today! Today's  kilts, grew out of a romanticized version of what was basically poor Highland peasant costume, and Sir Walter Scott generally gets the credit for "inventing" it!

The irony is that Lowland gentlemen, and noblemen, would at once time have despised the kilt as the garb of the Highland lower orders. It was basically a blanket, often brightly coloured, that could be slept under at night, and then wrapped around the body and pinned for day wear. And yet, in the early years of Queen Victoria's reign, it became fashionable for all Scotsmen from whatever region, including those of the highest rank, to wear a new, romanticized version of the once despised kilt. Why?

Basically, a resurgence of Scottish pride. The Jacobite Rebellion had somewhat unfairly tarred the entire Scottish nation with the same brush of disloyalty and rebellion. Highland culture, in terms of language and dress, was outlawed, and it was very hard for Scots  to thrive in this general atmosphere of mistrust. Victoria, however, fell in love with the Highlands, and with Sir Walter Scott's romantic view of Scottish history. At least partly as a result, the Scots as a whole adopted Highland symbols like the kilt, to represent their own patriotism, their newly rediscovered  pride in their own nation.

And if nothing else, you have to agree that they're fun :).



Thursday, 27 January 2011

Welcome Toni Anderson!

Today's guest of honour is talented romantic suspense writer, Toni Anderson. Despite the fact that Toni is English and lives in Canada, I have always regarded her as an honourary Scot :). I'll let her explain why!

Scottish Romance…

In the interest of full disclosure I need to state for the record I am a Sassenach. A full-blooded Sassenach with genetic connections to Wales and Ireland, but definitely not Scotland. Despite that I do consider myself slightly Scottish. My husband (Irish) grew up just north of Glasgow and I moved to Scotland in 1989 to start my Ph.D. in St Andrews, Fife.

And I fell in love.

Scotland has that effect on many people. It don’t know if it is the dreich weather or the indecipherable dialect or the miserable little old ladies who can look at you like you are both naked and ugly. I only know that when I’m in Scotland I feel like I’m home.

Not only did I meet my husband in St. Andrews, I gave birth to both our children in Kirkcaldy. The fact I know how to say Kirkcaldy and Auchtermuchty shoots me straight to near Scottish status in of itself. And although it took a few months I can understand most of what any Fifer says to me—even those guttural mumblers who you pretty much have to mind read. Not a problem. And those old ladies? Well I turned the worst of those into an old hag for my book STORM WARNING and feel like I got my full measure of revenge. In truth the old ladies in the street where I lived in Cellardyke were absolutely adorable. They fussed over my bairns and petted my dogs and never looked down their noses even though I only cleaned the stoop once a year and not once a day. Those people, those wonderful fluttery, strong, determined and yet somehow frail characters are some of the many joys of Scotland. Notice I’m talking about the people here? I haven’t mentioned the scenery and I’m not going to, even though the landscape feels like a part of my bones.

My other book set in Scotland (SEA OF SUSPICION) is set in the marine lab where I did my Ph.D. I met so many truly brilliant people there that it is one of those special pockets in life that shimmer with happiness when you think of them. The main problem I had writing the story was not using the amazing characters of the people I knew (not to mention all the real life secrets and dramas and scandals). It’s possible there’s the odd subtle hint here and there of some of the vibrant people I knew, but I’m not confirming any rumors.

Here’s an excerpt from the first chapter of STORM WARNING—I hope it gives you a wee taste of Scotland. It’ll have to keep me going until I next go home.



STORM WARNING
Chapter One

The rocks and stones that flanked the Scottish coastline could twist an unwary ankle or break a foolish neck. Sorcha ran anyway. Waves crashed and pounded the rocky shore. Bitter wind flayed her face and slapped spray against her cheeks. Her foot slipped on the dangerous rocks but she was gaining on the man who tormented her and she pumped her legs faster.

A crack of thunder jerked her head right, and in that split-second her foot connected with a patch of green algae and she crashed to the granite. The figure disappeared around the next corner.

“Bloody hell!” She sat up, flexed sore wrists and rubbed her battered knees. Apart from the graze on her shin she was uninjured. “Just crazy,” she muttered as she climbed to her feet.
Unwelcome sensations spun through the air. Her heart raced triple-time and the sweat on her body crystallized to hoarfrost. The pressure of probing eyes snagged her attention to the houses that lined the coast. A jumble of seventeenth and eighteenth-century cottages that crowded the shore, as if the fishermen who’d built them had staked their claim on the sea and dared it to come any closer. Shivering, she held her breath, blood pounding through her ears with the cadence of thunder. Danger pulsed through the air. Or was it just her oversensitive imagination?

She started jogging, tiredly stretching out aching muscles, wanting to get home and away from the nightmare her life had become.

She rounded the corner and lurched to a stop, shock welding her feet to the ancient Scottish bedrock.

A body rolled in the surf.

Oh God, not again. Was he real?

Indecision held her in place. Should she pretend she didn’t see him? Was she really this insane? She squeezed her eyes shut and curled her hands into fists because she didn’t want to be the crazy lady. She was sick of being the weirdo. When she opened her eyes again, the pewter sky had darkened, reflecting ominous hues in the green-tinged North Sea, and the body was still there. Her hands shook. Breath jammed in her lungs. She expelled it and took one tentative step forward. Then she began to run.

Horror ripped away decades and she couldn’t move fast enough. She climbed rocky steeples, staggered across granite ledges and plunged into water so cold her skin blistered. She skidded, hissed out a cry and grabbed at his sweater.

But Christ, he was real! She hadn’t expected him to be.

She swallowed her relief because now there was a genuine emergency. He weighed more than lead, heavy clothes dragging him into the swirling depths. A wave crashed over the top of the ledge, cascading into the pool and over Sorcha’s head as she tore at the man, trying to lift his face for air. Panic gave her strength.

He may not be dead. He may not be dead yet.

Desperate, she grabbed the material, felt the stretch and give of waterlogged wool, and heaved. Turning him over, she took an instant to absorb the fact that it wasn’t him.

Thank God, it wasn’t him.

This man was young with dirty blond hair plastered to his skull. He looked more like a student or a tourist than a fisherman, and he wasn’t breathing. Currents tried to steal him as waves pounded the rock pool, but she refused to let go.

