Most writing requires some research, and if you write historical romance, like I do, it requires a significant amount—especially if specific historical events, like the Wars of Scottish Independence, and real characters, like William Wallace, impact your story.
While I didn’t have the Scots fighting the English in Highland Betrayal, I still had to research life in the Highlands in 1452. A lot of the basics (food, clothes, castles) I already knew from my previous books in The Sons Of Gregor MacLeod series—Highland Promise and Highland Conquest. Book 3, Highland Betrayal, focuses a lot on my heroine Maggie’s excellent marksmanship. Therefore, I had to deepen my research on medieval weapons.
Not only does Maggie have an archery and dagger throwing contest with the hero, Callum, she also shoots a crossbow from the castle wall to a tree, trailing a rope from the bolt. Then she rides the rope to freedom on a pulley, in order to escape her evil cousin.
The most interesting research I did was definitely on the crossbow. I had to know what it looked like, how it worked, how heavy it was, how accurate it was, and how far it could shoot. I found this fascinating YouTube video on which I based a lot of my information:
The particular crossbow being featured has a 1250 pound draw weight which is determined by how far back you can safely draw the string. There are several ways to do this: by hand, but you’d have to have incredible strength to pull the string over the nut—even if you’re using both hands; by a lever called a goats foot lever—one end anchors into place on the stock, then you hook the string at the other end and use the power of the lever to pull the string back; or by a windlass, which cranks the string back over the nut.
Maggie uses a windlass crossbow. The windlass is a removable device with rotating handles that attaches to the back of the crossbow’s stock. Cords hang down from the device and a metal hook catches the bowstring. Maggie then places the bow upright on the ground, slips her foot into a metal stirrup on the front of the bow, and winds the windlass with her hands to draw the cords upward, which draws back the drawstring like a winch.
Once the string is secured over the nut, Maggie unhooks the windlass and sets it aside. She then raises the crossbow, adds the bolt, and aims it like a rifle, pulling the trigger to release the string and shoot the bolt.
In the video, the bolt travels 235 yards! Certainly far enough for Maggie to escape the castle.
For my next book, Highland Captive, I got to research all about building a cathedral in 1453. Now that was cool!
Highland Betrayal - The Sons of Gregor MacLeod, #3
"Witty banter, adventure and passion!"—ELIZA KNIGHT, USA Today bestselling author
A betrothal. A betrayal. A love threatened by treachery.
Laird Callum MacLean vowed to marry Maggie MacDonnell. But when his father's apparent suicide makes him Laird of his clan, Callum must unmask his father's killer before bringing Maggie into his dangerous new home.
Maggie's home isn't any safer. When Callum fails to return, Maggie does what any resourceful Highland lass would do. She escapes—and finds herself toe-to-toe with Callum, who's determined to fulfill his promise. Maggie can't bring herself to trust him with her heart again. But with a traitor still at large, they must rely on each other in every way, or their clans—and their love—will be destroyed.
MORE IN THE SERIES
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Alyson McLayne is a mom of twins and an award-winning writer of contemporary, historical and paranormal romance. She’s also a dog lover and cat servant with a serious stash of dark chocolate. After getting her degree in theater at the University of Alberta, she promptly moved to the West Coast of Canada where she worked in film for several years and met her prop master husband.
Alyson has been nominated for several Romance Writers of America contests, including The Golden Heart, The Golden Pen, The Orange Rose, Great Expectations, The Molly’s and The Winter Rose.
Her debut historical romance, Highland Promise, will be published by Sourcebooks on October 3, 2017. Highland Promise is the first of five books in The Sons of Gregor MacLeod series. Highland Bride will come out February 1, 2018.
Alyson and her family reside in Vancouver with their sweet but troublesome chocolate lab puppy named Jasper.
Please look her up on Facebook (www.facebook.com/AlysonMcLayne) or Twitter (@AlysonMcLayne). She loves chatting with her fans!