I love telling the story of how I first came up with the idea for my book IRON. I was taking part in an online chat when the question was posed: “What’s the most unlikely pairing you can imagine for a hero/heroine?” At the time, I’d been researching wrought iron for a character who had a thing for it—lol! So I guess blacksmiths were on my mind. And everyone knows how badly the fae react to iron, so the idea of a love match between a smithy and a fae seemed most unlikely—and, therefore, irresistible!
Now, obviously, blacksmiths aren’t as crucial as they once were, so that suggested the story needed to be historical. And, as it happened, when my grandfather was a young man in Ireland he was a blacksmith. So I kind of had to set it there. I don’t think either of my grandparents would be particularly pleased to learn that they’d inspired an erotic romance, but I dedicated it to them anyway.
It’s one of the books I’m most pleased with. Here’s one of my favorite scenes:
By mid-afternoon the crowd in The Starry Plough was growing thin.
Their shopping completed, the women of Kilbanning began arriving at the pub to collect their men. Gavin watched as his neighbors departed, one after the other, heading for home to make Christmas for themselves and their families. There was nothing unusual in this, of course, the same routine had been followed for as far back as anyone could recall. It was tradition. It was all part of village life; part of the life he had always assumed would be his; the life he thought he was getting, as a matter of course, when he married Mairead. And the feeling that he’d been cheated out of so much—out of the every day things he’d deserved and expected and ought to have had—left such a bitter taste in his mouth that an ocean of porter couldn’t have washed it away.
When those who were left behind, mostly emigrants home for the holiday, were grown too jovial with drink and began to press Gavin to join them in song, he decided he’d had enough. Arms laden with the burdens he’d somehow managed to accumulate, seasonal gifts his neighbors would normally have dropped off at the forge had they not found him so conveniently at hand, he headed for home.
Stray sunbeams piercing the gloomy gray sky lit up the landscape like visions of heaven. They did nothing to lighten his mood, however. Neither did the sight of the horseman stopped in the middle of the road just where it crested the hill overlooking the forge. The stranger’s aristocratic features were set in a sneer as he gazed down at Gavin’s demesne, causing an upwelling of territorial pride and anger in the smith’s heart.
“Can I help ye then?” Gavin asked as he came to a swaggering stop several feet from the stranger. If truth be told, between the drink and the bitterness besetting his spirits, he was spoiling for a fight; and the idea of wiping the boreen with this arrogant-looking young prick seemed all too appealing.
The horseman turned to him, a look of cold surprise on his face. Gavin was surprised, as well, and none too pleased. Bless my soul, if it’s not another bloody, damned Fae. ’Tis a fekkin’ plague of t’em, is what it is. This one had the look of a hunter, though, and coming so close on Aislinn’s heels it didn’t take a genius to figure out it must be he from whom she was running.
Not my kind, Aislinn had said of the fae that was in pursuit of her, and now that he’d had a look at him Gavin was much inclined to agree; the two were as different as day and night. As he took in the wintry expression in the stranger’s eyes, the cruel curl of his mouth, he felt the hackles rise on his neck. His temper flared hotter, burning off the effects of the alcohol, leaving him clear-headed, alert and murderously calm. How now, you cheeky devil? he thought angrily. You think you can just ride up to my door, bold as you please, and take her away from me, is that it? Well, think again.
Even without the promise she’d wrung from him and despite the anger he still harbored toward her; without knowing anything beyond what his senses had already told him about either fae, or anything at all about the argument between them, Gavin knew he’d not be handing Aislinn over to this brigand. Not without a fight.
But what weapons did he have with which to fight against one such as this? Despite the somewhat effete cast to the fae’s features, Gavin could sense the power that lay coiled inside him, as cold and deadly as any serpent.
“I’m looking for someone,” the stranger drawled at last. He had a voice like dry leaves scuttling across bare rock.
His mind racing as he searched for a solution, Gavin let his face relax into a drunken leer in an attempt to buy himself some time. “Lookin’, is it? Well, sure and I’d say you’d found someone. Or amn’t I someone then?”
The stranger shook his head impatiently. “I’m seeking a particular someone. A woman. A young lady, in fact. Tall, with long, blonde hair, quite fair to look upon, she’s to be my bride. I thought to meet up with her hereabouts, but she seems to have…gone astray.”
