Sunday, 25 March 2018

Is a Ghost Playing Cupid at Raventhorn?

The story of my contemporary romantic novel, LITTLE PINK TAXI, which was released by Choc Lit last month, is set in the magnificent Cairngorms of Scotland where my heroine Rosalie Heart runs a small taxi company, Love Taxis. Rosalie grew up at Raventhorn, a rundown castle and the ancestral home of the local laird, Geoff McBride.
Who is the mysterious cloaked figure hero Marc Petersen keeps glimpsing in Corby Woods, on top of the ruined tower of a nearby abandoned castle, or again near Loch Bran in the dead of night? Rosalie believes that it’s the ghost of Isobel McBride, one of Geoff’s ancestors, and that she is bad news… But is Isobel friend or foe, and is the raven that’s always by her side really a bird of ill omen?
We all know that Scottish castles are famous for their ghosts, and indeed the Cairngorms National Park has its fair share of haunted castles and ghostly legends. Inverness Castle as it stands today overlooking the river Ness was built in built in 1836 by architect William Burn on the ruins of several previous castles, among which the castle built in the mid eleventh century for King Macbeth. It is where Shakespeare’s Macbeth is said to have murdered Duncan, and Duncan’s ghost supposedly haunts the shores of the riverside beneath the castle hill.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay
Other local castles have witnessed much violence and death. The ruins of Raid Castle are said to be haunted by the daughter of Clan Cumming’s chief. The poor girl was killed by her own father because the man she loved belonged to rival Clan Mackintosh and she warned him that her father was intent of murdering him. 

The fearsome Alexander Stewart, who was nicknamed the ‘Wolf of Badenoch’ because of his cruelty, was said to practice witchcraft. He died in 1394 (although some say it was in 1406) when it is believed that he played chess with the devil at Ruthven Castle near Kingussie, and still haunts the place.

Castle Roy, a 12th century fortress built on a small glacial mound to the north of the modern village of Nethy Bridge, is not only haunted by a ghost that only appears during the Summer solstice, but is supposed to be home to a buried treasure too. The soil however is believed to be infected with plague and all those who have searched for the treasure have perished. Other castles, like Corgaff or Kindrochit have a troubled past and are rumoured to be haunted too.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay
But ghostly encounters are not limited to castles. The shores of Loch Garten and Loch Mallachie, also known as Loch of the Curse, are haunted by a terrifying spirit with a blood-curdling screech. Loch Morlich has not one, but two other-worldly residents – the King of the Fairies on the West side, and the spectre of a giant warrior in full Highland dress and a hand dripping with blood on the East side.
So what about Raventhorn? Businessman Marc Petersen doesn’t believe in ghosts at all – at least not at first. Will he change his mind by the end of the story? You’ll have to read the book and find out for yourself!
In the meantime, here is an excerpt where Marc catches his first glimpse of the mysterious Isbobel McBride and her raven…
Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Oblivious to the rain running down his face and soaking his hair and coat, he walked back along the road and cut through the undergrowth towards the pine tree where the woman had been standing. A huge raven, perched on a nearby treetop, stared down at him with beady eyes. The woman, however, had gone.
          Puzzled, he peered through the shadows and walked into the woods. If there was a path, he couldn’t see it. He breathed in mixed scents of rain and rotting vegetation. Above him the raven flew off with a shrieking call and a loud flapping of wings.
          ‘Monsieur Petersen? Are you all right?’ Rosalie Heart called from the road. She had put her hood up so as not to get drenched.
          He turned and walked back to her. ‘She’s gone, and yet I was sure she needed help.’
          Rosalie Heart smiled. ‘If it was who I think it was, she does indeed need help, but not of the kind you, or anyone of us, can give her.’
          ‘What are you talking about?’
          She sighed. ‘Forget it. You won’t believe me.’
          ‘Try me.’
          She took a deep breath. ‘You just saw the ghost of Isobel McBride.’
          He narrowed his eyes, and dug his fists into his coat pocket. His shoes were soaked and muddy. Icy water trickled down his face, his neck and the collar of his coat. He had the migraine from hell. And this small woman dressed in marshmallow pink was babbling about ghosts?
          ‘Are you serious?’ he asked, between clenched teeth.
          She nodded, turned away and walked back to the cab, leaving him behind. The woman was making fun of him, that much was obvious. He followed her back to the taxi, slung the door open and sat down. His wet clothes stuck to the pink plastic seat with squelching sounds. Water dripped from his coat and trousers and pooled at his feet. The windows steamed up, and it was like being enclosed in a cosy bubble of gum.
          Rosalie Heart pulled her hood off and shook her curly brown hair. As it tumbled around her shoulders he caught the scent of the rain and a deeper, fruity fragrance. She smiled again, and he couldn’t help but notice she had a very attractive smile indeed. In fact, he thought, looking at her properly for the first time, she was rather pretty with her eyes a warm chestnut colour, and her cheeks glowing pink from the cold.
          ‘It’s a long time since anyone reported seeing Lady Fitheach,’ she remarked in a thoughtful voice as she started the engine.
          ‘Lady Fitheach? I thought you said her name was Isobel McBride.’
          Fitheach is Scottish for raven. People call Isobel Lady Fitheach because of the raven that never leaves her side. You saw the bird, didn’t you?’
          There had indeed been that huge raven staring down at him from a nearby branch. He dismissed it with a shrug. ‘It’s a wood. There’s bound to be all kinds of birds there.’


Take a ride with Love Taxis, the cab company with a Heart … 

Rosalie Heart is a well-known face in Irlwick – well, if you drive a bright pink taxi and your signature style is a pink anorak, you’re going to draw a bit of attention! But Rosalie’s company Love Taxis is more than just a gimmick – for many people in the remote Scottish village, it’s a lifeline. 

Which is something that Marc Petersen will never understand. Marc’s ruthless approach to business doesn’t extend to pink taxi companies running at a loss. When he arrives in Irlwick to see to a new acquisition – Raventhorn, a rundown castle – it’s apparent he poses a threat to Rosalie’s entire existence; not just her business, but her childhood home too. 

On the face of it Marc and Rosalie should loathe each other, but what they didn’t count on was somebody playing cupid …

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