"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, November 19, 2010


This week I decided to look to some of my old favorites romances. I know it is clichĂ© to say that no one is writing romances like they used and to a large degree that is true. Whether you are an old seasoned reader like me, or a newcomer to romance, we all have our own expectations. What makes these four authors favorites with me is because of they each had at least one unique storyline that had that something special when they were written. Most of them were part of series whether they were the first, middle or the end book in a series, even if that series went outside of Scotland in subsequent books. And of course these books are all historicals, though their author might write both historicals and contemporaries. The authors I am featuring this week are Constance O’Banyon, Judith McNaught, Virginia Henley and Julie Garwood.

Many romance readers are unfamiliar with Texas native, CONSTANCE O’BANYON who began her writing career in 1982 with Ecstasy’s Promise and published her 41st book with Wolf Runner, this past July. She has also published 44 books and had a number of nouvella’s published plus over the years. Many of her books are set in Texas with cowboy and Indian heroes as well as storylines set in the deserts of Africa. But for me the series I love most is her deWinter series. The first book is Song of the Nightingale (1992) in which she introduced the readers to the deWinter family. A scene in the beginning sets the stage for the rest of the book that is so sweet it has a major “aww” factor. The second book is Highland Love Song, telling the story of the deWinter’s niece Arrian (1993) in Scotland , and finally The Desert Song (1994) telling the story of the deWinter son Michael. These books are full-bodied with interesting plot twists and turns and a cut above a lot of historicals offered today.

The next authoris English-born Canadian VIRGINIA HENLEY. She began her publishing career in 1982 with Irish Gypsy and her last novel was The Irish Duke (2010). What make her historicals unique is that she often takes a real persona from history and writes a fictionalized account of their life. One of my favorite books her The Decadent Duke (2008) tells the story of the Duchess of Gordon’s daughter Georgina who becomes the Duchess ofBedford. The story is rich in history and gives and interesting look at that period. Other stories with real people include Undone (2003), which tells the story of the infamous Gunning sisters during the Georgian period. Herother Scottish titles include: Insatiable (2004), A Year and A Day (1998), Tempted (1993), The Border Hostage (2001) and one of her very first Wild Hearts (1985).

Though I love the historical richness of all her books, I especially love the fact that she knows there is more to Scotland than just the Highlands as all her Scottish books are set in the Borders of Scotland. My favorite is Wild Hearts because each of the protagonists and the supporting characters all have the first name of a major European city and this plays well as each of the girls (5) find that one special someone just for them. There is a compelling plot as wellas a number of subplots interwoven with main plot each resolved in a satisfying manner, which moves the main plot toward a suspenseful ending. Editors aren’t buying stories like these anymore maybe because people don’t have the time it takes to enjoy a full-bodied plot or maybe authors aren’t taking the time to create unique story elements to set them apart from the crowd. And a common criticism of her work is that she has just too much history in her stories, but isn’t that why we read historicals in the first place?

Our next author has been away from the publishing scene for quite sometime though I have heard other authors say she is a slow plotter and writer. JUDITH MCNAUGHT was first published in 1983 with a contemporary Tender Triumph and followed with Double Standards a year later, though most of us know her for her Westmoreland series. Good news her next book is the next installment in the Westmoreland series due in 2012- Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You”.

Though for many of us fans we didn’t start reading her until her breakout book her bestselling book “Whitney My Love” (1984) came on the market to be followed with the a sequel Until You (1986) followed with the novella story Miracles in the Holiday of Love anthology in (1994). These first books in the Westmorland series were all set in the Regency period but in 1989 she decided to write a prequel to the story of the Westmorland family with her exceptionally popular medieval Kingdom of Dreams set in Medieval Scotland. It was a runaway hit and the final scene in the story is one of those moments, you have the tissues ready for as it is a major ‘awww” moment. She then moved away from writing historicals and produced such hits as Paradise (1991) and Perfect (1993). She also has written a number of romantic suspense novels but I am hoping that her new Westmorland book due out in 2012 is an historical as many us miss her historical voice.

Finally the last author JULIE GARWOOD is one who cut her publishing teeth on Scottish romances. Though for me, I find her books “historical lite”, light on history but are strongly character driven books. Julie was first published in 1985 with Gentle Warrior and some thirty books and novellas later she will have her next book The Ideal Mancome out in 2011. She began writing historicals with many turning into on going series. She is beloved by the readers who love Scottish set stories because of her: Highland Laird series (The Secret (92), Ransom (99) and Shadow Music (07) as well as her Lairds’ FiancĂ©e series (The Bride (89) and The Wedding (96).

However for me, first and foremost, my favorite of Ms, Garwood’s books set in Scotland will always be Saving Grace. A novel set during the time of King John and King William. Our heroine has just found out that her husband is dead and her brother, for her own protection as she as might know what has happened to one of the princes, take her to Scotland to be married to a Scottish Laird who will get possession of her Scottish land if he marries her. The story if filled with many tender moments as only a Julie Garwood heroine could bring to a story and yet this not wallflower heroine. Though usually like more history based story I loved this book, it is a classic romance. Let's hope that even though Ms Garwood has spent more time in recent years on her romantic suspense tales of the Buchan family (who are Scottish Americans btw) that she will return to medieval Scotland with a much better offering that the last one Shadow Music, which was just plain awful.

