In my stories, I always strive for historical accuracy. I have three great critique partners who are quick to point out anachronisms—“Are you sure they drank whisky from a glass in 1370? Perhaps a mug or goblet?” and “That word wasn’t in use in 1370. Find another.”—and keep me from blundering too badly. But the bulk of the research is mine, and when I began casting about for location for Kinnon’s story (The Highlander’s French Bride), I found problems.
The first problem was that I don’t speak French and lots of the sites I came across for information were written in French. Try Google translator some time if you haven’t yet. It can be hilariously frustrating. After compiling many such sites, a pattern began to emerge and I felt somewhat secure in my research. Unfortunately, the pattern suggested my timeline was off. By several years.
In a previous book in The Highlander’s Bride series, Kinnon makes his debut as the heroine’s brother, off fighting with the French against the English and reported as missing, possibly dead. A fine storyline to keep him from inheriting the lairdship, thus leaving it in contention, and I do love conflict in my stories. But readers wanted more. They wanted to know what happened to Kinnon. Why was he in France, and what caused such an impact on him to cause him to relinquish his inheritance? And so, with only a few lines from the story to guide me, I headed off into the Hundred Years’ War.
Here’s the tricky part. During the specific time my original story takes place, the French and English were
in a tentative truce. Not a great time to stage a war that would keep our hero away from family, right? Ah, but then my research took an interesting turn. I met Bertrand du Guesclin.
Bertrand du Guesclin was the hero of France. Information on him ranged from obscure—why did he die?—to romantic—he was the despised ugly son of a beautiful woman—but all agreed he was the people’s savior in war-torn France during the Hundred Years’ War. I was fascinated by him and consulted several sources, including a helpful woman with a PhD in History with an emphasis on Medieval France. I discovered Bertrand was an unconventional soldier, was ransomed three times for kingly sums, and became the hero of the people. I knew I wanted him in my story.
I’ll admit to changing the historical timeline just a wee bit to fit The Highlander’s French Bride. The rescue of the village of Châteauneuf-de-Randon which is the opening for the story truly was the site of Bertrand’s death, though he died in 1380 and my book is set in 1374. In the book’s preface, I mention this with an apology to Bertrand for cutting his life shorter than it already was.
Do I get sidetracked in my research? Occasionally. Ok, frequently. But following the often subtle trails of history leads me to such interesting information! Before last year I couldn’t have told you a single thing about the Hundred Years’ War—or at least not much. I still am no expert by any stretch of the imagination. But I found a hero I never knew existed. Known as the Eagle of Brittany and The Black Dog of Brocéliande, he was a Breton knight and French military genius. He won many battles against much larger armies, though despised for his guerilla tactics, and rose from his obscure noble beginnings to become the Constable of France.
Wow. I love my job.
About the Book
Heir to a lairdship, Kinnon Macrory is driven to prove his worth by fighting the English on the battlefields of France. His dreams of heroic valor are destroyed by the realities of war—the atrocities visited by fellow soldiers on the very people he is sworn to protect. Three years in a French prison for a crime he did not commit leave Kinnon longing for the one thing of beauty in his war-torn life—a young woman of great kindness and wisdom named Melisende.
Melisende de la Roche struggles to stay one step ahead of soldiers who would imprison her for helping an injured Scotsman wrongly accused of treason. She finds refuge in her uncle’s shop—until a chance encounter sends her fleeing into the unknown once again, haunted by the beguiling friendship with the troubled young Scotsman she is certain she will never see again.
Determined to find the woman of his dreams, Kinnon returns to France, only to discover a trail of clues to Melisende’s whereabouts. Their reunion will open the doors to passion, but half-truths and lies from the past could destroy the one thing they both are willing to fight for—each other.
Kinnon approached the tent with dread, his limbs drugged with apprehension. His throat was dry and he swallowed, working his mouth to gain moisture. He ducked his head beneath the tent’s overhang and blinked his eyes against the semi-darkness.
Bertrand lay upon his camp bed, one man hovering near his head, others standing about, noticing Kinnon as he entered. Bertrand waved the man next to him away as the aide urged Kinnon to approach. Shooting Kinnon a warning glare from beneath his brow, the man left Bertrand’s side.
“Come closer, Scotsman. I do not have much time.” The once-clear, commanding voice Kinnon would have recognized anywhere was gone, replaced by the death-rattle rasp of a man clearly only a short time from the grave.
Kinnon stepped to the edge of the bed. “Ye willnae discount all the prayers of yer knights, now, will ye? They have to account for something.”
Bertrand’s lips etched a tired smile. “Forty years of combat is apparently enough for this body. I am too weak to recover, despite their prayers.”
Kinnon stared at the man who had become almost a father to him in the past months. His eyes searched the familiar face, now gray and lined with fatigue. His features, considered ugly by most who knew him, now added sunken eyes and new wrinkles—unflattering in the candle-lit tent. To Kinnon, all that mattered was that a great man was doomed to die—and soon.
“I was told you were dead,” Bertrand murmured.
“They were wrong,” Kinnon replied.
Cathy MacRae loves writing romantic tales of Medieval Scotland and sending strong heroes and feisty heroines on a journey to their happily ever afters. When not writing, Cathy can be found reading, cooking, gardening, and playing with the dogs. Her two corgis are unabashed couch potatoes, though the German Shepherds take up the slack by encouraging her from her writing desk rather often. Sometimes for fun, sometimes to clean the muddy footprints from the floors.
Cathy loves to hear from readers. You can reach her on facebook at Cathy MacRae, or her author page, Cathy MacRae Author. Learn about upcoming books on her website www.cathymacraeauthor.com where you’ll also find her blog featuring other authors and interesting writing information, and a blog full of personal information usually involving the dogs, gardening and Angus the cat.