In twelfth century Scotland, it took a half-Gael with a Viking name to restore the clans to their rightful lands. Once an exile, Somerled the Mighty now dominates the west. He’s making alliances, expanding his territory, and proposing marriage to the Manx princess.
It’s a bad time to fall for Breagha, a torc-wearing slave with a supernatural sense of smell.
Somerled resists the intense attraction to a woman who offers no political gain, and he won’t have a mistress making demands on him while he’s negotiating a marriage his people need. Besides, Breagha belongs to a rival king, one whose fresh alliance Somerled can’t afford to lose.
It’s when Breagha vanishes that Somerled realizes just how much he needs her. He abandons his marriage plans to search for her, unprepared for the evil lurking in the shadowy recesses of Ireland—a lustful demon who will stop at nothing to keep Breagha for himself.
~ Bewitching BT
“No side trips,” Somerled shouted before Godred was too far away to hear. “Ye have three places to go and that’s it: the Isle of Man, your clan, and back here.” Godred was prone to unscheduled detours.
Unless bad weather or the scent of easy plunder pulled Godred and his thirty oarsmen off course, Somerled would have Olaf’s answer in a few days. If Olaf agreed to the marriage, Somerled would add a wife to the items decorating his new castle at Finlaggan and eventually, the Isle of Man to his expanding area of influence.
The nobles would respect him then. Half-breed or not.
Behind him, a door squealed on one of the two guardhouses standing sentinel over the Sound of Islay. The small building spat out Hakon, his chief guard, another man of Dublin birth and temperament. Hakon strode the length of the jetty to join him. “I have every confidence the Norns will weave Godred a successful journey, my lord king,” he said, his words puffing white clouds above his tawny sheepskin cape.
“If your goddesses have woven anything, it’s an unfortunate headwind,” Somerled said. “Godred is forced to tack.” He closed his cloak and secured it at his throat with a brooch he once plucked from a Viking who no longer needed it. “The wind promises hail. My proposal will be delayed.”
“Aye, likely,” Hakon said, his hair and beard whipping into copper clouds, “but it will hasten Olaf’s reply. Do not despair, my lord. Ragnhilde will marry ye soon enough.”
Despair? Somerled stifled a laugh. Did Hakon think he had feelings for a lassie he had never met? He was about to tease his guard about being a romantic when Hakon stiffened.
“Another ship,” Hakon said, looking past Somerled’s shoulder.
Somerled spun around to inspect the northwestern waters of the channel separating Jura and Islay—the jewel of the Hebrides and the island that served as the seat of his burgeoning kingdom. “Where?” he asked, squinting.
Hakon thrust a finger toward the fog bank blanketing the horizon. “There, at the promontory, in that pale blue strip of water. See it?”
At first, Somerled saw nothing but swooping terns and ranks of swells. Then, an unadorned sail appeared. It crested on a wave, dipped low, and vanished.
“Should I sound the horn?” Hakon asked.
Somerled raked his fingers through the coarse, wheaten mess slapping at his eyes and held it at his nape while he considered his response. Behind them, the signal tower on Ben Vicar was smoke-free. Across the sound, the towers on the frosty Paps of Jura were likewise unlit, although clouds partially obscured their peaks. The Paps had a commanding view. If a signal fire blazed anywhere, the men stationed there would have seen it and lit their own.
“My lord king, should I sound the horn?” Hakon impatiently palmed the battle horn dangling at his broad chest.
Men began to gather on the jetty.
“Let us wait. It is only one ship, and it looks to be a trader. The signal fires would blaze by now if it were someone worthy of our concern.” Somerled glanced back at the mud and thatch cottages shouldering against one another. At their doors, the bows of half his impressive fleet rested on the shoreline, a sandy slip extending well into the distance. The rest of his ships sheltered at the far side of Islay, in Loch Indaal. A signal fire would deploy them quickly and, perhaps, needlessly.
“Alert the village. Have Cormac ready Dragon’s Claw,” he said, “but send only the nyvaigs for now.” The nyvaigs were smaller, but no less deadly. They would be out and back quickly.
