by N. Gemini Sasson
When it comes to a dream vacation, I want adventure, culture, breathtaking scenery and most of all the lure of being able to slip back in time, to stand on the very ground where others have walked centuries before. The place that calls to my heart is Scotland. Although I’ve been there twice before, I’d go again in a blink given the opportunity. Once the kids are out of college and we don’t have tuition payments to make, I’m taking my husband there for a second honeymoon. I’ll even let him go golfing at St. Andrews for being such a good sport, but he’ll have to put up with my castle touring and Highland hikes.
So many castles to choose from! One in particular has captured my attention, though – Tantallon Castle near North Berwick. Perched on a rocky headland on the Firth of Forth, it overlooks Bass Island, where sea birds throng in their tens of thousands. Built in the mid 14thcentury by William Douglas, 1st Earl of Douglas and nephew to my historical hero James
Douglas, Tantallon is a ruins now. Great chunks of the curtain wall have long since tumbled over the cliffs and been swallowed by the sea. If you close your eyes and listen, you can hear the footsteps of the ghosts of past inhabitants as they lurk behind mossy stones.
Castles aren’t all there is to Scotland, though, or the only reason I want to go back. Traveling through the Highlands is unforgettably picturesque. The wind is so constant and the soil so rocky that trees don’t grow on the mountainsides. Instead, heather and lichens paint the rugged peaks in hues of purple and gold beneath cloud-laden skies. If the Highlands are too
remote, there are always green forested glens cut through by rushing rivers or seaside towns where you can go pony trekking on the beach.
In Scotland, you won’t see endless billboards along the highways or megamalls situated close to sprawling suburbs. Architectural preservation is of prime importance, so every village and major city maintains a very historical feel to it and boutique shops are abundant. My favorite shops are the ones in Edinburgh along Royal Mile that carry the swords (I want one of my own!). A quartet of watercolors from the Orkney Islands the last time I was there adorns my living room wall. And if the weather turns a wee bit nippy, you can always retreat to a cozy little tavern for some fish and chips, chased down by a whiskey, while the local talent sings
one of those tragic Scottish ballads to the accompaniment of fiddles and tin whistles. Best of all is when the keening of bagpipes joins in. Then you really do know you’re in Scotland.
I can’t wait to go back to Scotland, to walk the same ground my ancestors did, to stand in the very places where the characters in some of my stories lived, fought and even died. The more I write about Scotland, the more imperative it becomes – I must take a research trip...um, I mean a vacation to Scotland!
Thanks a million for having me, Melissa. It was fun to daydream. Now I feel compelled to make plans.
by N. Gemini Sasson
What is done cannot be undone.
England, 1326. Edward II has been dethroned. Queen Isabella and her lover, Sir Roger Mortimer, are at the pinnacle of their power.
Fated to rule, Isabella’s son becomes King Edward III at the callow age of fourteen. Young Edward, however, must bide his time as the loyal son until he can break the shackles of his minority and dissolve the regency council which dictates his every action.
When the former king is found mysteriously dead in his cell, the truth becomes obscured and Isabella can no longer trust her own memory . . . or confide in those closest to her. Meanwhile, she struggles to keep her beloved Mortimer at her side and gain yet another crown—France’s—for the son who no longer trusts her.
Amidst a maelstrom of shifting loyalties, accusations of murder propel England to the brink of civil war.
In the sequel to Isabeau, secrecy and treason, conspiracy and revenge once again overtake England. The future rests in the hands of a mother and son whose bonds have reached a breaking point.
The Wedding of Edward III and Philippa of Hainault
Edward III – York, January 1328
While a howling wind lashed the snow into knee-high drifts, we proceeded to the castle. Philippa and I rode abreast of one another, our horses caparisoned in heraldic silks, the silver bells attached to their bridles and reins tinkling gaily amid the clamor. It may well have been the coldest and snowiest day in years, but it did nothing to dampen the spirits of England’s
people. We dismounted before the steps to the great hall, the bells of York’s churches pealing in celebration. She slipped her hand from beneath the warmth of her miniver-edged cloak. I grasped her fingers and pulled her closer.
“I regret to say,” I whispered rapidly, before anyone could close in and overhear,“that my mother has raised objection to our wedding night being so close to Lent. She thinks we should forego, ah, a certain ‘rite’ in the hopes of receiving God’s blessing upon our
Philippa clasped her other hand over my forearm. “I had not thought of that. Will we not ...?”
Casting a glance around, I guided her up the steps. A pair of porters opened the great doors before us. I shrugged. “Do youwant to?”
“I do.” Lowering her chin, she shrank inside her hood to conceal her blushing.“That is, if it would not trouble your conscience.”
“Mine? No.” I scoffed. “Christ himself could not keep me from you tonight.”
worked as an aquatic toxicologist, an environmental engineer, a teacher and a track and cross country coach. A longtime breeder and judge of Australian
Shepherds, her articles on bobtail genetics have been translated into seven languages.
Web site: http://www.ngeminisasson.com
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