I’m thrilled to welcome fellow Queen of Medieval Romance to my blog today. Glynnis Campbell Travels Back in Time to talk about Commoners in medieval Scotland.
Great to be here, Anna. We all grew up on fairy tales about beautiful princesses who waited for handsome nobles to rescue them so they could enjoy a happily ever after in their very own royal castle. It’s a fun fantasy, but I don’t find Prince Perfect and Lady Lilywhite very relatable or indeed very interesting.
I wonder what would have happened if Sleeping Beauty never found out she was a princess and lived the rest of her days in a humble forest cottage? Whatever became of the brave woodcutter who spared the life of Snow White? Could Cinderella have pulled herself out of poverty without the help of Prince Charming?
What about the heroes who aren’t royals? The everyday people who have to work for a living? The ones who claw their way through life by the seat of their pants to find love, relying on wit and wisdom, courage and compassion, a healthy disrespect for authority and a relentless sense of humor? What about people like you and me?
I think their stories are far more intriguing, which is why I set most of my books in Scotland. After all, it’s the country of Robbie Burns, who first shone a romantic light on common folk, giving them a respected place in history.
Who doesn’t love an underdog hero who beats all odds by proving that nobility resides, not in the bloodlines, but in the heart? Who doesn’t adore a scrappy heroine who isn’t afraid to get dirty, who can wield more power in the coy wink of her eye than a queen with an army at her beck and call?
These are the gritty, real, honest people I like to write about, and there’s nothing more fun than discovering one of these diamonds in the rough.
So when I started looking for inspiration for my 16th Century Scottish Lasses series, I scoured actual historical records, looking for simple heroes, and I found some remarkable commoners…
A lowly outlaw who led his clan against an invading army.
A medieval widow who wrote poetry to support her three children.
An impoverished monk who published a revolutionary book on mathematics.
These heroes managed to find their way into the history books, but I’m sure there were even more unsung heroes who didn’t let their lack of status or money or power keep them from performing heroic feats. In fact, you probably know people like this…
A librarian who helps struggling students with their homework.
A businessman who jumps in after a drowning dog.
A street musician who plays every Sunday at an eldercare facility.
True heroes aren’t always the people on pedestals—politicians and athletes and movie stars. They’re the commoners around us. And it’s their stories I most like to tell.
The novels of my Scottish Lasses series feature these simple folk. MacFARLAND’S LASS is a lady jeweler pursued by a huntsman. MacADAM’S LASS is a female spy who catches the eye of a Highland golfer. And MacKENZIE’S LASS is an angelic singer whose appetites are tempted by a master chef.
In THE OUTCAST, my newest release and the prequel novella to Scottish Lasses, hero Lachlan Mar is not a clan laird with a castle. He’s an ordinary soldier who’s made an enormous sacrifice for his country and his king, and he proves to Alisoune Hay, a brilliant lass who sells spectacles for a living, that even a broken warrior and a simple man can become the noble champion of her heart.
Excerpt from THE OUTCAST (prequel novella to Scottish Lasses)
Lachlan, still half-asleep, winced and groaned as the cottage shook from the impact of the door slamming. He opened one eye. The other felt like it was sealed shut. His mouth was as dry as plaster. And his head throbbed from the aftereffects of too much whisky.
“Campbell,” he moaned. Over the past few weeks, the hound had somehow learned how to open the latch on the cottage door and tended to come and go as he pleased.
But the scuffling didn’t quite sound like his hound. And when Lachlan managed to pry open his other eye, both eyes went suddenly wide at the sight before him.
Instinctively, he rose up on his elbows. “Who are ye?”
The tall young woman in the green gown blinked in surprise, as if she didn’t expect to see anyone actually inhabiting the cottage. At least he thought she blinked. ‘Twas hard to tell, because her eyes were shielded by two round pieces of glass perched atop her nose.
Before she could answer him, there was a loud pounding at the door. She dove for the bed, sailing over him to wriggle beneath the bed linens and pull the sheepskin coverlet over her head.
He was still reeling in shock at her boldness when the pounding came again, accompanied by irate shouts.
She started at the sound, and he felt her cold, naked leg brush against his as her small icy fist burrowed beneath his hip.
He glanced down at the shivering mound of sheepskin beside him. The woman was clearly hiding from whoever was outside. And whoever was outside clearly knew she was here. The last thing Lachlan needed was to get caught in the crossfire.
The pounding resumed, louder this time, and the woman peeked out long enough to plead with him in an urgent whisper. “I beg ye, sir, hide me. I fear they mean to burn me at the stake.” She was pale from the cold, but her cheeks were rosy from exertion, and she was quivering like a cornered mouse. Indeed, with her longish nose and those big spectacles, she looked a bit like a mouse. “Please, sir, please. Keep me safe.”
Then he frowned. Keep her safe. He was the last person to be trusted to keep someone safe. His brothers had depended on him to keep them safe. Four gravestones were proof of how that had ended.
But Campbell was staring expectantly at the door. And Lachlan knew he had to answer it. If whoever was outside intended to burn the woman at the stake, they might be carrying torches even now. And they might decide to make quick work of it by setting his whole cottage on fire.
With as little fuss as possible, Lachlan eased his right leg over the edge of the bed, tucked his crutch under his left arm, and pushed up. As usual, he staggered, and his head started throbbing, but he managed to regain his balance and limp over to the doorway.
He snatched open the door. “What do ye want?” he demanded harshly.
At least a dozen townsmen crowded together, trying to peer past him into the one-room cottage. He knew the men, though in the last three months since he’d moved back to Keirfield, he’d kept mostly to himself. Now—whether ’twas due to his rough and ragged appearance, his stern scowl, or his growling hound—nobody answered his question.
“Ye hauled me out o’ bed with your infernal racket,” he bit out. “So what do ye want?”
Finally, Father Ninian, the red-haired parish priest, gathered up enough courage to raise his quivering double-chin, demanding, “Hand over the lass, and we’ll leave ye to your affairs.”
Lachlan wondered what on earth a wee lass could have done to incur the wrath of this mob. Two of the villagers had their daggers drawn, four more wielded spades, and all of them had feverish fire in their eyes. He didn’t care if the woman had butchered their livestock and set their fields on fire. ‘Twas an unfair fight, and he didn’t like unfair fights.
“Lass?” he dared them. “What lass?”
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