Using every muscle in her body, she worked at pulling his dead weight clear of the water. If she could get him there, if she could get him breathing, there was a five-minute window where she could run for help before the storm-driven tide stole him again.

Imagine how crazy she’d sound if she claimed to have found another body on the beach, only this one disappeared? She’d been gone for many years, but in this part of Scotland people didn’t forget—and they didn’t forgive.

Her feet slipped. “No!” She lost her balance on the treacherous rock and his weight pushed her under. She banged her head on granite and choked as seawater entered her airway.

Spluttering, she rose to her feet, hooked her hands beneath his arms and dragged him backward out of the weed-infested pool before she collapsed.

Waves lashed around both sides of the rocks. There wasn’t much time to resuscitate him before the tide caught up with them, but she had to try. Rough stone bit into her knees as she checked for a pulse. She searched his thick wrist, then the wall of his neck for the telltale beat of life. Nothing moved. No flutter of blood, no rise or fall of his chest. His lips were blue. Skin, pale and waxy. Glassy eyes stared up at her, reminding her of another face…

“He’s dead.” The voice came out of nowhere, loud and startling, despite the howling gale.
Sorcha screamed. She didn’t mean to, couldn’t help the screech that escaped her lips.

“Take it easy.” A stranger stood nearby, holding up his hands, fingers spread wide in a nonthreatening gesture. Black eyes stared at her from a harsh face, spray or perspiration beading his forehead. His lips were compressed into a thin red line and a muscle ticked in his jaw.

There was no compassion in his gaze, no relief to be found in his presence. A shudder ran through her as the wind cut through her wet clothes to penetrate her skin, only it wasn’t the temperature that made her shake. The guy was about as friendly as razor wire.

“Do you know him?” The man, an American by his accent, shouted above the roar of wind and water.

Sorcha looked down at the man at her feet—the undoubtedly dead man at her feet.

Lord, I should recognize a corpse.

She shook her head. She’d never seen the young man before.

“Think you can make it up the shore?” he asked.

“Of course. What about him?” Despite the lungful of water she’d inhaled, her voice held. She wasn’t the one who needed to be rescued. In case he hadn’t noticed, she was the one doing the rescuing.

Foam frothed. The tempest was about to hit full force. The furious gray clouds started to spit. He tore his gaze from the surging water back to her. “I’ll carry him.”

“He’s heavy.” Sorcha hesitated to touch the man now that she knew he was dead, but she felt bound to him. Just like so many years ago. “I can help.” She moved forward to pick up the dead man’s arm, preparing to haul him up.

Ignoring her, the newcomer maneuvered himself around the rocks to stand on the other side of the body and hefted the dead man across his shoulders.

Sorcha opened her mouth to argue, but the Yank was already striding away and she had no choice except to follow. Why did men take over like that?

“Bloody hell.”

The American couldn’t hear, but she wasn’t so sure about the dead.

The stranger negotiated the jutting slabs of bedrock with ease, the corpse strung across his shoulders as though he carried dead bodies every day. Wrapping her arms tight across her chest, she trailed him. A boulder wobbled beneath her trainers and she slipped, letting out a yelp of surprise. The American turned, the dead guy streaming water down his crimson jacket like fresh-flowing blood.

Unsettled, she forced the image away.

“Need some help?” he asked.

Away from the violent surf he’d relaxed a little, his expression unlocked by the barest degree. Although the derision in his eyes suggested he found her discomfort amusing.

Just what I need. A sadist.

And suddenly there was her father again, strolling up the beach ahead of them, disappearing through the garden gate. A voice whispered close by, the words whisked away by the fury of the storm. She held herself rigid, fighting the urge to close her eyes and weep.

Her father was dead.

The American didn’t notice anything was wrong. He just turned around and carried on walking. Her fingers shook as she dragged her hand through her sticky hair. She lurched onward, barely able to feel her toes. She wasn’t sure what affected her more—the icy water, the cruel storm or the ghosts from her past.

Her eyes latched onto the stranger’s red jacket, a lifeline, and her feet carried her on autopilot. He headed to the old Johnstone cottage, the one closest to the beach.

Figured.

She didn’t want to remember the last time she’d been in that house. Fifteen years was a long time, but not long enough to eradicate those memories.

Despite the rain that made distinct splashes on the rocks, her pace slowed. Part of her wanted to go home, to continue walking up the beach a few houses and forget she’d ever found another body in the rock pool. Instead she followed the American past where the rocks turned into coarse sand and salt-tolerant wildflowers encroached on the sea’s territory. They went up three stone steps and through a newly painted blue door set in the old stone wall. And each step brought with it a sharp sense of déjà vu.

The stranger laid the dead man on the thin strip of grass that constituted a lawn, and the corpse seemed to glow in the twilight. Who was he? How had he ended up on this beach?

She resisted the urge to cross herself.

The American disappeared along the covered passageway toward the cottage’s door, but the vulnerability of the body pulled at her. An old stone potting shed stood in the garden. She rattled the doorknob in search of a tarp or a towel to cover the dead man, but it was locked. Old Mrs. Johnstone used to hide the key beneath the dusty flowerpot which still sat at the corner of the shed. Numbly Sorcha scrabbled her fingers beneath it, found only dried dirt and cobwebs. Some things did change if you stayed away long enough. She rested against the wall, and the rain beat down on her head.

The American approached, carrying a coarse pink blanket and a cell phone. The sharp angles of his face contrasted with the weathered stone of the cottage behind him.

“Who are you?” she asked softly.

“Name’s Ben Foley.”

Nothing else. No pleasantries. No “Isn’t it terrible we found a dead man on the beach?” Droplets of moisture glistened in his hair. Knowledge and intelligence sparked in the pitch of his eyes.

She shrank away, alarmed by what he might see. “I need to go home and change—”

“No. I called the cops.”

She edged back, but he followed. He held up his cell phone and tilted his head. “Said they’d be right over.”

Bloody hell. She needed to get away. “Look, I’m freezing. I need to change out of these wet things.”

“Sorry.” He didn’t sound sorry at all. “The police wanna talk to you.” His tone was firm, brooking no argument. He flashed a smile, a crease bisecting one clean-shaven cheek. He was deeply, gloriously tanned, making her feel washed-out and insipid by comparison. “The fire’s lit.” He slipped the phone back into his pocket. “And I can lend you some dry stuff.”

