Ayda Rogers can't believe her luck. She's been invited to a Scottish castle for the summer to research her doctoral thesis. When she gets there she finds that with 800 years of history to contend with, the past is always present. Steamy tales of previous castle owners meld within the modern story as she learns all she needs for her paper. And sometimes it's not the past but the present which makes you change your whole way of thinking, especially when it comes in the form of the future duke named Hunter.***
Today Elise Sinclair, Dowager Duchess of Cairnmuir, has stopped by to tell a little about the family that lives in Am Binnean Castle. Inhabited since 1252 by the Sinclair family, there are tales enough to entertain many a cold Scottish night.
Now, Elise, I see here you live in Scotland. Were you part of the British effort in the war, then?
Elise: (a bit of laughter) No, I was one of those odd Americans who were caught in Paris as it fell. My college roommate's boyfriend was quickly part of the resistance, and he recruited me for a special purpose. There was a German general in Paris who needed a secretary, and with my degree in languages and having been a model, he figured I would be a shoe-in for the position.
What is he up to now? This boyfriend that snagged you into the job?
Elise: Unfortunately, he was killed in the same betrayal that sent me into hiding. If not for that, I never would have ended up on the shores of Am Binnean castle. Marie, my roommate, was killed as well, and who knows what happened to his family. I put the marker for his grave up myself when I realized there was no one to do it.
I suppose the readers would like to know if you ever fell in love with the enemy. If so, how did the relationship end?
Elise: (real laughter) No, I was able to keep my skirt down when it came to Germans. Pretending I was one, working in an office with them, yet not sleeping with them was about the only way I could keep some bit of me reminded I wasn't German. I guess I knew that getting involved with any of the resistance members, even just civilians, would put me in a position I didn't want to have to explain to my German bosses.
So you were part of the Special Operations Executive then?
Elise: No, the Resistance group I belonged to just reported to them. François didn't want there to be any leaks with the group, so he was the only one I was in contact with. The SOE had my name; it was supposed to be safer that way. I was at the doctor's sick when the Germans started killing everyone on the SOE's ranks. Someone had given up the names. You know that all the details of that time in my life were written down in a story called "Once Upon a Spy." Ayda Rogers, who came to conserve the family art collection, seems to be collecting all the stories the family knows. I have a feeling that she'll make a story of her own to add, what with the way my grandson looks at her every time she's in the room.
Stories? You mean there's more than one? Tell me about those.
Elise: With a castle inhabited since 1252, how could there not be stories? There are more stories than hard fact. A lot can be forgotten in 800 years.
Which ones has she found out then? The ghost perhaps? I've heard talk of a castle ghost.
Elise: Heavens, which ones has she heard? I'm certain she's seen the ghost, actually. She jumps now and then when there is a noise. I know the cook, Mary, let loose about the naughty "Unexpected Relatives," such as Eaduin Sinclair who rebuilt the castle after it was regained from the English. He fought with Robert the Bruce, you know.
The family has long been involved in politics. "Politics of Marriage" is another she's collected. The castle might look picturesque after centuries of quiet, but in 1714, it was embroiled in the beginning of the Stuart claims to the throne. It was a sad day when so many men were killed that it kept the family from the risings.
Hunter has told her of our "Rose Among the Heather," a favorite story of mine, perhaps because it mirrors my own circumstances--a commoner catching the eye of the duke. Edward had just returned from fighting Napoleon only to find a house party that kept him from forgetting the horrors of battle. Heavens, I just realized all of
those are rather naughty! My own, of course, I could never tell such details, and I think she's researching a new one come to light only recently.
Five? That's all there is in 800 years?
Elise: (more laughter) She's only been here a few months, and she's been busy with a painting she's found. If it's what she thinks it is, that will be quite the coup for us--a missing Titian hidden for who knows how long. It is a working visit after all. I do know that she's found a most intriguing story set long before the Sinclairs and even the Vikings invaded the area. Romans and Picts! It's hard to believe this little part of the world far from everything has had so much history. She posted it online with an author friend of hers. I'm sure more stories will come to light, especially if Hunter is able to woo our guest. I'm certain his heart is lost already. Ayda's is harder to guess.
Then you know of more stories yourself?
Elise: Well, of course, my dear. So many years in the castle without a television leave many an evening to hear them all. I suppose you'll ask what? "A Faire Lass" is a short little tale of one of our ancestors falling in love at first sight. It's a most unusual problem when she sells iron goods in the market. "In Search of the Picturesque" brings a little scandal into the family. It's not the lack of title, either, nor is it without other misunderstandings. I'm getting tired though. I'm not as young as I once was when I survived a shipwreck and found my way to these shores. Perhaps another time.
Of course. I'd never want to tire you. I don't suppose Ayda would ever tell these tales though you have me quite intrigued.
Elise: (a vague smile) She's had help from that author friend of hers. They've written all the stories down and they'll even be published on April 27th. I think Ayda's even confided her decision of how she feels about my grandson Hunter. Now I really should have a nap before the nurse comes with my medication. She'll never be happy if she finds me worn out.
Thanks for stopping by today, Elise. I'm sure Jennifer is pleased to have you speaking about HISTORY LESSONS on her behalf. If you're intrigued by a story that takes you through the history of a great Scottish castle--and all the mischief and romance that takes place--then leave a comment or question for Jennifer. Next week, I'll pick a random name and that person will win a copy of HISTORY LESSONS. Good luck!