It’s April Fools’ Day today and my twin seven-years-olds have been busy creating all kinds of gags to try and trick me. Full disclosure: I’m not really tricked. However… I do a damn good job of pretending to be! There have been whoops of surprise, screams of terror, and lots of, “You tricked me!” heard in my house today.
I have been instructed not to go into the art room, aka the kitchen, as they are creating their tricky masterpieces to fool me. My son just completed a six-legged spider (despite the unit on arachnids he just finished at school—and aced!). He taped it onto the wall beside my writing chair. Then there was the cellophane tape placed across the bottom of the bathroom and bedroom doorways that I guess I was supposed to stick to when I walked through. The fact that my daughter made flowers on popsicle sticks and stuck them to her tape kind of made them impossible not to see. She said they were creepy flowers. “Ooooh, scary!”
Lastly, there was lots of jumping out from behind doors and saying, “Boo!” Or pretending to see a spider or wasp hovering behind them and shouting, “Run!” Um, yeah…that was me. And I got them good!
So then I started thinking about the history behind April Fools Day and whether it’s something my characters in my Highlander historical series The Sons Of Gregor MacLeod might do.
According to Wikipedia, the holiday can be traced back to the 1500s in the UK. In Scotland, they celebrated April Fools Day this way:
“In Scotland, April Fools’ Day was traditionally called ‘Huntigowk Day’, although this name has fallen into disuse. The name is a corruption of ‘Hunt the Gowk’, “gowk” being Scots for a cuckoo or a foolish person; alternative terms in Gaelic would be Là na Gocaireachd, ‘gowking day’, or Là Ruith na Cuthaige, ‘the day of running the cuckoo’. The traditional prank is to ask someone to deliver a sealed message that supposedly requests help of some sort. In fact, the message reads “Dinna laugh, dinna smile. Hunt the gowk another mile.” The recipient, upon reading it, will explain he can only help if he first contacts another person, and sends the victim to this next person with an identical message, with the same result.”
While I don’t have this fun scene in one of my books, it occurred to me that I definitely have a trickster in my series—Isobel MacKinnon. She is Gavin’s younger sister and Kerr’s beloved, although he has a lot of work to do before he wins her over. Isobel is referenced early on in the series, but she finally appears as a secondary character in my July 2019 release HIGHLAND CAPTIVE. And then she and Kerr finally get their own love story in the last book of the series, HIGHLAND THIEF, which I’m currently writing.
So… how is Isobel a trickster? Well, she plays pranks/tricks on people in her clan who deserve it. They haven’t committed a crime that needs their laird’s judgment, but they’ve done something else that has created discord amongst the clan—a scorned woman, a bullied man, a child made to feel like an outcast—and Isobel is the judge, jury, and executioner…of one of her “traps”.
As Kerr says of Isobel in HIGHLAND THIEF:
“Have you seen how the clan looks to her to right a wrong? It may be too small an offence to warrant their laird’s intervention, but they hope it has caught their lady’s eye.”
Or as Isobel says to Deirdre when talking about why she devises elaborate traps for her clan:
“I let them know in some way that their behavior has been noted and found wanting.”
“So…a public shaming of sorts?”
“Perhaps.” She leaned toward Deirdre. “Doona you see? It balances the scales. Restores power to the person who has been maltreated and maintains the equilibrium of the clan. If ’tis a serious crime like theft or murder, I leave that to Gavin. But in this case,” she indicated the parchment spread over the desk in front of her, “the offender was Gavin. He treated you terribly and has to pay for it….I am declaring, on behalf of the clan, that I saw what he did to you and I’ve condemned it.”
And what kind of traps does Isobel set? Well, something that will cause inconvenience, indignity, and embarrassment to the censored person, but not something that will cause serious harm. It may involve things like prickle bushes, or ants, or buckets of honey. Or maybe I should say, ants AND a bucket of honey.
While I don’t dive into all of Isobel’s trickster ways until HIGHLAND THIEF, I do have a scene in book 4, HIGHLAND CAPTIVE, where Isobel declares to her brother Gavin that he is officially on her “shite” list for the way he treated Deirdre when he first met her. Without giving away too many spoilers, Gavin’s son, Ewan, was kidnapped over two years ago, and Gavin never stopped searching for him. When he finally finds Ewan with Deirdre, he’s filled with an anger that he can’t let go, and she becomes an easy target—when all she did was love and cherish a boy in need of a mother.
Excerpt from HIGHLAND CAPTIVE (Out July 30/19):
Deirdre sat on the edge of the dais and waited, Isobel sitting down beside her.
“Are you mad at him?” Isobel asked.