Tension gripped her as he stepped closer and held the blanket wide as if to wrap her in it.

She twisted away. “Put it over him.” She pointed a finger at the body.

“Believe me, he doesn’t need it.” He stood in front of her, a solid wall of determination.

“Yes, he does.” She tried to control the tremor in her voice and glanced at the neighbors’ windows, which shone with light. At least one curious onlooker was silhouetted against pale curtains. How could she express her distress at the thought of people seeing the dead man at his most vulnerable? “He needs to be covered up.”

They glared at each other until he finally backed away. “Fine, lady. Whatever.”

God, he was cranky.

The wind sliced through her. She rubbed her arms and stamped her feet to try to get warm, silently cursing as her soggy trainers squished. She did not have time for hypothermia.

“Are you sure you don’t recognize him?” he asked.

“I’ve never seen him before.” And hoped to hell she never saw him again. One ghost was enough.

Ben Foley covered the body with the blanket. He knelt to one side and swept the sleeve of the sweater up above the elbow of the dead man’s arm and quickly pulled it back down, adjusting the cuff. Sorcha’s teeth chattered as he tucked the blanket securely beneath the head and torso to foil the wind.

His movements were respectful. It helped, though she didn’t know why.

The storm ripped at his jacket as he turned back toward her, this tall startling foreigner. She stood her ground even though what she really wanted to do was run.

“Let’s get you inside.” Gripping her arm, he escorted her toward the cottage and pushed her through the small wooden doorway into a wall of heat. Even so she felt chilled. She hadn’t been inside this cottage since she was a little girl. She hadn’t been here since that awful day…

It hadn’t changed much, although her memories of the cottage itself were dim. A fire blazed on the hearth and she moved toward the fierce, bright flames, leaving a trail of wet footprints behind on the floor.

The American hesitated before closing the door. He seemed agitated all of a sudden. More agitated than when he’d carried a dead body off the beach.

What’s with that?

He moved to the dining table and began clearing away his laptop and papers.

Hah. Like she cared. Unlike the rest of this town, she wasn’t always poking her nose into other people’s business.

A chair faced the picture window overlooking the beach. A fat white telescope was mounted in front of it and pointed toward the sea. Had Ben Foley been watching the storm? Had he seen her race for home, trying to beat the rain? Had he watched as her nightly run ended in gruesome discovery?

She should be grateful. Without him, the boy’s body would have been lost.

She held her hands outstretched to the fire and dropped to her knees to get closer to the heat, regretting the movement as soon as her wet clothes slapped her skin. Yuck. She yanked the clingy cotton sweatshirt over her head, and dropped it in a soggy heap on the hearth. A prickly sensation spread along her nerves as she felt Ben’s eyes bore into her. She toed off her runners and peeled wet jogging pants down her legs. Stripping to her underwear didn’t bother her. In fact, her body was one of the few things in her life she wasn’t ashamed of.

Turning to warm her back, her gaze locked with Ben Foley’s. Unease filtered through the shock. Her breath stopped.

Maybe this wasn’t the brightest idea she’d ever had.

The flames danced higher and Sorcha wondered if she’d made a terrible mistake. She was down to her underwear, alone with a strange man, a dead body in the garden, and only his word that the police were on their way.

STORM WARNING & SEA OF SUSPICION from Carina Press and Audible.com

Toni Anderson
STORM WARNING and SEA OF SUSPICION  
Scottish Romantic Suspense from Carina Press

To enter Toni's contest for an ebook copy of Storm Warning, tell us what you think "dreich" means, or make some other comment on her post! This contest will close at midnight tonight EST and the winner will be announced on this thread.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Scottish Heroes

One of the most surprising things to many of my countrmen is the popularity of the Scotsman as romantic hero. In general, Scots like to think of themselves as the least romantic of men. They may feel as much as anyone else, but they certainly don't talk about it. According to no less authority than my father, the "L" word was something English blokes said :). My own generation was a little more open - although taking no chances I married an Englishman :). And hopefully today's young Scotsmen are more forthcoming still. However, I wouldn't bank on it!

On the theme of unromantic Scotsmen, I thought I'd introduce you today to Rab (a commonly shortened Scots form of the name Robert), from my novella Requiem for Rab. Rab is a sexy, ingenious, fun-loving computer geek, divorced by his wife, Lily, who got fed-up playing second fiddle to his drinking buddies, his computer games etc etc. Since Rab gave her little romance, she didn't have much to hang on to in his frequent absences. Still loving him, she dumped him to get on with her life. And here she is at last, with a much more romantic lover...

REQUIEM FOR RAB
By MARIE TREANOR
Out Now from Samhain Publishing


Rab’s dead but he won’t lie down.

Lili’s luck is on the upswing. Her acting career is taking off, she’s home in Edinburgh to perform in a high profile Festival play, and romance is blossoming with her famous leading man. The last thing she wants or expects on her first night of passion in two years is her ex-husband looming over her new lover’s shoulder, dripping blood on her pristine sheets.

Rab, self-confessed hedonist and computer geek, has always been a joker, but surely even he wouldn’t go to this length to stop her getting laid—inventing a wild tale of being shot dead and having to track down his own body.

Then again, there’s no logical explanation for why she’s the only one who can see him. Why the police are knocking on her door. And why Rab is still the only man who drives her crazy, in bed and out.
All she knows is, it’s all still there. The fun and the pain. The feelings that never really went away. She owes it to him to never stop looking—even though finding him could take him away for good…
  
First meet Menzies...

    It’s not every day you see a ghost, right? And it’s pretty unusual for your ex-husband to loom over your new lover’s shoulder, especially when you’re in bed at the time. Extraordinarily unlikely, you might think, to encounter both phenomena on the same night, but there you are, they don’t call me Lucky Lili for nothing.

    So there I lay, stark naked on the bed, having been undressed with exquisite care by the man of my dreams, who stood beside me, ripping off his silk shirt to expose his gorgeous manly chest, the sort of predatory blaze in his eyes that was guaranteed to make a girl squirm with lust.

    Menzies was a mature man, distinguished, successful, with all the self-confidence and glamour that normally goes with such qualities. As well as the firm, fit body, he had wonderfully chiseled features, a square jaw, dark brown hair turning to a sexy iron grey at the temples. I was one lucky girl…

    This time, this time…

    He didn’t at once remove his trousers—frustrating, perhaps but it did imply a certain gentlemanly not-counting-one’s-chickens approach. Instead, he sank back down on the bed, resting a hand on either side of me, and began to kiss me while slowly lowering that delicious chest to my breasts. That felt so good I really did begin to squirm.

