The Crusader's Heart

Kate Forrest
The Crusader's Heart

The Wild Rose Press
Release Date
September 2018
Book 1 of The MacKinnons of Mull
Historical Romance

Isobel Campbell is on a secret mission to find sanctuary for Scotland's most holy relic. She is determined to see it to safety, but every step she takes brings her closer to an uncertain future. When the fate of the relic is assured, she must decide her own course. A lonely path forward seems inevitable, but her protector, a mysterious crusader, makes her yearn for a life filled with his love.

Alexander MacKinnon returns home to Scotland to face his clan's dire prospects. Escorting a noblewoman to a nunnery delays his reckoning with the family he left behind and presents dangers he cannot face alone. Isobel, his beautiful charge, may prove to be the greatest danger of all, for the powerful connection between them could lead to their ruin. But this crusader's heart cannot deny what it wants, even if it means putting everything at risk.

BOOK INTERVIEW on October 2018
Welcome, Kate, to The Romance Reviews!

Q: Where did you get your inspiration for The MacKinnons of Mull series? How are the books tied together?

The inspiration came from learning about the life of Saint Margaret, Queen of Scotland. When I lived in England, my husband and I visited Scotland and on our first trip, we toured Edinburgh Castle and Dunfermline Abbey, where I learned about this remarkable woman and the relic she brought with her to Scotland. Both Margaret and the relic inspired aspects of THE CRUSADER'S HEART, and readers will also see the relic's journey continue in the second book. A unifying thread for the entire series is that each story is about a MacKinnon sibling. The first book focuses on Isobel Campbell and Alexander MacKinnon, future chief of the clan. THE CRUSADER'S HEART also introduces Alex's three sisters: Joan, Anna, and Flora. Each are heroines in the remaining three books of the series.

Q: THE CRUSADER'S HEART is set in 1153 and the story begins in Edinburgh. What is your fascination with that period and place in history?

I've always been fascinated by the past and when I visited Scotland, I was taken with the welcoming people who shared the history of the beautiful churches and castles we toured. Those conversations helped inspire my interest in Queen Margaret, and I knew I wanted to write in a time with living memory of her. That is one of the reasons why the story begins in 1153.

Another reason is that, in recent years, I've become fascinated with the Crusades. I visited, what is believed to be, the grave of a crusader in Moulin, Perthshire, which led me on a path to research this history. Once I found a book that illuminated Scotland's involvement in the Second Crusade (1145 – 1149), I knew my hero would be a crusader. My story is set a few years after that campaign concluded and 1153 is also significant because it was the year King David died. David was the son of Queen Margaret and, in the story, he is Isobel's father figure, which was another way I was able to weave in my original inspiration. Edinburgh also offered a natural starting point for Isobel's journey, because of the connection to King David.

Q: Please tell us more about heroine Isobel Campbell. What was it like being the adopted daughter of the king? What kind of person is she?

Isobel is intelligent, brave, curious, and incredibly giving. She knows how rare her talents and knowledge are and she wants to use them to enrich the lives of the people around her. But she has an incredibly difficult decision to make regarding her future. As the adopted daughter of a king, she has wealth, but her station in life isn't certain. She seems to walk a line between two worlds-- the life of a royal and the life a commoner. She cannot balance on that line forever; she must find where she truly belongs.

Q: What about Alexander MacKinnon? How did his past shape him to be the man that we meet in the story?

Alex has lived a life of expectation. He is expected to be chief one day. He is also expected to marry a wealthy bride and solve his clan's troubles. When he was a youth, he rebelled against these expectations, and left on crusade in 1147, seeking adventure and a life unburdened by his future. Now, six years later, he's grown into a skilled warrior, and he's prepared for the challenges before him. Though a surprise mission makes him question how he'll fulfill his duties.

Q: What makes them perfect for each other?

Beyond that spark of attraction, Alex and Isobel challenge, yet complement, one another. They are equals and command each other's respect, which means they can go toe to toe. Isobel has strengths that are Alex's weaknesses, and vice versa, which is why they balance one another.

Q: What for you is a romantic moment between them?

One romantic moment comes when they are making plans for their wedding ceremony and feast. Enjoy this excerpt:

"… I am eager to have you here with me." Alex leaned forward, placing his hands on the floor beside him, and kissed Isobel on the lips. He pulled back and whispered, "I want to be able to do that any time of the day."

"You have no patience, Crusader," Isobel said, climbing onto his lap. She adjusted her skirts so she could wrap her legs around his waist.

"Nae, I do not," he said, kissing his way down her neck.

Q: Which character is the hardest to write? Why?

Robbie MacDonald is a secondary character in THE CRUSADER'S HEART, and he was a challenge to write because he exists in this delicate gray area. He isn't exactly bad, but he also isn't quite good. That's hard to convey without being too heavy handed in either direction.

Q: What kind of research did you have to do to write this book? Please share an interesting fact or unique behind the scenes experience.

When I lived in England, I made two trips to Scotland. I visited many of the places I wrote about in THE CRUSADER'S HEART, including Mull and Iona with tours of the nunnery ruins and the abbey church. I made notes of all my experiences, collecting guidebooks and history books along the way. Of course, I was collecting information for a project I hadn't defined yet, so when my husband and I moved to the Finger Lakes region of New York in 2015, I continued my research, learning from dissertations and historical texts that had to be summoned from the depths of the Cornell University annex. All of this reading helped me understand the medieval time period I wanted to write about in the series.

Q: Please give us a sneak peek at book 2 in the series.

The next book in the series, The Islander's Heart, follows Joan MacKinnon and Robbie MacDonald on their own adventure. I don't want to say too much, but it does have a darker tone than THE CRUSADER'S HEART and there is a mystery element to the story, which has been really fun to write.

Q: What's up next for you?

I went back to Scotland this summer to do more in-person research for the remaining three books in The MacKinnons of Mull series. While there, I was inspired to start a novella that will be part of the MacKinnon universe as well. I'm currently working on the novella and finishing The Islander's Heart. Jumping out of historical, I'm also working on a contemporary, standalone romance, set in North Carolina. I absolutely love writing historical romance, but I've enjoyed working outside of my comfort zone on this modern piece.

Sounds great! *grin* Thank you for your time, Kate!

Bio of author, Kate Forrest:

Kate Forrest is the debut author of The Crusader's Heart, a Scottish medieval romance novel. In addition to romance, she publishes creative nonfiction essays about her beloved birthplace of Western Pennsylvania. She currently resides with her husband and sophisticated Himalayan cat in the Piedmont region of North Carolina. She is accustomed to the tumbleweed lifestyle, moving every few years for her husband's research, but she feels fortunate to say that she misses every place she has been lucky enough to call home.

When Kate isn't writing or doing research, she loves to travel (anywhere and everywhere), read (a little bit of everything), and garden (to varying degrees of success).


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