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

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.

You can sign up for her newsletter on her website and get the “Readers Extras” there, too. Regan loves to hear from her readers. Connect with Regan here:

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And always remember to #ReadARegency!

 

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Keep Calm and Read This: Echo in the Wind by Regan Walker

Keep Calm and Read This: Echo in the Wind by Regan Walker

It’s my pleasure to welcome author Regan Walker to the blog this week. She has a brand-spanking-new release, Echo in the Wind, book two in her Donet Trilogy. Regan shares her formula for Rogues to Make Readers Sigh . . .

I like my heroes to be alpha males, manly men who know how to take care of themselves (and the heroine, of course). They might appear to be rogues but, in their hearts, they are vulnerable to the woman they would love. I don’t care if my heroes dress like dandies. I just don’t want them to be dandies.

So, here’s my checklist for rogues who make readers sigh.

1. Make him handsome, preferably a bit rugged. A scar wouldn’t go amiss. And make him sexy, the way he walks, his dominating presence as he enters a room, the way he looks around like he owns the place.

2. Give him an edge. Could be bitterness from his past, an attitude from being wronged by a woman, a temper, or a confidence from having proven himself in a test. A touch of the dangerous.

3. Make him manly, athletic or at least able to handle himself in a fight. A few weapons on his person, a knife in a boot, make him seem lethal. Even better if, added to that, he’s respected by other men.

4. Make him arrogant (at first). He knows what he wants and lacks no confidence that he can get it. No beta males need apply.

5. Give him a soft underbelly, love for an animal (his horse?), or perhaps a soft heart for a kid. An orphan is even better. And, of course, eventually he must have a weakness for the heroine (which, all things considered, will bother him the most).

6. Give him an obstacle to overcome, a title to regain, a mystery to solve or a dangerous mission. Make it important.

7. Make him slow to see that he needs a good woman in his life. He must come to the knowledge he can’t live without the heroine, but not too quickly, lest we think he’s a pushover. The bigger rogues they are, the harder they fall.

8. Make him reluctant to admit he is wrong (he’s a guy, after all).

9. Tell us how wonderful he is but only through the eyes of others.

10. Make him good at making love. If he’s new at it, make him a natural.

Jean Donet, on the deck of his ship. Yes, I believe he makes us sigh!

The heroes in my Agents of the Crown series are all alpha males who meet these criteria. Same with those bold knights in my Medieval Warriors series.

Perhaps my new Georgian romance, Echo in the Wind, book 2 in the Donet Trilogy, provides the most striking example. Here’s the way the heroine, Lady Joanna West, initially sees Jean Donet, comte de Saintonge, a ship’s captain, former pirate and privateer, now a smuggler:

Suddenly, a man appeared at the doorway staring into the parlor with cold detachment. His dark eyes seemed to be searching for someone. His tanned olive skin was a stark contrast to the pasty white complexions of most of the men in the room. He wore his black hair unpowdered and tied back at his nape. His features were bold: a high forehead, black eyebrows, a straight nose and prominent cheekbones.

He cut a striking figure in a dark blue coat edged in cream silk flowers. At his throat and cuffs was a great mound of lace. Beneath the frock coat, an ivory silk waistcoat, embellished in the nattiest of fashion, shimmered.

She knew instantly he could not be English. Such ornate embroidery and so much lace would never be seen in Westminster where the current fashion for men favored a certain austerity. An Englishman attired like this one would be considered a popinjay. But to Joanna, his brooding dark elegance spoke of an uncommon masculine style.

He strode into the parlor, drawing curious glances from the gentlemen and nervous twitters from the ladies. Passing through the crowd, his searching gaze met Joanna’s for only a moment yet, in that moment, excitement coursed through her veins. His obsidian eyes flashed with an intensity she had not encountered before. When his gaze moved on, she felt a keen disappointment.

His dark brows lifted as he headed for someone he appeared to recognize.

“Who is he?” she asked her brother.

Richard turned from his conversation with Addington to follow the subject of her attention. “Oh. If I am not mistaken, Sister, that is the new comte de Saintonge.”

A French comte. Yes, he quite looked the part.

Addington huffed. “You invited a Heathen Frog to your reception for the Prime Minister?”