    “So Lili,” he murmured against my lips in that breathless, soul-wrenching voice that could move nations, “will you make love with me?”

    As a line, it certainly beat, “Fancy a shag?”

    I was enchanted. “Oh yes!”

    His hands were on my breasts, mine on his cotton-covered bottom, stroking, reaching between our bodies to get at his zip.

    “Impatience.” He smiled. “I like that.”

    Brushing my hands aside, he undid his own zip. The trousers and underpants were scooted down his legs so quickly that I didn’t get so much as a glimpse of his tackle. Well, the night was young, and already he was pressing it against me, between my thighs.

    “Oh, yes, you want me, you like this…”

    I gasped, wriggling to help him find the spot. Yes!

    Which is when Rab’s face appeared over Menzies’ shoulder, looking mildly surprised.

    My mouth fell open. “What the fuck are you doing here?”

    “Beats me,” said Rab with his usual helpfulness.

    Menzies was staring at me. “You invited me!”

    Thank God. He hadn’t yet clocked Rab’s presence. I tightened my arms around his neck in a hold that probably resembled a wrestling lock rather than a lover’s clinch. All I had to do was get rid of Rab quick and I could still have my long dreamed of night of passion.

    “Go away,” I mouthed over my lover’s naked shoulder.

    Rab looked around him, then shook his head. “Nah. Who’s the sleazeball?”

    “He is not a…” I broke off, staring at the red drops on my white satin quilt cover. Slowly, I lifted my gaze to the source: a dark, nasty stain on Rab’s T-shirt.

    “Rab!” I sat up with so much force that Menzies and I banged heads. I saw a fine array of shooting stars, though hardly in the manner I had hoped for at the beginning of the evening.

    Menzies rolled off me, swearing. “Who the bloody hell is Rab?”


And now, a little more Rab...


     Slowly, I sank down onto the arm of the sofa. It had been a long and grueling day. I was tired and disappointed and sexually frustrated. No wonder tears of self-pity began to prickle at my eyelids.

     “I’m going to sell this bloody flat,” I promised. Then, glaring into the murky corners: “Just as soon as I clean it.”

     “Get a bod in.”

     My head jerked round. Rab sprawled on the sofa, his head almost touching my hip. He looked a mess, as he generally did, all shaggy hair, a beard that hovered between definite and merely unshaven, and the same old black T-shirt I was sure I’d thrown out after I poured most of a bottle of red wine over it. He’d been wearing it then, too. Obviously.

     Only I couldn’t remember it having that awful messy stain that had dripped on my bed. It was still there, oozing.

     I glared at it. “Have you been fighting?”

     “Only with you, dear.”

     “Then what have you done? Why are you bleeding? And how did you get in here?”

     “I haven’t done anything. I was shot. And I don’t remember, I just sort of—arrived.”

     My mouth closed. I leapt off the sofa arm. “You were shot? Jesus Christ, Rab!”

     I was across the room before I realized it, rummaging in my bag for my phone. “Only you’d get shot round here!” I raged. “Any other self respecting victim gets stabbed in a pub brawl…”

     “I don’t see that that’s any better,” Rab argued. “And it didn’t happen here, it was in Glasgow.”

     I paused, phone in hand, finger hovering as I stared at him over my shoulder. “You were shot in Glasgow? You travelled here like that? Rab, are you pissed?”

     “Lamentably sober. What are you planning on doing with that phone?”

     “Getting an ambulance or a taxi or something to take you to the hospital! I don’t understand how you can still talk with a bullet in your chest!”

     “Ah. Well, there’s rather more than that I can’t understand. But you’d better put the phone down—you can’t dial like that anyhow.”

     He was right. My hand shook like a vibrator on overdrive.

:) So who would you prefer? Menzies or Rab? Leaving aside the inconvenience of Rab's apparent death! How important is the outward romance (the flowers, the declarations of love...) in a relationship?

Marie

Welcome Donna Grant!

I'm thrilled to welcome today's guest of honour, Donna Grant, bestselling author of fabulous Scottish historical romance and fantasy!

Scotland

Maybe it’s because I write historical novels, but one of the most asked questions I get is “would you travel back in time and to where?”

It’s an easy answer for me.  Yes, I would travel back in time, and I’d go to Medieval Scotland.  It would take some getting used to, especially the lack of plumbing, toothbrushes, caffeine, and pasta.

I have no doubt life would be more than difficult.  After all, we’re used to remote control TV, information easily – and quickly – accessible through computers, not to mention cell phones and iPods. We’re the information age with instant gratification.

Our world is so drastically different than Medieval Scotland.  In a few short hundred years, lives went from basic living off the land and seeing people daily to hectic days, buying food from grocery stores, and going months, if not years, without seeing or speaking to your neighbor, much less speaking to people you pass on the street or the mall.

Could we survive in medieval times?  Putting aside the leap in physical hygiene over the ages, life was much simpler back then.  If you had a problem with someone, you faced them instead of texting or emailing them.  If you wanted to call off an affair, there was no hiding behind technology.  You stood before them and said your piece.

There’s a debate in whether medieval life was more violent.  At least in medieval times, you saw your opponent attack and you had time to retaliate or hide.  Now, with bombs that can cross oceans, that silent, almost constant worry hangs over our head.

Still, knowing all of this, I would love to see Medieval Scotland.  I’ve always been drawn to Scotland.  Maybe that’s why I centered my historical paranormal Dark Sword series there.  The third book in the series, WICKED HIGHLANDER, released on the November 2nd, and I hope you pick up the book to be transported back to another time and place.

So, I want to know - Would you time travel if given the option?

I’ll be giving away a signed copy WICKED HIGHLANDER to a commenter.  Happy Reading! 

To find out more about me please visit my website at http://www.donnagrant.com/.  To read more about the Dark Sword series, see pics of the Warriors, take the quiz, download wallpaper, or search characters, please visit www.donnagrant.com/darksword.

hugs,
D

The Dark Sword series unleashes the magic, passion, and fury of three legendary brothers - cursed by fate but bound by desire for the women they love...

