Tag Archives: Thistle Down

Between a Rock and a Hard Place by Sherrie Hansen

My last three – soon to be four – books, set in Scotland, have plenty of castles and kilts, kirks and keeps.  Those, and a muscular highlander or two, are the things Scottish romances are made of.

13 Scotland - Band in Kilts

But my books are also laced with wildflowers – wildflowers that aren’t particularly Scottish. Roses, violets, bluebells and even thistles can be found nearly everywhere in the world, after all. So, what is the connection and why did I choose to set my Wildflowers of Scotland novels (Thistle Down, Wild Rose, and Blue Belle – available now, and Shy Violet and Sweet William – coming soon) against the backdrop of Scotland?

Scotland flowers by the sea

A Striking Contrast:  In a place where flowers grow in lush, abundant quantities, a shy, little violet growing along a mossy pathway, a bluebell that’s here and gone again in a two week window of spring, even a wild rose, get easily lost in the profusion. In a country built on a rocky foundation and filled with harsh, cold landscapes, dark, misty vales, cold, stone castles, and drab, colorless cottages, a wee wildflower or two provide the perfect bit of contrast, a much needed dash of color to an otherwise harsh landscape.

Doors - Luss

A Lesson in Survival:  Scottish wildflowers are a hardy lot who blossom and grow and shine despite hard winters, rocky soils, brief summers, extreme variations in weather, and other adverse conditions.

197 Scotland - Flowers in Stone

I hope you’re starting to get a feel for why I set my novels – modern-day mixtures of romance and suspense – against the backdrop of the Scottish countryside, and that you can see the Scotland I love in the bouquet of wildflowers I’ve picked for you.

WI2 - Thistle

Thistle Down – A prickly, purple thistle played the hero when an Englishman doing reconnaissance stepped on a particularly thorny specimen and let out a howl, alerting Scottish guards to an imminent invasion by the English. We’ve all been in situations where the odds are stacked against us, and whatever is happening in our lives is so dire and growing more hopeless by the minute, that we can’t imagine salvation is even remotely possible. And then, when all seems lost, something inadvertently wonderful and life-shattering happens, and all is well once again. Nothing like the sharp bite of a prickly plant coming out of nowhere to save the day!

201 Scotland -- Fence

Wild Rose – No tame, fragile, domesticated beauties for the extreme seasons of Scotland. Wildflowers are hardy, stubborn and determined to find a foothold whether they be planted atop a stone wall, set amongst ruins, or left for dead along the motor way. No playing it the safe way or being content with the status quo for these lasses and lads, who are risk-takers, trend setters and wild things, all.

175 Scotland - Cambo gardensraindrops

Blue Belle – There’s nothing quite so satisfying as glimpsing the first wildflowers of spring after a drab, icy cold, Scottish winter. That first bit of color is not only well-worth the wait, it’s the very thing that makes the whole frigid lapse bearable. Good things do come to those who wait. Springtime flowers are all the sweeter in Scotland, because you have to endure a bit of weather each year before the wildflowers return.

Scotland Duart Castle - Mull

Shy Violet – Scotland is a subtle, understated country in so many ways. No exotic, tropical flowers here. In Scotland, it’s about the simple, everyday things of life, pleasures born both of need and necessity. Keep your eyes open and you’ll see majesty galore in nature’s quiet offerings… a shy violet hiding behind a rock, a blush of heather in the hills, a splash of rhododendrons growing deep in the woods.

189 Scotland - Cambo gardensSea

Sweet William – From hardship grows character and determination and the sweet appreciation of the things that really matter in life. Gentle spirits born of adversity are so much more lovable than arrogant showoffs. How similar to the way of Scottish wildflowers – blooming not in showy profusion, but cropping up here and there in solitary clumps wherever there is a bit of fertile soil.

Blue Belle - promo jump

The thing about wildflowers, Scottish or not, is that they’re wild. Unpredictable. Full of surprises. Bent on blooming no matter what obstacles they’re up against. Determined to flourish and find a way even when they’re between a rock and a hard place – which is exactly what Scotland is all “aboot”.

7 BB Books - Scotland Promo

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Blue Belles in May – What Can I Say? by Sherrie Hansen

In Northern Iowa and Southern Minnesota, where I’ve lived the bulk of my life, the bluebells bloom around the first week of May and are usually at their peak on Mother’s Day. this year, we’ve had a long, hard winter, and it’s seemed like spring would never get here. But the bluebells in my yard are right on target, with clusters of tiny blue, pink, and purple buds ready to pop open on the next warm day.

