21 Daft Days

Susan here. Two hundred and one years ago this week, in August 1822, King George IV arrived in Scotland, landing at Leith Harbor and making his way into Edinburgh. The huge fanfare included not just thousands of people lining the streets to cheer and watch, but began with a greeting party of scores of dignitaries that included the Lord Provost of Edinburgh and civic officials, dukes, earls, peers of rank, clan chiefs, as well as Sir Walter Scott, who had organized much of the celebration that took place over the days of the king’s visit. Detail  Landing of King George at Leith Harbor  Alexander Carse  1822  Leith Hall

King George IV Lands at Leith Harbor, detail. Alexander Carse, 1822. Leith Hall. 

My newest novel, Laird of Rogues, in part centers on the king’s visit to Scotland that hot, rainy August, when a Laird of rogues - Copy whisky-smuggling laird and accused prisoner is invited to meet the king–striking great fear of embarrassment in city officials and requiring immediate etiquette lessons courtesy of an official’s daughter. But this laird has another matter to take care of, more important to him than meeting the king. 

George IV, the first English king to visit Scotland (without waging war) since Charles II’s visit in 1651, spent that whirlwind visit—called “daft days” by one witness at the time—meeting prominent Scots, including Sir Walter Scott, government officials, peers, Highland chiefs and their entourages, and their ladies. He greeted so many ladies at a special assembly held in honor of Scotswomen that he was said to have kissed (enthusiastically, with wet smacking kisses, it was widely said) literally George_IV_in_kilt _by_Wilkie (1)thousands of women in one afternoon. The king was the guest of honor at receptions, dinners, parades, and balls, and was celebrated, lauded, toasted, cheered.

He was also the subject of satire, caricatures, and tittering laughter from the Scots. Although George IV made a real effort to connect with the Scots and to admire and experience the Scottish culture, he had some bumbling moments and made a faux pas now and then—most notably wearing a pair of pink woolen tights with his kilt and gear of Royal Stewart tartan, rather than expose his legs in the proud traditional manner of the Scots. 

David Wilkie's flattering portrait of King George in Scotland did not include the king's pink tights.

Although excited to welcome King George to the north, historically the Scots were not big fans of the English. Some were skeptical about the visit, given the long cultural memory of centuries of conflict and oppression under pressure from the English – and eventually English rule with the Acts of Union in 1707, which joined the Scottish and English Parliaments and placed Scotland under English rule with the formation of Great Britain. That was followed by the Jacobite
wars and Culloden in 1745, with Jacobite sympathies lingering among some for generations – fueling political and ideological differences between the Tories and the Whigs – and the Highland Clearances, spanning more than a century of struggle primarily for Highland people tossed out of their homes as lands were sold or leased to those who preferred using vast, beautiful Highland acreage for hunting and country houses rather than raising sheep and cattle.

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Interview with Jaclyn Reding

Susan here – we are so pleased to welcome friend and author Jaclyn Reding to Word Wenches today to talk about her Jacci reding venice upcoming books and some of the very interesting inspirations for her writing. Be sure to scroll down to read this fun interview and a story excerpt — and then take a moment to comment for a chance to win a copy of her latest release, The Pretender! 
Jaclyn Reding’s award-winning, bestselling historical and contemporary romance novels have been translated into nearly a dozen languages. A National Readers' Choice Awards finalist, and Romance Writers of America RITA Award nominee, she is the proud, proud mom of two grown sons, and willing minion to an elderly cairn terrier and a tuxedo cat. Home is with her family in New England in an antique farmhouse that she suspects is held together purely by old wallpaper and cobwebs. A lifelong equestrian, she spends her free time in the saddle, going over plotlines and character arcs with her confidant and toughest critic, a very opinionated retired racehorse named Brunello.

The pretender jaclynredingSusan: Congratulations on your latest release, The Pretender, set in 18th-century Scotland. It's a beautiful new edition of a classic historical romance with a gorgeous cover! Tell us a little about the story.

