I am thrilled to have Eliza Knight on the Back Porch today as part of the blog tour for her new book Highland Hunger.
The Draw of a Scottish Historical
By Eliza Knight
I read my very first Scottish romance as a teenager—and fell in love with not only the fabulously delicious, brogue-talking alpha hero in a kilt (or plaid), but also with the landscape, the conflict of the realm, the castles, horses, clothing, weapons, food. I think it’s safe to say, I fell in love with medieval Scotland right along with the hero. I wanted to be the fiery, independent, fierce heroines I was reading about. I wanted to wield a sword, fire off an arrow. I wanted to create these stories. I would write my own short Scottish romances and exchange with a friend, until years later, I finally decided to sit down and start writing in earnest.
I’ve posed the question of what draws readers of Scottish romances to the books and I get almost exactly the same answer I gave above. The kilts, the brogue, the sense of honor, the brazenness of their valor.
I’m lucky that I’ve been to Scotland a couple of times now—just got back last week. You feel the draw the moment you step off the plane. The richness of the history, the beauty of the land (your life flashing before your eyes as you acclimate to driving on the right-hand side of the car on the left side of the road…). There is something in the air. It’s fresher, crisper. I want to lie down on the ground and never get up. I love to explore the land and castles. To imagine myself in time long since passed.
There is something magical about Scotland, and I think that movies and television have really helped to draw readers into the genre. They fall in love with the stories/characters on screen and want it to continue—what better way than with a book?
Most recently, the television mini-series release of Diana Gabaldon’s book Outlander on Starz, has sucked more fans into the magical realm of historic Scotland. But even before the release of this awesome show (yes, I LOVE it!!) people were drawn to Scotland and its history from movies like Rob Roy and Braveheart. We were falling in love with Scottish actors like Sean Connory, Gerard Butler and now Sam Heughan.
Scotland’s history is rich with drama, strife, treachery, romance, brutality, fights for freedom, honor. The majority of Scottish romances that I’ve read incorporate the history into them. And I do that with my own books. I use battles, historical figures, and places within Scotland to base my setting. Sometimes, I’ll base a setting on a real place, but because of the story, I need to fictionalize it. I’ve heard from a lot of my readers that they really love being immersed into the time frame. They love the escape I provide, the adventures and escapades, the love and passion.
In my latest novel, HIGHLAND HUNGER, I took an ancient story of King Olaf the Black and gave it a little twist. Highlanders used games a lot to prove strength. They were constantly at war for land, castles, power—not just with England, but within their own country as well. Taking the idea of King Olaf the Black’s history, the war games, Scottish culture and the setting, I decided to write a dark romance in which the hero and heroine have to literally fight to the death in order to win their crown. Each of them comes to the games with their own set of inner demons. Tortured souls, they are meant for each other. Find strength in each other. Use that strength, their love and desire to be together to win the games. The second book in the series is about their reign and struggle to keep it, and the third book sees them vanquishing the royal council and its hold over the realm and games.
Here’s the blurb for Highland Hunger:
An unclaimed land in the Scottish isles is ruled by the male and female victors in a series of war games every five years. Named Chief and Lady of the land, they rule the vast holding, and protect the people by divine right, until the next game begins.
After her brother’s death Ceana is named laird. The only way for her clan to survive the ravages of the Highlands is to join in the war games. Bastard son of a powerful earl, Macrath is placed in the games by his vengeful stepmother. He must survive for the ultimate retribution.
Ceana can’t stand the arrogant Highlander who seems to be following her, and yet she can’t seem to walk away. Macrath wants nothing more than to be rid of the troublesome need to protect the warrior lass. What starts out as a race to survive turns into passion to endure together.
Here’s a short excerpt of the first meeting between my hero and heroine…
Several wooden and steel barrels lined the front of one tent and most were occupied by men slurping from ladles. Ceana sucked in a breath, steeling her resolve. She was likely to run into more vulgarity, but thirst won out over her nerves.
Stepping up to a barrel, she grabbed up a ladle that was hooked over the side. She dipped it into the water, sipping with vigor before dipping in again and then pouring it over her head. The strands of hair that had already come free from her plait followed the path of the water and plastered to her forehead and cheeks. The chill air blew lightly against her wetted hair and skin making her shiver and raising gooseflesh along her skin.
“’Tis a good look for you.”
Ceana swiped the water off her face with her hands, smoothed her hair back into place and turned deliberately toward the man who’d spoken to her. She rubbed her free hand on her other arm, trying to soothe her chill. Expecting to see another grotesque brute wishing to invite her into his bed, she was surprised to see a rather handsome warrior. He had eyes such a dark blue, they could almost be onyx, unruly black hair framed his face, and though he didn’t have a beard, his shadowed jaw lent to the idea that he’d not shaven in days. Beneath the shadows were sculpted cheeks and a strong square jaw. A scar curved over the length of one of his eyebrows and another stroked along his jaw. His linen white shirt was untied at the top, falling open to reveal part of his tanned chest. Overtop his shirt, a plaid of blue, white and green, and much nicer than her own, was tossed over his shoulder. He looked, and smelled, cleaner than anyone else she’d run into.
“I didn’t mean to offend you,” he said. And then he smiled, showing mostly even white teeth, and a mouth that made her think of kissing.
Thoughts she’d not dwelled on in the past. A little shiver took her, and she realized that the warrior had spoken twice now without her responding. And she was still staring at his mouth. Ceana glanced away, her face heating with embarrassment.
“I’m sorry,” she said.
“You do not need to apologize, lass. We’re all new here. Well, most of us.” He smiled again, and this time Ceana made certain not to fall into his darkened eyes.
“Aye. I’ve met a past Chief already. He sat on the Morrison seat ten years ago.”
“And he wants to sit there again?” Ceana asked.
The man nodded. “’Twould seem so, but I didn’t ask him why. Suppose I should have.”
“I’m Ceana.” She chose not to mention her title.
“Macrath.” He held out his arm, also curiously refraining from naming his clan. Leather bracers covered his forearms over his linen shirt. His hand was big, and welcoming.
Ceana stuck out her own arm and gripped his bracer. Macrath’s fingers wrapped around her flesh, absorbing her into his palm, making her feel small and delicate. She suppressed another shiver, but couldn’t help staring at his mouth again. If she were to die tomorrow, she would have liked to have a kiss from this man.
“What brings you to Sìtheil Castle?” Macrath asked.
“I heard they had a good cook,” Ceana said, surprised at her own response.
Macrath laughed. “And I heard they had a secret storeroom filled with chests of gold and jewels.”
Now it was Ceana’s turn to laugh. “Are we both to be disappointed then?”
“Nay, lass, we’ll both rejoice with sweetmeat pies in one hand and fat rubies in the other.”
“If only.” The thought made her suddenly sad. Macrath was the first person she’d seen and met at this place who made her feel safe—and she thought she could enjoy spending time with him. Wanted to spend more time with him, in fact.
I'm pleased to be part of this tour, brought together by Historical Fiction Virtual Blog Tours. Please click the link above to visit the rest of the tour, featuring spotlights, reviews, giveaways, guest posts and interviews!