MuseTracks is delighted to welcome back our special guest Blythe Gifford! And she’s brought along a gift! Take it away, Blythe.
Happy New Year!
Mine kicks off with the release of CAPTIVE OF THE BORDER LORD, second book of The Brunson Clan trilogy. I call this one the Cinderella story, in which Bessie Brunson, youngest sibling and only sister, goes to court. She is at the mercy of a man who is definitely NOT Prince Charming. In fact, Thomas Carwell may have betrayed her family, something Bessie is determined to prove along the journey.
We writers are often asked about how we select character names and nowhere was a name more important than on the Scottish Borders during the early Tudor era. Family was more important than king or country. As Alistair Moffat wrote in THE REIVERS, “Names were what made the Border Reivers who they were – in all important senses.”
Many of those Border names are still with us: Armstrong, as in Neil, first man to walk on the moon. Nixon and Johns(t)on, as in United States Presidents. Maxwells, Scotts, Kerrs, Elliots…these families and others rode the Borders and we have historical accounts of each.
That meant I did not want to use one of the real Border Clan names for my family. I was inspired by them, but my tale is not historical truth. A real name would confuse the reader. But how to choose a name that would sound authentic without being so?
For my Brunson clan, I went back even farther in Borders history. Centuries before my story, Vikings invaded the land. One of them, a brown-eyed man, was the founder of the clan. “Brun” is Old English for “brown,” so the name carries the memory of that ancestor down through the years.
First names presented a different challenge. To be historically accurate, you only have twenty or so given names to choose from. Take out the ones you need for the real historical personages (King James) and the ones that are not heroic (Archibald), the ones so similar as to be confusing (Janet/Jean) and those I’ve used in other stories (Duncan, Gavan) and the list shrinks considerably.
Border folk used to differentiate with nicknames. Sim the Laid vs. Sim of the Mains or Nebless Clem vs. Clem the Clash helped sort out which individual you meant, much more than adding a surname. At that point, there were no doubt a dozen men named Robert Armstrong. I was sparing with nicknames, except with secondary characters. However, Bessie’s brother, clan leader, earned the moniker “Black Rob.”
Here’s an excerpt from CAPTIVE OF THE BORDER LORD. The heroine’s brother is celebrating his wedding and the hero has followed her into the kitchen, where she needs to replenish food and drink. Suspicious of his reason for coming to the celebration uninvited, she has just asked him bluntly why he is there.
Carwell kept a smile clamped on his lips. He was learning not to underestimate Bessie Brunson, but it was hard to keep that in mind when he looked at the woman. Red hair tumbled over her shoulders, her brown eyes sparked with suspicion, and her lips were full and soft and ready…
He stopped his thoughts. “Leave this night for celebration. I’ll speak to your brothers tomorrow.”
“Tomorrow? When Rob’s head is double its size because of the wine he’s drunk this night and Johnnie is comfortably abed enjoying his new bride?”
He swallowed a sour retort. “They’ll be ready to listen when they hear why I’ve come. It’s a matter for men’s ears.”
She looked to Heaven before she met his eyes again. “You’ve no women in your household.”
He blinked. He hadn’t. Not for years. “No. Not…now.”
The memory cramped his heart. He would never take a woman for granted again. A twinge, a weary sigh, these could signal the threat of something worse.
He set the thought aside. That was not to be shared with anyone, least of all with this stranger. Yet for a moment, he had imagined she would understand.
“If you had,” she said, “you would know that we do not need to be protected from the truth.”
Looking at this woman, he doubted that her family had protected from anything at all. “Then you’ll know it when they do. And it will be tomorrow.” The king had no more patience than that.
Despite his offer of help, she asked for nothing as she moved around the room, effortlessly scooping up oat cakes and putting another batch near the hearth. When she finished her sweep through the kitchen, she shook the girl awake and told her to watch that the fire did not burn the kitchen down.
Finally, she joined him at the door.
“You wanted to help.” She set down her cakes, filled two flagons with ale from the barrel, and shoved them at him, her eyes flashing with anger. “Carry these.”
Silent, he followed her into the cold, proud that he had refrained from pouring her precious ale into the dirt. The woman was stubborn as the rest of her kin. Maybe more so.
But as he watched the sway of her walk, he remembered the way she had leaned toward him in the dance, following his lead through the unfamiliar steps. For those few moments, there had been nothing but music and movement and the two of them.
Well, her hatred would be back in force tomorrow.
Just as soon as she discovered he was here to take her brother hostage.
So, do any of the Border family names sound familiar to you? How about your own family’s name? Is there a story there? Or maybe you had a nickname you can share. A lucky reader who comments on today’s blog will be randomly selected to win a signed copy of (your choice) RETURN OF THE BORDER WARRIOR, Book 1, or CAPTIVE OF THE BORDER LORD, Book 2, of The Brunson Clan trilogy. Book 2. And look for TAKEN BY THE BORDER REBEL, in March.
Winner! Mary Anne Landers. Congrats!
Blythe Gifford has been known for medieval romances featuring characters born on the wrong side of the royal blanket. Now, she’s set a trilogy on the turbulent Scottish Borders of the early Tudor era: RETURN OF THE BORDER WARRIOR, November 2012, CAPTIVE OF THE BORDER LORD, January 2013, and TAKEN BY THE BORDER REBEL, March 2013. The Chicago Tribune has called her work “the perfect balance between history and romance.” Visit her at www.blythegifford.com, www.facebook.com/BlytheGifford, or http://www.twitter.com/BlytheGifford.
Author photo by Jennifer Girard. Excerpt Copyright © 2013 by Blythe Gifford, Permission to reproduce text granted by Harlequin Books S.A.
Cover Copyright © 2013 by Harlequin Enterprises Limited
Cover Art used by arrangement with Harlequin Enterprises Limited
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