Keep Calm and Read This: A Secret Scottish Christmas by Regan Walker

I love it when Regan Walker stops by for a visit. It always means a great new book and some fascinating bit of information gleaned from her research! She has a new release in her Agents of the Crown series, A Secret Scottish Christmas, and beautiful Gordon Setter dogs feature in her story.

The Early Gordon Setters by Regan Walker

A Secret Scottish Christmas, the newest installment in the Agents of the Crown series, is set during the Regency mostly in Scotland. When the Powell twins, Robbie and Nash, first encounter Miss Aileen Stephen, the sister of their Scottish host, they are both taken with her and thereafter compete to win her heart. The first night, as they go down to dinner, they encounter her and her two dogs on the stairs:

This short scene is from Robbie’s point of view:

They began to descend the stairs just as Aileen Stephen came through the front door, her cheeks rosy from the cold. She let her tartan scarf fall to her shoulders, revealing a bounty of bright red hair. A tempting picture to be sure.

Two great black and tan dogs bounded in after her.

“Why, hello,” said Robbie, giving her one of his sincerest smiles. Beside him, Nash tensed, none too pleased at Robbie’s initiative.

His brother smiled at the girl. “What dogs are these?”

She looked up at them, her dogs wagging their long tails, their paws on the steps sniffing at Robbie’s feet. “Goodness and Mercy, a gift from the Duke of Gordon. He raises them on his estate in Moray to the north.”

Robbie stepped down to the entry hall’s stone floor and patted the head of the closest dog, a friendly sort, then returned his attention to the girl.

Nash alighted from the last stair to scratch one of the dogs behind the ear. “How ever did you come up with those names, Miss Stephen?”

“You may call me Ailie. Most everyone here does. You are Robbie and Nash?”

“I am Robbie and this is my brother, Nash,” said Robbie, gesturing first to himself and then to his twin.

Her beautiful face lifted in a one-sided grin as she glanced between them. “’Twill be difficult telling you apart. As for the names of my dogs, do ye nae ken yer Scriptures?”

Robbie exchanged a look with his brother. Neither, he was certain, had a clue as to her meaning, yet she had spoken in the way of the Scots, intentionally deepening her accent. Perhaps she meant to suggest Englishmen might be ignorant of the Good Book’s teachings.

“The twenty-third Psalm ends,” she recited, “‘Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life…’ aye?”

“Clever,” said Nash. “I won’t be forgetting their names any time soon.” From the admiring look Nash gave the girl, Robbie surmised his twin wouldn’t be forgetting her either.

Robbie returned his attention to the large lean dogs he decided were setters, but not the black and white speckled ones he was used to. These two were mostly black with small bits of copper and white trim. “I can scarce see a difference between them.”

Her brows lifted. “This from two brothers who are made from the same mold? Really, ’tis easy to tell them apart. Goodness is the male and Mercy is the female.”

So what kind of dogs were these black and tan dogs?

Black and tan setters existed as far back as the 16th century in Scotland and England. But the man credited with developing the breed is Alexander Gordon, the 4th Duke of Gordon, known as the Cock o’ the North, the traditional epithet attached to the chief of the Gordon clan. At the time of my story, 1819, he was breeding setters for hunting at Gordon Castle near Fochabers not far from the River Spey in Scotland.

Alexander Gordon, Fourth Duke of Gordon,
(c) National Galleries of Scotland; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation.

The dogs Ailie named “Goodness” and “Mercy” were the early Gordon setters. The Gordon setter is an air-scenting breed, developed for the purpose of scenting game birds (mostly grouse) on the heather-covered Scottish moors. The Gordon Castle strain was mostly black, white and tan (a relic of the white can sometimes be seen today in the small white spot on the chest). Ailie’s setters would have been mostly black, as they are today, but marked with more white as well as tan.

In A Secret Scottish Christmas, Ailie’s setters go hunting for the pink-footed geese and stalk deer. Gordon setters are alert and lively, pleasant and exceedingly loyal. They tend to be devoted to members of their household, which you can see in the devotion Goodness and Mercy show the Stephens.

Spies and Scots and Shipmasters, oh my!

Scotland 1819

Twin brothers Nash and Robbie Powell of Powell & Sons Shipping, London, sail with their fellow Agents of the Crown to Scotland for a secret celebration of Christmastide, a holiday long frowned upon by the Scottish Kirk. But more than Christmas is being kept secret. The two brothers have accepted an assignment from the Home Secretary Lord Sidmouth to ferret out a fugitive fomenting rebellion among the Scots.

Aileen Stephen, the only daughter of an Aberdeen shipbuilder, had to be clever, devious and determined to gain her place in the family business. She succeeded to become a designer of highly coveted ships. One night, a man’s handsome face appears to her in a dream. When two men having that same face arrive on a ship full of Londoners, Ailie wonders what her second sight is telling her. Is the face she saw a portender of the future, a harbinger of danger, or both? And which of the two Englishmen is the one in her dream?

Older than Nash by a mere five minutes, Robbie has always been protective of his twin. When he realizes Nash is attracted to the sister of their Scottish host, he thinks to help matters along. But Nash wants no help from his brother, not where Ailie Stephen is concerned because Robbie is attracted to the girl himself!

Two brothers vie for the affection of the Scottish lass but only one stirs her passion. Which one will it be? And what will she do when she learns they are spies?

Graby your copy of A Secret Scottish Christmas today!

 

 

Regan Walker is an award-winning, #1 Amazon bestselling author of Regency, Georgian and Medieval romances. She writes historically authentic novels with real historical figures along with her fictional characters. Among the awards she has won are the International Book Award for Romance Fiction, the San Diego Book Award for Best Historical Romance, the RONE Award for her medievals and the Illumination Award for The Refuge: An Inspirational Novel of Scotland.

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