A HEART IN CHAINS...
The most reckless and fierce of the MacLeod brothers, Quinn is a prisoner of the god inside him, tormented by his inability to save his family from slaughter. His fury governs him, and day by day he loses himself to the darkness in his soul. But Quinn has a profound yearning for a woman’s love...

A PASSION UNBOUND...
Raised by Druids, the achingly beautiful Marcail is as spellbinding as the ancient magic that surges through her body. To Quinn, she is the most desirable woman he has ever known. But to his enemy Deirdre, she is the perfect bait to lure Quinn into her trap. Once the two lovers are in her wicked grasp, their passion will be put to the ultimate test...

Exclusive Excerpt from WICKED HIGHLANDER
With a sigh, Quinn gathered the Druid in his arms and stood.  She weighed no more than a feather, but the feel of her soft body made Quinn realize how long he had been without a woman.

He held her pleasing body and curves longer than was necessary before he placed her on the slab he used for his bed.  He yearned to lay beside her and feel her warmth, hungered to touch her skin.  Longed to taste her lips.  He brushed the dark locks of hair from her face, surprised to find rows of tiny braids on the crown of her head and her temples.
   
Quinn smiled as he fingered one of the plaits.  She was a child of the Celts.  Her magic thrummed through her veins for all to feel.  It was strong, very strong.

 He wondered again why Deirdre hadn’t killed her.  Though the Pit was far below the space Deirdre used as her great hall, Quinn had heard Deirdre say the Druid thought the MacLeods could save her.

 Was it because the woman knew of him and his brothers?  Nay, he didn’t think that would stop Deirdre.  There had to be something else.  If there was one thing Quinn knew about Deirdre it was her self-preservation.  Deirdre thought of herself first and foremost on everything.

 It was one of the many reasons she had lasted as long as she had.  That and the black magic she used.  Hatred for Deirdre swelled within Quinn making his god growl and yearn to be free.  The god promised vengeance against Deirdre, and for a heartbeat, Quinn nearly gave in.

 He concentrated on battling the god and gaining control again.  Each time became more difficult.  Quinn didn’t know how much longer he had before the god took over.  He prayed his brothers reached him before that happened.

 Quinn stilled when the female moaned.  She was going to be in pain, but there was nothing he could do to help her.  It was also chilly in the Pit.  They were far below ground and water constantly ran down the walls making the Pit damp as well.

 He rubbed his hands along her bare arms and felt how cool her skin was.  Quinn racked his mind for what Lucan or Fallon would do for the woman.  He had no food, no blankets, and nothing to assist with her aches.  Had he just prolonged her death?

 Quinn sank onto the slab near her legs and allowed himself to think of Lucan and the woman his brother loved.  Cara was a perfect fit for his brother in all ways.  He wondered if they had gotten married.  He supposed they had, though the thought of the ceremony without him left an ache in Quinn’s chest that made it difficult to breathe.

 His thoughts then turned to Fallon.  As eldest, Fallon had been taught since his birth the duties of a laird.  None of them could have guessed an evil like Deirdre would wipe out their clan leaving nothing behind.
 Quinn had seen how difficult it had been for Fallon to deal with the god inside him, but Quinn hadn’t been able to help his brother when he grieved so for his wife and son.

 As always Lucan had been there to hold them together.  Quinn hated himself for the jealousy he felt towards his brother.  Lucan had shouldered so much with Quinn’s rage and Fallon’s drunken stupor that he deserved contentment.
 Instead of sharing in the joy with Lucan, Quinn had resented him.  Quinn envied Lucan because Lucan had what Quinn had always sought – love.  The purest, truest form of love.

 But Quinn would never know that kind of affection, of that he was certain.

 He turned his eyes to the female beside him.  She was petite and so slender she appeared no more than a child at first glance.  Until one looked at her chest and saw the curves of breasts full and pert.
 
Her gown was of common material, but the gold bands that held her braids told him she was much more than she seemed.  As all Druids were.

 Unable to help himself, he leaned forward and inhaled her scent again.  She smelled so good he almost thought he was back at his castle standing on the cliffs with the sea wind ruffling his hair and the spray of the waves washing over him.

 Quinn’s gaze raked her face.  Her long, sooty lashes rested against her cheeks, and dark brows arched softly above her eyes.  He was curious to know what color her eyes were, to see if they were as exotic as the rest of her.
 
She had high cheek bones, a small, pert nose, and a mouth that begged to be kissed.  His balls clenched, desire making his breathing harsh.  He touched a finger to her lips before he could think better of it.  They were so soft, so luscious he almost leaned down to taste them.

To savor.  To enjoy.  To claim.


Remember, to enter Donna's contest, answer her question: Would you time travel if given the option?  Donna's contest will close at midnight tonight, EST, and her winner will be announced on this thread.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Spectacular to Spooky

Most Scottish romances seem to be set in the Scottish Highlands - and I can quite see why. The spectacular beauty of the north-wesr with its rolling hills and glens and stunning lochs, and the multitude of picturesque islands scattered off the coast, is a wonderful background for any novel. There are imposing and ruined castles among this scenery, along with bizarre yet somehow charming turretted monstrosities built by the Victorians (often incomers) in a misguided tribute to Scotland's past.

But Scotland is more than its Highlands. The whole country has its fair share of beauty spots and spooky spots - haunted castles, Pictish standing stones, unspoilt beaches with rocky, rugged cliffs that somehow manage to look older than those of any other country. I've set most of my books at least partly in Scotland, because obviously it's the place I know best, but also because something has inspired me about a particular historical character or building.

When I began Blood on Silk, I always meant the main focus to be on Romania and Hungary (also beautiful and inspiring countries!), but my heroine had to be Scottish and I always meant her to come home for the final show-down. And I always had a definite place in mind for that - the imposing cathedral ruins at St. Andrews, which incorporate a graveyard and, close by, an even older Celtic church with a tall tower I was always too wimpy to climb - it's always shut for safety reasons at university exam times. And of course it has a sea view.


The cathedral - represented on the cover of Blood Sin, the second of my trilogy - is one of my heroine's favourite places in the world. It's also one of mine. As a student, I used to gravitate there for all sorts of reasons - for fun with friends, for being alone when I was feeling down or looking for inspiration, or just appreciating where I was and what I had. It always drew me. So when I came to the climax of Blood on Silk, it was important to convey at least something of the cathedral's unique atmosphere.


