Susan here, with a first look at my upcoming book, The Scottish Bride, to be released in Spring 2024. I just finished revisions and the book is now in production–it's always a relief to reach this phase with a book, when the writing is done and I can relax a little before jumping to the next book. I’ve just seen the gorgeous cover draft, and I'm sharing a sneak peek here (once the cover is finalized, I'll share the entire beautiful thing!). Here's a slice or two of the cover, above and below.
Read on for a little background info . . The Scottish Bride is the first book in my “Highland Secrets” trilogy (and The Forest Bride and The Guardian’s Bride will be released late next year, all from Dragonblade Publishing). The books are so new we don't have links yet! More to come.
In Robert Bruce’s Scotland, three sisters inherit gifts from their kinsman, the soothsayer Thomas the Rhymer, and must protect his legend and legacy—but each sister encounters a Scottish warrior intent on taking the treasure and thwarting the game.
Lady Tamsin Keith escapes a castle tower to avoid marriage—and literally falls into the arms of a mysterious Scottish knight. Sir William Seton, sent by King Edward I to demand the girl's grandfather’s book of prophecies, soon discovers that beautiful Tamsin is a gifted seer, a tad too truthful—and the most stubborn woman he has ever met. His forfeited lands, his wolfhounds, his very life depend on bringing the Rhymer’s book to the enemy king, yet Tamsin is unwilling to trust the knight who begins to thrill her lonely heart. Liam has a secret plan for her bothersome book, even as he falls for the lady’s headstrong charm…but first he and Tamsin must find the missing prophecies—and face a powerful foe who would tear down all they treasure.
The Scottish Bride is set in 1306, the year that Robert Bruce claimed the throne of Scotland and became a renegade king, hunted by Edward I’s troops even as he gathered a rebel faction for the cause of Scotland. By that time, Thomas the Rhymer was widely known, one of those intriguing legendary figures from
history who actually lived. His presence as an off-stage character in The Scottish Bride mingles fact, legend, and a fictional spin. What a privilege, and what fun, to put my own spin on True Thomas’s tale.
A few medieval documents record him as “Thomas Rymour de Ercildoune” (Earlston today) and as Thomas
Learmont, living on a modest property in Learmont Tower near the Eildon Hills in the Scottish Borders. As a laird, harper, singer, poet, and prophet, he was born in 1220 or earlier and died in 1298, and he became legendary for his predictions and for a famous ballad of his encounter with a faery queen. Today several local sites near Earlston and the Eildon Hills retain his name—a tower ruin, a cave, a hawthorn tree, a stone, a stretch of moorland, and more. Little is known of his family, although documents indicate he had at least one son and heir, another Thomas Learmont.
As a young man, Thomas sat under a hawthorn tree one day playing his harp when the Queen of Faery rode by, bells on her saddle and a glow all about her; in some versions, she is the Queen of Elfland. Inviting Thomas to ride, she lured him through a portal in the Eildon Hills. For seven earthly years he was her captive lover there, and when he emerged from the hillside, he returned with a gift of prophecy and the ability, or perhaps curse, of only uttering the truth.
In the ballad, the queen says to him —
Oh do you see yon bonnie, bonnie roadThat lies across the ferny brae? That is the road to fair Elfland Where you and I this night must go …
The tale exists in many versions, from an original ballad said to be composed by Thomas, through literary studies and novels in our own time (among others, his life is most notably and wonderfully told by Nigel Tranter and also Ellen Kushner). (Click here for a version of his ballad performed by Steeleye Span.)
As a poet, Thomas authored a long epic poem in Middle English, Sir Tristem, based on the old Arthurian tale of Tristan and Iseult. He worked with kings, nobles, and common people alike, and his reputation for foretelling the future in verse was legendary in his own time. Many of his prophecies proved true, some foretelling events that occurred much later. He predicted the death of the Scots King Alexander III days before it happened, when the king and his horse fell from a cliffside in a raging thunderstorm—a tragic event that triggered a lost Scottish monarchy, King Edward’s predatory advance, and Bruce's eventual kingship.
A contemporary of Robert Bruce, William Wallace, and King Edward I, Thomas witnessed the turmoil surrounding King Edward’s invasive demands on Scotland as the Wars of Independence began. Another facet of the Rhymer’s legend—perhaps with a grain of truth—holds that Thomas acted as a spy for Robert the Bruce in the years before Bruce became king. All this is great fodder for medieval adventure-romance and great fun to explore as I write this new trilogy!
The history of Scotland, and the Wars of Independence in particular, fascinate me as a fiction writer and historian. I always strive for accurate research in my novels (years of grad school pounded that into me!) — and I hope my books conjure an authentic sense of what it felt like to live in Scotland in earlier times. That, along with good stories that mix deep research and heartfelt romance featuring characters who find love and purpose, is what I hope readers will always take away from my books.
The Scottish Bride will be released in Spring 2024. I’m looking forward to sharing more about the book—and its sister stories, The Forest Bride and The Guardian’s Bride—in the coming months! And I promise to share the whole cover (and the other covers in the series) – as soon as I can!
Do you read medieval-set novels, or Scottish historicals, often? Have you heard much about Thomas the Rhymer? (And were you a huge fan, as I was, of Steeleye Span?)