Sporing - bluebells

It seems appropriate that my new release, Blue Belle, the second of my Wildflowers of Scotland novels, should be released just in time for the first week of May. I received my proof copy about a week ago, and should have copies for sale at my B&B, the Blue Belle Inn, by May 1st.

Blue Belle, a contemporary romance by Sherrie Hansen

Yes, that’s a lot of Blue Belles – and bluebells. I’ve already started to think about what I’m going to say about Blue Belle, the book, to my customers at the Blue Belle B&B.

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Some authors sell their books almost exclusively online. Since I have a steady stream of people coming to the tea house at the Blue Belle Inn, I sell a lot of print books the old-fashioned way.

BBI DR High Res

Over the years, I’ve found that what you write about a book on the back cover, to be read by prospective buyers who might pick it up at a store or look at it on a website, is quite different than what I feel comfortable saying to people face to face. I even wrote a poem for the back blurb of Blue Belle, which expresses many elements of the book very well. But I would feel quite silly quoting poetry table-side to my luncheon guests. Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000035_00023]

When I tell people about Thistle Down (a novella) and Wild Rose, my first Wildflowers of Scotland novel, I simply say, “In Thistle Down, Pastor Ian MacCraig has two sisters who are going to be married. Emily has found the perfect man to marry. There’s only one problem – she’s not in love with him. Chelsea is wildly, passionately, madly in love with her fiance – he’s a total jerk.  Pastor Ian has some unscrambling to do, especially when the church ladies get involved.”

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000035_00023]

And – “When Wild Rose opens, someone has been stealing architectural relics from the church yard, so Pastor Ian installs a security camera to try to catch the thief in action. What he captures is Rose Wilson engaged in a passionate romp under the flying buttresses.  My tag line is – Wild Rose and Pastor Ian MacCraig – a match made in heaven or one hell of a predicament?”

Scotland Bashful RoseThe blurb on the back of Blue Belle reads:

Isabelle doesn’t want to be found. Michael doesn’t want to be found out. When Damon starts searching for the centuries-old gold he thinks is buried in Tobermory Bay, it won’t matter what walls they’re hiding behind. Rocks will fall. Castles will crumble. No secret will be safe.

Age-old castles and blue-watered bays,
White sandy beaches and quaint cottage stays.
A rainbow of colors, and chocolates, hand-dipped,
A valley of bluebells, and sheep, freshly clipped.
Legends galore, buried treasure, and more…
In Tobermory, Scotland, that’s what’s in store.

Blue Belle Promo PoemWhat I’ll probably say about Blue Belle is:

“Isabelle is a reporter from Virgina who’s been burned. Now, all she wants is the truth – and one big story to help get her confidence back.  Michael is a psychologist from Wisconsin who’s not only lying about who he is, but why he’s in Scotland pretending to be a contractor.  What neither of them knows is that Isabelle’s story is buried in Tobermory Bay, practically writing itself, and that Michael’s finely crafted tale – and the castle he’s restoring – are about to come crumbling down around them.”

Blue Belle - promo jump

As time goes by, I hope to get my verbal pitch trimmed in half, or to think of the perfect one-sentence tagline that says it all.  In the meantime, I hope that one or the other of my blurbs inspires you to give Blue Belle a look. Romance, suspense and mysteries aside, it’s about learning to trust – as I hope you will trust me to deliver another good story.

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Interview with Sherrie Hansen, Author of “Thistle Down” and “Wild Rose”

wildrose

Hi, Sherrie. Tell us a little about your new release, Wild Rose:

When Ian MacCraig tries to capture the thief who is stealing artifacts from his kirk in Loch Awe, Scotland, the last thing he expects to find on his video is a woman engaging in a passionate romp under the flying buttresses.

Rose Wilson is mortified to learn that Digby, the online friend she met for what she thought was a harmless rendezvous, is a common criminal.

Now that Ian, the board of Wilson Enterprises, the constable, and half the town have had a glimpse of Rose in all her naked glory, it seems even her family looks at her differently. What remains to be seen is how far Ian will go to defend Rose’s honor and if the church ladies will forgive Rose now that they know who she really is… and if Rose can believe she’s worthy of someone as good and kind as Ian MacCraig.