Jaclyn: Thank you!  I'm very excited about this venture. In The Pretender, when the very English Duke of Sudeleigh discovers that his eldest daughter, Lady Elizabeth Drayton, is the clandestine author of a scandalous editorial, he decides it's time to bring the feisty young woman to heel. Unbeknownst to her, he will secretly send her off to an arranged marriage so that she might better concentrate her efforts on hearth and home instead of the spreading of contrary ideas. He means it simply to put a fright into her, but a mishap with her carriage en route brings headstrong Elizabeth the chance to foil her father’s plans. Douglas Dubh MacKinnon, an annoyingly handsome Highlander, will provide her with the perfect riposte. What Elizabeth doesn’t consider is that in these turbulent political times, she, too, might offer Douglas something in return: a convenient means of securing his birthright–-as well as the ideal disguise when the opportunity to save a prince on the run arises, leaving them both to wonder just who is the true Pretender after all?  Add in a comical goat and a dash of Highland lore for a true rollicking adventure.

Susan: You and I went to Scotland years ago and had a great time driving through the Highlands and across the Isle of Skye, with some hilarious adventures along the way, from lost luggage to a car boot full of a ridiculous number of books, and then a stalker sheep. Did you use any of that in your writing?


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The Warrior Poet/M&M Hero

Susan here – in last week’s blog on the topic of grumpy heroes, I mentioned the Warrior Poet heroic type. Plain-M&Ms-Pile Years ago, Mary Jo and I, along with friend and writer Eileen Charbonneau, did workshop panels that explored the Warrior Poet hero—we also called him the M&M hero. Our multi-media presentation included a panel discussion, images, music, gift baskets—and chocolate, of course! 

GF Watts Galahad 1862The term “Warrior Poet” originates with an archetypal hero found in ancient Irish society and literature. Traditionally the Fianna, the elite warrior heroes of Irish legend, were trained as both warriors and poets. Poets as well as warriors went through rigorous training and discipline, building power and skill and knowledge. The warrior-poet who combined strength of body and mind was a powerful hero indeed.

The Warrior Poet has a long tradition, from ancient through medieval to modern. Odysseus, Arthur, Lancelot, Galahad, so many more–they are part of the DNA of storytelling, and have helped form our fascination and love for complex, challenging, ultimately rewarding heroes.

In romance fiction the term “Warrior Poet” describes the range of this hero’s qualities, and M&M helps clarify him further – he’s not Grumpy, Alpha, or Beta, but like an M&M, he has a hard shell wrapped around a rich, delicious interior, full of substance and love. He can be crusty on the outside, but he’s not grumpy all the way through. Beneath the hardened emotional shell, he can be a soft-hearted guy with a deep capacity to love. His redeeming qualities soon become evident. As a hero and a match for the heroine, he has huge potential.

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Introducing Laird of Rogues

Laird of roguesSusan here, introducing my new novel, Laird of Rogues, the third in the Whisky Lairds trilogy with Laird of Twilight and Laird of Secrets.

"A wonderful story—handsome kilted Highlanders, whisky smugglers, intrigue and forbidden love, all set against the stunning backdrop of Scotland, and with a hint of fairy magic. A brilliant read!" says Word Wench Christina Courtenay, author of Promises of the Runes.

An Amazon reader recently posted “A wonderful new book by this well-known author had me enthralled from the opening chapter and it just kept getting better as the plot unfolded.”

It’s a rainy, steamy summer in Edinburgh, 1822, when Ronan MacGregor, Highland laird and whisky distiller, is invited to meet King George IV during the royal visit to Scotland – but the so-called Whisky Laird (and lawyer) is cooling his heels in the dungeon, awaiting trial for smuggling, posing an awkward problem for the city. Enter the deputy provost's daughter (and secret adventure novelist), Ellison Graham, tasked with cleaning up the Highland rogue for the royal introduction. Ronan has no interest in meeting the king and only wants to ensure safety for the people of his glen—while Ellison is eager for adventure at last. Neither expects a few etiquette lessons at a remote Highland estate to lead to mayhem, unmask a murderer—and bring unexpected love into their lives.

