Thursday, November 19, 2015

Review and Author Interview: The Winter Laird by Nancy Scanlon

The Winter Laird 
by Nancy Scanlon
Series:  Mists of Fate #1
Pub. Date:  Nov. 17, 2015
Publisher:  Diversion Books
Pages:  262
Format:  eARC
Source:  NetGalley

My Rating:  
Sultry Scale:

Successful matchmaker Brianagh O’Rourke believes in happily-ever-afters...just not her own. She’s convinced passion only exists in her dreams. When she reluctantly accepts a marriage proposal, Bri decides she needs a vacation—but she didn't expect it to be in 13th century Ireland.

Laird Nioclas MacWilliam just wants peace for his clan. The time for him to marry has come, and after waiting years for his ally to present their daughter, he’s agreed to marry another. But on the eve of his nuptials, a daring rescue brings his missing betrothed right into his arms.

And she does not want to be there.

Brianagh has to return to the future. Nioclas has to marry. He offers a solution for the both of them: She marries him and stays for three months, and they work together to convince his clan they are a love match. In return, he vows to safely return her home. But as the days turn to weeks, they both begin to see what a happily-ever-after could be. And when the time comes, does Brianagh return to the life she’s built, or does she remain in the past for a chance at true love? 

The Winter Laird is an exceptional debut novel from Nancy Scanlon. This author will go on my must read list for her future works. This is a time travel romance set (for the most part) in 15th Century Ireland.

Brianagh O'Rourke runs a successful matchmaking business in present-day Boston, called Celtic Connections. While she is great at matching other couples, her own perfect match is eluding her. Plus she has some really intense dreams of a captivating Irish warrior who makes all real men pale in comparison. Then Bri learns a family legend about time travel and a child who is spirited away to safety. Could Bri be the key to the O'Rourke legend? I loved the way that Bri had with people - she could make the most prickly pear beam at her praise or diplomatic way of settling disputes. I wish I had this talent with people as it would come in mighty handy in my day to day life.

Nioclas MacWilliam has been laird of his clan since the age of 12, when he banished his sire for killing his mother. Nioclas has always put the clan first so when they start pressuring him to marry, Nioclas knows that he must do his duty. As he is preparing to marry for an alliance, the O'Rourke's show up demanding he carry through with an old agreement to marry the sole O'Rourke daughter. Nioclas and Bri are both stunned when they see one another for the first time as they both have a strong feeling of deja vu. Nioclas was a great hero - but what's not to love about an honorable Celtic warrior? One of the funniest parts of the book for me was Nioclas' reaction to the things Bri brought with her from the future... I found myself chuckling out loud at his observations regarding zippers, Coach purses and cell phones.

This was a sweet romance, low on the sultry scale, but fun all the same. A little more passion between our romantic interests would not have been amiss, but there was enough there to get my imagination going. The secondary characters in this story were great - I loved Aidan, Donovan, Reilly, Colin, and Erin. The villian, Burke, was also sufficiently demented and creepy.

One thing that threw me off was what seemed to be the rampant use of the English language. It was not clear whether Bri spoke predominantly in gaelic or English... but she would often use English slang and they would respond that they didn't know this word (i.e. "okay")... words which I am not sure have a gaelic translation. But as long as I overlooked that, the dialogue was engaging and well-written.

I received an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

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About the Author

Born and raised near Boston, MA, Nancy wrote her first romance novel at age 16, when she realized that fictional boyfriends were much easier to figure out than real ones. In the time since, she managed to earn her B.A. in English from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, obtain a graduate certificate in creative writing from the University of Cambridge, and marry the man of her dreams (but she still holds tight to her fictional boyfriends). 

By day, Nancy is the technical writer for a software company, and she adores all things misty, caffeinated, chocolate and grammatically correct. Currently, she resides in the metro New York City area with her husband, two small children, and two not-so-small dogs. 

