Friday, May 27, 2016

Bagpipes...The Soul of Scotland

 As long as it’s Scottish/Highlander month on my blog, I’d best say a word about the pipes that play the music that has become the mournful soul of Scotland, particularly the Highlands. Most people assume bagpipes originated in Scotland, but in fact the Romans introduced them to the Scots.

The early Romans used them as outdoor instruments during the building of roads or gathering of the harvest. Pipers would march through the village to announce the beginning of the workday. They also used them during religious ceremonies for the sacrifices to the gods and for funerals.

Early Roman soldiers, and later the Scots, used the bagpipe as an instrument of war to rouse the men, and they are still viewed that way by some today. The resonating sound of the pipes can be heard up to ten miles away so they were an effective call to arms. Unfortunately, after the Battle of Culloden in 1745, the English saw them as such and outlawed their use. Their haunting music was not heard for many years. But something so much a part of the Scottish culture could not be denied forever.

What are Bagpipes?

Bagpipes are musical instruments classified as aerophones, or reed instruments that utilize an air reservoir. The reservoir allows an uninterrupted stream of air to be directed through the reeds. The bagpipe arose from the desire to make reed instruments easier to play, especially for lengthy spells. An early version of the bagpipes was constructed using animal skin. The hollow leg bones of small animals were attached to the instrument with holes drilled into them. These holes gave the player the ability to play various pitches and tones.

Cantiga bagpipes, Spain 13th century
Ancient Origins

While there several theories about the first bagpipes, many scholars believe they originated somewhere in the in the Middle East before the time of Christ, in Mesopotamia, Sumeria, or perhaps even India or Persia, in the form of a crude instrument comprised of reeds stuck into a goatskin bag.

Various forms of bagpipes appear in ancient records in many parts of the western world, including a reference from 425 BC in the play The Acharnians by the Greek playwright Aristophanes. 

The Oxford History of Music claims that a sculpture of bagpipes was found on a Hittite slab at Eyuk in the Middle East, dated to 1000 B.C.

While there is strong evidence that the Romans and Greeks had early versions of bagpipes, the exact form isn’t well documented. The instruments themselves were made entirely or almost entirely of organic materials (wood, bones and skins) and not durable in the long-term. They tended to be instruments of the "common" people, and were likely used outdoors and without concern for their preservation. 
Angus Mackay, piper to Queen Victoria

Regardless, the Romans are credited by most for bringing the bagpipes to Scotland and other parts of the world. When the Victorians became enamored with all things Scottish, even the English Queen Victoria took up the music with her own piper. She established the position of Royal Piper in 1843 after visiting the Marquess of Breadalbane at Taymouth Castle to discover the Marquess had his own piper.

Personally, I love the sound of the pipes and the Highland dress that usually accompanies their playing is a beautiful sight. To me, the pipes are the music of Scotland’s soul.

My Scottish historical romance, Rebel Warrior, will sweep you away to the Scotland of old and to the royal seat of Malcolm, King of Scots. 

Available on Amazon: US: Amazon and UK: Amazon

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Review: Elizabeth English’s THE BORDER BRIDE – Treachery, Betrayal and Love in 14th century Scotland

Set in 1375, mostly in Scotland, this is the story of Alyson Bowden, bastard half-sister to Lady Maude Darnley of the English Darleys. Alyson, a maid in the Darnley household, is forced by her father, Lord Darley, to take her half-sister’s identity to satisfy a promise he made. The promise was to their enemies, the Kirallens—to give “his daughter” to them in marriage to end their long cross-border feud. He would never give them Maude, the daughter he values, but he will give them Alyson, who agrees only to save her young brother whose life Darnley has threatened.

I liked this story from the beginning, not only the concept, but the way the author drew me into Alyson’s predicament. The man she was forced to wed, Jemmy Kirallen, the disfavored son of his father but with his brother’s death, now the heir, believed her to be the haughty Maude, but he wondered at times when “Maude” would become more intelligent, inquisitive and passionate in his arms.