George_IV_in_kilt _by_WilkieWhisky smuggling was a tricky business then. Distillers, crofters, smugglers, and excise officers walked the Highland hills at night, running goods, including valuable Highland whisky, to the border and the sea to sell their excellent product. Some were criminals—on both sides of the law—and some Scots smuggled to provide for their families in the face of oppressive English laws.

With a hero who was a smuggler, distiller, and an advocate of the law, and a heroine who idolized Sir Walter Scott, researching this novel was endlessly fascinating, taking me deep into whisky production and the business of smuggling, along with Scottish customs and Scots law (which was so interesting, especially when I found a little legal twist for the story!). And King George’s visit to Scotland was great fun to study — a wild spectacle of pageantry and Celtic magnificence amid crowds of thousands. I’ll blog later about the king’s visit (and his love of Highland whisky and penchant for kissing every Scottish lady who came near).

For now, here’s an excerpt from Laird of Rogues . . .

Edinburgh dungeons, June, 1822

 “Tea,” the guard called as he pushed a wooden cart, china and silverware rattling on a small tray, into the prison cell. “Tea and visitors!” 

Ronan MacGregor closed the book he was reading and sighed, glancing at his companions in the cell, who sat up slowly; Iain MacInnes and Arthur Stewart had both been dozing. All of them were weary of the Edinburgh dungeon and their ruse as the Highland scoundrels known as the Whisky Lairds. But that guise protected their identities, their kin and glen folk too. Soon Ronan and his friends would return to their lives and livelihoods—if luck was with them. 

At least their stay here had improved when Edinburgh officials saw the advantage in allowing summer crowds to view the notorious smugglers—for a fee.

These weeks had given him much to consider, making him even more determined to push for better justice for Highland Laird of rogues - Copy slice folk too often regarded as common, uneducated, unworthy. The ancient culture of the Gaels, their pride, their legacy, deserved appreciation and preservation. Once he was free to practice law again, he would promote the truth. But for now, the ploy must continue.

“Hey,” Iain MacInnes murmured. “The angel is here again.”

Ronan looked toward the door. She was there, setting gentle foot on stone, crossing the straw as if floating—a vision in lavender trimmed in black lace, dark bonnet curving around her head, a few golden curls escaping. This was indeed the young woman who had visited the prison cell just days ago. The gentleman who had accompanied her that day was back as well.  

Ronan stood, as did his friends, in expectant silence.  

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💖 Happy 17th Anniversary to the Word Wenches! 💖


We're celebrating our 17th anniversary! 

Welcome to our virtual Regency tea party!

A little over 17 years ago, Mary Jo Putney, Susan King, and author and web-guru Eileen Buckholtz Wordwenches logo met in a restaurant to catch up and toss around some ideas. Eileen suggested a group blog–not something we'd thought much about. We took the idea to Patricia Rice, and it grew quickly from there. Soon we were joined by a few good friends, including the (late and wonderful) Jo Beverley and Edith Layton, and on May 22, 2006, we launched the Word Wenches blog. Since then, our roster has changed now and again. Eventually we were joined by Andrea Penrose, Anne Gracie, Nicola Cornick, and Christina Courtenay. Today, we're still delivering blogs about our favorite subjects–books, writing, history, romance, and whatever else comes to mind–to our favorite people: you, our readers. 

We want to thank YOU for following the blog, commenting, reading our books, and enjoying what we do. We wouldn't be here as bloggers or as authors without our readers! 

Today we've organized a Regency tea party — and you're invited! Come with us to the home of newlyweds Arabella and Richard (conjured just for the occasion). We're all bringing goodies and housewarming gifts — what would you bring? Join the party!  And be sure to leave a comment below for a chance to win a book — we'll choose a few readers at random from among the comments!

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