"O Scotia! my dear, my native soil!
For whom my warmest wish to heaven is sent;
Long may thy hardy sons of rustic toil
Be blest with health, and peace, and sweet content"
Robbie Burns

Friday, September 24, 2010


This is going to be a short post today. I am getting ready to attend the Emerald City RWA conference in Seattle. A wonderful get away weekend for my husband and I. A week for him to golf with our son who lives out there and a week for me to catch up on old friendships and do a little business.

The authors I have listed today have been my favorite authors for a long time and are auto-buys for me, even when their books are not set in Scotland or have Scottish heroes. Though they may not be familiar to you they are worth checking out their offerings and have been mainstays in the industry. I hope if you haven’t tried one of their books you will pick one up soon. The books listed for each are only a sample of their backlist but are my favorites. Click on their names for a site that lists their backlist.


Amanda has been one of my favorite Scottish/Historical romances from way back when I returned to reading romances in 1994. I had a wonderful backlist of books to choose from whether it was a book set in the Highlands, Lowlands of the Borders, she has created yummy heroes and fiesty heroines.

Though her current trilogy was set in the borders I find my favorite recent books of hers are the stories of the MacLeod sisters of Glenelg, Scotland. What makes this series so great is she starts the story in the Highlands or better yet the Islands of the Macleods and the Lord of the Isles and but over the course of five sisters and their friend Mary Macdonald the story ends in the Lowlands of Scotland as well as the Northeast. The books are set in an around 1370 during the reign of Robert III whose brother, the Duke of Albany had far too strong of control of the throne of Scotland.

The titles include:

LORD OF THE ISLES – Cristina’s story

PRINCE OF DANGER- Isobel’s story

LADY’S CHOICE – Sorcha’s story (my favorite heroine

KNIGHTS TREASUER – Adela’s story

KING FO STORMS- Sidony’s story (my favorite couple)

HIGHLAND PRINCESS Mary MacDonald (though not a Macleod sister, similar period and location).

Her current title

TEMPTED BY THE WARRIOR- completes her current trilogy and is set in the Scottish Borders.

One of Susan’s first books THE RAVEN’S WISH was one of the very first books I was asked to review and I have been a fan of her work ever since. I especially like her nouvella THE SNOW ROSE which appeared in THE STOCKINGFUL OF JOY anthology. Her books are set in many different periods of Scottish history and some are from actual events where others are more mystical. She stepped away from the romance genre and wrote a wonderful fictional account of one of Scotland’s most misunderstood Scottish Queens LADY MACBETH. Though historical evidence no longer survives about this Queen, she like her husband Macbeth has been a victim of malicious character assassination by William Shakespeare. Shakespeare has done to Macbeth and his Queen in MACBETH, as Randall Wallace has done to William Wallace in BRAVEHEART- all bleather little substance. Of all of her recent books I would highly recommend this book because one gets a real sense of what the final years of the last Celtic Kingdom in Scotland were like. She currently has a new book out on Queen Margaret of Scotland- wife of Malcolm Canmore.

Susan is no longer writing romances under the aka Susan King and you can find her new offerings under the aka Sarah Gabriel


The last author I would like to recommend wrote a number of Scottish romances but her real talent lies in setting her characters in Ireland, especially the Northern Irelands and the Troubles.

Jeannette Baker packs more book in 100 pages than many authors do in 300 pages. Her stories are well researched and her characters get under your skin that you can't forget them when the last page is turned. The three books that are favorites of mine include LEGACY, set in contemporary Scotland complete with mysterious Celtic traditions where our heroine learns of three of ghostly ancestors and a hero who helps her along the journey, CATRIONA the heroine returns to contemporary Shetland Islands to learn about her heritage and finds out she is a reincarnated soul who has lived through five lifetimes through some of Scotland and England’s most turbulent times. And this next title is from her aka of Jeanette Ramirez- LADY OF LOCHABAR- set to the backdrop of one of Scotland’s worst tragedies the massacre at Glen Coe. For those who want

a compelling story set in Ireland I would highly recommend her Rita winning book NELL – is the story of childhood friends who were torn apart not only by social standing of their parents but also by the hero’s movement toward the Irish Nationalist cause and the heroine’s path that leads to her becoming a lawyer and fitting in with the establishment in Northern Ireland but when their lives are intertwined with Nell a woman from the past who was torn from her lover, will our m
odern couple achieve what Nell could not?

PS: I will be away from the computer next week so if I post other than Fiction Friday the posts will be short and sweet. Have a great week everyone!!

