I’ve got four grown kids, four grandkids under the age of six, one long-suffering husband, and a border collie mix named Fitzwilliam Darcy who is chewing everything in sight even though we have cornered the rawhide bone market in central Maine. We live in the middle of the woods on a quiet lake, and really, every day is like a vacation—we’re so lucky. I love to travel, garden, read, and buy skin care products to combat wrinkles. If you have any recommendations, please leave them in the comments.
In the Heart of the Highlander is set in the early 1900’s and most of the book takes place in a new and fancy spa/hotel in the Scottish Highlands. This hotel offers unique spa services and is a really cool place (if we can ignore the creepy villain *wink*) Tell us about this type of hotel and how popular they were during this time period.
My husband and I stumbled upon the Atholl Palace Hotel, real-life inspiration for my fictional hotel on a trip to Scotland in the spring of 2012. We stayed in a charming B & B in a Victorian town called Pitlochry and one rainy afternoon, after a distillery tour and a pub lunch, I persuaded him to visit the hotel’s basement museum. I knew immediately I’d found the setting for my next book.
These hydrotherapy spas were wildly popular—Scotland was seen by city dwellers as pure and unspoiled, and attracted both healthy and sick people who wanted to experience nature, sports and “the cure.” We think of spas as relatively modern concepts, but people were getting pampered and rubbed and dunked in mud and seawater over a hundred years ago. There were even dental facilities set up so you could get that bad tooth pulled on vacation! A lot of these hotels did not serve alcohol though, which seems almost sacrilegious for Scotland, LOL.
Another unique thing in this book is the Evensong Agency, a place where the heroine Mary works with her aunt to solve domestic disasters. Their motto is "Performing the Impossible Before Breakfast Since 1888." I love the idea of this place, that offers services from finding employment, matchmaking and in the case of this story, offering an actress to help set-up the bad guy so the hero’s name can be cleared. Tell us a bit about the inspiration for this agency.
I think I’m hooked on the fairy godmother concept. Wouldn’t it be great to have some clever, crafty person solve life’s little dilemmas like both Mary Evensongs? Mary’s aunt had served as the housekeeper to a duke and his large family, and at least in Romancelandia, housekeepers and butlers know all. I wondered what she might do with all her experience once she retired, and the agency was born.
At the turn of the 20th century, women were beginning to have more employment opportunities than teaching and domestic service. (Did you know that typists were first called typewriters?) By creating the Evensong Agency, I could tell their stories and have the flexibility to cross class lines with some justification. One can’t write about dukes and debutantes forever, or at least I can’t!
The hero, Lord Alec Raeburn in a huge, bearded man that can rock out a kilt. Excuse me while I swoon. Although he may look intimidating, he has a gentler side that Mary discovers. Did anything surprise you about Alec as you wrote him?
Oh, Alec. He’s worked so hard all his life to try not to scare anybody (except for his brothers, so he can run their lives, LOL). People judge him by the way he looks and his way with the ladies, but Mary knows he’s vulnerable. I expected Alec to lose his temper when he discovers that Mary has deceived him—multiple times—but he doesn’t blow up, and they don’t have one of those Big Mis scenes. Quite frankly, I was shocked at his wisdom! And he just goes out of his way to make Mary happy, which was so refreshing. Really, characters do seem to have their own ideas, and Alec was a teddy bear in grizzly bear clothing without losing an ounce of his alpha-ness.
Any hints for what is coming up next for you?
One of my critique partners, Elyssa Patrick and I are going to publish Holiday for Two, a contemporary Christmas duo of novellas in December. I’m so excited to try my hand with a 21st century couple, though the hero is an English viscount. I wouldn’t want to scare off my historical readers, LOL. It was so much fun to write! Here’s a little blurb for All Through the Night:
Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays personal assistant Carrie Moore from the swift completion of her appointed rounds. She’s used is used to delivering for the rich and famous. Can she mend a hunky English lord’s heart and not get him deported?
As a personal assistant, Carrie Moore is used to fulfilling the whims of the rich and famous, even if it means driving through a blizzard to pick up a fresh Kosher turkey for Christmas dinner. No ordinary Butterball for her employer Rosemary Stephens, an eccentric English mystery writer who’s spending the winter on a remote Maine island. When the last ferry is cancelled, leaving Carrie with a turkey that’s bound to get frozen, all the roads closed and no room at the local inn, what’s a resourceful girl to do?
Why, break in and enter, of course, along with Mrs. Stephens’s titled English nephew who is stranded too. Lord Griffin Archer is an actual viscount, but there will be no roast goose and figgy pudding for him, just the random contents of Carrie’s grocery bags. He’s come to America to improve the family fortune, but keeping company with Carrie might result in a prison sentence or deportation. And with a broken engagement behind him, the last thing he wants to do is lose his heart again.
As they snuggle up in a vintage Jaguar inside the inn’s carriage house, bells ring. Alarm or Christmas? Only time will tell.
And I’m working on another Ladies Unlaced book with a virgin hero—it’s a first for me too. Thanks so much for having me here today!
I will gift (print or kindle, winner’s choice) a copy of In the Heart of the Highlander to one random commenter. Just leave a comment by October 5.