Highland life in the fourteenth century is often idealized by historical romance writers. While I readily admit to romanticizing this era, I do a lot research and know the difficult realities of the time period, such as wars, unsanitary conditions, and lack of fresh food and water. Most of my readers are also well aware of the harsh environment and less appealing side of this era, but envisioning Scottish heroes with dirty feet and hands wearing voluminous mustard-colored léines (shirts) is just visually unappealing. So I soften a few things to make reading my stories more enjoyable. For the most part, however, I try to be accurate and include facts about the region and culture, as this time period is truly fascinating and rich with history.
The foundation of most Highland romances is the Scottish clan itself, where almost everything begins and ends with one’s lineage. The Gaelic word clann, when used in the Highlands, means “children,” and in the Lowlands, where Scot is spoken, it refers to family units. Scottish leaders who had gained the loyalties of multiple individual families would establish a clan—many of which are still legally recognized today. New clans are still being created, but only the Court of the Lyon has the legal authority to declare a newly sanctioned clan.
The concept of family surnames to be passed down from father to son to grandson was introduced by the Normans in the twelfth century. The first Highlanders to adopt fixed surnames were the nobles and great landowners, who were often called by the land they held or a landscape feature, such as streams (Burns), moors (Muir), mills (Milne), or forests (Wood). Ancient clan names came from many other sources as well, including physical descriptions. For example, caimbeul (currently spelled Campbell) means “crooked mouth.” Others were based on parentage; early clan chiefs added “Mc” and “Mac” to their surnames, which mean “son” or “son of.”
Clan members usually shared the same surname, but as years passed, it became more common for the men and women of a clan to have different surnames. These branches of family formed a sept, which was ruled by chieftains loyal to the clan chief. This clan system became the foundation of Scotland’s political system until 1745, when it ended with the Battle of Culloden.
So how did clans grow when plagued by deadly battles and regular deaths of newborns, the sickly, and the elderly? Clan chiefs sought to expand their territory through many means. As depicted in my latest novel, How to Marry a Highlander, newly conquered clansmen would swear their allegiance to the victorious clan chief, which often resulted in a change of surname. My book To Wed a Highlander, clans peacefully merged for a mutual interest.
Though battles and prearranged marriages were the primary ways to claim new territory and members, as a romance author, I like my books to be on the lighter side and filled with a great deal of humor. All my stories are HEAs (a.k.a., Happily Ever Afters) that can stand on their own and have relatable characters who experience the questions and situations we currently have today. And for those readers who always want to know what happens to a newly joined couple, don’t worry, because characters from my previous books play major roles in following stories, in hopes of bringing even more entertainment to the reader.
A battle-hardened soldier, he is bound to the McTiernay brothers by a loyalty as strong as blood. But no woman in all of Scotland has been able to lay claim to his heart …
A commander in the McTiernay clan, Dugan is known far and wide for his skills with a sword—and his skills in seduction. His rugged countenance and arrogant swagger are a lethal combination for the women who try to tame him and fail. Until a mysterious firebrand tempts him with her wicked ways …
All Adanel Mackbaythe knows about her Highland lover is that he is a McTiernay soldier—and a means of escaping her cruel father. But Dugan is a not a man to be toyed with. His distrust of Adanel’s motives will put a distance between them that can’t be breached. Yet when their secret trysts are discovered—sparking a war between clans—a lust for vengeance will drive Dugan back into her arms, where he will embark on his greatest battle: for her heart.
Award-winning romance writer’s books carry readers to the historic Highlands of Scotland, where romance dwells in strong, vibrant, even, at times, humorous characters. A working mother during the week and a soccer/tennis mom on the weekend, when Michele Sinclair isn’t having fun with her two children, she plies her creativity with salty snacks and soda, plus occasional paw input from their lively, affectionate, yet fearless five-pound Maltese. Read more at michelesinclair.com and on the social media site below.