I've had a love affair with Scotland all my life. I grew up with a father who, like his father and grandfather before him, quoted Rabbie Burns at the drop of a hat, and we recited the Selkirk grace at dinnertime. That was even before we went to live in Scotland for a year when I was eight. My siblings and I came back to Australia speaking broad Scottish - as a kid, you learn to fit in pretty quickly.
Yet I've never set a story in Scotland. Partly this was because my first editor was English and she saw nothing whatsoever romantic about Scotsmen or Scotland.
My hero, Cameron, is laird in name only — his inheritance is in the hands of his uncle until Cameron turns thirty, or marries. His uncle is spending money like water and nothing Cameron says will stop him. Cameron storms out, swearing to marry the first eligible woman he meets...
So Cameron sets off, followed by his two cousins, who've bet on the outcome of the vow — and taken a wee dram or three of the Good Stuff along the way...
Of course, the first woman Cameron meets is entirely unsuitable.... on the surface. Not that he can see much of her surface -- he's run her and her sheep into a bog, and she's covered in mud.
But there's more to Jeannie Macleay than meets the eye... and she's no pushover. Cameron is in for a learning experience...
Here's an excerpt — but to get you in the mood first, here's another reason why you should read Scottish romances!
The girl followed her sheep, putting as much distance between herself and the men as she could, running swiftly despite the clumsy, man-sized boots. Cameron watched her thoughtfully.
When he'd made his rash statement he had no thought of wedding anyone except a lady born. This bog sprite shepherdess was totally unsuitable.
But he'd never broken his word before. Rashness gave way to serious thought; there might be wives to be had in Inverness — ladies — but how long would it take to get one to wed him? And how much would his uncle squander in the meantime?
Jimmy grabbed him by the shoulder. "Well, Cammie, will ye wed her or no? There's a bet on."
Cameron swore softly under his breath. The girl was young, unmarried and born outside the estate. What difference would it make anyway who he wed? Women were for running the house and birthing babes and any female could do that. Getting control of his inheritance was what counted. Besides, the little he knew of ladies born was that they were a lot of trouble. They expected a man to dance attendance on them, whereas a lass like this, country bred and down-to-earth...
She floundered in the mud. Very down-to-earth.
"Aye, I'll wed her," he declared.
"Aha—" Jimmy began, then let out a yell. "She's getting away. Don't worry, Cam, I'll get her back for ye." And without warning he jumped on his horse and galloped after the girl.
"Och, the mad fool," Donald began. "Whatever will she think—"
Cameron leapt on his horse and set off after Jimmy.
The girl, seeing Jimmy bearing down on her, screamed defiance at him and ran faster. Jimmy let out a whoop, as if he was running down a hind.
"Leave her be, Jimmy," Cameron roared.
But Jimmy was almost on the girl and oblivious. With a blood-curdling yell he scooped her up and tossed her over his saddle. She fought and struggled but Jimmy just laughed and smacked her on the backside as he wheeled his horse around and cantered back to Cameron with a triumphant grin.
"I fetched her for ye—yeeeowww!" He broke off with a yell of pain. He stared down at the girl in shock. "She bit me! The wee vixen bit me!"
The wee vixen moved to bite his leg again and Jimmy hastily shoved her off his horse. She dropped lightly to the ground and glanced warily around, preparing to run again.
And just in case you need reminding, here's a third reason why Scottish romances are fabulous:
So what about you -- do you think Scotland is romantic, or do you agree with my first editor?