Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Hero Interview! Meet Callan MacTavish from Jennifer Lamont Leo's "The Violinist" (The Highlanders Collection)

Welcome to the third installment in a series of interviews I'm hosting with heroes from the four novellas in Smitten's new romance collection THE HIGHLANDERS which just released on November 15th. Today I welcome Callan MacTavish from Jennifer Lamont Leo's The Violinist, a hero with secrets.

The Violinist

In 1915 Idaho, homesick lumberjack Callan MacTavish despairs of ever seeing his Scottish homeland again. With kindness and patience, music teacher Rose Marchmont reaches a part of Callan’s heart he’d long ago locked away. She sees beyond his rough exterior to the artistic heart beneath. He longs for more than he can offer her, but she doesn’t know about the secret trauma that keeps him from crossing the sea.

Meet Highlander Hero Callan MacTavish

MRW - Hello, Callan, it’s nice to meet you. Thank you for your willingness to talk to me today. Were you as willing to share your story with Ms Leo so she could get it written down?

Callum - Nay. She had to draw it out o’ me. I’m not one to talk about myself.

MRW - I read your story, and I have to say, I found it amazing. I’d like to ask you a few questions about it, but don’t feel like you have to give anything away that you want to keep secret to readers. First off tell us about yourself and your background. Where are you from?

Callum - I grew up in Scotland, near the bonny, bonny banks of Loch Lomond, as the song goes. That happens to be the ancestral home of Ms. Leo’s relatives. Her birth name, Lamont, is a variation of Lomond and is as common as “Smith” in those parts. My da still lives there.

MRW - In the beginning of the story, you landed yourself in a hospital. How did that happen? In fact, how did a Highlander like yourself end up working as a logger in Idaho, USA?

Callum - I guess ye could say I took a trip to the United States and ended up stayin. I had to support myself somehow, and loggin seemed as good a job as any fer a footloose, single Scotsman. ‘Twas a misfortune between a ponderosa pine and my noggin what landed me in the hospital.

MRW - I see you have a previous injury. Anything you want to tell us about that?

Callum - Nay. Just to say it’s not out o’ the ordinary fer loggers to be short a finger or two.

MRW - When you were in the hospital, you were a little worried that Lars had discovered something secret when he was bringing you a few things. Want to tell us what that was and why you were nervous he’d found you out?

Callum - My journal. My chums in the loggin camp find it strange enough that I read poetry. I don’t need them knowin that I write it, too.

MRW - You’re different than most of the loggers in town who don’t mind living it up when they get paid and carrying on with women. So how do you like to spend your time?

Callum - I daunder aboot the town. I read Robert Burns. I write. I listen to music. I’m not a particularly excitin person to be around, but I enjoy my own company.

MRW - The first time you spied a certain Miss Marchmont, you felt embarrassed. Want to tell us about that incident?

Callum - I was with my chum Lars and he had no qualms about makin a scene, tryin to get her attention. Ye don’t go shoutin out to bonny lasses on the street that way. Plus my face was pretty banged up from the accident with the tree. I didna need her thinkin I was a lout.

MRW - You have an amazing talent, one you’ve been keeping hidden from most of the people you know in Idaho, especially Miss Marchmont. Can you tell us here what that talent is? If not, can you tell us why you don’t want Miss Marchmont—or anyone—to know you have a secret?

Callum - I didna want a lot o’ questions. I just wanted to listen to the lass play her violin and get to know her without a lot o’ fuss and feathers.

MRW - How about you tell us about a few of the other people in town? Anyone you find annoying or especially pleasant to be around?

Callum Miss Marchmont’s sister is a wee bit high-strung. Her husband’s all right, though. There’s a dobber called Godfrey who swans about in his fancy motorcar. Could do without the likes of him.

MRW - I loved your story, Callan. I was blown away by a big surprise I never saw coming. It was a jaw-dropping moment. I’m sure readers will love it as well.

Callum - Much obliged to ye.

