Author: Rosemary Gemmell
Genre: Scottish Gothic Romance
When Cate Stewart’s life falls apart, a job cataloguing the vast library at Highcrag on the Scottish east coast sounds perfect. Especially since she has a personal interest in the notorious witch hunts of the sixteenth and seventeenth century.
But the house has a dark past that seems to affect the present. And an owner, Lyall Kinnaird, who unexpectedly stirs Cate’s damaged heart.
As the Celtic festival of Samhain approaches, when the veil between the living and dead is thinnest, who can Cate trust?
The woman stood up and scanned the book looking for the price, before glancing at Cate. “Bit of a history there.”
It was only a few pounds and Cate handed the money over. But the woman had caught her interest. “Do you mean from the eighteenth century or thereabouts?”
“Aye, before and since.” She leaned on the counter, obviously ready for a bit of local gossip and Cate was intrigued enough to listen.
“Since then?” she asked.
“Well some people were suspicious about the death of the last owner’s wife. Pretty young woman she was, yet she ended up at the bottom of those cliffs.”
Cate gripped the book as she absorbed the woman’s words. Lyall had neglected to tell her about this, although Mrs McClusky had hinted at something.
“How did it happen?” Cate asked, glad no one else had come into the shop.
“Ah, well, that’s the question, isn’t it? They said it was an accident, that she’d been walking too near the edge on a dark night. But some would like to know why she was there at all at that time. Anyway, I shouldn’t gossip.”
Cate frowned, not knowing how to respond, aware she shouldn’t be standing here gossiping about Highcrag where she was employed.
“That’s quite a story,” she managed in the end.
“Do you know the house?” the woman asked.
Pushing the book into her bag, Cate forced a smile. “Not very well.” That was true and she didn’t want to admit she was working there. “Thanks for the book and the story. I’d best get going if I want to see the rest of the pretty town.”
Aware of the woman’s puzzled stare, Cate had just reached the door when she heard her call out.
“You should have a look in the small museum if you’re interested in the area. You might find out more about the house there too.”
Nodding, Cate left the shop and walked along the high street, not looking to left or right while she thought about the woman’s suspicions. Had something bad happened to the former mistress of Highcrag, or to anyone else in the past? Heavens, she’d better not let her imagination run ahead of her again. But that house had a definite Gothic feel about it and she had already sensed an atmosphere of some kind. But what?
She gradually slowed down and took in her surroundings. Noticing a sign down to the harbour, she followed the steep hill until she reached sight of the sea. It was the kind of picturesque scene that artists no doubt wanted to paint.
The hill ended in a cobbled street past the tiny houses, and an even smaller kiosk type shop promising crab and other delights from the sea, although it was closed at the moment.
The small harbour formed a semi-circle around the stretch of shingle, empty creels stacked below a wall that had space to walk along. Several fishing boats bobbed gently, waiting for the next trip to sea. Very few people were around and it was exactly what she needed. Although Highcrag was also near the sea, it had a remote wildness about it, unlike this more civilised and peaceful haven.
She couldn’t stop thinking about the woman’s suggestion that Highcrag had a dark history. Having seen some of the books it held and experienced those odd feelings at night, she could well imagine there might be some substance to suspicions. The sensible action was to ask Mrs McClusky or Lyall about those who had lived there before. They couldn’t avoid a direct question, although they might not know the answers, or be willing to tell her anything.
After a bracing walk along to the end of the sea wall, Cate found a bench overlooking the boats and sat down for a quick look through the little book she’d bought. It was fairly comprehensive for its size, mentioning some of the less salubrious times and activities such as smuggling and witchcraft.
She read the bare facts about the period of the witch hunts and shivered at the idea of the poor innocents who had met such a tragic end, merely for using their wisdom and knowledge of herbs. It was still unbelievable that one of her own ancestors had met such a tragic fate, and she was relieved her wise and knowledgeable grandmother had not lived in those days. It had been bad enough for her, as she’d discovered. So much ignorance, and not only in Scotland.
She found the page with the old photo of Highcrag and studied those differences she could see from a photograph. Very little had been written about it apart from a mention that it belonged to the Kinnaird family. Over the page, she found another reference from the seventeenth century and was immediately alert. It seemed that at least one Kinnaird had been accused of dabbling in the occult, but was it true? Or merely another misinformed accusation like that against her ancestor?
Buy Links (including BookBub):
Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07XC93JVH
Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07XC93JVH
What’s your favorite thing about the Fall season:
Everything! Fall (or autumn as we call it in Scotland) is my favourite season and I look forward to it every year, partly because I don’t like the heat of summer, when we get any. I absolutely love the changing colours, brisker walking weather and darkening evenings.
What inspired you to write this story:
I love writing romance with a touch of mystery or suspense and grew up reading the Gothic novels of Victoria Holt and Daphne du Maurier along with the suspense of Mary Stewart. I also love history and was appalled when I read about the huge numbers of women accused or killed during the notorious Scottish witch trials of the 16th and 17th centuries – far worse than most other countries.
Cate’s story combines these elements of Gothic mystery while her job cataloguing the library at Highcrag lets her delve into history. It also allows her to visit the Scottish village where an ancestor was accused of witchcraft. Of course, there is also the handsome master of Highcrag and the suspicions surrounding the mansion’s past.
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Runs September 1 – 30.
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Rosemary Gemmell is a published Scottish novelist of contemporary and historical fiction, and a freelance writer whose short stories, articles and occasional poems have been published in UK magazines, the US, and online. She is a member of the Society of Authors, Romantic Novelists’ Association and Scottish Association of Writers. Scotland greatly inspires some of her stories and she loves to dance!
Social Media Links:
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/RGemmell/
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