By Leah Marie Brown
When I woke this morning, I detected a nip in the air, an unmistakable drop in temperature heralding the approach of autumn. Here in Colorado, that means getting the snow blower serviced, pulling out your down filled parka, and stocking the pantry with survival food (caramel chocolate bars, tortilla chips, and wine). Unlike other places in the world, Colorado does not slip gently into that good season. When the first cool breeze blows, snow is soon to follow.
Rather than mourn the demise of bathing suit season, I made myself a pot of tea and toast with strawberry jam. For me, tea and toast slathered with strawberry jam are inextricably linked with autumn.
I blame it on Scotland.
Several years ago, my best friend nagged/bargained/convinced me to go on a three week tour of the United Kingdom with her. I was the reluctant tourist. Not because I loathe travel. On the contrary. J’adore travel! But at that time, France and I were still in our honeymoon stage. Frankly, I was eyelids deep in love with Paris and couldn’t imagine being unfaithful.
Our phone conversations turned into word association battles.
“Buckingham Palace,” she would say.
“Versailles.” I would counter. “‘Nuff said.”
“Victoria and Albert.”
“Fish and chips,” she would cry.
“Croissants and champagne!”
Boo-yah! At that point, she would usually fall silent and I would feel victorious. I mean, who can argue with pain au chocolat and champagne for breakfast? Um. Nobody.
In the end, her passion for all things Scots, and my desire to spend QT with my best girl, had me heading to Kayak to purchase roundtrip tickets to London.
Since this isn’t a travel piece, I will just give you a written montage of the first portion of our journey: Tower of London. High tea. Shopping at Harrods. Getting arrested by Buckingham Palace Guards. Castle. Castle. Brighton (where I stared longing across the channel at my beloved France). Jane Austen’s Bath. Wales. Harry Potter’s castle, Alnwich. And then…
After a whirlwind tour of Edinburgh, we headed to our cottage, perched on a hill overlooking a sheep farm near Strathpeffer. We spent the next week doing what girlfriends do when they are together: talk, laugh, shop, rescue critically ill sheep.
We hiked to the top of paps and yodeled like the people in the Ricola commercials. We fell in love with the sturdy, plucky West Highland Terriers we saw in village parks and vowed we would each adopt one someday. We tried Drambuie at the tavern where it was first made. We walked between standing stones and hoped to be transported through time into the arms of a brave, brawny Scotsman, like Claire in Outlander. We tromped through bogs in our brand new shiny Wellies, and returned to the cottage to feast on toast slathered with Mackays Strawberry Conserve.
And just like that, I made room in my heart for a new lovah: Scotland.
So, when I sat down to plot out Finding It, book two of my It Girls series, I knew I had to set the book in Scotland. The It Girls books are all about self-exploration and growth, broadening one’s horizons through travel, and building the best, most enriching friendships one can build.
Sure, they are romance novels – which means there are sexy, charming men and some crazy-hot-monkey sex – but at their core, they are about how true friendships motivate, mold, and sustain us.
My best friend motivated me to visit Scotland. The memories we made that autumn have molded me into a different writer and sustained me when the darker side of life has closed in. So, to answer the question posed to me by the editor of this blog – “Why did you place your novel in Scotland?” – Because I couldn’t think of a better setting for a novel about adventure, love, and friendship.
GIVEAWAYa Rafflecopter giveaway