Alexis: Hi Nicole. Welcome to Happily Ever After Thoughts. It’s great to have you here. My first question, because I’m such a lover of Scotland and our readers might like to know, is why do you focus on Scottish romance?
Nicole: I LOVE Scotland. I don’t know why, I just do. Most people who know me know that I get cold easily. And why would I love such a cold, windy and rainy place so much? Something about Scotland speaks to my soul. Maybe I lived there in a past life, or maybe it’s because some of my ancestors are from Scotland. I find everything about it fascinating. To be able to set stories there is like traveling to Scotland in my mind.
Alexis: I know you recently visited Scotland as you have been posting beautiful photos on your blog. What was it like to be there in person?
Nicole: Amazing! Sigh. Once we got into Argyll and the mountains it became very blustery with the weather changing every ten minutes from sunny to rainy and windy. My husband, who’d never been there before, was also amazed at both the changeable and extreme weather and the beautiful scenery. Everything was so bright green when the sun came out, and the flowers were blooming in vivid colors. Bluebells grow everywhere, even along the roadsides. But there were a few times when we literally had to battle the elements and struggle to return to shelter.
If you go in May or June (or almost any time of year, really), be prepared for any type of weather. Rain gear is essential, and by this I mean a rain jacket with hood and waterproof shoes. Umbrellas are practically useless in the strong winds. Also bring plenty of sweaters, jackets and a ski hat.
Once you have the appropriate clothing so you’re comfortable, you can brave the winds and rain and see some spectacular places, both the natural beauty of the landscape and the historically significant sites. My favorites of the historical sites are the castles and the Neolithic sites. Scotland is a place that you have to experience to truly understand what it’s like. In places, there are miles and miles of nothing but mountains of rock and heather and red deer. And dark lochs that reflect the sky, whether blue or gray.
One of my favorite quotes about Scotland is this one:
"There is no sunlight in the poetry of exile. There is only mist, wind, rain, the cry of the curlew and the slow clouds above damp moorland. That is the real Scotland; that is the Scotland whose memory rings the withers of the far-from-home; and, in some way that is mysterious, that is the Scotland that even a stranger learns to love". H V Morton, English travel writer, in his classic book "In Search of Scotland" written in 1929.
Alexis: You did a beautiful job describing Scotland. I’d have to agree with both you and Mr. Morton. What a perfect scene for your newest release, Blade of the Wolf. Can you tell us a little about it?
Nicole: Yes, here is the official blurb.
Blade of the Wolf: Ronan, immortal werewolf and Scottish Sgian Dubh Guardian, faces his most challenging, yet enticing, mission in centuries. He must protect sexy clairvoyant medium Syrena Ellis from an evil incubus intent on stealing her powerful life force. She awakens a raging arousal in Ronan, but if he gives in to temptation, he will be punished.
Dark and edgy, Ronan captivates Syrena. He is hot, hard and in control, yet his scorching glances and sinful kisses tell her he yearns for her. Even though she’s only a job, she finds a way past his iron-willed resistance. She’s determined to explore the depths of erotic passion with him. They’re unaware that their explosive sexual encounters are providing the enemy incubus with heightened energy, making him almost impossible to defeat.
Syrena’s forbidden desire and scorching lust for Ronan could destroy them both.
It is a work of contrasts, light and dark, modern and ancient. Good vs. evil and all the shades of gray between. And it’s an emotional love story between two people who have an intense attraction.
Alexis: Where did you get the idea for this story?
Nicole: Believe it or not, from a couple of songs from several years ago. I’m wild about the movie Daredevil and I’ve always found the music from it very inspiring. Bring Me to Life and My Immortal by Evanescence are the main two songs which inspired this story, but also others from the soundtrack. One of the songs even inspired me when writing the villain.
Alexis: Okay, now I have to rent that movie! What are your favorite character traits of Ronan and Syrena?
Nicole: Ronan, being a Sgian Dubh Guardian and wolf shifter, is incredibly protective. He takes his job, which he’s done for 600 years, very seriously. One would need amazing dedication and mental toughness to stick to it that long. Fortunately he has his clan, the other Sgian Dubh Guardians, for support and friendship. Ronan is also a highly skilled fighter, using martial arts and almost any weapon, especially swords and guns. He is honorable and to break a vow or promise rips him apart inside. He has a wild side and an overactive libido, especially during full moon. He has some amazing paranormal powers aside from his immortality, such as the ability to heal quickly, super-senses, mind-control and anti-gravity.
Syrena is a free spirit and a psychic medium, but she doesn’t know the extent of her own powers when the story begins. She’s a masseuse, a healer, and a violin player. She’s used these to help suppress and channel some of her psychic powers. But she has so much more to learn. One thing I like about Syrena is her vulnerability and how unsure of herself she is. But she isn’t weak. When she sets her sights on Ronan, she’s determined to have him.
Alexis: If I were her, I’d be determined too :-) I understand this is your first full length romance. Did you find it more challenging or easier than writing a novella.