“Aye, Lewis. For not being there to protect you when Gavin and Kerr stormed your keep. For not demanding your return earlier.”
Deirdre thought about it and felt a surprising niggle of resentment in her breast. Had that always been there? “I’m sure he had his reasons. He did ask about me.”
“Aye, and then he reminisced with Kerr about their hunting adventures together as lads.”
“Well, by then he knew I was safe. And if he’d been at the keep when Gavin arrived, he could have been killed.”
“Where was he? Do you know?”
Deirdre shrugged, feeling the usual tinge of embarrassment when she thought about that side of her marriage. And something more, too. It shocked her to realize she was angry.
The last time she’d seen Lewis had been at the gathering where she’d first met Gavin. Before that, she hadn’t seen a trace of him for over two months. He’d even missed Yuletide. “He did try to get me back before his father arrived. Thank goodness Gavin changed his mind about handing me over.”
Isobel glowered at her brother, who was now pacing across the stone floor. “Handing you over—like you were livestock rather than a person. When all this is o’er, I’m going to plan an unpleasant surprise for my dear brother.”
Deirdre’s eyes widened. “Verily?”
“Aye. I’m good at revenge. And at holding a grudge.”
Deirdre didn’t know whether to be more amused or appalled by Isobel’s declaration. “But I was his prisoner.”
Isobel made a dismissive sound in the back of her throat. “I’d take revenge on your father and brother too, if I could. I didn’t like your brother’s tone when he spoke about you, or the demands he made. And your husband too, even though you say he saved you. There’s more to the story than you’ve told me, I’m sure.”
Deirdre stared at her friend, a lump growing in her throat. Aye. She had been treated unfairly, been hurt by people who were supposed to have had her best interests at heart—her brother, her father, her husband. Her mother and sisters too. And she’d just pushed the feelings aside, just accepted their behavior as normal.
Now someone was telling her it was not normal, that she’d been mistreated. That they were in the wrong and deserved to be punished for it.
She pressed a hand to her mouth as anger bubbled up. I’m not a pawn on a chessboard to be pushed around! Not anymore.
“Furthermore,” Isobel continued, oblivious to the effect her words were having on Deirdre, “’tis not just the way you’ve been treated since you were a lass—tossed from clan to clan, your feelings, your personhood, ne’er taken into consideration. But now that you plan to be with my brother—and I can see in your eyes that you do—you will face judgment. You’ll finally stand up for yourself and take something that you want, and some arsehole people will condemn you for it.”
“What? Are you offended that I’ve compared them to arseholes? You’re right. ’Tis not fair to the arsehole.”
“God’s blood, I doona know whether to embrace you or…or…” Deirdre sighed. “There is no alternative, is there?” She pulled Isobel into a tight hug and whispered into her ear, “Thank you.”
“Thank me after I’ve extracted our revenge. Although I think Gavin will have his revenge first. It may be that he’ll be the only survivor around for me to punish.” She spotted her brother. “Gavin!” she called across the great hall.
He looked over from where he was talking to Clyde, who looked even more grim than usual. “Aye?”
“Fair warning, Brother. You’re on my bad side.”
His brow rose. “What did I do?”
“’Tis for when you sent Kerr and me to the loch with Ewan and almost took Deirdre back to Lewis!”
Kerr whistled his approval.
“I brought her back,” Gavin said. “And I apologized.”
“I’ll take that into consideration when I make my plans. I’ve let things slide since Ewan was taken. Doona expect leniency anymore.”
He scowled at her. “You do realize we’re about to go to war?”
She shrugged. “When you return, then. Just so you know it’s coming. You willna know when, or where, or how, but it’s coming.”
“And you know that if anyone gets hurt or something gets broken because of your actions, there will be consequences.”
Deirdre’s gaze jumped back and forth between them, as did everyone else’s in the room. She couldn’t believe what she was seeing and hearing. Isobel had flat-out told her brother to expect trouble from her, and no one had batted an eye. Not one of them yelled or threatened or raised a hand to frighten her.
The queen had spoken—for Isobel was a queen, and not a pawn like Deirdre—and they’d all heard her and planned accordingly.
* * *
She’d saved his son. Could she save him as well?
Laird Gavin MacKinnon is a changed man—and not for the better. Ever since his young son, Ewan, disappeared two years ago, Gavin has grown callous and bitter. Scouring the countryside, his search leads him to a mysterious woman who maintains the boy is hers. He decides to take them both and ask questions later.
Deirdre MacIntyre will go with the brooding laird if it will keep her son safe. Gavin has to admit that the beautiful lass has a bond with Ewan, and things aren’t adding up. When Deirdre’s clan comes to claim her under threat of war, Gavin has a choice to make: fight for her or let her go.