GUEST POST – Rebel of Ross Author Mary Lancaster


Today I’m quite excited to welcome author Mary Lancaster to One Book Shy of a Full Shelf as she is on a virtual tour with her new book, “Rebel of Ross”.  Mary has prepared a guest post for us today with some fascinating background information on her hero and his family.


After Mary’s post, you will find an exclusive excerpt from The Rebel of Ross. Join us back here again tomorrow for my review and some exciting giveaway news. Welcome Mary…..


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Mac Who? By Mary Lancaster

So, my new book, Rebel of Ross, is all about a Scottish family of twelfth century rebels, known as the MacHeths. Although it sounds like a made-up name – and I confess that despite living in Scotland most of my life, I’ve certainly never encountered anyone called MacHeth! – it isn’t. The MacHeths really did exist, major thorns in the sides of several Kings of Scots between 1124 and 1215.


On the other hand, beyond this, we know very little. They are vague, shadowy figures, almost lost in the mists of time. Beyond a few lines in chronicles, and a couple of possibly associated documents of the period, they’ve left little behind, even most of their given names.


But talking of names, where did the surname MacHeth come from in the first place? In this period of Scottish history, surnames weren’t yet in normal use. Most people were known as the son or daughter of their father, e.g. Adam son of Malcolm, or Adam mac Malcolm. So who was the “Heth” who sired this dynasty?


Well, the first MacHeth we hear of is Malcolm, who was imprisoned in Roxburgh Castle from 1134. Malcolm son of “Heth”. It’s likely that Heth is a written corruption of the Gaelic given name Aed. Unfortunately, this doesn’t really help, since we don’t know of any likely Aed! However, there are odd prophecies which crop up in Celtic sources about a victorious Aed, so it may have been that the name carried significance, even cachet for contemporaries, and this was why Aed’s descendants hung on to it. Or he may simply have been the source of the family’s unrest.


Although we don’t know for definite what inspired the MacHeths to such constant rebellions, historians suspect it was dynastic. Their major revolts seem to have occurred at times of royal succession – e.g 1124 when King David came to the throne of Scotland, 1130 when Alexander II succeeded, and 1153 when Malcolm IV was crowned – so it’s probable that the MacHeths were fighting for the kingship itself, and that they had a genuine claim. This is borne out by the fact that none of them ever seem to have been executed or mutilated (a common punishment of the time) for treason when captured.


There are several theories as to the source of their claim, and exactly where Aed fitted into it, but the likeliest seems to be that the MacHeths were a cast-off branch of the royal house, kept from the throne as a more linear succession through the eldest male line was established by King Malcolm III and his successors. But the MacHeths never gave up their right to claim the crown.


In Rebel of Ross, this is their grievance. Malcolm mac Aed has been imprisoned for over twenty years for his attempts, and his sons are now fighting for him. We know one of those sons was called Donald, but it is the other, whom I have named Adam, who is the hero of my book.


Although we don’t know the precise descent of Malcolm MacHeth, the suggestion I like best is that he inherited the earldom of Ross from Aed, his father, and that his mother was a daughter of King Lulach, Macbeth’s stepson, who was King of Scots for nine months before being killed by Malcolm Canmore, who then became King Malcolm III. Lulach was known as “The Simple” which to contemporaries had a meaning of fey of prophetic. And which gave me the idea of giving one of his descendents such gifts. I had great fun imagining how this would affect a nobleman bred to war and violence, and what would happen if visions interfered at the wrong moment in such a dangerous life.


And so my strange and charismatic Adam MacHeth was born, the son of Malcolm, the son of Aed. I hope you like him .

And for those who like genealogy, here’s a family tree showing his possible descent. Again, his name is made up, as is his mother’s (although we know she was a sister of Somerled of the Isles).


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About the Author03_Mary Lancaster

Mary Lancaster’s first love was historical fiction. Since then she has grown to love coffee, chocolate, red wine and black and white films – simultaneously where possible. She hates housework.

As a direct consequence of the first love, she studied history at St. Andrews University, after which she worked variously as editorial assistant, researcher and librarian. Although she has always written stories for her own entertainment, she began to make serious efforts toward publication in order to distract herself from a job she disliked. She now writes full time at her seaside home in Scotland, which she shares with her husband and three children.

Mary is the author of three historical novels:
An Endless Exile – the story of Hereward, 11th century outlaw hero
A World to Win – a Scottish governess finds love in revolutionary Hungary
A Prince to be Feared: the love story of Vlad Dracula

Mary loves to hear from readers. You can email her at, and connect on Facebook. Find out more about Mary and her books at


Excerpt from REBEL OF ROSS

Inside, an upturned cask had become a table between two rough stools. The booth was plunged into gloom as the curtain closed out the sunshine. Setting down her cup, she sat on one stool as if perfectly at ease and lifted her gaze to Adam MacHeth.

He stood just inside the curtain, watching her with a curious, wary expression that told her she’d surprised him.