Alyson holds Jemmy at bay, believing she will soon be free and can return to her brother. And he believes the same of her but wants to leave her with child before he returns to his first love, the sea.

Alyson quickly comes to love her new husband (and given what a great guy he is, one can see why!) However, she fears telling him the truth—that Darnley plans an attack on the Kirallens—knowing Darnley has threatened the life of her young brother. 
Kindle cover
There isn’t much history in this story but there is certainly enough story to hold your interest. While it slowed in the middle, there were many twists and turns, including a foster brother whose story will be told in book 2, Stephen, the Kirallen ghost who haunts the keep and who was stabbed in the back by Darnley (and the tragic story of Alyson’s mother) and some endearing children.

It’s a picture of life in the Borderlands, of English and Scots warring for many years. And it’s the story of love that can heal many hurts. Lovers of Scottish historical romance will find depth here and enough story to keep them turning pages.

Buy on Amazon.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Review: Arnette Lamb’s THREADS OF DESTINY – Post Culloden Treachery & and a Scottish Woman’s Love for an Englishman

This is the first book in Lamb’s Clan Mackenzie series. Set in 1760, initially in London and then in Scotland, it’s the story of Lady Suisan Harper who has come from her home in Scotland to steal from one Myles Cunningham the patterns for her clan’s tartans he hides in his basement.

Early on, it is made clear Myles is innocent of any thievery and it’s her uncle, Robert, who is the culprit. The possession of the tartan patterns is a crime under English law and Robert wants to frame Myles and see him hung. Suisan, dyes her red hair black to work undercover in Myles London home as a maid. Then she willingly becomes his mistress, so I guess it was a good thing he was not the culprit she initially believed him to be. But only we, the readers, know that, so she’s sleeping with the enemy.

The idea of an undercover maid, while not new, was intriguing, but I kept wondering why Myles didn’t notice his “maid” had the speech and manners of a lady, which she must have had. Her attitude was anything but subservient. And then there was Myles… sleeping with the help with no thought of making bastards or how to take care of the woman whose innocence he had knowingly taken. How heroic is that? When Suisan’s own maid tells her “it was time you became a woman”, I nearly gagged. No lady’s maid would express such a thought in the 18th century, knowing the consequences for her mistress. But, ah well…

Lamb does a good job with the historical detail and has obviously done her homework on weaving and cloth dyes of the period. Kudos to her for that.

The heroine’s character seemed to waiver between a strong, determined woman who refused to become Myles’ “whore” (her word) and then gladly saunters off to his bed, uncaring for the consequences. My, what a change, all in the space of a few days! And, once in Scotland, everything (and I do mean everything) made her think of Myles who she’d up and left in London.

But from then on it was an exciting story. For those who love Lamb’s stories, this first is a must.

Buy on Amazon
New Cover
The Clan Mackenzie series:

Threads of Destiny
Highland Rogue
True Heart

Friday, May 20, 2016

When the King of Scots Married a Saint

Malcolm greeting Margaret in Scotland
There once lived a fierce warrior King of Scots who married a young Saxon princess who was destined to become Scotland’s only royal saint. 

The love story of Margaret of Wessex, and Malcolm Canmore (Malcolm III) of Scotland is truly the story of the beauty and the beast.

Both Margaret and Malcolm are characters in my new medieval romance, Rebel Warrior, set in Scotland in the late 11th century and released just this week!

When Margaret and her family sought refuge in Scotland after the Norman Conquest, she was in her early twenties; Malcolm was nearly twice her age. Margaret was not only beautiful with flaxen hair and sky blue eyes she was also devout, given to prayer, fasting and charitable works. If she had been given her choice, she would have chosen the cloistered life, along with her younger sister Cristina, who ultimately became an abbess. But it was not to be.

In 1057, Malcolm had murdered his way to the throne. According to St. Berchan, Malcolm was a “vigilant crusher of enemies”. He was also ruthless in his plundering of Northumbria, which he considered to be his territory (the border between Scotland and England being not so fixed then as it is today).

