The Scottish Bride

Susan here, with a look at my upcoming book, The Scottish Bride, now available on preorder for a June 4 release (just a couple of weeks away!). I’d love to share something about the story and historical background with you. This is a totally NEW novel, never before published! (My previous backlist books, related to these new stories but all independent reads, are recently available as the Celtic Hearts series.)

The Scottish Bride is Book One in my “Highland Secrets” trilogy. Book Two, The Forest Bride, is in editorial production (whew!), and Book Three, The Guardian’s Bride, is in the messy-but-promising writing stage. Scroll down for a sneak peek at their gorgeous covers too. I’ll post more info about those over the summer!

Secrets and heartfelt romance in medieval Scotland . . .
Three sisters of Clan Keith 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.

When Lady Tamsin Keith escapes a castle tower to avoid marriage, she literally falls into the arms of a mysterious Scottish knight—Sir William Seton, sent by King Edward I to demand Thomas the Rhymer’s book of prophecies, said to be in the girl’s possession. Discovering that beautiful Tamsin is a gifted seer, Liam soon learns she is a tad too truthful, exceedingly stubborn, and has lost the Rhymer’s book. . .

But Liam’s forfeited lands and title, his wolfhounds, and his very life depend on bringing those prophecies to the king. Yet Tamsin refuses to trust the knight even as he thrills her lonely heart, even as they travel together to find the missing tome. Liam has a secret plan for that bothersome book—but never counted on falling for the lady’s headstrong allure. They must find the missing prophecies or answer to the king—but when a powerful foe threatens to tear down all they cherish, the only thing worth finding is love . . .

In 1306 (the year Lady Tamsin Keith and Sir Liam Seton are madly chasing and being chased around Scotland), Robert Bruce, Earl of Carrick, claimed the throne of Scotland when he stabbed his rival in a church in a hot dispute. He became a renegade and outlaw, a “king in the heather,” hunted by Edward I’s troops even as he gathered a rebel faction in defense of Scotland against Edward, called “the hammer of the Scots.” At the time, Thomas the Rhymer was well known, an intriguing man whose legend lives on. In my “Highland Secrets” series, Thomas is off-stage, but his legacy and the gifts he bestows on our three heroines are key in the stories. Mingling fact and legend with a fictional spin was a fun privilege as I 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 including Learmont Tower near the Eildon Hills in the Scottish Borders. As a laird, harper, singer, poet, and prophet (c. 1220 – 1298), he was a contemporary of Robert Bruce, William Wallace, Edward I, and witnessed the turmoil of King Edward’s invasion. He was revered for prophecy—and legendary for his encounter with the queen of the faery realm. Local sites near Earlston and the Eildon Hills still retain his name—a ruin, a cave, a hawthorn tree, a moor, and so on. Not much is known of his family, although he had at least one son, another Thomas Learmont (who figures in the stories too).

John Duncan, Riders of the Sidhe, 1911, Dundee

As a young man, Thomas the Rhymer 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. Inviting Thomas to ride, she lured him through a portal in the Eildon Hills. For seven earthly years he was her captive lover. When at last he emerged from the hillside, he had the gift of prophecy and the ability, or perhaps curse, of only speaking the truth. In the very old ballad of his encounter, the queen says to him —
Oh do you see yon bonnie, bonnie road / That lies across the ferny brae?
That is the road to fair Elfland / Where you and I this night must go . . . 

detail, William Brassey Hole, Processional Mural, 1897, Scottish National Portrait Gallery

The original ballad may have been composed by Thomas. He also lives on in literary studies and novels (among others, his life is wonderfully told by Nigel Tranter and also Ellen Kushner). (Click here for Steeleye Span’s version of the old ballad.)

As a poet, Thomas wrote an epic poem, “Sir Tristem,” based on the Arthurian tale of Tristan and Iseult. He worked with kings, nobles, and commoners, and his reputation as a soothsayer was legendary in his own time. Many of his prophecies proved true then and centuries later. He predicted the death of Scots King Alexander III days before the king and his horse fell off a cliff in a thunderstorm. That tragic event triggered a lost Scottish monarchy, King Edward’s predatory advance, and Bruce’s kingship and eventual victory.

This era in Scottish history endlessly fascinates me as a fiction writer and a historian. I strive for accurate research in all my novels (years of grad school pounded that into me!) — and I hope my books conjure authenticity as well as accuracy. I hope readers take away a good feeling from stories that mix deep research and heartfelt romance with characters who seek, and find, love and purpose.

The Scottish Bride will be released soon (you can preorder it now!), and I look forward to sharing more about the book—and its sister stories, The Forest Bride and The Guardian’s Bride—in the coming months. Here’s a peek at those gorgeous covers!

Do you read medieval-set novels, or Scottish historicals? Have you seen the movies Braveheart or Outlaw King, set in the same time period as my new series? Do you know much about Thomas the Rhymer, or are you a fan of Steeleye Span? Years ago, I had all their albums! 

6 thoughts on “The Scottish Bride”

    • Thank you, Mary Jo! I feel so lucky to have such beautiful covers – and happy to have a bunch of new heroes and heroines to go with them!

      Reply
  1. Yes to Scottish historicals! Yes to both movies (and others)! Yes to Steeleye Span! And Yes to your gorgeous covers, especially the first — I can’t wait to meet that dog!

    Reply
  2. I love how your Scottish historicals come to life as I read through them. This trilogy looks and sounds intriguing. I was fascinated by the portrait Riders of the Sidhe, particularly the creatures that seem to blend right into the background colors. I enjoy the “past” connections to the fairy realm in medieval stories. I can’t wait to meet people!

    Reply
  3. Those covers are definitely gorgeous! I love the story of Thomas the Rhymer. Ellen Kushner’s book was so good (a keeper). Can’t wait to read these books.

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