Hakon sprinted through the gathering crowd and past the guardhouses. He leapt over a pile of rocks with surprising agility for a man of his years and size. In no time, specialized warriors and oarsmen were boarding the boats. A pony thundered inland, its rider instructed to warn, not panic, the people of Finlaggan.
Though Somerled carried his mighty sword, he had dressed for warmth, not battle. His mail shirt, aketon, and helmet hung in his bedchamber, two miles away in Finlaggan. He singled out a boy in the crowd. “Lad, find me a helmet and a shield, and be quick about it.”
The boy shot like an arrow toward the cottages.
Somerled held his breath as he watched the nyvaigs head out. At the first flash of steel, he would blow the battle horn. His men would light the towers and he would board Dragon’s Claw. The foreigner would be sorry he entered the Sound of Islay.
The ship’s features were barely discernible, but he could see that its high prow lacked a figurehead. He was trying to identify the banner fluttering on its masthead when the ship’s sail dropped and scattered gulls like chaff in the wind. His heart hammered against his chest as he waited for the foreign vessel to sprout oars; it didn’t. It stalled—a sign its crew had dropped anchor.
Dragon’s Claw bobbed next to him at the jetty, her top rail lined with colorful shields and her benches holding sixty-four of his savage warriors. Cormac gripped the tiller, but he would move aside when Somerled barked the order to do so. He would serve as his own shipmaster in the face of an enemy.
Low and curvy with a dragon’s head exhaling oaken flames from her prow, Dragon’s Claw was his favorite vessel, not because she was new or particularly seaworthy, but because he had wrenched her from the last Viking to leave his father’s lands.
The memory of that battle warmed him and occupied his thoughts while the nyvaigs swarmed around the foreigner. Then, they swung about, furled their sails, and rowed for home like many-legged insects skittering on the water’s surface.
When the boats reached the beach, Hakon jumped from his nyvaig and jogged through ankle-deep water, apparently too impatient to wait for his men to haul the vessel’s keel onto the sand. “Well, my lord king,” he said, “it seems to be the day for marriage proposals. It is an envoy from Moray, who comes at the behest of Malcolm. He asks to speak with ye regarding Bethoc.”
“Malcolm MacHeth . . . the Malcolm MacHeth . . . wants my sister?”
He had met Malcolm MacHeth only once, at King David’s court, on a night spoiled by ill-bred lassies who had mocked his foreign garb and speech. Malcolm, a bastard nephew of the Scots king, had observed his humiliation and pretended not to notice.
Yet here was Malcolm of Moray, a claimant to the Scottish throne and a known rebel, seeking Bethoc’s hand in marriage. Tainted bloodline or not, Somerled was apparently worthy of notice now.
1. If you were to describe your e-book/book in only one word, what would it be?
“Intense” seems to be a common word used by reviewers.
2. What would you say inspired you to write it?
Several events served as inspiration. The first happened while waiting to pay for gas. A man stepped into line behind me, and I felt this unbelievable energy emanating from him. It was bizarre, because he was not the sort of man I’d ever notice. In fact, if I met him in an alley, I’d probably run the other way, but as he stood behind me, I could feel the heat of him against my back. That was twenty years ago, and I’ve never forgotten the power of it. I’ve often wondered why I experienced that magnetism. There was nothing sexual about it—just a familiar pull, like I already knew him somehow. Were we soul mates in a past life? Were our lives meant to connect in some manner? I’ll never know, because I paid for my gas and ran out of the station like my pants were on fire. It’s crazy, I know, but it led to the question: what would happen if someone met a soul mate from a past life? Would we recognize him/her? How?
It wasn’t until I learned about Somerled of Argyll (while researching my ancestry) that I decided to write a novel featuring reuniting soul mates. Although much of Somerled’s story has been lost to time, we know he was a hero long before Robert the Bruce and William Wallace. In fact, he’s the progenitor of many of the Highland clans so popular in fiction today. Without him, those clans may have disappeared altogether, since it was Somerled who wrenched western Scotland from the hands of the Vikings.
I combined the “soul mate recognition” idea with Somerled’s story, threw in a little supernatural scenting ability, and SCENT OF THE SOUL was born.
