Friday, May 26, 2017

Best Scottish Historical Romances

As Geddes MacGregor once said, “No one in Scotland can escape from the past. It is everywhere, haunting like a ghost." Scotland’s past is the subject of this list, romance novels set in Scotland, most in that magical part of Scotland called the Highlands. Some are romances with a Scot as hero. All are rated 4 or 5 stars. Enjoy!

·               A Dangerous Love, The Border Lord's Bride, The Captive Heart, The Border Lord And The Lady, The Border Vixen and Bond Of Passion (from The Border Chronicles) by Bertrice Small
·               A Gentle Feuding by Johanna Lindsey
·               A Kingdom of Dreams by Judith McNaught
·               A Year and a Day by Virginia Henley
·               Abducted Heiress by Amanda Scott
·               Almost Heaven by Judith McNaught
·               Beloved Rogue by Penelope Williamson
·               Border Lord by Arnette Lamb
·               Bound to the Highlander by Kate Robbins
·               Bride of the MacHugh by Jan Cox Speas
·               Charming the Shrew and Daring the Highlander (MacLeod duology) by Laurin Wittig
·               Children of the Mist by Aleen Malcolm
·               Claimed by Tarah Scott
·               Clandara by Evelyn Anthony
·               Come The Morning, Conquer the Night, Seize the Dawn, Knight Triumphant, The Lion in Glory, When We Touch and The Queen’s Lady (the Graham series) by Heather Graham Pozzessere
·               Davy’s Last Ride by Brit Darby
·               Desiring the Highlander by Michele Sinclair
·               Devil of Kilmartin by Laurin Wittig
·               Devil’s Mistress by Heather Graham
·               Emerald Embrace by Shannon Drake (aka Heather Graham)
·               Forever My Love by Rebecca Brandewyne
·               Gather the Stars by Kimberly Cates
·               Heartstorm by Elizabeth Stuart
·               Heather House: Witch of the Moors by Carmen Caine
·               Highland Moon by Judith E. French
·               Highland Rebel by Judith James
·               Highland Warrior, Highland Outlaw and Highland Scoundrel (the Campbell trilogy) by Monica McCarty
·               Highlander’s Hope (a Regency based in Scotland) by Collette Cameron
·               If You Dare, If You Desire and If You Deceive (the MacCarrick Brothers trilogy) by Kresley Cole
·               His Stolen Bride by Shelly Thacker
·               Kilgannon and The Wild Rose of Kilgannon by Kathleen Givens
·               Knight of Fire by Shannon Drake (aka Heather Graham)
·               Lady of the Glen by Jennifer Roberson
·               Laird of the Mist by Paula Quinn (and all six in her MacGregor/Children of the Mist Series)
·               Lord of a Thousand Nights by Madeline Hunter
·               Lord of Fire by Emma Merritt
·               Moonstruck Madness by Laurie McBain
·               My Lord Monleigh by Jan Cox Speas
·               My Wicked Enchantress by Meagan McKinney
·               On a Highland Shore and Rivals for the Crown by Kathleen Givens
·               Oriana by Valerie Vayle
·               Rebellion by Nora Roberts
·               Rosamund by Bertrice Small
·               Silk and Steel by Cordia Byers
·               Sound of the Heart by Genevieve Graham
·               Snow Raven by Patricia McAllister
·               Tempted and The Border Hostage, duology by Virginia Henley
·               The Bedeviled Heart, The Daring Heart and The Bold Heart by Carmen Caine
·               The Border Bride by Elizabeth English
·               The Border Lord by Jan Westcott
·               The Captive by Parris Afton Bonds
·               The Chieftain’s Curse by Francis Housden
·               The Guardian by Genevieve Graham
·               The Lady and the Laird, Nicola Cornick
·               The Legend and The Destiny by Kathleen Givens
·               The Magnificent Rogue by Iris Johansen
·               The Passionate One, The Reckless One and The Ravishing One (the McClairen’s Isle trilogy) by Connie Brockway
·               The Pride of Lions, The Blood of Roses and Midnight Honor by Marsha Canham
·               The Renegade (first released as The Renegade and The Rose) by Christine Dorsey
·               The Queen’s Lady by Shannon Drake (aka Heather Graham)
·               The Scotsman by Juliana Garnett (aka Virginia Brown)
·               Threads of Destiny by Arnette Lamb
·               To Beguile a Beast by Elizabeth Hoyt (one of the Four Soldiers series)
·               To Conquer a Highlander, Highland Hellcat and Highland Heat by Mary Wine
·               White Knight by Jaclyn Reding
·               Without Honor by Elizabeth Stuart