When not writing, Nancy spends her time reading, reviewing and blogging about romance novels, watching too much HGTV, and taking care of her family. 

Author links:  Goodreads / Facebook / Website

Author Interview

What made you decide on 15th Century Ireland for the setting of your debut novel?
When I was in college, I went on spring break with some of my sorority sisters. We headed to Ireland and England – and had an absolute blast. I fell in love with the countryside and the culture, and it inspired me.
Did you have to conduct a lot of research or maybe a fun research expedition? If so, what was the most interesting information you learned about historic Ireland?
I am terrible at research. My novels are much more character-based than setting-based, and I used creative license very, er, creatively. It also helps that Ireland, being the land of stories, has its history steeped in legends. Somewhere between what’s written and what’s told is the truth of its past, and I love that. There’s so much room for interpretation, and I use it to my advantage as much as possible. 
Years after my spring break trip, when I lived in England, I was fortunate enough to make several trips over to the Emerald Isle, deepening my love of the people and the land. I think the most interesting thing I learned was that Ireland’s history is slightly different, depending on whom you were speaking to in the pub!
I was perusing your website and saw the beautiful old castle you have posted. Can you tell us about the castle? Did it serve as inspiration or a setting for the book? 
That particular group of medieval structures is known as the Rock of Cashel. While it didn’t serve as inspiration for the book, it certainly was what I pictured while writing it, and one of the final scenes in the book does take place there.
My true inspiration for THE WINTER LAIRD came when I went on a solitary trip to Newgrange. The energy there was almost tangible – it’s a truly magical place with a rich history. I was able to go inside, and its sister site of Dowth is where my heroine’s adventures begin!
For those who have not read The Winter Laird, can you tell us a little about the Mists of Fate as a whole? 
The MISTS OF FATE series introduces you to three intertwined families – the O’Rourkes, the MacWilliams, and the O’Reillys. The O’Rourkes include Brianagh O’Rourke (THE WINTER LAIRD, Book 1) and Colin O’Rourke (ONCE UPON A SUMMER NIGHT, Book 3). The MacWilliams include Nioclas MacWilliam (THE WINTER LAIRD) and Aidan MacWilliam (Book 2, AN ENCHANTED SPRING). And Reilly O’Malley (FALLING THROUGH TIME, Book 4) is a central part to every MISTS OF FATE book. He’s the thread that holds it all together…but you’ll have to wait until the fourth book to see how. ;) 
Brianagh, Colin, and Reilly are all a part of the O’Rourke family legend that claims a chosen O’Rourke daughter holds the power to create a line of time travelers, who would be guardians of a secret known only by the Fates. (I think of them as the three women who snip the threads of people’s lives – but I discuss them more within the books as the series goes on.) 
Nioclas and Aidan MacWilliam are brothers, and by association with Brianagh are swept into the magic of the time travel.
Do you have any interesting, funny or just plain weird writing rituals or quirks? 
I always have a glass of water next to me when writing. I have yet to actually take a sip, though! I keep thinking that at some point, I might get thirsty and need it, but after years of water rings on my desk, the sad fact is that I just don’t get thirsty while writing. (It’s not like I’m actually moving anything but my hands, you know?)
Tell us three fun facts about the great life and history of Nancy Scanlon.
Well, “great” may be overstating a little…

  1. Since 2002, I’ve moved residences 13 times. I’ve lived in five states and three countries – and I can’t wait to see where we’ll land next!
  2. I married my college sweetheart, who is actually a real life hero, though he’ll deny it to the end of his days.
  3. I eat Nutella by the spoonful because it’s the nectar of the gods.
And finally, what do you have in the works right now?
Currently I’m working on revisions for Aidan’s story, AN ENCHANTED SPRING, and I’m writing Colin’s story, ONCE UPON A SUMMER NIGHT. I’m still trying to plot Reilly’s story – he’s such an enigmatic character that he has even me trying to figure him out!