Now Meet the Author 

Jennifer Lamont Leo captures readers’ hearts through stories set in times gone by. Her first novel, You’re the Cream in My Coffee, won a Carol Award from American Christian Fiction Writers.  An Illinois native, she now writes from the mountains of northern Idaho.

Jennifer on Social Media

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Hero Interview! Meet Deven McLendon from J'nell Ciesielski's "Night Fox" (The Highlanders Romance Collection)

Welcome to the second in a series of interviews I'm hosting with heroes from the four novellas in Smitten's new romance collection THE HIGHLANDERS which just released on November 15th. Today I welcome our hero, Deven McLendon from J'nell Ciesielski's Night Fox. You'll adore him!

Night Fox

After the failed Jacobite Rebellion of 1715, war-weary Deven McLendon returns home to discover a thief creating chaos on his lands. But this thief isn't like any other. When Rooney Corsen sets out to steal jewels to repay her family’s debts and keep a roof over her little sisters’ heads, never does she imagine snagging the laird's heart instead.

Meet Highlander Hero Deven McLendon

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MRW - Hello, and thank you for taking time from your duties to meet with me, Deven, or should I call you m’laird—or Lord Glèidh— as so many know you by that title?

Deven - Deven or m’laird if ye must. The Lord Glèidh title is not one I’m accustomed to at the now. Seems as if it stills belongs to my father before he fell in battle fighting to put the Stuarts back on the throne.

MRW - You’ve shared your story in full with Mrs. Ciesielsi, so I hope you won’t mind my asking you again about your home and lands and what brought you back to them, if it isn’t too painful.

Deven - Pain is part of life. I willna take the coward’s way and run from it. My family settled these lands centuries ago in one of the bonniest parts of these western Highlands. When the call came from our clan chieftain to take up arms against the German usurper sitting on the English throne, the McLendons dinna back down. We fought with honor and many lives lost, including that of my own father. After losing the war, we were hunted men until eventually being pardoned to return to our homes. Years had passed since I stepped foot on my beloved Strathmoore, and now I do so as her new laird.

MRW - You seem to have settled back into the order of things there in Scotland, but I know from your story, all was not done easily. You’d no more returned when you were met with some trouble—some thievery going on. And the thief had the habit of leaving something behind after each heist. Can you tell us about that? If it isn’t giving away too much, can you tell us a tiny bit about your first encounter with this one they called the Night Fox?

Deven - Aye, that wee thief. You wouldna think so much trouble could be gained by a slip of a thing, but dinna let the size fool ye. She flies into yer window, paws through yer valuables, and then leaves her calling card of a foxtail bundle. I should’ve kenned it was her the first time I saw the prickly ends clinging to her skirts, but that red mane gleaming like an autumn sunset had my wits at a disadvantage. Of course, the first time I beheld her she was concealed in a cloak of black and crouched on my window sill. Lad, I called her. If I’d only known.

MRW - What were your hopes for Strathmoore at this time? 

Deven - Upon becoming laird of Strathmoore, I inherited years worth of debt. It’ll take careful management for her to become the shining jewel she once was, but I’m prepared for the hard work. She will be a beacon of protection and justice for all who live on or near her lands. I only hope to probe myself worthy as her master.

MRW - With so many things demanding your attention, you also found yourself coming to a young woman’s aid in the village. Miss Rooney Corsen, I believe. There was a bit of rumpus going on, some accusations—something about her father. Do you recall that incident? Tell us what you were thinking during that meeting, if you remember.

Deven - Aye, there was something about her father and debts, but it’s not my place to speak for another man. Nor will I condemn those left in his scurrilous shadow, which includes Miss Corsen. She proved herself to be a hard worker, brave, and proud. I admire a lass with such character.

MRW - You seemed to continue crossing paths with Miss Corsen. In fact, you came to her aid again later on. What troubles did you find her in? Why did you feel compelled to assist her?

Deven - The lass is always in trouble though she willna admit to it. Stubborn as a stake in the ground, that one. In the beginning I felt honor bound to help her as is my duty as laird. Everything that happens on my lands, good or bad, is under my supervision and I dare not take the task lightly. Why continue to help her, ye might ask? Weel, let’s just say she may have captured something of mine that no other lass had been able to.

