Here on Linda’s Book Bag I feature all manner of books from all kinds of publishers, but in almost six years of blogging I’ve rarely featured one from a Mills and Boon author. I decided it was high time I rectified that omission and with a brand new series under way, I invited Sarah Mallory to stay in with me to chat about it. Luckily Sarah agreed to join me.
Staying in with Sarah Mallory
Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag Sarah. Thank you for agreeing to stay in with me.
Thanks for asking me – always a pleasure to meet up and natter 😊. And since I have only recently moved into my current home, I thought I’d share with you one of the things that persuaded me this was the house for me… this little area of bookshelves hidden away under the stairs – it’s where I keep old and much-loved books that I like to return to again and again.
Oh my goodness. That is just fabulous. I’m very jealous.
And I hope you like dogs, because I have brought my faithful companion, Willow. He is a whippet, and although he loves to run he is sooo lazy, and lies in my office for hours while I write.
Willow is very welcome too Sarah. I hope he won’t be fazed by all the cat ornaments and pictures here! So, tell me, which of your books have you brought along to share this evening and why have you chosen it?
This is Forbidden to the Highland Laird. It is my first ever Scottish Highland romance and has just been published by Harlequin/Mills & Boon. I chose this book because writing it was a project very close to my heart. You see, I moved to the Scottish Highlands a couple of years ago, and immediately found myself inspired by the landscape and the culture. I have been itching to write something set here ever since. And this is only the first….
Oo. I like the sound of this. We’ve just bought a motorhome and the Scottish Highlands are on our list of places to visit. What can we expect from an evening in with Forbidden to the Highland Laird?
Ooh, romance, adventure, hopefully a few smiles! I have been writing Regency and Georgian romantic adventures for years, both as Sarah Mallory and Melinda Hammond (my alter ego and original pen name. All my Melinda Hammond books and short stories are self published) but this is my first novel set in the Scottish Highlands, and it has been a whole new learning curve!
It must be quite confusing having two names Sarah! Tell me more about Forbidden to the Highland Laird.
First and foremost it is a romance, but with a rich historical background. The Scottish Highlands in the early 18th century were a world away from Georgian Edinburgh or London, where the Enlightenment, the Age of Reason, was bringing new ideas about science, education and all aspects of life. Life in the Highlands was still very much dependent upon the clan system. Family and kinship were very important
There was a rich culture of music and story-telling that continues to this day. It was listening to a traditional Scottish harpist that was the first inspiration for my story and for Ailsa, my heroine.
Here is the moment Logan first sees Ailsa:
They had left Ardvarrick land and were travelling through thick woods when he heard it, a bright tinkling sound that at first he thought was water in the burn, but as they moved on the sounds grew louder. He recognised a melody. Someone was playing a harp, the sweet, clear notes carrying to him on the slight breeze. The path continued through the woods, but to one side the pines thinned out and the ground fell away to the edge of a loch whose waters reflected the clear blue of the sky. And sitting on the rocks at the side of the loch was a young woman. Logan silently waved to his men to stop. From the shelter of the trees he watched her playing the harp, the sun glinting off the silver strings as they moved beneath her fingers. It was a very agreeable picture and her appearance was much in keeping with the surroundings. Her kirtle and cape echoed the varied greens of the lush grass while her long hair was reddish brown and gold, like the autumn moors and the bracken that covered the hill slopes on the far side of the loch
Right. That’s it. I’m packing up the motorhome and am on my way! Wonderful description Sarah!
The harp, or clàrsach, was one of the earliest musical instruments and there is a fine example of an early Harp belonging to Mary Queen of Scots in the National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh and I based Ailsa’s harp on this one.
Another moment of inspiration came when I visited Strome Castle, although there is very little left of it now. I know there are many much more impressive castles around Scotland and I have visited lots of them, but when I stood within the remaining walls of Strome Castle and looked out over Loch Carron I immediately pictured someone imprisoned here. The book was little more than a vague idea at that stage, but scenes were beginning to emerge, and it was turning into a cracking adventure!
That scene made it into the book, and here is a small snippet from it:
When Ailsa woke again the moon was rising and relieving the darkness with a grey-blue light. The scratchy plaid that acted as her blanket was pulled up around her face and smelled even more malodorous. Her nose wrinkled. These plaids were worn by men for days on end. During the day, half of it was fastened with a belt around the waist as a kilt and the rest thrown over the shoulder, to be used as a cape in bad weather. At night it could be wrapped around its owner if they were obliged to sleep in the open. No wonder, then, that it smelt so bad.
She sat up suddenly, her mind racing. Dragging the makeshift blanket from the bed, she pulled the edge of it through her fingers, counting the lengths. It was what, four, five yards long? She tugged at the woven material. Could she trust it?
Ailsa dragged the plaid across to the window, where she took one of the ends and forced it several times over the spike where she had tied her petticoat. Then she bundled up the rest and threw it out of the window. The paid dangled down, shifting slightly in the breeze. It stopped several feet short of the narrow grassy verge. It was impossible in the gloom to work out just how far from the ground it ended. She would have to let go and hope she did not break a bone when she landed.
A sudden laugh shook her. What was she thinking? It was most likely she would lose her grip while climbing down and tumble to her death. She should worry about the final drop if and when she reached it. And even if she did survive the fall, she could not swim. She would have to make her way over the jagged rocks and hope the water was not too deep for her to wade through it and reach land. Another problem that must wait until it arose.
Hitching up her skirts, she scrambled on to the window ledge.
You can’t just stop there Sarah. I need to know what happens next. Thank goodness I have a copy of Forbidden to the Highland Laird waiting to be read.
What else have you brought along and why?
I thought I’d treat you to some of the food my characters might have eaten. First there is Caboc, reputed to be Scotland’s oldest form of cheese. It is a rich cream cheese, formed into a log shape and rolled in oatmeal. I’ve also brought oatmeal bannocks to eat with it. Afterwards there is a favourite of mine, Cranachan – Scottish raspberries gently folded into whipped cream and honey, along with toasted oatmeal that has been steeped in, what else, whisky.
And to wash it down? Well for those who aren’t driving I have brought Uisge Beatha, which is the Gaelic for whisky. Slàinte mhath!
I’m not a big drinker of spirits Sarah but I am VERY fond of cheese and Cranachan. You get the plates and serve up some of the food and I’ll tell everyone a bit more about Forbidden to the Highland Laird. Thanks so much for staying in with me tonight to chat all about it.
Thanks for having me Linda.
Forbidden to the Highland Laird
A Scottish beauty…
Lures the Laird to sin!
Exchanging elegant Society balls for clan wars, Logan Rathmore has returned to Scotland as the new Laird of Ardvarrick. Peace is within grasp when he meets musician Ailsa McInnis from a rival clan. Her stubborn pride and innocence fascinate him – but with her now under his protection, he must do nothing to abuse her trust. The fragile peace is dependent on his being able to resist the forbidden temptation she presents…
Published in ebook by Mills and Boon on 26th November 2020, Forbidden to the Highland Laird is available for purchase through these links.
About Sarah Mallory
Sarah Mallory writes Historical romantic adventures. She lives high on the moors in West Yorkshire, England, where she finds inspiration in the spectacular scenery. She has written over 20 books for Harlequin and won the Romantic Novelist Association’s RoNA Rose award in 2012 and 2013 for her Sarah Mallory novels.
Sarah is also the award-winning author Melinda Hammond.