Please welcome Ann Lethbridge, the next guest author in our series Travel Back in Time.
As a historical writer, one of my greatest joys is research. My greatest sadness is that very little of the detailed information ends up in the book. My most recent series is set in Regency Scotland and follows the adventures of the Gilvrys of Dunross.
The family distil and smuggle whisky while working politically to have the draconian and punishing tax laws changed. At this time, as many as 14,000 illicit stills were confiscated by Excisemen, called gaugers every year. Even so, half the whisky consumed in Scotland was enjoyed without payment of duty.
In order to understand the process of making whisky, I visited a distillery in the Highlands, but my question about how one might sabotage the end product, part of my plot you understand, did not go down too well.
In 1822, King George IV visited Edinburgh. He is the first reigning monarch to visit Scotland in more than a hundred and fifty years. The visit, orchestrated by the novelist Sir Walter Scott made such an impression that all things Scottish became fashionable in Britain, including whisky. The reception King George IV received from the Scottish people was enthusiastic in the extreme for a monarch mostly despised by his subjects in London. The streets were decorated with bunting and at night the buildings were lit with illuminations. King George’s schedule was packed with the ancient presentation of keys to the city and castle, balls, and parades. He held a Levee at the Palace of Holyroodhouse for the Scottish noblemen, where he appeared in full Scottish dress,–kilt and all–with pink tights to hide his big fat and presumably very white knees. He kissed all the noble ladies at a Drawing Room held at Holyroodhouse, a similar event to the Drawing Rooms held at in London.
One of the balls given in his honour was held at the then recently renovated Assembly Rooms. These were temporarily expanded on the second floor by means of wooden structure built alongside the existing two assembly rooms. One wall of this structure was painted with a life-like view of the Scottish Highlands, cunningly hidden behind filmy drapery, as if the guests were looking at it through a window. One observer noted that rooms glittered with ladies’ diamonds, white ball gowns and nodding white plumes. All gentlemen were encouraged to appear in Highland Dress to please the King. And apparently please him they did. In 1823 the whisky Tax laws were changed so that whisky from the Highlands competed on the same footing as Gin distilled across the border and the tradition of smuggling in the Highlands died out.
Reeling from betrayal, the once devastatingly handsome Andrew Gilvry has returned to Scottish shores to fulfill a promise made to a dying man. The widowed Rowena MacDonald has been entrusted to his care, and Drew must do all he can to protect her. But Drew’s honor is about to be tested because there’s something in Rowena’s dove-gray eyes that awakens a flame long extinguished. And on a perilous journey across the Highlands, with only this alluring woman for company, how long can he deny his desires? To find out more about me and my books visit my website http://www.annlethbridge.com
More about Ann:
An army brat born in England, Ann lived all over the UK in her youth. She grew up loving history, and books by Georgette Heyer. Now living in Canada, she has a husband, two lovely daughters and a Maltese Terrier called Teaser, who likes to sit on a chair beside the computer and make sure she doesn’t slack off. Several of her books have won awards including an honorable mention by Foreword Magazine. She is particularly proud of her 2009 win of the Daphne Du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense for The Rake’s Inherited Courtesan. Recently, her books finaled in the Booksellers Best and the Golden Quill. You will find her books in bookstores as well as on line as e-books.
Excerpt from Return of the Prodigal Gilvry
The three men in the common room were smugglers and rougher looking lot he never hoped to see. The storm must have brought them in, because if things remained as they had been before he left for America, they would usually avoid any place with the gaugers might visit. There would be no excisemen out on a night like tonight. It was a damnable nuisance that Pockle had been unable to keep up. It would have evened the odds. Drew jerked his chin in the direction of the inn. “Where are the men from?” The little man’s face closed up tighter than a Scotsman’s purse. “You’ll find no loose tongues here, sir, but since you are a true Highland gentleman, I can tell you they work for McKenzie out of Edinburgh. A rough lot, I can tell you that. You would do as well to keep an eye on that wife of yours.” Drew nodded and made a show of pulling his pistol from his saddle holster and tucking it in his belt along with powder and shot. He glanced up to find the man watching him. “Aye, well, I’m a man who kens how to look after his own.” The little man grinned. “As well to be safe as sorry, they do say.” The cold feeling in Drew’s chest expanded. Pockle should never have suggested they stay at a known smuggler’s haunt. They should have stopped earlier in the day.
“You can leave the horses to me,” the groom said. “I’ll look in on them later. You best keep an eye on that woman of yours and get yourself warm.” He gave Drew a nudge in the ribs. Drew gritted his teeth at the thought of the impending chilly reception. He should not have let himself be tempted. “Is there a back door into the inn?” he asked the groom. “Aye, straight across. You’ll go through the kitchen.” He winked. “There’s but one set of stairs.” Drew didn’t much like the sound of that. It was always good to have more than one way out. He picked up their saddle bags and heaved them over one shoulder, leaving one hand free to use his pistol. He just hoped he wouldn’t need it. He crossed from the stables to the back door of the inn. The goodwife was busy at the hearth, a pot bubbling with stew. It didn’t smell too bad and right now he really didn’t think he cared what was in it as long as it was hot and filling. She waved her ladle at him. “I’ll be up wi’ your dinner in a minute or two.” He entered the tap room. Only one man seemed to be taking any real interest. His eyes narrowed when they caught sight of Drew’s pistol. A grim sense of satisfaction filled him. At least they knew he was not easy pickings. Still, he didn’t trust them an inch.