I congratulate myself,” she said sardonically. “I understand it isn’t easy to surprise a man with second sight.”

He stirred, walked past her to the back of the booth. “Who told you that?” He reached up to a shelf, taking down a flagon and a cup.

Is it true?” Christian asked.

Is what true?” He set down the cup and poured wine from the flagon.

That you have second sight. Or are you just a berserker like the old Vikings?”

He eased his large body down onto the stool. His knee brushed against her skirts. “A lady of your education knows there’s no such thing as second sight.”

She smiled deprecatingly. “And you despise ladies of such education.”

His eyebrows flew up. “I don’t despise you.”

For some reason, that brought colour seeping into her face. To cover it, she lifted her chin in challenge. “Then you’re a berserker after all?”

Why should you think that?”

She shivered, seeing again the men she knew cut down by his sword, trampled beneath his merciless boots. “The way you fight.”

His eyebrows twitched. “That.” One dismissive hand seemed to wave her accusation out through the closed curtain. “It’s a mask. Not unlike yours.”

She stared at him, wondering what on earth he’d ever had in his life to hide from on the battlefield. She had to press her lips together to stop herself asking. She hadn’t come in here to discover such things. Giving herself time to regroup, she raised her cup and sipped.

Why did you let us have Tirebeck?” she asked abruptly.

He stirred. “For my brother.”

You’d have got your brother back just for me.”

That’s not what you said at the time. According to you, I wouldn’t have got a chicken for you, never mind the Earl of Ross’s heir.”

But you didn’t believe me. Why then give us Tirebeck?”

Tirebeck is yours.”

She set down her cup, meeting his whirlpool gaze. For some reason, that wasn’t so difficult now. “To keep us contented. To keep the king unsuspicious and unaware of whatever it is you truly intend.”

A smile flickered across his face. He didn’t look afraid.

Galleys,” she said.

Neither of them blinked. Without looking at it, he swirled the wine in his cup. “I apologise for exposing myself. What is it you really want to ask me?”

The heat of embarrassment surged through her body at the memory of his. He had seen her in the boat. But, determined not to back down, she hung on to his dark gaze. “How did the old hall at Tirebeck burn down?”

His gaze dropped to his wine. His hand stilled, then raised the cup to his lips. He drank and lowered the cup before he looked at her again. “Rhuadri burned it. The day you left.”

Her father had burned it himself? She frowned in the effort of memory. After all, she’d only been three years old. “The day we left? Why did we leave?”

Adam shrugged.

You don’t want to tell me,” Christian discovered.

You don’t want to know. It wasn’t that fire that injured you.”

Before she could prevent it, her hand flew up to her mask. Old Eta, the fisherman’s wife, had mentioned another fire too.

He said steadily, “You were knocked into the hearth fire during a fight. When you were a baby. More than two years before you left.”

Her ears seemed to sing. All the blood which had rushed into her face drained away. She’d always assumed it was the fire she remembered which had injured her. The memory was associated with such fear and pain. No one had told her otherwise until now. She lifted the cup to her mouth and lowered it again untouched.

Who?” she whispered. “Who was fighting?”

Your father and a Norman knight sent by the king to take my father after Stracathro.” Stracathro… The battle by which King David had defeated the rebellious young Earls of Moray and Ross. The Earl of Moray had died in battle, but his brother, Malcolm MacHeth, Earl of Ross, had escaped and eluded capture for another two years. The king had deprived him and his sons of the earldom, outlawed the family, and when Malcolm was finally captured, he was imprisoned in Roxburgh Castle, almost as far away from Ross as you could get without leaving the kingdom.

So I was injured by my father defending yours,” she said a little shakily. “No wonder my mother never told that story. It wouldn’t have looked good to the King of Scots.”

His eyes fell. He had very long lashes. “It’s past. It shouldn’t affect your future.”

She straightened her shoulders, regarding him with a touch of mockery. “So you do have second sight.”

That was only common sense.”

She wasn’t sure what made her do it. Mere curiosity, perhaps, or pique. Her gaze lit on his big, scarred hand, abstractly swirling his cup. She reached out and seized his hand as if to still it.

It jerked, slopping the wine over the barrel, but that wasn’t enough to dislodge her fingers, and she hung on.

You don’t like to be touched, do you?” she said, holding his startled gaze.

By some.” His stormy eyes darkened further. “I like your touch.”

Which wasn’t quite what she’d intended, although she’d brought it on herself. Flushing, but forcing herself not to snatch her hand back, she asked, “Do you see things?”

His breath rushed out on what might have been a laugh, quite at odds with the burning of his eyes. Without warning, his hand twisted, curling his fingers around hers. “Many things.”


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~~~~~ Disclaimer:  All opinions expressed on this blog are 100% my own.  I do not receive monetary compensation for my reviews but do utilize affiliate links.  I may receive books in  order to facilitate a review, but this does not guarantee a good review – only a completely honest one.  Each review post denotes how I obtained the book. 

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