“Careful, old boy,” chided Richard. “Pitt speaks well of his travels in France and ’tis rumored the comte was once a pirate. You wouldn’t want him to get wind of your views or he might slit your throat some starless night.”

“Walker sweeps you away to a time and place you’ll NEVER want to leave!”
~ NY Times Bestselling author Danelle Harmon

England and France 1784

Cast out by his noble father for marrying the woman he loved, Jean Donet took to the sea, becoming a smuggler, delivering French brandy and tea to the south coast of England. When his young wife died, he nearly lost his sanity. In time, he became a pirate and then a privateer, vowing to never again risk his heart.

As Donet’s wealth grew, so grew his fame as a daring ship’s captain, the terror of the English Channel in the American War. When his father and older brother die in a carriage accident in France, Jean becomes the comte de Saintonge, a title he never wanted.

Lady Joanna West cares little for London Society, which considers her its darling. Marriage in the ton is either dull or disastrous. She wants no part of it. To help the poor in Sussex, she joins in their smuggling. Now she is the master of the beach, risking her reputation and her life. One night off the coast of Bognor, Joanna encounters the menacing captain of a smuggling ship, never realizing he is the mysterious comte de Saintonge.

Can Donet resist the English vixen who entices him as no other woman? Will Lady Joanna risk all for an uncertain chance at love in the arms of the dashing Jean Donet?

The story begins on the West Sussex coast at twilight. Take a peak:

Bognor, West Sussex, England, April 1784

Except for the small waves rushing to shore, hissing as they raced over the shingles, Bognor’s coast was eerily bereft of sound. Lady Joanna West hated the disquiet she always experienced before a smuggling run. Tonight, the blood throbbed in her veins with the anxious pounding of her heart, for this time, she would be dealing with a total stranger.

Would he be fair, this new partner in free trade? Or might he be a feared revenue agent in disguise, ready to cinch a hangman’s noose around her slender neck?

The answer lay just offshore, silhouetted against a cobalt blue sky streaked with gold from the setting sun: a black-sided ship, her sails lifted like a lady gathering up her skirts, poised to flee, waited for a signal.

Crouched behind a rock with her younger brother, Joanna hesitated, studying the ship. Eight gun ports marched across the side of the brig, making her wonder at the battles the captain anticipated that he should carry sixteen guns.

She and her men were unarmed. They would be helpless should he decide to cheat them, his barrels full of water instead of brandy, his tea no more than dried weeds.

It had been tried before.

“You are certain Zack speaks for this captain?” she asked Freddie whose dark auburn curls beneath his slouched hat made his boyish face appear younger than his seventeen years. But to one who knew him well, the set of his jaw hinted at the man he would one day become.

“I’ll fetch him,” Freddie said in a hushed tone, “and you can ask him yourself.” He disappeared into the shadows where her men waited among the trees.

Zack appeared, squatting beside her, a giant of a man with a scar on the left side of his face from the war. Like the mastiffs that guarded the grounds of her family’s estate, he was big and ugly, fierce with enemies, but gentle with those he was charged to protect.

“Young Frederick here says ye want to know about this ship, m’lady.” At her nod, Zack gazed toward the brig. “He used to come here regular with nary a con nor a cheat. He’s been gone awhile now. I heard he might have worked up some other business—royal business.” He rolled his massive shoulders in a shrug. “In my experience, a tiger doesn’t change his stripes. He’s a Frog, aye, but I trust the Frenchie’s one of us, a free trader still.”

She took in a deep breath of the salted air blowing onshore and let it out. “Good.” Zack’s assurance had been some comfort but not enough to end her concerns. What royal business? For tonight, she need not know. “Give the signal,” she directed her brother, “but I intend to see for myself if the cargo is what we ordered.”

Without seeking the position, Joanna had become the smugglers’ master of the beach, responsible for getting the cargo ashore and away to inland routes and London markets with no revenue man the wiser. She took seriously her role to assure the villagers got what they paid for. Their survival depended upon it.

 

 

 

Regan Walker is an award-winning, #1 Amazon bestselling author of Regency, Georgian and Medieval romances. She writes historically authentic novels in which readers experience history, adventure and love. You may find Regan at her website.

She also has a fascinating storyboard for Echo in the Wind on Pinterest.

And don’t forget to always #ReadaRegency!