Here's a snippet from that scene. If you've been there, let me know if it works for you. If you haven't, I hope it helps inspire you to come :).





BLOOD ON SILK: An AWAKENED BY BLOOD Novel
By Marie Treanor
Out Now from NAL Signet Eclipse.
Order from Amazon

Scottish academic Elizabeth Silk is spending the summer in Romania researching historical superstitions for her PhD. While she is tracing local folktales, one subject in particular sparks her imagination. His name is Saloman, legend's most powerful vampire, a seductive prince staked centuries ago. Now, in the ruins of a castle crypt, Elizabeth discovers the legends are real. Her blood has awakened him. Her innocence has aroused him. But Elizabeth unleashes more than Saloman's hunger.

An army of vampire hunters has amassed to send Saloman back to hell. Sworn to help - yet fearing Saloman's deadly blood lust - Elizabeth seeks to entrap him, offering her body as bait. But something stronger than dread, more powerful than revenge, is uniting Elizabeth to her prey. Caught between desire and rage, Elizabeth must decide where her loyalties lie...and what the limits are to a yearning she can no longer control.


Elizabeth had always liked the ruins best by dusk. She could almost imagine the ghosts of monks gliding along the nave, heads bowed, praying. As the shadows lengthened and vanished into darkness, she could rebuild the walls and turrets in her head, think herself back six hundred years, and let the beauty and peace enfold her.

The hunters said its holiness didn’t affect the vampires, because humans had abandoned the church, despoiled and neglected it as Reformation austerity took hold. They said it gave no advantage to good over evil, but Elizabeth thought they were wrong. She loved this place and knew now that it was the right, the only place in which to face him and finish this.

“They have keys,” Mihaela murmured, jerking her head toward the British hunters—who seemed to be the proverbial Scotsman, Englishman, and Irishman of a million bad jokes. “Alarms and cameras are turned off , and we can shelter in the museum if we need to.”

Elizabeth nodded. “Where is Zoltán?” she asked as Konrad came up.

“Here,” said the vampire, so close behind her that she jumped. Zoltán laughed. He wore a real sword quite casually at his belt and on the other side, two sharpened wooden stakes like her own.

“That should give him something to think about. I’ve been unmasked all day. He knows I’m here, with you.”

“Then he’ll know you want him here. . . .”

Zoltán shrugged. “It doesn’t matter. He’ll still come.”

“And Maximilian?” Mihaela asked.

“Not here yet.”

“Can’t you sense him?” Konrad demanded.

“Of course not. He’s a master of masking. One more thing. I have a condition of my alliance.”

Konrad lifted his brows, and Zoltán smiled. “I kill Saloman.”

“No,” said all the hunters together. It sounded like a football crowd.

Zoltán laughed again.

Konrad said, “Only if you meet our condition in return.” And the others stared at him with as much outrage as anxiety. It was not, clearly, a condition he was allowed to agree to by all the rules and guidelines of their organization. But then, Elizabeth suspected he had no intention of keeping it anyhow.

“I’m listening,” Zoltán said.

“Order your zombies to return to their graves as soon as he’s dead.”

Elizabeth’s stomach twisted. It still seemed terribly wrong to countenance use of the dead in this way. And yet to stop Saloman, they needed every advantage they could find. They needed to be pragmatic. But she was well aware that if Zoltan did kill Saloman, the hunters would stake him straight afterward. No one imagined the mercenary vampires would hang around in loyal outrage.

Zoltán shrugged. “I’ll make it part of my summons. We have company.”

Four men were strolling through the cathedral from various directions, stepping through arches and climbing over a low, broken wall. They didn’t speak to one another or to Zoltán, just nodded distantly, and stood around to await another vampire’s enemy whose death they hoped would strengthen them. They were the first native vampires Elizabeth was aware of encountering, and the sight of them, the knowledge of them, sent an odd shiver up her back.

Elizabeth walked a little away from the others and sat down on a stone step, gazing up at St. Rule’s ancient tower on her left. A thousand years old, it reached into the night sky like a stark but powerful symbol of stability. She scanned around the magnificent stone walls of the cathedral itself, watching the last of the light fade from its arched, upper windows, and moved on to the single tower and broken arch facing her. It was an iconic image for her, and she was damned if she’d lose it.

I will be strong. Directly or indirectly, I will kill you.


Thanks for reading! So, do you have a place that means a lot to you, where the atmosphere really affects you? Either in Scotland or anywhere else...

Marie

Welcome Kimberly Killion!

Today our guest of honour is the wonderful Kimberly Killion, award-winning author of hot and thrilling historical romances. Here she is...

Since this week’s focus is on Scottish men, I wanted to take this opportunity to share a few facts about my favorite Scot, Gerard Butler.

OK, for starters, he’s yummy, delicious, and easy on the eyes. But there’s more to know and love about this man.

1. Gerard Butler was born in 1969, Paisley, Scotland (we are the same age *sigh*)
2. He has both Irish and Scottish heritage. (a hero after my own heart)
3. He stands at 6' 2" (1.88 m). (and as braw as they come)
4. He is a trained lawyer. (Huh! Whodathunit!)
5. He got kicked out of his job as a trainee lawyer due to the fact that he showed up hungover during the big music/theater festival in Scotland. (Baaaad Gerry!)
6. He got his first acting gig at the age of 25.
7. He is known for being really nice to his fans.
8. Among his non-animated movies, the highest ratings belong to 300 and Dear Frankie.
9. Americans and The Scottish pronounce his name very differently.
10. He and P.S I love you co-star Jeffrey Dean Morgan both took guitar lessons prior to their roles.

Now everyone say it with me… *sigh*
Huzzah!
Kimberly
*********

Check out Kimberly’s website at http://www.kimberlykillion.com/

And here’s a snippet from her newest Scottish release: HIS MAGICK TOUCH, available in the Mammoth Book of Scottish Romance.

You can also purchase this story by itself on Kindle for .99 cents here.

And keep an eye out for Kimberly’s hottest Scottish tale ever, TAMING A HIGHLAND DEVIL.
http://www.jasminejade.com/ps-8962-50-taming-a-highland-devil.aspx

*********
Excerpt from HIS MAGICK TOUCH

CHAPTER ONE

Scotland, Inner Hebrides – 1587
      
The bastard was finally going to kill her.

