My current book, In the Heart of the Highlander, is set in Scotland, but I regret to say it’s not in the bare-chested, plaid-wearing, sword-wielding era so beloved of romance cover artists and readers. I like a bare chest as well as anyone, and “dinna fash yerself” is just fine. But my characters inhabit an Edwardian world where there is some formality and plenty of civilization to keep them contained. Buttoned up. Laced.
My hero, Lord Alec Raeburn may be an expert at unbuttoning and unlacing, but he’s required to keep his hands to himself by his heroine, Mary Arden Evensong. They are plotting to bring a villain down, and hanky-panky would be most unwise. But wisdom is sometimes overrated, and before too long Mary and Alec are enjoying a hot Highland night.
I’ve been to Scotland many times, and the trip this summer was especially fabulous. We stayed at the Atholl Palace Hotel in Pitlochry, which was the inspiration for the setting of Highlander, my fictitious Forsyth Palace Hotel in Pitcarran. (There are limits to my imagination, LOL.) When the gorgeous building was first constructed, it was a hydropathic spa, where you could get rubbed and buffed and bathed for your health. Here’s the link to information on the hotel’s history: http://www.athollpalace.com/pitlochry_history.php
We think of spas as modern institutions, but the Highlands were rife with them at the turn of the twentieth century. People couldn’t wait to leave the smog of industrialized England behind and breathe in fresh Scottish mountain air. Queen Victoria had made Scotland THE fashionable holiday place, and droves of visitors came every summer to indulge in their golf game, take nature photographs with their new Brownie box cameras, snap up salmon in the sparkling rivers.
Despite the march of time, Scotland still remains unspoiled, one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. I don’t think In the Heart of the Highlander will be the last book I set there, for how can one resist a man in a kilt? Mary sure couldn’t!
“The clacking of the typewriter keys ceased in the outer office. Her girl stenographers were no doubt swooning—discreetly, she hoped—as Lord Raeburn made his way to her inner sanctum. It was with the greatest difficulty that Mary stopped herself from swooning along with them as Oliver opened the door to announce Lord Raeburn.
As if one wouldn’t notice the man. A woman would have to be blind or dead not to respond to the man’s physical presence.
For one thing, he was more or less a giant, but in the best possible way. Mary had been to a fair once that advertised ‘the tallest man in Britain,’ but the poor fellow had been the ugliest man in Britain as well. Lord Raeburn was not ugly, except perhaps for his attire. He wore a walking kilt in his family’s tartan, an unfortunate combination of yellow and black that reminded Mary of angry bees. But his black jacket molded his massive shoulders and matched his longish hair and neatly-trimmed beard. Mary was not at all fond of beards, but somehow she didn’t think Lord Raeburn was hiding a weak chin. His eyes looked black as well, giving her and her office intense scrutiny while she stumbled to her feet and extended a hand.
“Good afternoon, Lord Raeburn,” she said briskly, hoping she could trick herself into feeling as confident as she sounded. “Won’t you sit down? Oliver, bring us in the refreshments we discussed, please.” She needed a stiff drink herself—she was feeling like a giddy schoolgirl. He was gorgeous. No wonder women fell at his feet.
And out his windows.”