MRW - Who is Sir Leslie, by the way? And do tell us a bit about Miss Logan. Didn’t she also have news to share about the Night Fox’s escapades? It seems his fame was spreading far and wide. You might even say the Night Fox was becoming legendary. Why was that?

Deven - Those two, bah! Like sore teeth I couldna wait to extract. Unless ye wish to see my blood boil, we’ll go to the next question.

MRW - From all you’ve told us so far, it sounds like you had your hands very full, and everyone had expectations of you. And in the thick of it was this problem of trying to catch the elusive Night Fox. Quite a merry game of chase the two of you played, it seems. If it won’t give too much away to readers, can you tell us when you first started suspecting who the culprit might be?

Deven - From first we met the Fox led me on a merry chase. The Fox has a distinct way of moving, a way that nearly looked like … nay, I willna be telling ye the way my redheaded lassie moves, but ‘tis uncanny the similarities.

MRW - The tale of The Night Fox is quite a romp, though I’m sure you’re glad to have put it to rest. What was it like, revealing your story to Mrs. Ciesielski? Did you spill it all at once, or did it take deep recollection?

Deven - I tell ye true, the recollection is nay far from my mind what with the mischief it wrought. How could I so easily forget a redheaded scamp climbing through my window? A scamp who now sits at my side making sure I dinna forget any detail. She loves pointing out how canty she is in all of this. Without her prodding, I never would have agreed to this interview as I’ve more important things to do in the village, but I canna tell my wee fox no.

MRW - Thank you again for joining me today, Deven. I’m sure readers will be as swept away into your story as the Night Fox was when spying a chance at a precious, rare broach. Best wishes to you and to all in fair Strathmoore.

Now Meet the Author

Believing she was born in the wrong era, J’nell Ciesielski spends her days writing heart-stopping heroes, brave heroines, and adventurous exploits in times gone by. Winner of the Romance Through the Ages contest and Maggie Award, J’nell can often be found dreaming of a second home in Scotland, indulging in chocolate of any kind, or watching old black and white movies. Born a Florida girl, she now calls Virginia home, along with her very understanding husband, young daughter, and one lazy beagle.

J'nell on Social Media

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Hero Interview! Meet Grant Cummings from Janet Grunst's "The Year Without a Summer" (The Highlanders Romance Collection)

Welcome to a series of interviews I'm hosting with heroes from the four novellas in Smitten's new romance collection THE HIGHLANDERS which releases November 15th. Today I welcome my first guest, a true and steady highlander, Grant Cummings from Janet Grunst's The Year Without a Summer

The Year Without a Summer

Shoved off his family’s land in Scotland in 1816, Grant Cummings looks for work in Ulster, Ireland. He needs money and a home to raise his young brother. Molly MacGregor loses her father and his income, but she has no time to grieve as she sews and spins to earn enough to keep her and her young brother alive. Renting out the hut on their land might be the answer, but only if she can overcome her prejudice against the handsome Highlander who moves in. Her heart might soften toward him, but not when he plans to set sail for America.

Meet Highlander Hero Grant Cummings

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WR - Hello, Grant, it’s a pleasure to meet you. Thank you for your willingness to talk to me today. You seemed like a very straight-forward man. Were you as straight-forward when you sat down to share your story with Ms. Grunst so she could write it for all to read? How did that go? Was it easy to pour out, or did she have to wheedle it out of you, if you don’t mind my asking?

Grant - Well Mistress Musch, I'm honored ye have taken an interest. Bein a forthright fellow, there’s was nae problem telling Ms. Grunst. She had an understandin of the conditions in the Highlands and in Ireland and was curious how I came to ken Molly MacGregor and her brother Scott.

WR - I found the tale of you and your brother Keith’s adventure very interesting. First off tell us about yourself and your background. I understand you’re from Tullochgorum, south of Inverness. What brought you to Fort Augustus?