And a few outside my usual reading:

·               Outlander (the only time travel on the list; not all in the series take place in Scotland , though the hero is a Highlander) by Diana Gabaldon
·               Thirty Nights with a Highland Husband (and others in the Daughters of the Glen series, the only fantasy on the list) by Melissa Mayhue
·               A Hunger Like No Other (the only paranormal on the list, but it’s a superb story and features a Highland hunk to die for) by Kresley Cole

I hope you will consider my novel set in Scotland’s past… Rebel Warrior. And my Regency novella, The Holly & The Thistle, featuring a Highlander hero.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Smuggling in Late 18th-century England by Regan Walker

     In the course of my research for my Georgian romance, Echo in the Wind, I discovered much about smuggling in England in the 1780s. (The first scene in the story is set off the coast of Bognor, now Bognor Regis, where the hero and heroine meet as smugglers for the first time, neither knowing the other’s true identity.)

By the end of the eighteenth century, smuggling on the south coast of England had escalated to alarming rates. From the prosecutions at the Old Bailey during the 1780s, most of which did not result in a conviction, it appears many communities were more frequently the smugglers’ willing accomplices than their terrorized victims.

By 1784, the date of my story, the large organized smuggling gangs of the mid-century were a thing of the past, however, smuggling remained a widespread business. Out of a population of eight million, it is estimated that as many as twenty thousand people were full-time smugglers with twenty-one million pounds of tea smuggled into Britain each year.

Lady Holdernesse
Smuggling was not confined to the poor. Robert Walpole, the country’s first prime minister, used the Admiralty barge to smuggle in wine, lace and other goods. As mentioned in my story, Lady Holdernesse, whose husband was Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports from 1765-1778, used Walmer Castle as a base for her smuggling more than one hundred French silk gowns and fine French furniture.

No wonder the new prime minister, William Pitt, made smuggling one of his top issues.

Even during periods of war, English smugglers brazenly traded with France. Between 1763 and 1783, the number of customs vessels patrolling the coast increased from twenty-two to forty-two. But when one considers the miles of coastline these forty-two boats had to patrol, it is clear that the odds vastly favored the smugglers.

Commander James Ellis, a character in my story, was a real historic figure. Just as I portrayed him, he captained the HMS Orestes hunting smugglers off the Sussex coast.

Revenue cruiser chasing smugglers by Charles Dixon

Women might be involved in smuggling, but it was always from the land side. If they did not sell, transport or hide the smuggled goods, they provided protection, alibis and assistance to those who did. Thus, it is not out of the realm of possibility that my heroine, Lady Joanna West, could be “master of the beach” for the smugglers in Bognor (today called Bognor Regis).

While England's citizens might condone smuggling, they did not sanction violence by smugglers. During the period 1780 to 1800, smugglers tried at the Old Bailey were frequently charged with assaulting officers, punishable by imprisonment, rather than assembling or transporting smuggled goods, punishable by death. However, as in the trial of John Smalley, featured in my story, it was possible to be executed for beating a revenue officer. (The trial is taken from an actual record of the Old Bailey.)

In 1784, firing on a customs vessel after it had identified itself became a felony. However, as a French citizen, my hero, Jean Donet, would not have been subject to being dragged back to England for trial. England was the only country that did not have an agreement with France to trade criminals (what we would call today an extradition treaty). But Jean had cause to worry about Joanna, who was subject to English justice.

The Old Bailey Court

Among the most coveted of the smuggled goods was French brandy, cognac even more so. By the 1770s, London, home to the great connoisseurs, had become the largest consumer of the best brandy, creating a demand the smugglers were happy to meet.