Thursday, September 23, 2010


In the last posting I discussed Scotland’s sacred “Stone of Destiny”, the legendary pillow of Jacob (of Biblical fame) which traveled from the Holy Land to Syria to Egypt to Spain to Ireland and then finally arriving with the Scotti of Dalriada in the 5th century. It was this ancient stone on which all Gael and later Scottish kings were crowned, and which King Edward I of England in 1296 removed from Scotland and placed in the Coronation chair in Westminster Abbey. This was to insure that all English kings would also be Scottish kings or at best overlords of the Scottish crown. The Stone was returned to Scotland, on loan in 1996, 700 years after the first theft. But it wasn’t really 700 years because the Stone made a short visit home in the 50’s

On Christmas Eve, four Glaswegian university students filled with Scottish national pride and some were members of the Scottish Covenant Association, probably a bit too much holiday left Scotland and headed to London to liberate (or steal if your English) the Stone. The leader of the group was a young college student named Ian Hamilton, who had recently returned to college after spending time in the British Army. It was a period of social and political unrest in Scotland and a solution many Scot’s were seeking was to seek Home Rule from England. John McCormack and an the emerging Scottish national party (later forming the SNP) wrote a Scottish Covenant for seeking Home Rule for Scotland but when it was defeated by the government at Westminster. A frustrated Ian Hamilton decided that what the cause needed was a nationalist symbol to stir the people and the perfect one was that which the English had stolen from the Scots some 650 years before.

Ian, and fellow Glaswegian students Kate Matheson, Gavin Vernon and young Alan Stuart planned over a number of weeks to break into Westminster Abbey. And the caper if the movie based on Mr. Hamilton’s book THE TAKING OF THE STONE OF DESTINY is to be believed was a almost a bit of a “Keystone Cops”. They arrived on Christmas Eve 1950 believing most people were home involved in holiday cheer. The four broke in to the abbey (the movie is a bit different than Hamilton’s account) and in the process of pulling it along the floor of the abbey they broke the stone. Once they made their escape they took the larger part and left it with Travelers (gypsies?) in Kent. And the smaller part elsewhere.

Westminster Abbey

After the news of the theft was discovered the British government suspected Scottish nationalists of taking the stone and set up roadblocks on the Border. However, the young idealists put the stone in the trunk and drove it over the Border right under the government’s nose. Meanwhile in Scotland the news of the theft was cause for great celebration and resurgence in national pride of even the most hardened and discouraged Scots. The smaller piece was later brought north and the two were joined together again by a stonemason and was handed over to a Scottish politician. In April of 1951, the repaired stone covered by a Scottish Saltire was found at the alter of the ruins of Arbroath Abbey in Angus. This was a symbolic gesture given the history of the Abbey and the Declaration of Arbroath calling for Scottish independence in 1320. The four students were finally arrested for the theft but because their actions had inspired the whole nation of Scotland and creating a shot in the arm for Scottish Home Rule movement , the Westminster government never brought the students to trial.

Arbroath Abbey ruins, Angus, Scotland

As an aside, now there were those who looked at the stone when it came to Scotland in 1996 and remarked on how it was so very similar to the same sandstone found in the Perth area of Scone and clearly not the basalt that history claimed. In “ Monuments Celtiques” by Jacques Cambray in 1805, he claims that the stone had a writing on it when translated from the original “ Ni Fallat fatum, Scoti quocumque locatum inventient lapidiem negnasse tenetur ibidem” said, “ If the Destiny proves true, then the Scots are known to have been Kings wherever men find this stone.” This may have been more myth and little substance as Cambray believed in a “stone” cult and his connection of the Druids to megaliths has plagued the study of both. However, Scottish activist Wendy Wood in 1968 went to Westminster Abbey and slipped a piece of cardboard under the iron railing that said, “ This is not the original Stone of Destiny. The real Stone is of black basalt marked with hieroglyphics and is inside a hill in Scotland.” And others recently have questioned the validity of the stone that Edward took in 1296. But where is this hill?

Seal of Scone Abbey

There has long been a legend that the Monks at Scone Abbey were cunning and aware of the English king’s intent to take the royal regalia of Scotland which included the Stone, and that they substituted the real stone with a fake, maybe even a cesspit cover. After all what did Edward know of the stone? If this was true then why didn’t they bring the stone out for the crowning of Robert the Bruce in 1306 or let the English know later they took the wrong stone? These questions are met with the explanation that the monks didn’t want to make the English angrier than they were with the Scots and these were dangerous times. The idea that they may have given Edward a fake might be supported in when looking at the Peace Treaty of Northampton in 1328, which declared Scotland an independent nation, that Robert Bruce was their king and that his heirs would reign upon his death, the border between the nations would remain the same as the period of King Alexander 111 and young king David II would marry Joan of England. Some sources say the Stone was also to be returned to Scotland as per the agreement and that King Edward 111 ordered its return, but that his mother never complied. That the Scots didn’t object one might assume they already knew they had the “real” Stone anyway.

