Nicola here. Last year I was fortunate enough to spend a holiday in the Scottish Borders. It's a stunningly beautiful part of the UK with dramatic scenery and a tumultuous history. I remember thinking that you could not get a better setting for a historical series packed full of passion and adventure. Then I heard about Blythe Gifford's new trilogy, set in the Borders during the Tudor era and I could not wait to get her to visit the Wenches and tell us all about it!
Now it's over to Blythe:
First, thanks for having me back. Many books by the Word Wenches sit on my keeper shelf, and it’s always an honor to share your corner of cyberspace.
The occasion is the launch of my new trilogy in the US and the UK. RETURN OF THE BORDER WARRIOR, a November release from Harlequin Historical, is the first of three about the Brunson Clan, a family of Reivers on the Scottish Borders during the early Tudor era.
Stubborn and strong, the Brunsons are the most feared family on the turbulent Scottish Borders: The family that will kneel to no one!
In Historical Romanceland, where I live and work, Scottish Highlanders get all the glory, but I find the Borders much more interesting. Whether there was a formal war or an uneasy peace, the Borders were, in effect, a war zone for 300 years.
Constant war, along with a bleak, hilly terrain ill-suited to settled agriculture, and inheritance laws that split land into smaller and smaller parcels all combined to make it difficult to keep body and soul together. To survive, the Reivers, a term applicable to both English and Scottish families, “made a living” by stealing from one another, or, alternately, by collecting “blackmail” from those who could pay to be left alone.
Loyal to family above king, these folks had feuds that rivaled the famous Hatfields and McCoys They were beyond the law of either government, and usually even beyond the reach of the special Border Laws that were developed in a joint Anglo-Scots effort to bring order from the chaos.
The term “Borders,” refers to an area encompassing both sides of the formal demarcation line. It operated in many ways like a third country with its own governmental districts, called Marches. Wardens, think of them as sheriffs or governors, were appointed for each March and the wardens of the Western Scottish March and the Western English March, for example, were supposed to work together to keep the peace and punish those who broke it. Their success was marginal at best.
This was, in part,
because the inhabitants, north and south of the demarcation line, had more in
common with each other than with the rest of their respective countrymen. They were just as likely to make war on an enemy family on their own side of the border and to ally with one on the opposite side. Borderers were fierce fighters, but they fought on their own terms and there was many a story of cross-border families calling their own truce in the middle of the kings’ battles. In a desperate effort to try to “keep the players straight,” the Border Laws prohibited marriage across country lines.
It worked about as well as you might expect.
All this offered story possibilities that were irresistible. So I hope my new trilogy, will introduce readers to a setting that has it all: strong men, bold women, and a code of honor and loyalty unmatched in the realm.
The first book is the story of John, the youngest son, who returns home after years of serving as a “big brother” to the young Scottish king. John is a man with something to prove, both to himself and to his family. As the only blue-eyed Brunson, he’s always felt as if he didn’t belong. Now, he no longer wants to. As soon as he enforces the king’s command for peace, he plans to return to his life at court and leave the valley of his birth for the last time.
But first, he must persuade Cate Gilnock to release his family from their promise to avenge her father’s death. Cate is a woman fierce as a warrior, but behind her eyes John senses vulnerability and secrets she refuses to share. Bit by bit, he falls in love with her, and with each step, he is drawn back into the life he thought he had left behind forever. Because of Cate, he discovers he is more like the rest of his family than he thought until, finally, he must decide: Is he truly a Brunson? Or is he the King’s man after all?
CAPTIVE OF THE BORDER LORD, January 2013, will tell the story of John’s sister, Bessie Brunson and finally, Black Rob Brunson, oldest son and leader of the family, meets his match in TAKEN BY THE BORDER REBEL, March 2013.
Photo credits. Cover used with permission. Author photo by Jennifer Girard.