Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Stephanie Laurens: The Cynster Sisters

Internationally bestselling author Stephanie Laurens is celebrating Valentine’s Day by publishing THE CAPTURE OF THE EARL OF GLENCRAE, the final book in a critically acclaimed trilogy that pays homage to Jane Austen’s incomparable heroine Elizabeth Bennet, writer and patriotic Scotsman, Sir Walter Scott, and incorporates a bit of Errol Flynn bravery and daring into three Regency-era heroes. The three stories are set across the diverse landscape of Scotland – from Gretna Green to the wonderfully romantic Edinburgh, to the Scottish Lowlands, ending dramatically in the Highlands. Ms. Laurens joins us to explain the lure of Scotland and explain why so many authors and readers consider our fair country one of the most romantic places on Earth.

Where to start? Let's strike the anvil where it’s hottest…Gretna Green, which is the setting for VISCOUNT BRECKENRIDGE TO THE RESCUE. Why did so many Regency-era couples elope to Gretna Green?

In 1753, a law was passed in England stipulating that if a bride or groom was less than 21 years old, they needed parental approval to marry, but in Scotland the law remained as it had been, so there a boy of 14 and a girl of 12 could marry without parental consent. Consequently, any youthful English bride or groom who wished to marry without parental consent fled to Scotland – and the village of Gretna Green is the first village over the border, approximately 6 miles farther on from the border north of Carlisle. Other Scottish border villages, such as Coldstream, Lamberton, and Paxton, were used by eloping couples, but Gretna Green was the most favored elopement destination.

Why was Gretna Green so Popular?

Because Scottish law allowed “irregular marriages” in which a declaration made before two witnesses constituted a legal wedding, almost anyone could conduct a wedding ceremony. In Gretna Green, as in the other border towns, surrounded as they were by farms with most local people working in the fields, the one certain place to find two people at any time of day were the blacksmiths’ shops.

We hear so much about the blacksmith shops! Why were they such hotspots for knot-tying?

In those times, most villages boasted at least one. In Gretna Green there were two – Gretna Hall Blacksmith’s Shop (founded 1710) and the Old Blacksmith’s Shop (built around 1712). Consequently, wedding ceremonies were often conducted over the blacksmith’s anvil, and the blacksmith and the anvil became the symbols of such runaway weddings. Indeed, the blacksmiths in Gretna were referred to as “anvil priests.” In addition to the blacksmiths’ shops, certain inns, and even some private cottages, became frequent wedding venues, but it’s the blacksmith and his anvil that remain most closely associated with eloping couples marrying at Gretna Green.

I call Edinburgh ‘wonderfully romantic,’ and it plays prominently in both THE CAPTURE OF THE EARL OF GLENCRAE and in IN PURSUIT OF ELIZA CYNSTER. We also spend some time in the Lowlands – but to the romance reader, it’s always all about the Highlands.

My characters lead me into the stories, and this story starts in a castle in the highlands. I’ve always wanted to write a full-length novel set in the Highlands – which is quite possibly why that first opening scene was set where it was (yes, my mind works like that – works to somehow get me to where my story-brain wants to be). After such a sweeping Errol Flynn/Elizabeth Bennet/Scottish adventure-romance, the finale definitely had to be grand! The ending had to be over-the-top – it had to contain everything – including the perfect setting. The castle, loch and glen of the Scottish Highlands provided the perfect canvas for such a sweeping tale.


Charity Girl said...

It's funny, when I lived in London I didn't pay anywhere near enough attention to my surroundings. Now I live in Edinburgh and have free access to the Highlands, I find myself reading histories of London and thinking up London based stories! I've just purchased Louise Allen's Walks Through Regency London so I can enjoy a whole day there. Doh! Maybe it's hard to appreciate something when you experience it every day. I wish I had a Scottish romance in me but the muse doesn't come - I'll have to content myself with reading yours instead :-)

I did take some great pictures up in the Highlands this weekend though, if you'd like some Highlander inspiration (anniversary of Glencoe yesterday). See: http://www.darcytodionysus.com/2012/02/massacre-of-glencoe.html

Bullrem said...

Ms. Laurens: I have been hooked on your books since Devil and Scandal. I so wished you could revisit Scandal and his children. I love all things Scots. I have toured there twice and hope to again next year. Thanks for the great hours of reading. Helen in Ark.