LADY ARMSTRONG’S SCANDALOUS AWAKENING is out now. This is the second book in the REVELATIONS OF THE ARMSTRONG SISTERS mini-series, set in the mid-Victorian period. Mercy, my heroine, is a widow set on kicking over the traces and Jack Dalmuir, a self-made Glaswegian engineer, is more than happy to step in to help her.
Ships, the sea and ship-building are in my blood: my maternal grandfather was a captain in the Merchant Navy; my paternal grandfather was a Clyde shipbuilder; and my writing view, as you’ll know if you follow my ‘good morning’ posts on Twitter and Instagram, is of the River Clyde.
My latest hero, Jack Dalmuir is an engineer, not a ship builder, who has been commissioned to build the steam engines which drive the new pumping stations built during the massive project to implement Joseph Bazalgette’s vision to clean up the River Thames. Though Jack wasn’t the real engineer, the steam engines for Crossness Pumping Station which feature in my story were designed by a Scot.(I became fascinated by Crossness when writing the first book in this series, THE EARL WHO SEES HER BEAUTY, where he pumping station itself plays a key role.)
This is not the first time I’ve written a self-made Scottish hero. In UNWED AND UNREPENTANT Ian Hunter built steam ships- with another Armstrong Family connection into the bargain. In STRANGERS AT THE ALTAR, Innes Drummond is an engineer who builds piers which allow the new paddle steamers to bring day trippers ‘doon the watter’ to his home on the Kyles of Bute. Grayson Maddox, another Glaswegian with a ship building business, in A FORBIDDEN LIAISON WITH MISS GRANT, is keen to give a hand up to those less fortunate than him. And to bring this full-circle, Jack Dalmuir, my latest Glaswegian hero, benefited from Grayson’s support. (I do love re-using my characters!)
There are other more personal connections in Jack and Mercy’s romance though. These are my maternal grandparents on board one of my grandfather’s later ships, the Blairclova. Earlier in his career, he worked for the Anchor Line, sailing SS Caledonia, which makes an appearance in LADY ARMSTRONG’S SCANDALOUS AWAKENING as a tug boat.
Much closer to home, I finally managed to write my home town of Dunoon into the ending of Jack and Mercy’s romance. Reconstructing many, many journeys my parents and thousands of Glaswegians made in the past, my hero and heroine sail from Glasgow to Dunoon, passing all the little piers that were constructed at the height of the steam age, along the peninsula and which form one of my favourite cycle routes (you can read more of this here). Today, PS Waverley makes the same journey and is a regular sight from my window in the summer, the last sea-going paddle steamer in the world – the steamer which brings Mercy and Jack to Dunoon is rather more basic.
Castle Toward, about eight miles from Dunoon, was originally built as a holiday home (with its own pier!) for a rich Glasgow merchant in the earl Nineteenth Century. Way back in the day, when I was at school, the Castle was used for outdoor education (inducing horrible memories of my very un-athletic younger self and an obstacle course). It could also be hired as an events venue, and I have some much more pleasant memories of family parties in the Castle, and walks in the beautiful grounds. What role does the Castle play in Mercy and Jack’s story? You’ll have to read it to find out!
LADY ARMSTRONG’S SCANDALOUS AWAKENING is out now in print and digital, in the UK, US, Canada and Australia.