By Brenda Joyce, author of A Rose in the Storm (Harlequin HQN)
I am so thrilled to be writing a historical romance series set in the Highlands for Harlequin HQN—especially a medieval one. When I began to dig into the era, I never imagined that such a huge, epic story like A Rose in the Storm would result. There is nothing that inspires me as much as an innocent heroine swept up in historical events beyond her control, and in this case, the war for Scotland’s throne.
This story is the first in the series, following the prequel, “The Warrior and the Rose” which appears in the digital anthology Highlanders, out now. A Rose in the Storm takes place in 1306-07, when Robert Bruce seizes the throne of Scotland, defying the might of King Edward and England. But it is really Margaret Comyn’s story.
Margaret is seventeen, and the daughter of William Comyn and Mary MacDougall. The Comyns are the most powerful family in the north of England, and Clan Dougall is the most powerful family in Argyll. Margaret has lost both of her parents and three of her four brothers in the various wars between Scotland and England. Because she is a mere woman, and the only daughter of a third son, her entire value is her dowry—Castle Fyne, a strategic stronghold on the borders of Argyll.
But Castle Fyne also has great sentimental value for Margaret, because her mother, Mary MacDougall, treasured it so. Margaret is engaged for political reasons to an English knight with an interest in the north of Scotland, and she arrives at Castle Fyne in an ambivalent state. She misses her mother, and worries about her future as the wife of a man she has never met—as the wife of an Englishman!
But before long, her worry will turn to panic. The moment she arrives, Castle Fyne is attacked, by one of her worst enemies—Clan Donald!
But the news becomes even worse, for the attack has been staged not just by any MacDonald, but by Alexander MacDonald, the notorious Wolf of Lochaber—a larger-than-life legend thought to be ruthless and invincible in battle.
Despite her abject fear, Margaret refuses to surrender. But she loses Castle Fyne, and quickly. Even worse, she becomes the Wolf’s hostage—a pawn in the war for Scotland’s throne. For Alexander intends to keep Castle Fyne…and the beautiful woman he’s taken captive.
Writing Margaret’s story was thrilling! Although she is obviously a fictional character, her family was not. The Comyns and MacDougalls fought against the English in Scotland’s Wars for Independence until the very day that Bruce murdered Red John Comyn, lord of Badenoch, in a church in Dumfries. On that day, both Comyn and MacDougall took to the field against Robert Bruce, in support of King Edward.
Making Margaret a Comyn and a MacDougall demanded my hero be from Clan Donald. The clan had been in a bloody rivalry with the MacDougalls for generations. When the war began, when Bruce murdered Red John Comyn in Dumfries, the MacDonalds took to the field for Bruce—against Comyn and MacDougall! And there is no greater love than forbidden love, hence the premise for A Rose in the Storm.
I had a blast weaving Alexander and Margaret’s epic love story into such a rich historical tapestry, one filled with drama, intrigue, treachery, passion, bloodshed and war. I hope you enjoy reading about this amazing pair of lovers as much as I enjoyed writing about them!
I’d love to hear what you think—post in the comments below or find me on Facebook or Twitter (@bjoyceauthor).