3. Have you ever been hit by the infamous “writer’s block”? What did you do to escape it?
Oh my, yes. It’s wretched, and when it hits, I turn into a menopausal psycho strung out on bath salts. Everyone around me suffers, I’m afraid. I’ve tried everything to break out of it, including drinking copious amounts of wine. That one actually worked! I typed page after page of glorious prose. It’s just a real shame my fingers were on the wrong keys.
Seriously, though, the only way to combat writer’s block is to write, even if it’s nothing more than describing the comings and goings in my front yard, which ain’t much. Writer’s block writing doesn’t have to be exciting, just something that will jumpstart the creative segment of the noggin.
4. Your all time favorite book?
That’s a toss-up between WUTHERING HEIGHTS and JANE EYRE.
5. What made you pick that one above all others?
I think those are special titles because they always seem to carry me away. Plus, I love books that make me sob.
6. What’s the longest time you’ve spent working on a project?
SCENT OF THE SOUL took several years to complete, since my first attempt was a pile of manure. I took some time off to study my craft, enrolled in some online courses, and started over.
7. Would you say becoming an author has changed you? In what way?
I used to be incredibly organized. My house was spotless. We were never searching for clean clothes. I’ve put on twenty pounds in the past few years, because I sit in front of a computer most of the day. My husband rigged up our elliptical with a laptop stand so I can write while I exercise. I had hoped this would help me lose the extra pounds, but when a lukewarm review rolls in, I tend to self-medicate with Hershey’s Kisses by the bucketful.
It’s changed me in good ways, too, though. My self-esteem is higher, because I’ve done something others only dream about. It took hard work and dedication, but I did it. I’m proud to say I’m a published author.
8. Was there ever a time, during your work on the e-book/book, when you felt like giving up? What made you change your mind?
I keep a sign near my desk that says “NEVER GIVE UP,” and I mean that. If you want something badly enough, you have to envision it and then work your rear off to obtain it. Unless the thing you want is a person who’s not all that into you. Then, if you keep trying to obtain it, it’s just stalking, and you’re a weirdo.
9. What does your day-to-day life consist of? What else do you do, aside writing?
I get up at 5:00 a.m. to squeeze in two hours before leaving for the day job waiting for me thirty-five miles from my home. I write in my car during lunch (while stuffing a sandwich down my throat), and spend all evening and every weekend at my computer. In fact, as I type this (Saturday), I am sitting in the car at an antiques store while my husband browses inside. Don’t believe me? Here’s proof:
10. How do you deal with bad reviews or acid criticism? What would you advise other authors to that effect?
The answer I’m supposed to give you here is that I take the useful bits of criticism and discard the rest. The truth is that even lukewarm reviews make me cry. All art is subjective, so it’s to be expected, but some people can be really insulting. One reviewer of another author’s work said she wouldn’t use that author’s book to wipe her rear end in a toilet paper emergency. I thought that was incredibly cruel. We eat, breathe, sleep, and bleed these novels of ours because we want to share something beautiful or interesting with the world. It’s a lot like conceiving a child and going through the pangs of labor, only to have a woman tell you if she’d borne a son as ugly as yours, she’d drop him off in the woods on her way to get her tubes tied.
Seasoned authors tell me this gets easier. I don’t know about that. I’m pretty sensitive. The only advice I can truly give other authors is the advice I give myself: the only way to avoid a bad review is to not write a book. Isn’t that far worse than taking a sucker punch to the temple now and then? That person wrote a bad review. You wrote a whole book, one plenty of others will enjoy. Keep on keeping on.
11. Is this title part of a series? Without giving us spoilers, of course, what can we expect from the next e-books/books in the series?
Sort of, though each title stands alone. My second novel, coming soon from Soul Mate Publishing, is a story of emigration and hardship. It follows two of Somerled’s impoverished descendants as they flee Ireland with the one valuable thing left to them—a gold torc that once belonged to Somerled himself.
My third novel is in progress. It features Somerled’s contemporary descendant, who unearths a gold torc on her Pennsylvania farm. Curious about its origins, she travels to Scotland to investigate—and finds more than she bargained for.
12. What do you have stored for us in the future? What are you working on/planning on next, aside this title/series?
I have a “failed immigration” story bouncing around the inside of my head. The plot hasn’t entirely come to me yet, but I know I want it to be a story of a woman surviving the aftermath of her husband’s visa denial.