All this said, when the “beast” glimpsed the “beauty” Margaret, he was smitten and wanted her for his queen. He leaned on her younger brother, Edgar the Atheling (heir to the English throne were it not for the Conqueror), bargaining Scotland's support for Edgar in exchange for Margaret's hand. Edgar, needing an ally and safety for his mother and sisters, agreed to the match.

We know that Margaret was initially opposed to the marriage. She had been gently bred, first in Hungary where her father was a prince in exile, and then in England where Edward the Confessor summoned her father when Margaret was ten. In England, young Margaret led a devout life, praying and reading the Scriptures in Latin, learning French and busying herself with needlework.
Margaret and her brother, Edgar (left)
When Edward the Confessor died, Harold of Wessex was named King of England, only to be slain by the Norman Conqueror at Hastings. It was then that Margaret’s young brother, Edgar, was named king—but never crowned because the Normans took over England.

Margaret’s family fled to Scotland where they sought refuge. And that is what brought her to Malcolm’s attention. Perhaps Margaret believed that God—whose will she ever sought to obey—had a purpose for her life different from that she had first envisioned. That might have been what persuaded her to accept Malcolm’s suit. In any event, in 1070, she became Malcolm’s queen, devoted to her warrior husband and to improving the lot of the poor Scots and Saxons who gathered in Dunfermline around the royal seat. That she left a lasting legacy cannot be denied. In 1250, she was made St. Margaret.

In the more than twenty years they were married (until they died within days of each other), Margaret gave her husband six sons and two daughters. Three would become Kings of the Scots and one daughter would become a Queen of England. That Margaret’s rough, warrior husband deferred to her, at least in matters of their family, can be seen in the names given their sons—Edward, Edmund, Ethelred, Edgar, Alexander and David. Perhaps, in agreeing to such names, Malcolm saw the potential for his sons to one day claim the throne of England, for as long as Margaret’s younger brother, Edgar, remained unmarried and childless, which he did, his rights to rule England would be transmitted through Margaret to her children.

Margaret was an intelligent beauty, arguing with the Scottish clerics about what she saw as errors in their religious observances that differed from what Rome prescribed. While Malcolm was illiterate and Margaret read to him, she spoke Gaelic poorly and he spoke it well, often interpreting for her when she held councils to debate with the clerics. Because she treasured her copy of the Gospels, Malcolm had it encased in gold and decorated with jewels. Not a bad gift for a rough, warlike man.

Margaret cared for the orphans and poor, often pillaging her husband’s gold to aid them. This amused, but did not anger, him. He even joined her in ministering to the less fortunate. Margaret was a loving mother and a devoted wife all the days of her life. I like to think their unlikely match was one made in Heaven. Margaret, I have no doubt, would agree.
I did hundreds of hours of research for Rebel Warrior, many hours devoted to understanding Margaret and Malcolm so I could properly set my characters in the royal court. I hope you enjoy meeting them!

“Master storytelling transports you to medieval Scotland!”
         Paula Quinn, NY Times Bestselling Author

When your destiny lies far from where you began …

Scotland 1072

The Norman Conqueror robbed Steinar of Talisand of his noble father and his lands, forcing him to flee to Scotland while still recovering from a devastating wound. At the royal court, Steinar becomes scribe to the unlettered King of Scots while secretly regaining his skill with a sword.

The first time Steinar glimpses the flame-haired maiden, Catrìona of the Vale of Leven, he is drawn to her spirited beauty. She does not fit among the ladies who serve the devout queen. Not pious, not obedient and not given to stitchery, the firebrand flies a falcon! Though Catrìona captures Steinar’s attention, he is only a scribe and she is promised to another.

Catrìona has come to Malcolm’s court wounded in spirit from the vicious attack on her home by Northmen who slayed her parents and her people. But that is not all she will suffer. The man she thought to wed will soon betray her.

