Jessie Cahalin’s Blog: Books in my Handbag

I am honoured to introduce today’s mention of Malcolm Craig Lowrie by Jessie Cahalin on her wonderful book blog, Books in my Handbag. On Jessie’s gorgeous blog there are all sorts of good things. Check them out!

The Man with Azure Eyes

As I sat on the train, destined for Paris, I was drawn to a man with ‘azure eyes’.

A man, with ‘azure eyes’, interrupted me during my journey to Paris. He assisted me with my tartan suitcases then handed me a letter from Elizabeth Gates.  I broke the wax seal on the envelope. The gentleman disappeared while I admired the script on the letter.  I pondered whether I should return to Scotland.

Dear Readers,

I am delighted to present The Wolf of Dalriada, introducing with this extract, the series’ hero, Malcolm Craig Lowrie and his ‘azure eyes’. This historical adventure novel – run through with sparkling and unashamed romance – draws its characters from the Scottish Isles and the Palace of Versailles and Robespierre’s Paris – with all the bloodshed and glamour that implies. A blend of mysticism and intrigue with humorous social commentary, it’s the ideal read for popping in your handbag for that long train ride.

I hope you enjoy reading The Wolf of Dalriada as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Lizzie Gates

I searched for Elizabeth Gates on Facebook and beseeched her to tell me more about the novel.  Mysteriously, she hopped on the train at the next stop, in Ashford.  She opened her novel and read to me.

Extract

Chapter 1

Watching from castle battlements, eyes – azure, intelligent – pick out the moon-cast shadows as the rider moves away in dusky night.

Dalriada, Argyll, Scotland 1st January 1793

GAELIC CALLS spin a web through the mist in arcs of soft sound. Fear unsteadies the unseen flocks on the scrub heather hillside as men and dogs weave a trap around them in the darkling night. Once the flocks are penned, then the lanterns are turned towards the south. The watchers wait in silence.

Meanwhile, down below, at Crinan Loch-side, a horse’s muffled hooves slither on the cobbled apron before the Castle Craig Lowrie gate. The slope is steep and wet with winter but the horse keeps moving forward. Then, at the forest’s secret edge, the muffles are removed, swiftly, deftly. The rider – dressed in groom’s clothes and wrapped in a stolen plaid – climbs into the saddle. Which way? They take the track north from Dalriada towards Oban.

Watching from castle battlements, eyes – azure, intelligent – pick out the moon-cast shadows as the rider moves away in dusky night. ‘Safer out there than here, at present,’ Malcolm Craig Lowrie thinks. ‘I will know where to find her – when I need.’

He pauses for the tiniest shard of a split moment. He wonders how it would feel to love and be so loved – as that young girl is. Then he turns back to his task in hand. A laird with five hundred armed men at his call, he is waiting – as always – for yet another attack.

Elizabeth Gates The Wolf of Dalriada

Jessie: The man with ‘azure eyes’ was not from our world. Tell me more about the historical context and the plot.

Elizabeth: It is 1793. Revolutionaries plan to execute the French Queen Marie Antoinette and, watching events unfold alongside the whole of Europe, King George III of Great Britain fears French-style rebellion in his Scottish lands.There, fractured truths, torn loyalties and bloody atrocities are rife and, in Argyll, the Craig Lowrie clan desperately need someone to keep them safe. Malcolm Craig Lowrie, the handsome, murderous ‘Wolf of Dalriada’, rises to the challenge. Then, with Adelaide de Fontenoy – a beautiful young Frenchwoman fleeing from debauched lawyer, Sir William Robinson – Craig Lowrie finds love and his dilemmas become as unforgiving as the land of Argyll itself…

Jessie:  What do the reviewers think about the novel?  I expect they were thoroughly seduced by the plot and characters.

Elizabeth:  I have been very pleased with the positive response.

‘Just stunning writing, historical turmoil and romance at its very best’ – Rhona Whiteford, novelist and independent publisher.

‘As Scottish as whisky’ – Deborah Jones, Novelist.

‘You won’t want to put this down’ – Carol Fenlon, Novelist.

Jessie:  How did you feel when you had finished writing the novel?

Elizabeth: I was quite bereft when I finished writing ‘The Wolf of  Dalriada’. As I couldn’t imagine life without the riveting character of Malcolm Craig Lowrie and the urbane and evil Robinson, I immediately started my second novel, due out this year. I’m now creating a series.

The Wolf of Dalriada sounds captivating.  The laird certainly sounds charming. I hope you are tempted to visit Craig Lowrie and his dilemmas.

Meet author Tim Walker this time next week!

So excited – here’s a foretaste of the Author’s Mind interview which will appear on my Guest Blogging page in a week’s time!

Can you briefly describe the story of Uther’s Destiny?

The story begins two years into Uther’s reign in the year 469 AD. He has succeeded his brother, Ambrosius Aurelianus, as high king of the Britons, and his main concern is to protect the boundaries of his kingdom – modern day England and Wales – from barbarian invaders. Uther’s destiny as a warrior-king seems set until his world is turned on its head when his desire to possess the beautiful wife of a noble, Ygerne, leads to conflict. Brittle alliances teeter on the brink of collapse as Uther doggedly pursues his quarry, oblivious to other pressing matters of state.

 

Court healer, and schemer, Merlyn, sees an opportunity in Uther’s lustful obsession to fulfill the prophetic visions that guide him. He is encouraged on his mission by druids who wish for a return to ancient ways and urge him on to protect the one destined to save the Britons from invaders and lead them to a time of peace and prosperity. Merlyn must use his wisdom and guile to thwart the machinations of an enemy intent on foiling his plans.

 

Uther is challenged to rise above his domestic problems and raise an army to oppose a gathering Saxon force. In a climactic moment, the two armies meet in a battle that will decide the fate of the island.

Heroics

What do we hope for from a hero?

Well, the first question is: how often do we meet heroes in real life? I can think of precious few. ‘Cometh the hour, cometh the man (or woman)’ doesn’t seem to happen. Or it may be that by the time the media have inspected every potential hero – man or woman – to within an inch of their existence, feet of clay are crumbling all over the landscape.

But we do so need heroes! We need people who possess physical presence, and moral rectitude and the power to make things right. People like the Wolf of Dalriada – although Malcolm Craig Lowrie’s moral compass has an unusual perspective. He’s not above drawing the dirk across the jugular of someone who doesn’t behave as the Highlander code requires. But we still want this ‘judge, jury and executioner package’. We want a hero who is capable of making things right.

So we create fiction – through which strides this hero. And the creative concoction that is the hero feeds the hope that one day, our own hero will come into our real lives.

Personally, I can’t wait until Malcolm Craig Lowrie turns up in my life, smoking his pipe and enjoying his whisky and dispensing summary but effective justice. How about you?

But – and this is huge – do we want the hero to retain the qualities he/she possesses when we first meet him/her or do we want the hero to change? To develop? To learn? To grow? Through life-changing decisions?

A conundrum for the modern writer of historical and romantic adventures.