Grant - Aye, Keith and I are from Tullochgorum, near the River Spey in the Cairngorm Mountains. The family has lived thereabouts for generations. I came tae Fort Augustus because 'twould be foolish tae remain in Tullochgorum and be at the mercy of the local laird like my pa working in the linen mills so I studied and trained as a builder.

WR - That was foresightful of you to go into construction. Tell me more about this Caledonian canal project going on.

Grant - When I heard the Scottish engineer, Thomas Telford was constructing the Caledonian canal to connect the eastern coast near Inverness with the west coast near Fort William, I was eager to join that project. The canal is to run about sixty miles through several lochs in the Great Glen and will have near 30 locks when it is complete.

WR - You didn’t stay in Fort Augustus, though did you? You received some distressing news. Would you be willing to share what that was?

Grant - Aye, my widowed ma took ill, so I needed to return home. Could nae help but worry about her and my younger brother, Keith. The laddie was but eight and sure to be frightened.

WR - When you returned to Tullochgorum, you found a request waiting for you. What did you think when you read your ma’s letter?

Grant - Ma wanted me tae take Keith to where her sister Katherine lived in Northern Ireland. Ma suggested I find work there so Katherine could care for Keith. Since the laddie was so young, returning tae work on the canal and not bein able tae care fer him seemed unwise. Better tae find employment that would keep us together.

WR - Tell us a little bit about your aunt Katherine. She seems like a very interesting woman—and she seemed to have some ideas that might help when you and Keith arrived on her doorstep.

Grant - Katherine is a strong but kindly woman. She and her family left Scotland and settled in Aghadowey years ago. My aunt had asked Ma tae join her when my pa died but she chose tae continue being a spinner and crofter in the Highlands.

WR It was aunt Katherine who introduced you to a certain young lady who intended to rent to a boarder. Can you share a little bit of your first reaction upon meeting Molly MacGregor and her brother Scott? And what did her reaction seem to be upon meeting you?

Grant - I met the lass at my aunt’s church, and the sight of her took my breath away. Scott and Keith took to each other immediately. Mistress MacGregor was reserved, all business and not eager to let to Highlanders.

WR - Was that a common opinion about Highlanders in Aghadowey? Tell us a little about that, and how you dealt with it.

Grant - Aghadowey is a small village and most folks were friendly. Many Scots from the lowlands had had settled in the area, so perhaps they were nae familiar with Highlanders.

WR - Did your landlady share these opinions?

Grant - (chuckles and rubs his chin) Molly MacGregor had some definite ideas about Highlanders—none of them good. She had wee interest in letting out her hut to Highlanders. But she was desperate.

WR - I see...well, who is Séamus Macaulay? Someone you get on with well together?

Grant - The Macaulay chap had a mind to marry Molly, but she was nae keen on him. He was a bit overbearing. The lass was not shy about sharing her disdain of Macaulay or Highlanders.

WR - Molly has some special skills that she uses to bring in extra money, and you made a kind gesture toward her to help her with the work she does. It was a very warm and touching scene. But Molly was dealing with some external anxiety that had to do with the crops and landlords. Can you tell us a little about that problem?

Grant - Molly was a spinner for the local mill and a very fine seamstress. As in the Highlands, the changing circumstances with the landlords was impacting the local mill workers, so she had to make some life-changing decisions for Scott and her.

WR - Can you tell us a little about that problem that had a lot to do with the title of the story?

Grant - (grins and shakes his head) Only time will tell.

WR -  Thanks, Grant, that's a good note to end on. I loved the beautiful, romantic conclusion to your story—which in some ways, is only just the beginning. It speaks to many of us with Scottish or Irish roots. I’m sure readers will be warmed and delighted as well.

Now Meet the Author

Janet is a wife, mother of two sons, and grandmother of eight who lives in the historic triangle of Virginia (Williamsburg, Jamestown, Yorktown) with her husband. Her debut novel, A Heart Set Free was a Selah Award winner. A Heart For Freedom was a Christian Indie Award winner. A lifelong student of history, her love of writing fiction grew out of a desire to share stories that communicate the truths of the Christian faith, as well as entertain, bring inspiration, and encouragement to the reader.

Janet on Social Media