I hope you have found at least one new author in this group and look for more next Friday. Happy Thanksgiving, may you and yours be blessed with a day full of family food and football.


Monday, November 15, 2010


The Stewart dynasty was often plagued with many minority monarchs so the role of the Dowager Queens was always one of a power struggle to make sure her son was not killed and his eventual power was protected . However, these three women who married the first two Stewart Kings did not have this problem. What also made them unique was all three were Scottish born women. Unique? When you look at the queens before them from King Malcolm III forward to King Robert Bruce not a single Queen was a Scot. Interestingly Robert Bruce's first wife Isabella of Mar was a Scot, the daughter of the Earl of Mar and a woman named Ellen who had previously been the wife of Earl of Fife. It was Isabella's and King Robert Bruce's daughter, Marjory Bruce wife of Walter Stewart the High Steward of Scotland who was the mother of the Stewart Dynasty beginning with her son Robert II. His wives and daughter in law was...

Elizabeth Mure (first wife of Robert II)

She was the daughter of Sir Adam Mure of Ayrshire and Joan Cunnigham. She initially was Robert’s mistress but married him in 1336 but the nobles and Church had a problem with this marriage as being not within the conical rules. So initially their children were considered “natural”. However he was able to get a papal dispensation in 1347 and married her in 1349. At this point he was able to make all of his sons by Elizabeth legitimate, which would later create a problem for the Stewart dynasty when the King took a second wife. Unfortunately Elizabeth died before 1355 and Robert was not crowned King until 1371, when he was 55, she was never his queen. Elizabeth had 4 sons (his heir Robert III) and 6 daughters:

John (King Robert III), Earl of Carrick, Walter , Lord of Fife, Robert Stewart, Duke of Albany, Alexander,

Margaret m John, Lord of the Isles, Marjory m John, Earl of Moray, Johanna m Sir John Keith/others, Isabella m James Douglas-2nd Earl of Douglas/others, Katherine m Sir Robert Logan, Elizabeth m St Thomas Hay.

Euphemia Ross (Robert’s queen but his second wife)

She was the daughter of the Earl of Ross and Matilda Bruce (King Robert the Bruce’s sister), creating more problems when both she and Robert II were related to King Robert I: she his niece and he his grandson. This relationship required Robert to obtain another papal dispensation, which was common for noble families in Scotland at the time. Her marriage to Robert II was her second marriage after the death of her first husband the Earl of Moray in 1346 and she remained unmarried until May 1355 when she married Robert II.

Her second marriage to Robert produced 5 more children of which two were sons and it was her sons who disputed the legitimacy of their step-brothers. The Ross family claimed that the sons of the first marriage to Elizabeth Mure had no claim to the Scottish throne as they were illegitimate when born. However despite the fact that this first marriage was ruled unconical by the Church when they declared themselves married and lived together producing at least 10 children, the children of such unions in Scotland (noble or common man) would have been legal heirs under Scottish laws. However, on March 27 1371, the Scottish Parliament at Scone Abbey declared that Robert’s first- born son John (later named Robert III) from his marriage to Elizabeth as his legal heir. Euphemia died 1386 before Robert II in 1391. Her children included:

David, Earl of Caithness, Walter, Earl of Atholl

Margaret m ?, Elizabeth m David Lindsay, Earl of Crawford, Eigidia m Sir Wm. Douglas of Nithsdale

Annabelle Drumond (wife of Robert III)

Annabelle was born in Scotland in 1350 at Dunfermline Abbey, Fife to the Sir John Drummond and Mary Montifex. She married Robert III in 1367 at the age of 17, some 23 years before her husband ascended to the throne of Scotland. When that happened both she and her husband were crowned at the same time. While King David II was still alive John (Robert III) was named earl of Carrick and she was his countess before later becoming his queen. She and Robert had at least 7 children including the future King James I, her youngest and remaining son. What happened to her older son David is unknown but legend claims he was starved to death by his uncle Robert, Earl of Rothesay, brother to King Robert II.

Annabelle favored the burgh of Fife and donated a sandstone font with her likeness and heraldry to the parish Kirk. Her life was difficult because of the turmoil her husband’s riding accident, which left him cripple and the murder of her eldest son at the hands of her brother in law. This brother ran the country in the king’s name creating all sorts of problems from the Islands to the Borders as well as within his family. It was assumed by historians he was trying to supplant his own son Murdock as heir apparent. Annabelle died at age 51 at Scone Palace and was buried at Dunfermline. Her children included:

David, Duke of Rothesay(murdered by his uncle), Robert died infancy, James (Duke of Rothesay on his brother’s death and later became James I of Scotland

Margaret m Archibald, Earl of Douglas, Mary m George Douglas, Earl of Angus/others, Elizabeth m Sir James Douglas, 1st Baron of Dalkeith, Egida m to a Douglas family.

The next posting will be looking at three children of these women and how their lifes might have influenced Scottish history.