Nicole: Yes, it was more challenging because it’s three times the length of some of my novellas. It required a more complex plot, a lot more stuff happening. And it took a few months longer to write. But I enjoy writing novels just as much as novellas. With novels you can delve deeper into the characters’ psyches and deal more with their emotional baggage.
Alexis: What can we expect next from you? Do you have any new releases coming or a work in progress?
Nicole: Yes, Scoundrel in a Kilt was released a few days ago from Red Sage. It’s in Secrets Volume 30 Desires Unleashed. Here’s what it’s about:
Scoundrel in a Kilt: When a shape-shifting Highland chieftain and a modern day supermodel meet in 1621 Scotland, neither will ever forget their earthshaking erotic connection.
Brodie, Chieftain of Clan MacCain is a dark, sexual scoundrel living in 1621 Scotland. He loves nothing more than being a selkie shape-shifter even if he has been cursed by a dark witch. He embraces his selkie powers and their sensual lifestyle, but his human clan disapproves.
After a high fashion photo shoot in the Scottish Highlands, modern day model Erin Schultz is trying to recuperate from one of the worst days of her life when a hot, kilted warrior invades her dreams. He inflames her desires but refuses to satisfy them. In the next instant, she finds herself stranded on an icy rock in the dark ocean. The delicious Highlander from her dream comes to her rescue, but this time he’s far more than a fantasy. He’s real and he’s naked. When he accidentally gives her a lust potion, will he appease her intense arousal or leave her in torment?
Because of a past betrayal, Brodie dares not trust another woman, especially one as beautiful, spellbinding and wanton as Erin. If he takes her as he yearns to do—as she begs him to do—will he no longer be a selkie? When Erin realizes she has time-traveled four hundred years into the past, a time of powerful witches and barbaric enemies, she’s determined to return to her normal life in present day. Though leaving Brodie will devastate her, she can’t give up her dreams, ignore her responsibilities or go back on important promises she’s made. By giving her what she wants most, will Brodie destroy himself?
This is the third story in my Shapeshifters in Kilts series, behind Devil in a Kilt and Beast in a Kilt.
The reviewer from Romantic Times said the Secrets Volume 30 Desires Unleashed anthology was “hot enough to light the pages on fire…”
Alexis: Now, I can’t wait to read that one too. I’m so glad you are a prolific writer :-) Thank you so much for visiting Happily Ever After Thoughts. We really enjoyed learning more about your romances :-)
Nicole: Thanks so much for allowing me to be here today! It’s truly an honor!
Alexis: For a chance to win Nicole’s Blade of the Wolf be sure to leave a comment for her. Winner will be announced on Wednesday. Check the side column for your name.
For more information on Nicole’s Romances go to http://www.nicolenorth.com/
To buy Blade of the Wolf go to http://www.jasminejade.com/p-9449-blade-of-the-wolf.aspx
Alexis: Check out this great excerpt from Blade of the Wolf
Conchar Castle, Highlands of Scotland, Present Day
Ronan Graeme narrowed his eyes at his chief, Torradan MacFaolan, leader of the Sgian Dubh Guardian clan, his wolf instincts warning him that he would loathe his impending assignment.
“You will be guarding a clairvoyant medium named Syrena Ellis.” With a wily expression on his rugged face, Torradan opened the folder lying in front of him and propped his elbows on the enormous, round table of the castle’s conference room.
Clairvoyant medium? Bloody hell! Ronan was glad the rest of the Guardians were not here to witness this.
“Though a reluctant one. She’s in danger.” His black brows lowering, Torradan eyed him. “Something wrong, Graeme?”
“Ye ken I dinna do mediums.” When his Scottish burr thickened, Ronan wanted to kick himself. Hell, why not revert to Gaelic and show exactly how much mediums disturbed him? He had failed one too many times when it came to protecting them, or rather, he’d failed to protect the most important one, his wife of long ago.
“‘Tis good you don’t do them, because you must stay uninvolved with a Protected One.”
Ronan restrained his temper and leashed his tongue. “You know what I mean. After Ailsa…” Ronan’s throat tightened as if someone had secured a noose around it.
“You’re wondering why I chose you for this task.” Torradan’s tone was low, sympathetic. He was a deathly tough leader, but he also knew how to be a friend and secure his clan’s loyalty. Without him holding them together, they might have all been disbanded or dead long ago.
“Aye,” Ronan said.
“I’ll give you one guess as to who’s threatening her. Someone you know very well from about six-hundred years ago.” He lifted a brow, his eyes glowing brighter green.
“Not Ualraig. He’s dead,” Ronan said, feeling as if the six-feet-thick stone walls were closing in around him. Ualraig was one of the seven evil Druid sorcerers who had cursed the MacFaolan clan warriors, stolen their human souls and turned them into werewolves.
“You may have killed his physical body, but you didn’t destroy his evil soul.”