When all is lost, what hope is there for love? Can a broken heart be mended? Can a damaged soul be healed?

Rebel Warrior on Amazon US and UK
On Goodreads 
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Regan's website and Facebook

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Review: Parris Afton Bonds’ THE CAPTIVE – Classic Tale of Love in the Highlands After the Battle of Culloden

Set in 1751, this is a post-Culloden tale from the Highlands, the story of Ranald Kincairn, Laird of Clan Cameron whose brothers were killed by the English and whose sister they raped. He wants revenge. His plan is to abduct the virgin bride of the new English “Lord Lieutenant of the Western Highlands”—the man who raped his sister—and plant within her a Highlander babe, then send her back. The bride is Enya, a Lowland Scot from Ayrshire whose family, the Aftons, sided with the English.

Though Ranald tells Enya he intends to ruin her, it seems it’s just talk as he puts her to work in the clan castle as a scullery maid, but doesn’t lay a hand on her. As time passes, he is a bit inconsistent toward her. First he tells her he won’t touch her, but threatens to give her to his men; then he tells her no one will take her against her will; finally, he beds her himself. Ranald is a worthy leader of his clan and respected by all. Of course, Enya falls for him.

There are two other romances tied to Ranald and Enya’s—Enya’s mother and the man she has loved since she was 15, and Ranald’s sister and Duncan, a Lowland Scot who came with Enya.

There’s an exciting scene at the end when the villain shows up to reclaim his bride.

Bonds brings to life the Highlands and the struggle to survive after the terrible devastation the English brought about after Culloden as the Highlanders are hunted and the English are determined to wipe out the clans.

And, should you be curious, yes, there is a tie in with the author and the name “Afton” which the author explains in a note before the story.

Buy on Amazon

Monday, May 16, 2016

Review: Iris Johansen’ THE MAGNIFICENT ROGUE – A Scottish Rogue to Love, a Tale to Savor—a Keeper!

Set in 16th century England and Scotland, this is a magnificent tale of strength born of hardship and love that develops even when denied.

He was the Black Robert of Craighdhu, a remote island castle in Scotland, where he was laird. Half Spanish and experienced in their tortures as well as their pleasures, he'd been a pirate and had incurred both the praise and anger of Queen Elizabeth, who has now seized him for another assignment: The Queen wants him to wed Kathryn Kentyre who, he is told, is Queen Mary's illegitimate daughter.

Kathryn ("Kate"), now 16, has been raised in seclusion by a vicar who is going insane and beats her. She is bent on escape. But Robert McDarren will find her and handfast with her and then sweep her away to his castle in the Highlands where he intends to keep her for only a year. For he knows who she is threatens Craighdhu and he will do anything to protect his lands and his people.  

You won't regret reading this one. It is well written and the characters wonderful—and the plot believable. The action will draw you into the world of treachery, envy, betrayal and deception that existed at the time of Queen Elizabeth and King James.
A romance well worth re-reading—a keeper!

Buy on Amazon.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Review: Madeline Martin’s DECEPTION OF A HIGHLANDER – Steamy Story of Treachery and Danger in the Highlands

Set in 1604, this is the story of Mariel Brandon, who, on the death of her parents and to feed herself and her younger brother, becomes a seducer of men to learn their secrets for an evil man named Aaron. Her latest assignment (that will hopefully set her brother free) is to seduce a Scottish laird, Kieran MacDonald, and find the whereabouts of Blair and Dougal Hampton, who are under Kieran’s protection.

Mariel attaches herself to Kieran and convinces him to take her with him when he leaves London for Skye. Though she continually tries to get him into her bed, he resists for reasons that are unclear. He wasn’t meant to be laird, but at his older brother’s death, has assumed the role.

This is very definitely a steamy romance and a well written one. While there is attention paid to historical detail (which I much appreciated), and a mystery surrounds the two Mariel hunts for, the focus is clearly on the will he-won’t-he seduction of Kieran.

