Sometimes I suspect the feeling is mutual because they often pop into my books. When they turn up, expecting to be included, I can’t resist them. After all, they’re bold and full of life, grand storytellers, brave and daring, romantic, and, at times, pretty darn dangerous. All good traits for potential romance novel characters.
Having them appear, looking for a story part, is like being kissed by the writing gods.
I haven’t yet refused one.
So readers can expect to find the rare Norseman (or Norsewoman) somewhere in my books’ pages. At the least, there will be references to Viking times.
TEMPTATION OF A HIGHLAND SCOUNDREL releases on July 26th and the hero, Kendrew Mackintosh, is a Highland Warrior if ever there was one. But he’s fiercely proud of his ancestral ties to Norsemen. If you read SINS OF A HIGHLAND DEVIL, book one in my Highland Warriors trilogy, you’ll know that Kendrew is in touch with his inner Berserker. He’s a wild man. My bad boy of the trilogy. And he knows how to flaunt and swagger. He’s wicked with a war axe. But he also has a heart of gold and lives by his own code of honor. The pages of his story abound with fascinating bits of Norse myth and legend.
Some of you might wonder why I weave such things into Scottish medieval romances.
The short answer is I just love Vikings.
But there’s more to it. Vikings have every right to be there.
The Norse ruled the Hebrides for nearly four centuries. Some historians place the earliest invasions as far back as 100 B.C. But the great age of Viking raids didn’t happen until many hundreds of years later. When it came, beginning in the late 700s, the attacks were vicious and terrifying. There isn’t any way to paint them pretty. They were what they were.
They were also farmers, fishermen, shipbuilders, craftsmen, and incredibly far-traveling traders, merchants, and explorers. Like so many people who raid, they eventually became settlers, bringing their own history, culture, and beliefs to the lands they’d once ravaged. Through intermarriage with locals, they also brought new and fresh blood.
This is what I had in mind when creating Scandia and her star-crossed Viking love, Donar, in SINS OF A HIGHLAND DEVIL.
Their romance could well have happened.
Norse hold on the Hebrides began to crumble after the Battle of Largs in 1264. The actual battle wasn’t a grand victory for the Scots, but the weather gods joined the fray and fierce sea storms smashed the Norse longships. King Hakon retreated to Orkney where he died and Norway ceded the Hebrides to Scotland two years later, in 1266.
Scotland’s Northern Isles, Orkney and Shetland, remained under Norse rule much longer. Only in the late 1460s did Scotland gain power there.
Even so, Viking influence remained strong.
Scotland brims with Norse archaeological sites. Viking heritage can be found in place names, local customs and festivals, and myth and legend. Who hasn’t heard of the fabulous sagas? To say the Norse had a way with words is an understatement.
Then there’s the fascinating world of their gods or their spectacular ship burials. I could wax poetic over how charismatic the men could be. Or sing praises of the women who were strong, vital, and held so many rights. Some of those rights are real eye-poppers for those who think women back then were helpless doormats.
They enjoyed sexual freedom unheard of in other societies. A woman could divorce a husband if he didn’t adequately satisfy her. Some wives recorded as having made use of this right are also noted as walking away with their dowries returned to them.
So I never say no when a proud Norsewoman or a fearsome, fire-in-his-eye Viking warrior appears in my office, demanding a piece of story action. I listen when a character like Kendrew (and his heroine, Isobel) want their Norse blood playing a role in a story.
With Norse legacy still such a tangible part of today’s Highlands, imagine how strongly Kendrew and Isobel would’ve been aware of this influence?
When you read TEMPTATION OF A HIGHLAND SCOUNDREL, I hope you’ll agree the Norse myth and legend fits in well and adds excitement to the story.
Here are a few Viking fun facts:
1) They didn’t wear horned helmets. A Viking warrior’s head protection of choice was most often a simple helm with a nasal bar. These helmets sometimes had mail ‘curtains’ at the back to safeguard the neck.
2) Vikings cared about appearance. They bathed frequently, braided their hair and beards, wore colorful clothes, and were fond of jewelry.
3) They were world travelers. A runic inscription at the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul shows they reached Turkey. And archaeologists in Scandinavia have uncovered countless stashes of dirhams (Arab silver coins), proving trade with those distant lands.
4) They could charm. One Norse trader was so well-loved for his engaging tales about his sea-journeys, that he was always an honored guest at King Alfred’s Anglo-Saxon court. This would have been at the height of the worst raiding years.
5) Their powerful sagas speak for themselves. These men had silver tongues. As proof: they had over a dozen beautifully evocative words just to describe the wind.
There are many other fascinating bits I’d love to share. Instead, I have a question. Do you enjoy research? Do you thrill to learn interesting tidbits like the ones above? And would you, like me, rather poke around an archaeological site than spend hours shopping for shoes?