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
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.
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