Macbeth's legendary fort on the top of Dunsinnan Hill, Perth Scotland

So where might the real one be? Legend has it that it was placed in the hillside at Dunsinnan Hill which was once the site of King Macbeth’s castle and lies near Scone. In the late 1700’s or early 1800’s a young farm boy after a brutal rainstorm found what appeared to be a cave or fissure. Boys being curious, decided to investigate and found a subterranean chamber, which held a stairs with a blocked passage. But what intrigued them the most was a stone slab held up by four stone legs and the stone had writing on it. Later on as the one grew older he heard the legend and went back to the Hill to look for the opening but never found it. Some believe that the stone is now housed at Dunsinnan Hall because a worker on one of the restoration of the hall overheard the owner claiming he could touch the stone whenever he wanted to. The current owner of the Hall has neither admitted nor denied ownership/guardianship of the Stone.

When Ian Hamilton was asked if the Stone returned to Scotland was a fake, he claimed the Stone he and his fellow patriots liberated from England was the original stone that King Edward took. However, with a twinkle in his eye, he didn’t dismiss the claim the Stone he liberated might have actually been a fake all along.

Monday, September 20, 2010


On Saint Andrew’s Day, November 30, 1996 in a cavalcade along the High Street running from Holyrood Palace to the Castle at Edinburgh the fabled Stone of Destiny was returned home to Scotland after a 700 year-old theft.

The stone was the ancient stone upon all kings of Scotland were crowned. The “speaking stone” as one legend states (there is no historical evidence) was the stone upon which Jacob of Biblical fame was to have rested his head. It was taken from Syria to Egypt where it was taken to Spain and then Ireland to Tara where the high kings of Ireland were crowned. The stone was brought to Scotland by the Scoti of Ireland who came in the 5th century and was the centerpiece of the coronation of the kings of the new kingdom of Dalridia in what is now Argyll at Dunadd. When the Viking raids increased along the west coast of Scotland at the time of King Kenneth macAlpin moved the stone from Iona to Perth. The stone was placed in the Abbey at Scone and from there all of the kings of Scotland up to King John Balliol in 1292 were crowned.

King John was the chosen claimant from the thirteen who vied for the kingship of Scotland left vacant by the death of the “Maid of Norway” the granddaughter of King Alexander III. By naming him king, Edward I of England believed that Scotland was now a vassal of England and expect the Scottish nobles to help fight his war in France. Not so though King John was weak with little control over the nobles of Scotland, he with the support of those noble in 1296 signed a treaty with France for mutual aid, which was to become known as the Auld Alliance. This enraged Edward who quickly retaliated by bringing an army to Scotland and first laying waste to Berwick killing over 8000 inhabitants and from there he headed north and met the Scottish Army, such that it was, at Dunbar and totally destroyed the Scottish army. At this point Edward demanded fealty of the Scottish nobles and their signature became known as the Ragman’s Rolls.

While in Scotland in an effort to break the moral backs of the Scots he rode to Scone which was then the capital and at the Abbey he removed the relics of Scotland which include the Black Rood of St Margaret, which was the piece of the ‘true cross” that Queen Margaret brought with her to Scotland when she married King Malcolm III and gave the Scottish church. Edward also took the Stone of Destiny so that there would be no more kings of Scotland that weren’t also kings of England. However, that didn’t stop the Scots because Scottish kings continued to be crowned at Scone, minus the stone, from King Robert de Brus forward.

King Edward meanwhile had a special chair made to house the stone and his son Edward II was the first of the English kings to be crowned over the stone so that when crowned as English King he was also crowned king of Scotland, as if the Scots accepted that. The stone remained in England until the mid 1950’s when a group of Nationalistic college students decided that that they wanted to bring back the stone to Scotland where it belonged. On a raid on Christmas Eve they stole into Westminster Cathedral and took the stone away across the borders back to Scotland. While in the process it was believed that the stone broke and was left with gypsies until the parts of the stone could be brought back to Scotland. The British government was in quite the tizzy for a good four months until the students had it repaired and was given over to the Church of Scotland who left it at the abbey of Arbroath draped in the Scottish Saltire.

Now there are some who believe that that stone that Edward had taken back to England was not the actual stone but a fake stone, as the stone is much more similar to the red sandstone found around Scone. Some even believe that the stone was really just a lid from a cesspit in the abbey and passed off as the real Stone of Destiny. Now, this is one of those legends I can get behind. My Scottish and Irish side love the irony of knowing that all of the kings and queens of England from Edward II onward my actually have been sitting on a part of the loo during their coronation.

More on the Ian Hamilton and those who helped him liberate the Stone in the 1950’s in the next posting this week