“Bloody hell!” Ronan shoved himself to his feet and paced to one of the narrow castle windows. The blue-gray sunset and mist lurking about the snow-capped Highlands in the distance took him back to the early fifteenth century. He’d shown up too late, right after Ualraig had slaughtered his beloved Ailsa and their two young children. How many sunsets had he endured without them? Why did he have to live forever when they’d died?
He’d lost his soul in more ways than one that vile day. He’d shifted into wolf form and taken his revenge—nay, justice—in the bloodiest way possible. And now to find out that whoreson still existed in some form.
“Where is he?” Ronan asked, turning. “Why is he not in hell, where he belongs?”
“Dermott says he continues his existence in the Anteroom to the Dark Chamber on the Third Plane, periodically sucking the life forces from unprotected psychics or mediums who cross his path. He’s transformed himself into a phantom psychic vampire.”
“An incubus?” Ronan asked, not doubting the word of Dermott, their Druidic shaman. He knew all and was rarely wrong.
“Aye. Ualraig has increased his activity of late. He must be destroyed before he gathers any more strength or followers. We fear he’ll become too powerful for us to control. If that happens, he’ll start draining and slaying humans by the thousands. No police force or military unit will be able to stop him. He’ll be immune to bullets and all normal weaponry.”
“Why is he targeting this particular medium?” Ronan asked.
“According to Dermott, Syrena Ellis was born with great psychic powers, but has no notion of how to use them nor control them. Last night, she ventured too close to a vortex—a portal to the other side—which is located at the peak of a mountain near Asheville, North Carolina in the U.S. This is where she caught Ualraig’s notice. Now he hungers for her. If he kills her and ingests her life force, he’ll gain powers beyond belief. We are also aware she has inadvertently astral traveled twice, which puts her on his plane and direct in his path. You must convince her to draw her powers under control and learn how to use them. And, of course, protect her.”
“Of course.” Another day in an endless cycle of protecting helpless mortals in hopes Ronan could reclaim his stolen soul at end of days. That was what Sgian Dubh Guardians did after all. He thought their name appropriate. Sgian dubh pronounced “skean dhu” was Gaelic for secret or hidden knife. And they acted as hidden knives in the world, fighting evil.
The task ahead weighed upon him. What if he failed again, like he did with Ailsa? On the other hand, this was his chance to destroy Ualraig. Permanently.“I’m not a psychic trainer,” Ronan muttered.
“That is not your concern. She has the knowledge within reach, if only she would use it.” Torradan rose from his chair. “You are supremely skilled at what you do, Graeme.”
Ronan stood silent at the rare compliment from his chief. He gave a brief bow. “I thank you.” But maybe Torradan’s faith in his abilities was unfounded.
Ronan did not have to accept the mission.Torradan’s eyes glinted as they did when he tried to perceive beneath the surface. “You’re a Faolan Wolf and a Sgian Dubh Guardian, trained by the best. I have full confidence that you can protect her better than anyone. Aside from that, we are all deserving of a chance to defeat our worst enemies, are we not?”
With a brief nod, Ronan reclaimed his seat. He’d never refused a case and likely never would. His code of honor forbade it. “Very well. I accept the mission. Tell me more about her situation.”
“Syrena Ellis is a masseuse and healer by profession. She plays violin as a pastime, although she is nearly skilled enough to play professionally.” Torradan slid an eight-by-ten color photograph across the table to Ronan.
The psychic’s straight, long platinum hair held the radiance of moonlight. Her glasses with narrow, dark frames couldn’t hide her eyes, the color of blue diamonds in the sunshine. Her expression riveted him, like a secret hiding behind a thin veil. Intriguing. A hint of arousal tingled through him. This assignment would be utter torture. He blanked his own expression to hide his true feelings from Torradan.
“Since she’s so resistant to the supernatural, I’m thinking you shouldn’t state your intentions at first,” Torradan said. “Gain her trust, then she will be more inclined to listen when you encourage her to develop her talents to protect herself.”
That left one option—pretend romantic interest in her. Instant attraction was the swiftest, most efficient reason a complete stranger would have for approaching a woman. But Ronan feared the attraction wouldn’t be a ruse at all. Nay, it would be all too real.
“Dermott says she will be at a place called the Red Brick Pub in Asheville tomorrow evening around nine. Try to create a chance encounter with her.”
“Shouldn’t be difficult at a pub.”
Torradan nodded. “I’m thinking ‘twill not be a problem in this case, especially for you, but I’ll remind you, no cavorting with her, sexually or emotionally. Don’t be crossing the line with a Tè-gleidhte. You know the consequences.”
“Aye.” Tè-gleidhte, or Protected Ones, were given the greatest respect and an untouchable place of high honor because they were of immeasurable value to humanity. The punishment for breaking this Sgian Dubh Guardian law was the dishonor of a clan trial, imprisonment for the length of one mortal life or possibly even death.
Blade of the Wolf Copyright © NICOLE NORTH, 2011 All Rights Reserved, Ellora's Cave Publishing, Inc.
Alexis: Don’t forget to leave a comment for a chance to win this great story!