In the Cognac region of France, located in the province of Saintonge in 1784, grapes were the most valuable crop. The clay soil was too impoverished for any other. As a result, the clergy and the nobility farmed the land themselves and did not lease it to others.

Vineyards in the Saintonge Province
In the 1780s, cognac became a profitable, prestigious product in demand throughout France and across Western Europe. Even though this was a good time for the region, the peasants still grumbled about tithes paid to priests and taxes to landlords. Their complaints were not without reason given the humble state of their living conditions. By the end of the decade, their unhappy state would lead to the French Revolution.

If you loved the dashing Jean Donet in To Tame the Wind, you are not alone. How could you not love a man who gave up all for the woman he loved? With his aristocratic manners, handsome dark looks and bold, privateer ways, he might be my favorite of all my heroes. When he first appeared on the deck of his ship, la Reine Noire, shouting orders to his men as guns blazed all around him, he quite stole my heart. I knew then he had to have his own story and a second chance at love. I was also aware it would take an unusual woman for Jean Donet to consider loving again. I believe I found her in Lady Joanna West.

I hope you enjoy the story.

 England and France 1784

Cast out by his noble father for marrying the woman he loved, Jean Donet took to the sea, becoming a smuggler, delivering French brandy and tea to the south coast of England. When his young wife died, he nearly lost his sanity. In time, he became a pirate and then a privateer, vowing to never again risk his heart.

As Donet’s wealth grew, so grew his fame as a daring ship’s captain, the terror of the English Channel in the American War. When his father and older brother die in a carriage accident in France, Jean becomes the comte de Saintonge, a title he never wanted.

Lady Joanna West cares little for London Society, which considers her its darling. Marriage in the ton is either dull or disastrous. She wants no part of it. To help the poor in Sussex, she joins in their smuggling. Now she is the master of the beach, risking her reputation and her life. One night off the coast of Bognor, Joanna encounters the menacing captain of a smuggling ship, never realizing he is the mysterious comte de Saintonge.

Can Donet resist the English vixen who entices him as no other woman? Will Lady Joanna risk all for an uncertain chance at love in the arms of the dashing Jean Donet?

"Walker sweeps you away to a time and place you'll NEVER want to leave!"
   ~ NY Times Bestselling author Danelle Harmon

Buy on Amazon US, UK or Canada

An excerpt:
Bognor, West Sussex, England, April 1784

Except for the small waves rushing to shore, hissing as they raced over the shingles, Bognor’s coast was eerily bereft of sound. Lady Joanna West hated the disquiet she always experienced before a smuggling run. Tonight, the blood throbbed in her veins with the anxious pounding of her heart, for this time, she would be dealing with a total stranger.
Would he be fair, this new partner in free trade? Or might he be a feared revenue agent in disguise, ready to cinch a hangman’s noose around her slender neck?
The answer lay just offshore, silhouetted against a cobalt blue sky streaked with gold from the setting sun: a black-sided ship, her sails lifted like a lady gathering up her skirts, poised to flee, waited for a signal.
Crouched behind a rock with her younger brother, Joanna hesitated, studying the ship. Eight gun ports marched across the side of the brig, making her wonder at the battles the captain anticipated that he should carry sixteen guns.
She and her men were unarmed. They would be helpless should he decide to cheat them, his barrels full of water instead of brandy, his tea no more than dried weeds.
It had been tried before.
“You are certain Zack speaks for this captain?” she asked Freddie whose dark auburn curls beneath his slouched hat made his boyish face appear younger than his seventeen years. But to one who knew him well, the set of his jaw hinted at the man he would one day become.
“I’ll fetch him,” Freddie said in a hushed tone, “and you can ask him yourself.” He disappeared into the shadows where her men waited beneath the trees.
Zack appeared, squatting beside her, a giant of a man with a scar on the left side of his face from the war. Like the mastiffs that guarded the grounds of her family’s estate, he was big and ugly, fierce with enemies, but gentle with those he was charged to protect.
Young Frederick here says ye want to know about this ship, m’lady.” At her nod, Zack gazed toward the brig. “He used to come here regular with nary a con nor a cheat. He’s been gone awhile now. I heard he might have worked up some other business—royal business.” He rolled his massive shoulders in a shrug. “In my experience, a tiger don’t change his stripes. He’s a Frog, aye, but I trust the Frenchie’s one of us, a free trader still.”
She took in a deep breath of the salted air blowing onshore and let it out. “Good.” Zack’s assurance had been some comfort but not enough to end her concerns. What royal business? For tonight, she need not know. “Give the signal,” she directed her brother, “but I intend to see for myself if the cargo is what we ordered.”
Without seeking the position, Joanna had become the smugglers’ master of the beach, responsible for getting the cargo ashore and away to inland routes and London markets with no revenue man the wiser. She took seriously her role to assure the villagers got what they paid for. Their survival depended upon it.