Wild Rose and Pastor Ian MacCraig… a match made in heaven or one hell of a predicament?

Wild Rose is the first of my Wildflowers of Scotland novels, to be followed by Blue Belle later this year and Shy Violet sometime next year. “Thistle Down,” an eShort prequel, is currently free or 99 cents online.

What inspired this story?

Several personal events merged and made into make-believe situations provided the inspiration for Wild Rose. Wild Rose is about being humbled, experiencing forgiveness and redemption even when you feel totally unworthy, and about forgiving yourself, which is sometimes the most difficult thing of all.

What are your writing goals for this year?

I hope to finish editing my second Wildflowers of Scotland novel, “Blue Belle”, sometime before November so I can start working on the third, “Shy Violet”, for NaNoWriMo.

What do you enjoy most about writing?

I enjoy letting my imagination run wild, and living vicariously through my characters. I enjoy working through issues in my own life through the characters in my books. I enjoy orchestrating happy endings and finding resolutions to crisis, and having control over what happens in my imaginary worlds.

Do you have a favorite hero and/or heroine in your books and why?

I love Jensen and Anders in my first book, “Night and Day” – they’re the perfect couple even though it’s midnight in Minnesota and daybreak in Denmark. Miles apart, and an ocean between them, but so close in every way that matters…

What is your favorite scene from this story and why?

I love the scene where Rose is trying to find favor with the church ladies. Rose wants to spearhead a fundraiser to auction off beautiful, tastefully made quilts in fashionable colors, only to find that the church ladies have their own plan – their signature All-Inclusive Holiday Quilts, which include gaudy, mismatched remnants from every holiday from Christmas to Easter. There is also a touching scene where Rose and Ian are dancing and Rose is wishing he was a little more wild and uninhibited instead of a conservative pastor that is one of my favorites.

How do you balance writing and everyday life?

This is my biggest challenge as a writer. I own a B&B and Tea House called the Blue Belle Inn in a small town in northern Iowa, and I’m a pastor’s wife and actively involved in his church, which is 1 ½ hours southeast of the Blue Belle. We maintain homes in both towns. It makes for a very busy lifestyle. I also love music and quilting and spending time with my nieces and family. It is a constant challenge to squeeze everything in in appropriate amounts.

Where is your favorite place in the world?

My husband and I both felt a deep connection to Scotland when we visited there in 2007. We have both said many times that we could be very happy living near Tobermory, on the Isle of Mull, one day. The colors, the food, the combination of sea, mountains, castles, beaches, cottages and gardens (and golf!), just called out to us. We felt instantly at home.

What is your favorite food to cook or eat while writing?

Well… I am supposed to be on a diet. Truthfully, if I opened this question up to include all foods I like to munch on, I would have to write a book… My favorite Scottish foods are Smoked Haddock Pie with a mashed potato roof, Cumberland Sausages with Mash, Caramel Shortbread, and (drum roll) Mr. Kipling’s Exceedingly Good Mini-Battenberg Cakes, all of which are mentioned in Wild Rose.

What don’t most people know about you but you would like to share?

I play the piano with a worship team that plays at different churches and love rocking out with the drummer and keyboard player.

What are a few of your favorite things?

1. Days when I can write, read, or sew all day long in my nightgown.

2. Wednesday afternoon adventures with my nieces.

3. Taking photographs and finding beauty in my own back yard through the lens of my camera.

Tell us about yourself:

Sherrie HansenTwenty-one years ago, I bought a dilapidated Victorian house in northern Iowa so I could move home and be nearer my family. I rescued an amazing but very run-down old house from the bulldozer’s grips and turned it into a bed and breakfast and tea house, the Blue Belle Inn. Since then, welcoming guests, running the business and cooking wonderful food has consumed the largest chunk of my life.

Before that, I lived in Colorado Springs, CO, and before that, Augsburg, Germany. I attended Wheaton College, Wheaton, IL and spent one life-changing summer in Bar Harbor, Maine. I grew up on a farm in southern Minnesota.

After 12 years of writing romance novels late at night when I couldn’t sleep (mostly because I was so keyed up from working 12 hour days at my B&B), I met and married my real-life, romantic hero, Mark Decker, a pastor. I enjoy playing the piano with the worship team at church, needlepointing, photography, renovating and decorating historic houses, traveling, and going on weekly adventures with my nieces and nephews.

