Though I’ve traveled widely, I had never visited a place that immediately inspired me to set a book there until I visited Orkney, an archipelago in the far north of Scotland.
I expected Orkney to be remote, historic, and beautiful, and it is, with fertile fields, dramatic coasts, and happy cows. But I didn’t expect to feel the power of thousands of years of heritage. Orkney is not Celtic like the romantic Highlands. The foundations of these islands are deeply rooted in a Norse past, and they are closer to Oslo than to London. There is a wealth of Neolithic structures—the most complete in Northern Europe and four of which are included in a World Heritage site.
Many early settlers were Vikings. At one time, Scotland might have joined the ranks of Scandinavian countries, which include Norway, Sweden, and Denmark. But due to various events, the islands ended up as part of Scotland.
I wanted to capture the essence of these far northern islands for my new historical romance, Once a Laird. Rather than ignore Orkney’s own well-documented history, I created a fictionalized version that I called Thorsay and placed between Orkney and Shetland, roughly in the position of the real Fair Isle.
For my story, I created a scholarly young man who was heir to the ruler ship of the islands. Ramsay had left a dozen years earlier after the death of his sweetheart when he was in university in Edinburgh. An early archeologist, he spent those years traveling, studying ancient ruins, and doing nefarious things for British embassies.
When the imminent death of his grandfather, the old laird, calls Ramsay home, he must find a way to fit into his new life and responsibilities. I happily used real features of Orkney to engage Ramsay’s interest. He communes with his past by laying hands on a towering monolith inspired by the Standing Stones of Stenness. He visits ruined forts and ancient churches built on still more ancient Viking churches.
I also gave him his own version of Skara Brae, a stunning Neolithic village that is older than the Great Pyramids or Stonehenge. The real Skara Brae was discovered in the mid-nineteenth century when a storm washed away the earth concealing it, and that’s how Ramsay found his Fiona Brae.
He also discovered a love with a woman who shares his passion for their shared past. Did I capture the true essence of these islands? I hope so. I do know that people who have read the book now want to visit Orkney themselves. I hope they will have the opportunity to explore this fascinating destination.
About the Author
Mary Jo Putney is a New York Times and USA Today best-selling author who has written more than sixty novels and novellas. A ten-time finalist for the Romance Writers of America RITA, she has won the honor twice and is on the RWA Honor Roll for best-selling authors. In 2013, she was awarded the RWA Nora Roberts Lifetime Achievement Award. Though most of her books have been historical romances, she has also published contemporary romances, historical fantasy, and young adult paranormal historicals. She lives in Maryland with her nearest and dearest, both two- and four-footed. Visit her at MaryJoPutney.com.
He yearns to escape his past …
After the death of his fiancée, Kai Ramsay left Scotland to roam distant lands. He has searched ancient ruins, collected priceless antiquities, and escaped certain death after being imprisoned as a spy during the Napoleonic War. Ramsay has lived on the edge of danger for years—but everything changes the day a letter arrives for him from Scotland.
She’s determined to protect her future ….
Signy Matheson has dedicated her life to the people of Scotland’s remote Thorsay Islands. With a fiery spirit and agile mind, she is a faithful ally to the aging laird. But now their leader is near death, and Signy must summon his successor at once. It’s time for Kai Ramsay to come home.
Together, they discover ancient treasures and disturbing attraction …
When Ramsay returns to Thorsay, he’s shocked to find that Signy has blossomed into an alluring beauty and a force to be reckoned with. Their complicated past interferes with their unspoken desire as they work together for their people. Until a wild storm sparks first passion and then unexpected danger when a treasure trove left by their ancestors comes to light …