Sisters of Castle Leod: A Novel by Elizabeth Hutchison Bernard will release on the 19 in the Historical genre.
Millions are fans of Diana Gabaldon’s popular Outlander books and television series, but few know that Gabaldon’s fictional Castle Leoch was inspired by a real Scottish castle, Castle Leod. The two sisters who lived there at the turn of the twentieth century were among the most fascinating and talked-about women of their era.
Lady Sibell Mackenzie is a spiritualist, a believer in reincarnation, and a popular author of mystical romances. Petite and proper, she values tradition and duty. Her younger sister Lady Constance, swimming champion and big game hunter, is a statuesque beauty who scandalizes British society with her public displays of Greek-style barefoot dancing. The differences between the sisters escalate into conflict after Sibell inherits their late father’s vast estates and the title 3rd Countess of Cromartie. But it is the birth of Sibell’s daughter that sets in motion a series of bizarre and tragic events, pitting sister against sister and propelling Sibell on a desperate mission to challenge the power of fate.
Sisters of Castle Leod, by award-winning author Elizabeth Hutchison Bernard, is the emotionally charged story of two sisters torn apart by jealousy and superstition, and the impossible leap of faith that could finally bring them together.
**Finalist in the 2022 American Writing Awards**
This title will be available on #KindleUnlimited.
Universal Link: https://books2read.com/u/3RzAJY
Elizabeth Hutchison Bernard
A former touring musician/songwriter and public relations professional, Elizabeth Hutchison Bernard is the author of two Amazon bestsellers: THE BEAUTY DOCTOR, “a compelling historical novel steeped in mystery with strong elements of a medical thriller” (Readers’ Favorite, 5 stars), and TEMPTATION RAG: A NOVEL, a “resonant novel … about the birth and demise of ragtime … luxuriously crafted” (Publishers Weekly). Her books have been finalists for the Eric Hoffer Book Award, National Indie Excellence Awards, and Arizona Literary Contest; they have received 5-star ratings from Readers” Favorite, Book Readers Appreciation Group, and historical fiction Discovered Diamonds. Elizabeth and her family live near Phoenix, Arizona.
OUTLANDER vs SISTERS OF CASTLE LEOD: A NOVEL
Elizabeth Hutchison Bernard
When Viviana asked me to write about what I think of the Outlander series, my immediate reaction was “That’s easy. I love it!” The “vs” in the title of my post is strictly tongue-in-cheek, since there is no conflict, or competition, between Diana Gabaldon’s marvelous Outlander and my latest historical novel SISTERS OF CASTLE LEOD. On the contrary, I often tell people that if they love Outlander, they will love SISTERS OF CASTLE LEOD. It is not that the stories are similar. Outlander is a time travel romance and historical fantasy. Gabaldon has said that some of the characters are loosely based on real people, but such biographical elements are not the story’s primary appeal. In contrast, my novel is best categorized as biographical historical fiction. The main characters and many events are real, though details may be fictionalized. Unlike Outlander, my book is not a time travel fantasy, but it does include secondary themes involving past lives and the supernatural. That is because my narrator, Sibell Mackenzie, 3rd Countess of Cromartie (1878-1962), was a firm believer in ghosts, spirits, and reincarnation. In fact, it was this aspect of Sibell’s character that drew me to her from the beginning of my research into her life and that of her younger sister Constance—who, by the way, was Sibell’s complete opposite in looks, talents, and temperament. These differences, and how each saw the world and her place in it, were at the root of the sisters’ long and painful estrangement. The saga of their tempestuous relationship is at the center of the novel’s plot.
Undoubtedly, one of the things that appealed to early fans of Outlander was the setting in the Scottish Highlands, with its natural beauty, colorful history, and the magic and mystery of its traditional folklore. Gabaldon has written that the imposing fortress in her story, which she named Castle Leoch, is modeled after the real Castle Leod, located in Strathpeffer, Scotland. When researching SISTERS OF CASTLE LEOD, I had the pleasure of visiting the 15th century castle and was treated to a personal tour by its current resident, John Mackenzie, 5th Earl of Cromartie, who is Sibell’s grandson and chief of the Mackenzie clan. The earl told me that Gabaldon had enjoyed a similar tour when she was researching Outlander.
When I began formulating my initial concept for SISTERS OF CASTLE LEOD, I had not yet read or viewed the Outlander series, and I was unaware of the Castle Leod connection. If anything, discovering that connection excited me even more about my plans to write a story inspired by the real lives of Sibell and Contance Mackenzie, who grew up in the historic castle during the late Victorian era. When Sibell inherited their father’s titles and estates in 1895, at the age of seventeen, she became the mistress of Castle Leod. What happens after that is a tale both heartbreaking and redemptive. Following the shocking death of a loved one, Sibell’s journey in pursuit of justice leads her to Venice, Constantinople (now Istanbul, Turkey), and Tyre, Lebanon, where she confronts the man claiming to be her lover from a past life. Meanwhile, Constance’s choices drag her deep into scandal, eventually earning the wrath of King Edward himself.
The story of the Mackenzie sisters as told in SISTERS OF CASTLE LEOD is especially fascinating because, though fictionalized, a great deal of it is true. A bittersweet saga of two remarkable sisters at the turn of the 20th century, it is a novel of twists and turns that will appeal to lovers of imaginative biographical historical fiction.
Do you enjoy a touch of the supernatural in historical fiction? Do any particular books come to mind?
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