The Raided Heart:
A Border Reiver Romantic Adventure
(The Historic Hearts Book 1)
By Jennifer C. Wilson
Hi Mary Anne, and thank you so much for hosting me on your blog today, ahead of the launch of The Raided Heart, released on 15th November, but available on pre-order now, here.
First, let me tempt you in with the blurb…
Meg Mathers, the headstrong youngest sibling of a reiving family on the English-Scottish border, is determined to remain at her childhood home, caring for the land and village she’s grown up with. When an accident brings her a broken ankle and six weeks in the resentful company of ambitious and angry young reiver Will Hetherington, attraction starts to build. Both begin to realise they might have met their match, and the love of their lives, but 15th century border living is not that simple, as Meg soon finds herself betrothed to the weakling son of a tyrannical neighbour, Alexander Gray. When tragedy strikes, can Meg and Will find their way back to each other, and can Will finally take his own personal revenge on Gray?
The Raided Heart is the first of "The Historic Hearts", a collection of historical romantic adventures set in Scotland and the North of England.
I know all published books are special to their authors, but for me, I would have to confess to having ‘joint favourites’! Although Kindred Spirits: Tower of London was the first book I was lucky enough to have accepted and published, The Raided Heart is the first novel I ever wrote, back when I was 13, inspired by the stunning Carnasserie Castle, not far from Oban.
It’s gone through some major changes since that first draft, not least a shift in the setting from 1530s Scotland to 1470s Northumberland, and the world of the border reivers. The reivers, for those who aren’t familiar with their history, were groups of families who lived along the England-Scotland border, and infamous for their raids into enemy territory, stealing livestock, kidnapping and thieving for a living. They were a hardy bunch, but full of character (and characters), and as I was living in Northumberland when I wrote the latest draft of the book, I decided it would be great to bring the two elements together. Will and Meg haven’t changed much since their first incarnation, but the world around them certainly has.
This is the first full-length novel I’ve published which doesn’t have the fall-back of ghosts of time-travel, and although I loved undertaking the research, it was certainly challenging, making sure there were no anachronisms creeping in. As well as inadvertent plagiarism! It’s fair to say that for 13 year old me, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and The Princess Bride were definitely strong reference points for inspiration, and during one key scene, I had to completely rewrite a sword-fight, having accidentally paraphrased perhaps one of the most famous sword-fight-based lines in cinema history…
After all this time in the making, it feels slightly terrifying to be letting it out ‘into the wild’, but I know it’s time to let it spread its wings, and I hope people enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. To tempt you in further though, here’s a snippet from the first chapter:
Long Ridge, Northumberland, October 1471
The dark still wasn’t moving.
Meg Mathers stood at the window of the family’s bastle, trying to pick out any hint of movement, friend or foe, against the blue-black of the night, but there was none to be found. It had been hours since the men had ridden out – it couldn’t be much longer now. Without looking down, she polished the pewter dish in her hand once again; she didn’t know how many times she had cleaned it already that night, but she couldn’t stop. Just as she knew that behind her, Hannah Carstairs and Lizzie Wilkinson would be equally lost in equally meaningless repetition.
Behind each dot of light in the cottages beyond the enclosure’s defensive wall, it would be the same. The women, the old, the young and the infirm, each finding their own way to pass the hours until fathers, husbands, brothers and sons were safely returned to them. None were aware of what they were doing; the cloth in Meg’s hand could rub away to nothing and the fact wouldn’t have registered. At least it felt productive.
As much as Meg hated seeing them go on each raid, it was a necessity this time. One more failed try, and the dreaded possibility of over-winter starvation might just become their reality. Meat was already running low.
She kept staring into the dark.
“Come on lad, we can make it!” Robert Mathers yelled at the top of his voice.
Will Hetherington was uncertain whether his leader was encouraging his horse, himself, or Will. It didn’t really matter; either way, they needed to speed up. In the muddle of hooves, equine and bovine, Will was no longer sure whether the horses he could hear were just from their own gang, or if they were being pursued by their victims. Seven fat cattle were certainly a prize worth chasing after, if the farm had noticed their theft.
He wanted to stop, to allow Robert to take stock, to check the hilltops which surrounded them for beacons, or the tiny dots of flaming peat cuts (the sure sign they were being pursued), to check whether they might be heading into a trap, but there was no time. Long Ridge was still miles away by his reckoning, and only then if they stayed on the right path – easier said than done in the race to safety from a raid, in the dead of night, and with just a hint of fear constantly at the back of your mind. He trusted the two brothers leading them, but mistakes could still happen. He was far too aware of that.
Will blinked away the memories which threatened to return. He had to focus, this was no time to wallow.
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Jennifer C. Wilson
Jennifer C. Wilson is a marine biologist by training, who developed an equal passion for history and historical fiction whilst stalking Mary, Queen of Scots on childhood holidays (she has since moved on to Richard III). Enrolling on an adult education workshop on her return to the north-east of England for work reignited her pastime of creative writing, and she has been filling notebooks ever since.
In 2014, Jennifer won the Story Tyne short story competition, and has been working on a number of projects since, including co-hosting the North Tyneside Writers’ Circle. Her Kindred Spirits novels are published by Crooked Cat Books and her timeslip novella, The Last Plantagenet?, through Ocelot Press. The Raided Heart is the first in a new collection of historical romances.
She lives in North Tyneside, and is very proud of her approximately 2-inch view of the North Sea.