I live in 2 different houses, 85 miles apart, and write on the run, whenever I have a spare minute. “Wild Rose” is my sixth book to be published by Second Wind Publishing.

Links (website, blog, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, book buy links, etc.):

http://www.facebook.com/SherrieHansenDecker,

http://sherriehansen.wordpress.com/,

https://twitter.com/#!/SherrieHansen,

http://www.secondwindpublishing.com/index.php?manufacturers_id=24

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Excerpt From “Thistle Down” and “Wild Rose” by Sherrie Hansen

wildroseWhen Ian MacCraig tries to capture the thief who is stealing artifacts from his kirk in Loch Awe, Scotland, the last thing he expects to find on his video is a woman engaging in a passionate romp under the flying buttresses.

Rose Wilson is mortified to learn that Digby, the online friend she met for what she thought was a harmless rendezvous, is a common criminal.

Now that Ian, the board of Wilson Enterprises, the constable, and half the town have had a glimpse of Rose in all her naked glory, it seems even her family looks at her differently. What remains to be seen is how far Ian will go to defend Rose’s honor and if the church ladies will forgive Rose now that they know who she really is… and if Rose can believe she’s worthy of someone as good and kind as Ian MacCraig.

Wild Rose and Pastor Ian MacCraig… a match made in heaven or one hell of a predicament?

EXCERPT:

Rose Wilson turned away from the wind that whistled across Loch Awe in a futile attempt to keep her hair from being blown into a tangled knot.

Something nipped at her ankle and she reached down to swat it away. Pesky midgies.

Ouch! Her hand scratched against the thorny stem of a thistle. One more thing. As if the sticky wicket she’d gotten herself into hadn’t already worked her into enough of a dither. She glanced up at the lofty spires of St. Conan’s Kirk. If she were at all religious, she might think God was trying to tell her something.

Where could he be? It had been nigh on three years since she’d stood waiting, and waiting, and waiting at Robert’s and her favorite restaurant. When he never showed up, she’d been angry – thought he’d gotten too busy at work, forgotten she was waiting, or, worse yet, remembered and blown her off.

How could she have known he was dead?

Here she was again. So it was a kirk and not a restaurant. A man she didn’t know all that well instead of her husband. The emotions felt the same. She was peeved. So peeved she could almost forget what it was like to feel abandoned, to hurt so badly she could barely keep her head about her.

She took a deep breath and tried to relax. Would she ever get over being scared that something horrible had happened every time someone was a wee bit tardy?

He was almost an hour later than he’d said he’d be. She peeked through the hedge and tried to see round the bend that led to the village.

What were the odds that two men she was supposed to meet would die en route to their rendezvous point? She paced up and down the path that led to the kirk, squelching her nervous energy only long enough to look at a bee dipping into a rhody that was a lovely shade of lavender. And then, she was back at it, scanning the roadside for Digby’s car, checking the time on her mobile every few seconds, and imagining the worst.

She’d been waiting for an hour – plenty long enough for Digby to get there even if he’d been temporarily detained at work, gotten a speeding ticket, or stopped by the mini-mart to buy her flowers. Besides, the man had a mobile.

She clicked hers open and pressed the green button twice. Still no answer.

Where could he be? And why now? Was it because she’d been too intimate with him? Not intimate enough?

“Excuse me, ma’am.”

She blinked and looked in the direction of the voice, but the sun was in her eyes, and all she could see was a soft sheen of light backlighting the silhouette of a very tall man. Too tall to be Digby. She raised her hand to her eyes to shade the light but the sun was still blinding, clinging to his head like a halo.

“Forgive me,” the man said, just as she saw his collar, the white square gleaming brightly between the black, and thought, shouldn’t it be me saying that?

“Sorry to intrude,” he continued. “I couldn’t help noticing that you seem to be looking for someone.”

So much for her and Dig having the place to themselves. Of course, as of this moment, there wasn’t a “them” anyway, so it mattered little if they had privacy. Besides, she had been going to tell him that they couldn’t do it again, that it was too soon, that what had happened shouldn’t have. Not yet. That didn’t mean she didn’t want to be alone with him, to do something. She probably did, eventually. Just not so much, or quite so fast.