Sorcha trembled inside her wool mantle as icy wind thrashed strands of brown hair over her face. The rope binding her wrists stung, and her battered legs ached where Hector had pushed her down the steps of the keep. But none of it compared to the fear clutching her insides. She craned her neck over her shoulder and gawked wide-eyed at the white waves pummeling the base of the cliff.

“Ye destroyed my crops with hail, infested the clan’s meat with maggots, and set the outbuildings afire. ’Tis August, yet snow blankets my land.” Hector pressed her closer to the pebbled edge with his dark glare and intimidating size. He stood a full head taller and easily outweighed her by ten stone. “And now this.” He held up his sword arm covered with lesions of oozing puss. “Ye give me a whore’s disease!”

“I did naught, m’lord. I swear it,” Sorcha pleaded between chattering teeth. She considered reminding him that he hadn’t come to her bed in over two years, but knew ’twas useless to defend herself. Hector had blamed her for every misfortune that befell Clan Ranald since he’d taken her to wife four years past.

“Ye lying bitch!” He struck her hard across the face with the back of his hand.

Sorcha twisted at the waist and landed on her knees and elbows. The pain stinging her cheek was soon forgotten when Hector kicked her in the side. She heard her rib crack just before an unbearable streak of pain shot through her very core. She couldn’t fight, couldn’t think, couldn’t breathe. The coppery tinge of blood spread over her tongue as she rolled onto her stomach. She spit a string of crimson and pulled herself forward by her bound hands.

“Think ye I dinnae hear ye chant your spells in the old language?” Hector wrenched her back to her feet.
If she were half the witch he accused her of being, then she might possess the power to save herself. She wished Da hadn’t ousted Grandmum from the clan before she taught Sorcha the Pagan ways.

“Ye have cursed me and my clan for the last time,” he bellowed over the howling wind.

“If ye kill me,” she panted through the pain, trying to draw upright to stare him in the eye, “my kin will avenge me.” ’Twas a false threat, but she was desperate.

A deep throaty chortle burst from Hector’s pocked face. “Your da died before naming a tanist to reign in his stead. The MacNeils have no chieftain, no bloodline, save for a sixteen-year-old girl. And your sister will be easy to break.”

Sorcha’s heart lodged in her throat. She tried to shake the horrid images of what Hector would do to her sister, but they erupted in her mind’s eye like a nightmare. Peigi would be powerless to defend herself against Hector and his men.

“As soon as I send ye to your Otherworld, I’ll be claiming the Isle of Barra as my own.”

Sorcha looked to the gray sky and pleaded with the king of her gods. Thou Christ of the cross, snatch me from the snares of this evil demon so I might protect my kin.

A bird cawed overhead, circling them. ’Twas a falcon—a white falcon. Mayhap the Goddess Cliodna had come to escort her to the afterlife.

“Fare thee well, Sorcha of Barra. I’ll see ye in Hell.” Hector raised his foot high and drove the sole of his boot into her stomach, sending her reeling over the edge of the cliff.

Shock numbed her insides. She wanted to hold onto something, to scream, but she could do neither. Her body seemed to fall faster than her soul, and for one breathtakingly frightening moment, she felt as though her physical being separated from her spirit.

Through it all, she kept her eyes fixed on that white falcon following her downward to her death.


To have the chance of winning Kimberly's e-books, His Magick Touch, and Educating Aphrodite, tell us who your favourite Scottish actor is, or comment in some other way on Kimberly's post. Her contest will close at midnight tonight EST, and the winner will be announced on this thread.

Burns Supper

Yes, it's Burns supper time, and you're all invited :).

So what's on the menu?

To Start: Cock-a-leekie Soup (stop sniggering)

Ingredients:
One whole chicken or several pieces of uncooked and boned chicken wings, legs or quarters
400g leeks
100g precooked prunes, stoned
25g rice
2 litres chicken stock stock
One teaspoon brown sugar
Salt and pepper, bay leaf, thyme
Parsley for garnish
Optional:3 rashers chopped streaky bacon

1. Place the chicken into a large pot, add the soup stock. Bring to the boil. As any fatty scum appears at the top of the pot, remove and discard.
2. Wash the leeks and roughly chop. When the chicken has been boiling for about an hour, add the chopped leeks and the herbs.
3. Bring back to the boil, then simmer for two hours.
4. Season to taste. If used the bacon should be thinly chopped and added.

For main course: Haggis and neeps and mashed potato.


(I think I'll leave that one to your imagination!)

And for pudding: Cranachan.

Ingredients:
570ml/1 pint double cream
85g/3oz porridge oats
Sugar
7 tbsp whisky
3 tbsp honey
450g/1lb raspberries
Fresh mint, to garnish

1.Toast the oats in a frying pan, with a little sugar to taste, being careful not to burn them.
2.Lightly whip the cream until it reaches the soft peak stage, then fold in the whisky, honey, oatmeal and raspberries.
3.Serve in dessert glasses garnished with a few raspberries and mint.

A fine French claret will be served with the meal, and afterwards the toasts (to the haggis, to the lads and to the lassies) will be in the malt whisky of your choice.

After which we'll have a ceilidh, with Scottish country dancing to traditional music, and be joined by today's guest of honour, Kimberly Killion!

Marie

Monday, 24 January 2011

Happy Birthday, Robert Burns!

No Scottish romance party should be complete without mention of Scotland's national poet.

In fact, one reason I picked on this week for our party is because tonight is Burns Night, the anniversary the Bard's birth, marked across Scotland every 25th of January with the eating of haggis, piped in with all honours,  the reciting of Robert Burns' poetry, and all the fun and witty toasts that go with a Burns Supper.

Born in 1759 in the Ayrshire village of Alloway, the son of a tenant farmer, Robert Burns is an amazing Scottish phenomenon. Although most of his poetry was written in eighteenth century Scots, it has influenced generations and is loved far beyond his own country
.
Even I can claim a Burns influence in my naughty short story Witch of Alloway, which is loosely based on Burns' epic poem Tam o'Shanter :). In my story, though, the tavern-loving Tam is a homecoming rock musician, and taking the easy way out, I wrote it in English prose rather than Scots verse!