1. If you could wish for any one thing, and it would immediately come true, what would you wish for?
I would wish for the granting of three daily wishes for the rest of my very long life.
2. If you were stranded on an isolated island, what’s the one book you’d absolutely wish to have with you?
3. Name your favorite fruit.
4. Coffee or tea?
5. Favorite season?
6. Were you a boyscout/girlscout?
No, but my mother made me take 4H sewing.
7. Favorite food for breakfast?
Scrambled eggs and bacon.
8. Latest book you’ve bought and read?
THURSDAYS AT COCONUTS by Beth Carter.
9. Do you collect things like stamps, or key chains, or shoes?
I collect a lot of stuff, but mostly early American things like tools, war clubs, and tomahawks (I have 6!). I love old local history books and wooden boxes, too.
10. Favorite color, you know you want to tell us!
11. Drama or comedy?
Depends on the day, but probably drama.
12. Cats or dogs?
I love all animals, but I’m partial to dogs. I used to be a canine artist. See?
13. Dinner by candlelight or a night out clubbing?
Dinner, something to savor.
14. What song have you listened to most recently?
Since my husband is Irish, there’s almost always a jig or reel playing.
15. What first came to mind after reading question no. 1 of the Fun Facts section? I mean that thing that you reconsidered after giving it more thought 😛
I would really love to see a cure for cancer.
1. Your top secret, uber guilty pleasure is…
2. If you could choose to be someone else for just one day, it would be…
A queen with the power to order executions. “Off with their heads!”
3. Your oldest memory is…
Okay, this one is funny and a little weird. I remember lying on a sunny porch with our dog and her litter of puppies. Might explain why Mom couldn’t keep my tiny hands out of the Gravy Train bag a few years later.
4. If everyone would receive a prize for being best at something, you’d be no. 1 at…
Not giving up.
5. The one thing you’d do anything to avoid/get out of is…
Anything with numbers. *shivers*
6. Your favorite part of a date is…
The first kiss.
7. If a character from any book could become real and you could spend a day with them, it would be… from the book…
Well, of course it would be Somerled from SCENT OF THE SOUL.
8. You were/are a hardcore fan of…
9. You’d immediately fall for someone who…
Painted my house.
10. The one thing you could/can never get over is…
The hell suffered during the years waiting for my husband’s visa approval.
11. If you could have any one superpower, it would be…
The power to become invisible.
12. The one thing that always brightens your day is…
Someone telling me that they enjoyed my book.
13. The most awkward moment in your life happened when…
I gave the middle finger to a tailgating driver and then found out it was my pastor.
14. The awesomest thing in your life is…
About the Author & Links:
Something magical happened in the musty basement of Julie Doherty’s local courthouse. She went there intending to research her ancestry, not lose herself in a wealth of stories, but the ghosts of yesteryear drew her into the past and would not let her go. The trail left by her ancestors in those yellowing documents led her from rural Pennsylvania to the Celtic countries, where her love of all things Irish/Scottish blossomed into outright passion.
She became particularly interested in Somerled, self-styled “King of Argyll” and progenitor of the Lords of the Isles. In 1164, he led a fleet of 164 galleys up the River Clyde in an all-or-nothing attempt to overthrow the Scottish crown. What would lead a man of his advanced years to do such a thing?
Of course, history records he did so because the king demanded forfeiture of his lands. But the writer in Julie wondered …what if he did it for the love of a woman?
Those early ponderings led to SCENT OF THE SOUL, Julie’s first novel, coming soon from Soul Mate Publishing.
Readers will notice a common theme throughout Julie’s books: star-crossed lovers. This is something she knows a bit about, since during one of her trips to Ireland, she fell in love with an Irishman. The ensuing immigration battle took four long years to win. With only fleeting visits, Skype chats, and emails to sustain her love, Julie poured her heartache into her writing, where it nourished the emotional depth of her characters.
Julie is a member of Pennwriters, Romance Writers of America, Central PA Romance Writers, The Longship Company, Perry County Council of the Arts, and Clan Donald USA. When not writing, she enjoys antiquing, shooting longbow, traveling, and cooking over an open fire at her cabin. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, who sounds a lot like her characters.