Things I Learned About Scotland from Historical Romance Novels
So, as I mentioned in this post, my most recent ghostwriting project was a Scottish historical romance novel, and I basically got the gig because I:
a) Am Scottish.
b) Watch Outlander.
Which isn’t really THAT good a set of qualifications for the job, to be totally honest: especially when I tell you that, although I watch Outlander, when I got the gig I’d never actually read any of the books the series is based on – or, indeed, ANY Scottish historical romance novels. It’s, er, just not my thing, really. Yes, I know. I KNOW.
In my defense, as soon as I found out that this would be the genre of the book(s) I’d be writing, I did a bit of a deep-dive into the world of Scottish Historical Romance, and what a world it is, let me tell you. It’s a world full of brawny highlanders and feisty maids, and I feel like I’ve really learned a lot about Scotland and its history – certainly more than I ever learned during that one-year Scottish History course I took at university, say – from reading these books.
Here are just a few of the things I’ve learned…
1. The map of Scotland basically looks like this:
2. Which can also be broken down like this:
So, if it’s not the Highlands, it’s not important, in other words.
3. Speaking of Jamie Fraser, almost all Scottish men look exactly like him. (WE WISH)
4. These men must always be described as “brawny”.
5. They are almost always bare chested, even though that would mean freezing to death in the Highlands, even in summer.
6. Everyone in Scotland speaks Gaelic, despite the fact that only a very small percentage of the population actually speaks Gaelic.
7. To prove this, all Scottish characters must regularly sprinkle Gaelic words and phrases throughout their speech, like, chan eil dad a dh ’fhios agam dè tha seo a’ ciallachadh. You know? (I really hope you do, because I just copied and pasted that from Google Translate…)
8. The English characters (“Sassenachs”) will always make a huge fuss about not being able to understand a single word of this – which is unsurprising, really, because I can’t either, and I was born here. The dialogue used in Scottish romance novels is very much how people THINK Scottish people speak, though, as opposed to how Scottish people ACTUALLY speak, so if you were born and/or raised in Scotland, this book isn’t for you, move along please.
9. If an English character is introduced, he will turn out to be evil.
10. Unless it’s a woman, in which case she will fall in love with a brawny Highlander and refuse to go home.
11. We will know the love interest is a Highlander because he will be wearing a kilt. And also because he’ll mention it every few pages.
12. In the unlikely event that an evil-doer is not English, s/he will be from Edinburgh, which is almost as bad.
13. Everyone in Scotland is either a Laird/wife of a Laird, or a peasant. There is no in-between.
14. Something about witches, idk.
15. The Scots like to fight.
16. And also to drink.
17. Not necessarily at the same time, though.
18. OK, sometimes at the same time.
19. Everyone in the Highlands lives in a castle. Even the peasants, who live in the Laird’s castle.
20. There is always an older woman who is good at healing, and is possibly a witch.
21. And a younger, slightly comedic male, who is the Laird’s best friend, but who dies in battle somewhere in the middle of the book.
22. He must be avenged.
23. Everyone is obsessed with clans, so if a character needs motivation for something, just make it something vague about his clan: that’ll do it.
24. There must always be at least one reference to the Battle of Culloden, even if it’s not even remotely relevant to the plot.
25. It’s been a long time since I mentioned Jamie Fraser, so please accept this gif of Jamie Fraser by way of apology:
26. Scottish lairds are very down to earth, with none of the airs and graces you might usually associate with English Lairds (Or “Lords” as the Sassenachs like to style themselves). This is because they are BETTER than the English lords, who are just pure evil, really.
27. The English ladies who find themselves at the mercy of these fierce, and yet somehow loveable, rogues, are shocked by absolutely everything. They basically spend the book in a state of perpetual shock and/or arousal. Which must be confusing for them.
28. If there is a conflict between rival clans, the best way to resolve it is with an arranged marriage.
29. There will always be a conflict between rival clans.
30. There will always be an arranged marriage.
31. To a brawny Highlander, obviously…
* * *
And there you have it, Sassenachs: you’re now every bit as well equipped as I am to write Scottish Historical Romance! Which, OK, isn’t all that well-equipped really, but… yes.
(BORING-BUT-NECESSARY-CAVEAT: In closing, I just want to quickly add that this post is, of course, supposed to be lighthearted, and is not intended to in any way disparage romance novels, or the people who read them. While some of the books in this genre aren’t exactly historically accurate, there are many more that are incredibly well researched, and, above all, entertaining: which is half the battle, really…)