Nicola Cornick rejoins the Riskies today, with tales of traveling from the Scotland of her newest release from Harlequin Historicals, Kidnapped: His Innocent Mistress, to the American West! Nicola, welcome back, and tell us about Kidnapped and your latest US holiday…
It’s so lovely to be back here at Risky Regencies and to be talking about books, travel, and inspiration! What better combination could there be?
So to Scotland first and I think I must be one of the luckiest people in the world because I go there every year to visit family. Under the circumstances it’s surprising that I’ve never set a book there before because it is one of my favorite places and I love reading historical romances set in Scotland. Kidnapped: His Innocent Mistress is inspired by all the places I love to visit in Wester Ross in the Highlands. The village of Applecross, which is Catriona Balfour’s home at the start of the book, is a very special place, accessed by only two roads, one of which is a high mountain pass with views across the sea to the Outer Hebrides. The Gaelic name for the Applecross Peninsula is “a Chomraich,” which means “The Sanctuary.” The site of the old abbey at Applecross, built in AD 673 by Irish saint Maelrubha still has one of the most peaceful and inspiring atmospheres that I have ever experienced.
Further along the coast is Sheildaig, a village that was originally to raise and train sailors to fight in the Napoleonic Wars. Grants were given for boats, and 2700 pounds was spent building the three main streets, which these days are neat and whitewashed and very pretty. From there the road turns inland between the high mountains of Torridon and this is the route that Catriona takes in my story as she travels to her new home in Glen Clair. The old house at Glen Clair is another place inspired by a real location–the Coulin Estate. In a spectacularly beautiful setting in the mountains, Coulin is somewhere we return to year after year. It was in the ownership of the MacKenzie family of Gairloch from the 16th century and in the Regency period the tenants suffered eviction in order to make way for sheep farming. This was of course the fate of many Highland families during the 18th and 19th centuries. These “Highland Clearances” forced many families to the coast, the Scottish Lowlands, and abroad to countries including Australia and Canada.
At Glen Clair my heroine Catriona becomes embroiled in the illegal whisky distilling business! There were many illegal stills hidden in the mountains, in caves that were away from the prying eyes of the excise men and in remote glens. The euphemistically-named “teahouse” at Coulin really did provide illegal refreshment for drovers crossing the mountains and it is still there though these days it is used as a mountain bothy rather than a place offering alcoholic beverages! Just as smuggling was condoned or even encouraged by many of the gentry in England, so many of the Scots would turn a blind eye to what was going on. Ministers of the church were even known to hide the whisky in coffins to deceive the excise men!
From Scotland to the US, and when Kidnapped arrived in the US bookstores at the beginning of March, I was thrilled to be there to see it! It’s no secret I love visiting the US and this time our holiday started in San Diego with a trip to the historic waterfront, taking in the 1863 ship the Star of India and the HMS Surprise, a replica of an 18th century Royal Navy frigate that was used in the filming of Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World. That was my treat, and afterwards we visited the USS Midway as a treat for my dh!
Our ten-day whale-watching holiday down the coast of the Baja Peninsula and into the Sea of Cortes might not seem to have the most obvious of historical connections (though it was spectacular in itself) but I had read up on Baja history and legends and devoured the stories of pirates and buccaneers, coming back with what I hope will be a wonderful plot for my next HQN book! From Mexico we flew back to Phoenix and travelled to Monument Valley and the Grand Canyon, finally driving back to Los Angeles via the historic Route 66. On the way we stopped off in Oatman. What a place!
Oatman began over 100 years ago as mining tent camp and quickly became a flourishing gold-mining center when in 1915, two miners struck a $10 million gold find. The mining boom was short-lived. In 1921, a fire burned down many of the smaller shacks in town, and 3 years later the main mining company, United Eastern Mines, shut down operations for good. Oatman survived by catering to travellers on Route 66. But in the 1960s, when the route became I-40, Oatman almost died.
Oatman was such a fun place to visit. I’d never been to an old Western town, and I loved the tame burros roaming the streets begging for carrots and the gunfight staged by the ghostrider gunfighters! My dh loved all the photo opportunities presented by the old buildings including the Oatman Hotel, where Clark Gable and Carol Lombard honeymooned and Gable allegedly played poker with the local miners!
We came home with some amazing memories and some equally spectacular photographs, and for me some inspiring story ideas. It doesn’t seem to matter where I travel–seeing new sights, talking to people and reading up on the history always seems to inspire me with ideas for my writing.
What is you favorite setting for historical romances?? And which places particularly inspire you?
Nicola will give away two copies of Kidnapped to lucky commenters on today’s post!