Many of you will know that my current release, Bride of the Solway, features characters from my 2004 story, My Lady Angel. When I was writing Angel, I had created a best friend for the hero. The best friend was one of those characters who appear in my mind more or less fully formed – looks, character, the lot. It’s almost magical when that happens. This one came with a name, too: Ross Graham. And he hinted that he had a slightly mysterious past.
Ross doesn’t feature all that much in My Lady Angel. He appears at the start, and again at the end. But he is such a lovely fellow that he deserved a story of his own. Especially as he had ended up with a broken heart. So I started thinking about Ross’s story and decided that he should go to Scotland to search for the truth about his roots.
Until I’d actually started working on Bride of the Solway, I hadn’t thought much about Ross’s mysterious Scottish family. But in order to start writing, I obviously had to find out all about them. I then realised that, although Graham is a fairly common name in Scotland, I did not know whether it was common in Dumfries and the Border country where my story was set. Even if it proved to be wildly inappropriate, it was too late to change it. I was stuck with Ross Graham as my hero’s name, since My Lady Angel was already in print.
So imagine my shock when I discovered, in my 1806 edition of Cary’s Itinerary of the Great Roads of England and Wales (and Scotland), that the coaching inn at Longtown, the last English town on the main road to Scotland, just 4 miles from the border, was called The Graham Arms. To be honest, I wouldn’t have believed it if it hadn’t been written on the page in black and white. It gave me a really spooky feeling, but it also convinced me that my first Scottish story was definitely meant to be.
Later, on a research trip to the Border country, I was even more surprised to find that The Graham Arms is still there, on the main road in Longtown, apparently very little changed from Regency times. It’s a fine Georgian building, and much too solid to be spooky, as you can see.
When I was taking the picture, the sky was grey and it was starting to rain. But I was so pleased with the omens for the world I was creating in Bride of the Solway, that I couldn’t stop grinning from ear to ear.
Coincidence? I leave it to you to decide...
Bride of the Solway is available, at a 25% discount until end September, from the Mills & Boon store
Also available from Amazon