Once in Skye, Mariel tries to be useful, even spending a day dying clothes with blue woad die. The people are initially mistrusting of her, but she wins them over, managing to save a child from a horse. Oh, and she also speaks fluent Gaelic but does not let the people know. You have to feel sympathy for Mariel given her hard life.

Kieran’s sidekicks, Colin and Alec, are worthy of note. One a ladies man and the other a brooding Scot, they add dimension to Kieran.

All in all, if you like romances that dwell on the steamy side, this may be the one for you!

Buy on Amazon.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

ROGUE KNIGHT on Sale for 99¢! And REBEL WARRIOR almost here!

For one week only (May 10-16), Rogue Knight is on sale on Amazon (US and UK) for 99¢! 

It’s a special for those of you who have read The Red Wolf’s Prize, book 1 in my award winning Medieval Warriors series, but have yet to pick up book 2. It’s a great way to get ready for Rebel Warrior, book 3, to be released May 17.

 You can preorder Rebel Warrior now on Amazon.

Or, if you like, pick up the series thus far! On Amazon.

What the readers say:

"WOW! WOW! WOW! The Red Wolf's Prize is an absolutely spectacular medieval read! Totally got swept off my feet! Loved it! Beware this book is definitely one for the keeper shelf!"
                                  -- Tartan Book Reviews   

 "Beautifully written, perfectly paced, action packed, with a passionate and epic love affair...what more could you ask for? 5 stars."      -- The Book Review
“Rogue Knight is yet another brilliant novel from Regan Walker. She is a master of her craft. Her novels instantly draw you in, keep you reading and leave you with a smile on your face.”   -- Good Friends, Good Books

“... flawlessly crafted…”   -- We Who Write

And from an early reviewer of Rebel Warrior:

“Ms. Walker has written another WOW, Medieval Romance. Fast paced, action packed story of betrayal, passion, destiny, fate, healing, romance and finding peace and a HEA. Walker is a talented storyteller, who pulls readers into the story and holds them transfixed. A page turning Medieval Romance!”    
                                                       My Book Addiction

An excerpt from Rebel Warrior:
As they approached the last ridge where they would begin their descent to the River Clyde, instead of the quiet she expected, men’s shouts, cries of terror and women’s screams rent the air.
Urging her pony forward, she reached the crest and slid her feet to the ground. Wide-eyed, she stared into chaos fifty feet below where two longships with dragonheads carved into their stems were belching forth silver-helmed warriors wielding axes, swords and spears.
The longhaired raiders shouted what sounded like battle cries as they ran across the sand toward her father’s hillfort, ruthlessly cutting down her father’s men as if butchering cattle.
Men moaned as they fell, pierced through with spears and swords, grunting their last as blood spurted from their bellies.
Unarmed servants shrieked as axes sank into their backs.
Panicked women ran in all directions, shouting for their children.
Catrìona’s heart raced and her mouth gaped as she watched the unfolding terror. She gripped the seax at her waist. “A Dhia m'anam!” God preserve us! “I must go to them!”
Angus pulled her back from the crest. “Keep away from the edge lest they see ye. The bushes provide scant cover.” Grabbing up the reins of the horses, he led them away from the ridge.
“But—” She looked toward the crest, unable to see but desperate to know if her father’s men prevailed. “I want to help…”
“Ye can do nothing fer them, milady,” Angus said in a low voice as he returned to her. “Stay down. We can only await the end of it.”
Fear of the brutal Northmen warred with the desire to help those she loved. Rising panic nearly overtook her as she remembered what she had heard of Norse raids. But what help could she offer? In the face of so many bloodthirsty warriors, she would only become another victim. Angus, sworn to protect her, might die trying to prevent her death.
With the sounds of the mayhem ringing loud in her ears, Catrìona dropped to the ground and crawled on her belly to the edge of the rise, pulling her hood over her flame-colored hair to blend with the shrubs.
Angus came to join her, lying on his stomach in the grass. “Are ye certain ye want to see this?”