“I’m waiting for a friend,” she said.

“You’ve still plenty of time,” he said. “Worship doesn’t begin for another half hour.”

The sun wasn’t in his eyes, but behind him, illuminating her face. She knew, even without being able to see his eyes, that he could read hers perfectly.

“I didn’t realize…”

“We’ve a small but active congregation,” the man said, extending his hand. “Ian MacCraig. St. Conan’s pastor.”

***

One question you’d like commenters to answer relative to your post: If your pastor was single, would it bother you if he or she started to date a woman or man who had been caught in a compromising situation , and who didn’t share his or her religious beliefs?

Tell us about yourself:

Twenty-one years ago, I bought a dilapidated Victorian house in northern Iowa so I could move home and be nearer my family. I rescued an amazing but very run-down old house from the bulldozer’s grips and turned it into a bed and breakfast and tea house, the Blue Belle Inn. Since then, welcoming guests, running the business and cooking wonderful food has consumed the largest chunk of my life.

Before that, I lived in Colorado Springs, CO, and before that, Augsburg, Germany. I attended Wheaton College, Wheaton, IL and spent one life-changing summer in Bar Harbor, Maine. I grew up on a farm in southern Minnesota.

After 12 years of writing romance novels late at night when I couldn’t sleep (mostly because I was so keyed up from working 12 hour days at my B&B), I met and married my real-life, romantic hero, Mark Decker, a pastor. I enjoy playing the piano with the worship team at church, needlepointing, photography, renovating and decorating historic houses, traveling, and going on weekly adventures with my nieces and nephews.

I live in 2 different houses, 85 miles apart, and write on the run, whenever I have a spare minute. “Wild Rose” is my sixth book to be published by Second Wind Publishing.

Links (website, blog, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, book buy links, etc.):

http://www.facebook.com/SherrieHansenDecker,

http://sherriehansen.wordpress.com/,

https://twitter.com/#!/SherrieHansen,

http://www.secondwindpublishing.com/index.php?manufacturers_id=24

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Free ebook! Thistle Down — a Romance in Scotland!

Wild_Rose_-_adventure

To celebrate this upcoming new romantic series by Sherrie Hansen, we are offering you a free e-copy of Thistle Down, a novella to download in the format of your choice. Just click on the photo and your romantic adventure in Scotland will begin!

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Do You Dream in Color? by Sherrie Hansen

I’ve been getting to know all kinds of colorful characters from Loch Awe, Scotland, as I put the finishing touches on my upcoming release, Wild Rose, and my eShort prequel, Thistle Down. In my spare time, I’ve been painting the parsonage where my husband and I live.

When we first moved in, everything was painted white.

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I chose the colors for the first floor before we moved in, and the folks at church were kind enough to paint the walls in my somewhat funky color choices.

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They offered to paint the second floor, too, but at the time, I didn’t have a clue what was going where and certainly not what colors would match what.

Parsonage

After living in the house for a year, the rooms have taken shape and acquired personalities of their own.

Guest room before

So a few weeks ago, I decided it was time to add some color. I painted a bathroom and one wall in my writing room “Berries and Cream”. I painted another bedroom “Wood Lily”. Just yesterday, I painted a guest room “French Violet”.

Guest Room

What a difference it made! Plain, innocuous walls became warm, soothing, romantic and inspiring. It’s amazing what a little dash of color can add to our experience.

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When a writer – or a reader – begins a new story, it’s the interesting characters that draw us in, the colorful backdrops that make the story come alive. Characters and settings that are infused with color are infinitely more enticing.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000035_00023]

So next time you open the door to a new book, let yourself dream in color. And if you like Scotland, watch for Thistle Down, Wild Rose, Blue Belle, Shy Violet and Sweet William.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000035_00023]

Thistle Down is a novella length prequel to Wild Rose, the first of my Wildflowers of Scotland novels.

Can tenderhearted Pastor Ian MacCraig keep a pair of prickly sisters from marrying the wrong men? Emily Downey has found the perfect groom. If only she loved the man… Chelsea Downey is wild about her boyfriend. Trouble is, he’s two-timing her and everyone sees it but her.

Their thorny situation gets even stickier when the church ladies come up with a Plan.

Can Pastor Ian MacCraig weed out the thistles and get to the heart of the matter in time to save the day?

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