Islands in the North

Orkney oneChristina here and I have once again been travelling in search of inspiration for my stories – this time to the Orkney Islands! These are situated in the far north of the UK, in between the Scottish mainland and Shetland, and the journey involved a 12-hour road trip by car with another hour and a half by ferry. It was worth every second!

As always, I was on the trail of the Vikings and they settled in the Orkney Islands during the 8th and 9th centuries (possibly before that). If you sail in a straight westerly direction from the southern part of Norway you end up either in Orkney or Shetland, and it was an easy journey in a Viking longship, only a couple of days’ sailing. Therefore, it made sense that it was one of the first places the Vikings went to when they set off on their adventures.

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Once a Laird

Once a LairdAnne here, and today I'm interviewing Mary Jo about ONCE A LAIRD, her final book in the "Rogues Redeemed" series, which was based around five men held captive in a cellar in wartime, facing execution as spies in the morning. Of course they escaped and lived to tell some wonderful tales.  (Ramsay was using the name Chantry at that time for various sneaky reasons.)

Once a Laird is about Ramsay, who made the biggest impression on me in Once a Scoundrel, where he was instrumental in freeing three ladies from a harem in Constantinople after they'd been taken hostage by Barbary pirates. I've been waiting for his story ever since.

There have been some lovely reviews of Once a Laird."  Here's one from Booklist:

"In the latest splendidly crafted addition to her Rogues Redeemed series, Putney (Once Dishonored, 2020) brilliantly utilizes all of the key elements her readers crave—engaging characters, an expertly evoked setting, an intriguingly different story line, even a quintessential cat—and the result is another exemplary-in-every-way romance.” – Booklist


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Northern Isles: Shetland

Shetland relief mapby Mary Jo

I've already blogged about the RNA conference in Leeds and our wonderful visit to Orkney. Now it's time for the last chapter of our journey: Shetland, the island group that is the farthest northern reach of the archipelago that is Great Britain. The islands are due west of Norway, and the ties between Norway and Shetland are ancient and deep. Shetland has over 100 islands, about 15 of which are inhabited.

Like Orkney, Shetland was never a Celtic land, and the ancient language was Norn, which influences the present day dialect. Our fine driver/guide, Grant Redfern, said that when he had Norwegian customers, they could understand him, but to his annoyance, he couldn't understand when they spoke in Norwegian. <G>

IMG_3384Shetland is the farthest northern splash of the archipelago that is the British Isles, and Shetland is closer to Bergen, Norway than it is to Edinburgh. Smack dab in the middle of the sea routes from Norway, it was a jumping off place for Viking western explorations.


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Viking Scotland

Pat here:

PuffinsAs our regular readers know, I traveled with Mary Jo into the wilds of Scotland—Orkney and Shetland, (map) not the Highlands. Mary Jo wanted to see ponies, puffins, seals, and farm crofts. I wanted to see Neolithic ruins and castles. Both of us did our best to sample the culture, the Croft housedialects, and the distinct differences in landscape. I’m not sure what that says about us, but we’ll never completely cover all that northern Scotland has to offer.

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Northern Isles: Orkney

IMG_3172By Mary Jo

After the fun of the RNA conference, it was time for the tourist part of this trip, which meant flying to the far north of the UK: Orkney and even farther north, Shetland. Fellow Wench Pat Rice and I flew to Orkney from Manchester with our husbands The Mayhem Consultant (mine) and The IT Guy (Pat's.)

The islands have been settled for at least 8500 years, first by various Neolithic groups, then by Norsemen in the 9th century CE. The Norwegian king pledged Orkney and Shetland as a temporary dowry for his daughter, Margaret of Denmark, but he never reclaimed it by paying the agreed upon dowry so the Scottish Parliament annexed the islands in 1472 and Scotland .Orkney.Wikicommons.jpgthey've been part of Scotland ever since. (Map courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.)

Both island groups differ from the rest of Scotland because their roots are Norse, not Gaelic, and for centuries they spoke the now extinct Norn language. Gaelic became an overlay after the Scottish annexation, and later still, English. But even today, there is a local dialect with roots in Norn. One of the first things our wonderful guide, Lorna Brown, said was that she would speak to us in standard English, which isn't the way she spoke at home.

We spent three days in Orkney with Lorna and had fabulous sunny and mild weather. By the end, I was ready to move there. <G> Though I'm sure I'd feel differently in the very short days and long nights of a far northern winter!


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