“Yerra,” Gavin shook his head sorrowfully. “’Tis a turrible t’ing that, young ladies goin’ astray. Have ye searched down in Cork for her? That’s usually where they end up, you see, on the streets o’ Cork City.”
“’Tis not what I meant,” the fae replied, staring down his nose at the smith. “I believe she passed through here quite recently. Perhaps you might have seen her?”
“What’s that?” Gavin feigned horror. “Me? Keeping company with some harlot outta Cork? Are ye daft, man? Who’s been telling such lies? You’ll have the missus down on me poor head if you go about spreading such stories as that!”
“Enough of your nonsense,” the stranger uttered in frosty tones. “Silence!”
Gavin fell dumb as the interdiction hit him. Like a cold hand it wrapped around his neck stealing his speech, almost stealing his air entirely. His heart labored as he struggled to breathe. Meanwhile, the stranger’s horse tossed its head and stamped impatiently, teeth snapping as it extended his neck in Gavin’s direction.
“Now, tell me,” the fae demanded, attempting to fix Gavin with his steely gaze, as he urged his restless mount forward. “Have ye or have ye not seen, or heard tell of, the woman I seek?”
It took all the willpower Gavin possessed to keep from answering; or to keep his eyes from meeting that fell gaze, but he knew he was as good as lost if he did. So he focused his attention on the stranger’s horse, instead. With an Irishman’s appreciation for horseflesh, he couldn’t help but be impressed, even despite the danger he was in. It was a beautiful creature, with eyes of coal, a dappled gray coat that shone with the same dull gleam as pewter, deadly white teeth, and those hooves—black as iron and probably just as heavy—ripe to cut a man down with a single kick, he didn’t doubt. Suddenly, Auld John’s words came back to him: “Nary a fae can abide the black metal—and their steeds be just the same.” And Gavin knew he had just one chance to save himself.
“I see how ’tis now,” he muttered, nodding like a simpleton, though it was a battle to say anything that was not in answer to the fae’s question. He dropped his packages carefully on the dried grass at the side of the road, hands fumbling slightly as the dug into his jacket pockets. But as they closed around his all-but-forgotten tools, he felt the pressure from the fae’s spell ease. “Sure and your beastie must have a stone stuck in his hoof, to put him in so foul a mood. But, ‘tis your lucky day, for I’ve just the thing for it.” And, so saying, he held up the implements of his trade—hoof parers and cleaning knife. The gray reared in alarm. Eyes flashing, whinnying fearfully, it stamped and twisted as it tried to back away from the smith.
“Put those away, you fool!” the fae ordered, savagely working the reins while his horse continued to pivot and buck in its efforts to distance itself from the iron.
“Now, now,” Gavin soothed, keeping an eye out for those hooves as he moved closer to the frightened animal. “It must be hurting him turrible to put him in such a state. But ’twill be all right. Just hold him still, can’t you?” Reaching out, he quickly swiped the tip of the parers along the horse’s flank, as though he were striking a match. The response was every bit as immediate and inflammatory.
The horse let out a scream of pain, as though it had been burnt; its hind legs shot out in a vicious kick that had Gavin jumping back to stay out of range, and that nearly unseated its rider. Then it bolted down the road, while the fae, howling furiously, tried in vain to halt its flight.
“Yerra,” Gavin jeered after them. “Off with ye then.” Laughing softly, he watched the pair disappeared from view. “And a good riddance to ye both.” Then he pocketed his tools, collected his parcels and resumed his journey.
Nineteenth century Ireland. Blacksmith Gavin O’Malley is a bitter man, with a heart as hard as the iron he forges. He wants his life back–the one that was stolen from him the day his wife died in childbirth–taking their firstborn son with her.
When Aislinn Deirbhile, an immortal, shape-shifting fae, arrives on his doorstep, he knows he’s in luck. For Aislinn can give Gavin everything he’s been missing: A devoted-seeming wife in the image of his beloved Mairead, and children who are sure to outlive their father. Now, all he has to do is find a way to keep her–without losing his immortal soul in the process.
But Aislinn has an agenda of her own. On the run from a vengeful fae lord who’s vowed to either make her his or end her existence, she knows the iron that allows Gavin to take her captive will also keep her pursuers at bay. In order to put herself permanently beyond her enemy’s reach, however, Aislinn will need something more. She’ll need to win Gavin’s heart and convince him to willingly part with a piece of the very soul he’s trying to save.