Somehow, Burns's words manage speak to every generation and every country.There is something universally uplifting about his egalitarian philosophy ("a man's a man for a' that") and his emotions as expressed so powerfully in his poetry, whether funny, bawdy, or moving.

Burns had a tempestuous love life, and no one who's read his poetry could doubt the depth of his feeling. He died while still a young man in his thirties, which may be one reason I find this poem so touching. It's spoken by an old lady to her husband of many years. ("Jo" was a contemporary word for "man" in the sense of husband or lover so the title could be translated as John Anderson, my Man... ).

John Anderson, My Jo by Robert Burns, 1789

John Anderson, my jo, John,
When we were first acquent;
Your locks were like the raven,
Your bonie brow was brent;
But now your brow is beld, John,
Your locks are like the snaw;
But blessings on your frosty pow,
John Anderson, my jo.


John Anderson, my jo, John,
We clamb the hill thegither;
And mony a cantie day, John,
We've had wi' ane anither:
Now we maun totter down, John,
And hand in hand we'll go,
And sleep thegither at the foot,
John Anderson, my jo. 


Isn't that a lovely way of looking at growing old together? I can almost welcome tottering down the hill of life now, hand in hand with my own husband, providing we get to sleep together at the bottom.

Do you know Robert Burns's poetry? Do you have a favourite? Can you understand any of it? :)

Marie

Welcome Marta Acosta!

I'm particularly thrilled to welcome Marta as our first guest of honour, because the whole idea of this blog - and indeed this party! - grew out of an email discussion with her. She is, if you like, the other parent :).

Marta is most famous for her wonderful and witty Casa Dracula novels, but if you frequent her entertaining blog, Vampire Wire, you'll know she also has a love of all things Scottish...

I was delighted when I was asked to contribute a story to The Mammoth Book of Scottish Romance, but I told the editor Trish Telep, “I’ve only visited Scotland once, and all I know is from watching movies and posting Gerard Butler videos on my blog. And John Barrowman videos, and David Tennant tributes…” Trisha assured me that my extensive knowledge of Scottish culture vis a vis my blogging qualified me to write a Scottish romance.

So I put on the now ragged cashmere scarf I purchased on Princes Street and set to work. What was the allure of Scotland to someone from sunny California? First, it’s the memory of verdant green landscapes, the thrilling culture (how I long to go to the Edinburg Festival Fringe!), the antiquity and history. And, oh, my, the accents.

Our news announcers and show hosts have accents trained out of them and speak a Standard American English, as bland as dishwater. An accent flavors a story and conveys history and culture.  I am particularly fond of the Scottish brogue’s rolling r, because it’s luxurious and inviting.  A poem read aloud by someone with a brogue can make me weep. A joke can make me burst into laughter. A mystery can make me anxious and alert. And a love story with a brogue, well, that can make me believe in romance every time.

The delight of fiction is “what if?” My story, “Wolfish in Sheep’s Clothing,” is a what-if about a hard-working and too responsible young woman, Katherine Samuelson, who visits Scotland and decides to be a new person for one wild weekend in Edinburgh.  Yes, she meets a gorgeous man with a brogue – how did you ever guess?

Excerpt from Wolfish in Sheep's Clothing:

When she looked in the mirror, she saw a sophisticated and sexy woman, not the pretty, but rather ordinary girl-next-door she really was. She grabbed her ruined coat and went downstairs.

The hotel manager said, “Why aren’t ye bonny!  Special occasion, is it?”

“Yes, this is my first visit here. Can you tell me if there’s an internet café nearby?”

“You can use the computer in our business center, sweetie.”

The business center was a closet with a narrow desk under the staircase. When she checked her email, there were several birthday greetings, including a dozen from Emma. All but one of them read “Happy birthday!”

The last message was odd, even for Emma, who’d written “Carpe diem. Dare to be someone different today...your wicked side. I saw it in a dream. Also, I have arranged a special birthday treat for you!  A visit to my mother’s cousin’s  historic castle. Will send details tomorrow. Cancel all other plans. Am I forgiven?”
Kathy smiled and wrote, “Weather is dreadful and so are you. Wish you were here. I’ll reserve the date.”  After thinking for a second, she added, “Forgiven for what?  Love, K,” and sent it off.

Kathy asked the hotel owner to call a cab, and the woman said, “You cannae go out in that coat.” She went to the office closet and brought back an old-fashioned moss-green mohair coat. “It’s warm and the color suits.  It’s been left here for years, so keep it.”

Kathy took the unexpected birthday present and said, “Thank you!  You’re too kind.”  A few minutes later, she was in the back seat of a small warm car, dashing up the hill toward Edinburgh Castle. The wet surfaces reflected shop lights and street lights, making the city look magical.

The restaurant was set beside theatres and bustling with Friday evening excitement. Kathy inhaled marvelous aromas as she took off her coat and left it in the cloakroom. As Kathy was escorted to her seat, men turned to watch, while women gave her more subtle once-overs.

The maitre d’ showed her to a table in a corner. It was too dark to study her guidebook here, but at least she could observe others. A waiter soon bustled over with a menu.
The prices were awfully high, though, and she was mentally converting pounds to dollars when the maitre d’ returned with a concerned smile.

“Yes?” Kathy said, looking up.

“I apologize for disturbing you, but we inadvertently doubled-booked a table and I thought you might not mind, considering the circumstances...”  He spoke with the precise accent of a BBC Scotland announcer.

“Mind what?” She hoped that he wasn’t going to ask her to move outside to the covered terrace, where latecomers huddled by patio heaters, because she wasn’t going to move, not on her birthday.

“I thought you might not mind sharing your table with another guest.”

Kathy wondered how she would have felt if her table had been given away. “Of course not,” she said, hoping that the other guest wasn’t talkative or rude.

“Thank you!  You’ve saved me and allow me to offer you a complimentary drink. What would you like?”

“I think a glass of champagne would be nice.”

“Only a glass?” said a deep voice with a warm soft brogue. “Why nae a bottle?”

Kathy turned her head and then she saw a gorgeous man – the careless man who had ruined her coat.


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Marta will give away a copy of the Mammoth Book of Scottish Romance to one lucky winner who answers this question: What accent makes you melt? Or who comments on Marta's post in some other way. Sorry, the winner is limited to US addresses. Marta's contest will close at midnight tonight EST, and the winner will be posted on this thread.