Copyright © 2017 Regan Walker

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Review: Elizabeth English’s THE BORDER BRIDE – Treachery, Betrayal and Love in 14th century Scotland

Set in 1375, mostly in Scotland, this is the story of Alyson Bowden, bastard half-sister to Lady Maude Darnley of the English Darleys. Alyson, a maid in the Darnley household, is forced by her father, to take her half-sister’s identity in order to satisfy a promise he made. The promise was to their enemies, the Kirallens—to give “his daughter” to them in marriage to end their long cross-border feud. He would never give them Maude, the daughter he values, but he will give them Alyson, who agrees only to save her young brother whose life Darnley has threatened.

I liked this story from the beginning, not only the concept, but the way the author drew me into Alyson’s predicament. The man she was forced to wed, Jemmy Kirallen, the disfavored son of his father, now the heir, believed her to be the haughty Maude, but he wondered at times when “Maude” would become more intelligent, inquisitive and passionate in his arms.

Alyson holds Jemmy at bay, believing she will soon be free and can return to her brother. And Jemmy believes he will soon be free of her. But he wants to leave her with child before he returns to his life at sea.

Alyson quickly comes to love her new husband (and given what a great guy he is, one can see why!) However, she fears telling him the truth—that Darnley plans an attack on the Kirallens—knowing Darnley has threatened the life of her young brother.

There isn’t much history in this story but there is certainly enough story to hold your interest, with many twists and turns, including a foster brother, the Kirallen ghost who haunts the keep and who was stabbed in the back by Darnley, and some endearing children.

It’s a picture of life in the Borderlands, of English and Scots warring for many years. And it’s the story of love that can heal many hurts. Lovers of Scottish historical romance will find depth here and enough story to keep them turning pages.

Friday, May 19, 2017

My Top 20 Historical Romances

I am frequently asked what are my favorite historical romances. That’s a long list, as you know from my “best lists.” There are currently over 100 5-Star romances on my "Favorite Keepers" shelf on Goodreads. But since you asked, I'm giving you my current top 20. It’s no accident that almost all are deeper historicals that include real history. And because I love Scotland as a setting, many are set in that land of lochs and glens.

These stories are the ones that have stayed with me, the ones I want to re-read, the ones I can’t forget. Their heroes and heroines grace my Favorite Heroes and Heroines list. And they are written by some of my favorite authors.

Bride of the MacHugh by Jan Cox Speas
Lady of the Glen by Jennifer Roberson
The Windflower by Laura London (aka Sharon & Tom Curtis)
The Silver Devil by Teresa Denys
The Dragon and the Jewel by Virginia Henley
Heartstorm by Elizabeth Stuart
Shanna by Kathleen Woodiwiss
Once in a Blue Moon by Penelope Williamson
The Passions of Emma by Penelope Williamson
Whispers of Heaven by Candice Proctor
The Wind Dancer by Iris Johansen
The Pride of Lions by Marsha Canham
Moonstruck Madness by Laurie McBain
On a Highland Shore by Kathleen Givens
Clandara by Evelyn Anthony
Stormfire by Christine Monson
Princess of Fire by Shannon Drake (aka Heather Graham)
The Captain of All Pleasures by Kresley Cole
Dancing On Coals by Ellen O’Connell
Mountain Mistress by Nadine Crenshaw