When I first moved to Helensburgh, I explored a lot of the local area and thought I'd discovered most interesting places around. Turns out I was wrong.
Today I went on a rather unique hike from Cardross (only two train stops from Helensburgh) around the Kilmahew Estate. To be honest, I'd never even heard of that place, but hey, a hidden castle ruin in the woods? A magical waterfall? A peaceful glen? Sign me up!
Even better: there's an audio guide you can download in advance of the walk, together with a route description. I'm used to having to do my own research about whatever ruins I stumble across, so this is a complete luxury.
I started off at the train station and made my way up some roads until I reached open fields. It had been zero degrees overnight and a lot of the puddles were frozen over (one of the best sounds in the world is the cracking of a frozen puddle).
The first ruin I saw wasn't the castle, but the remains of a lodge part of the Kilmahew Estate. The estate covers around 140 acres and its name is derived from the Gaelic word cille, monk, and Mahew, a sixth century monk who came to Scotland from Ireland to spread Christianity.
On I go following a narrow and muddy path along a ravine, the gurgling sound of a small stream accompanying me until I reach the castle. If I hadn't known where to look, I would have never found it. Perfectly camouflaged by the surrounding colourful autumn trees, it blends into the landscape.
The castle's history is a little peculiar. Originally a 16th-century five-storey tower house, it was remodelled in the 18th century, adding details like large gothic windows. There's also a very pretty arch that looks like it should have led to another building but never did (can you be in love with an arch? If so, I am!). The theory is that the owners planned to convert the tower house into a country house or large villa, but never completed their work.
I stayed at the castle for a while, soaking in the atmosphere. I've always loved ruins, especially abandoned ones. As much as I like big, well looked-after castles like the ones in Edinburgh or Stirling, this felt a little more...magical.
The audio guide said that a barn owl nists on top of the castle, but sadly it didn't fly down to say hello.
When it got a little too cold, I continued on along a very overgrown path (cue me kneeling on the ground to duck beneath some fallen trees, getting my brand new walking trousers muddy) to a waterfall called Spottie's Linn. According to local legend, a will-o’-the-wisp lives here, a woodland sprite who likes to tempt unwary travellers off the beaten track. Sadly, Spottie was in no mood to talk so I continued on without temptation.
Next up was more water, this time a little lake, Swan Pond, with an artificial island in the middle. It was part of the estate's pleasure gardens. The pond was frozen over completely and the sound of ice gently cracking under the midday sun filled the air. Yes, I'm feeling poetic.
The next stop was one I intend to return to next summer: a rhododendron tunnel. I've seen some of those before, but never one as long. I can't imagine how beautiful it must look when the rhododendron is in bloom - one for next year's to-do list.
Normally, the route would have led me to St Peter's Seminary, another ruin, yet one that's a lot younger than the castle. After the Second World War, the Catholic Archodiocese bought the estate and with it, the mansion house. They transformed it into a seminary to train priests, remodelling the building completely. Sadly, the architects didn't take into account the Scottish weather and the seminary closed in 1980, the building leaking all over the place. Since then, it's decayed quickly and is now a modern ruin. It's still being used occasionally for peculiar things such as a rave and an art installation, but sadly, I never got to see it because the entire area is fenced off for building works.
Since I still had a couple of hours of daylight left (I should get up this early more often), I returned to Cardross and took a bus to the Ardardan Estate (I would have walked had there been a pavement along the busy main road leading there). It's a farm, complete with a farm shop, cafe and garden nursery, perched at the top of a peninsula that I can see from my living room window.
With the sun gone, I decided it wasn't the right time to walk around the peninsula and went into the warm and cosy tea room for some afternoon tea (amazing!) instead. And then filled my backpack with cheese and other goodies from the farm shop.
All in all, a lovely winter's walk with lots of nature and history. Now, with my brain refreshed and my stomach happy, it's time to write some magical stories...maybe about a sprite who kidnapped an author?
Ho! Ho! Hot! The first-ever reverse harem advent calendar is here!
I've got together with other authors to put together twenty-four first chapters from bestselling reverse harem novels, perfect to fill up that reading list for the holidays. Get a taste of books you haven't discovered yet and be inspired to re-read the ones you know already.
Plus, exclusive behind the scenes insights about your favourite authors. How do they come up with ideas? How do they spend the festive period? You'll get answers to those questions, as well as fun titbits about pets, unruly characters and the craft of writing.
Make yourself a hot drink, cuddle up on the sofa and get ready to open your first door... it's about to get hot.
The ebook is free, but if you prefer a paperback (I certainly do) to physically open one chapter a day, all proceeds from sales go to the charity Doctors Without Borders.
There are good aliens and bad aliens.
The ones you want to be abducted by and the ones you'd run from until your feet bleed.
Unfortunately, not everything is black and white... and not all good aliens are benevolent.
I'm so excited to announce my latest series, Between Rebels, a sci-fi romance trilogy featuring hunky aliens, danger and despair, and a strong female lead who's allowed to be vulnerable from time to time. The series begins with Stolen By Them, which releases on the 9th November.
Between Rebels is part of the Planet Athion universe, a shared world that four other authors write about. Here the aliens are sexy, the humans are hot, and there's plenty of action for everyone. All trilogies can be read on their own, but it can be fun to read them all in order (starting with Their Invasion by Marissa Farrar).
To celebrate the release of Stolen By Them, I take a look at some of my favourite Planet Athion books. Many of the existing trilogies are complete, so prepare for many hours curled up on the sofa with steamy stories of aliens, space and true love.
My friend/co-author/soulmate Bea Paige and I have put our Infernal Descent trilogy into one pretty box set. Now you can read all three books in one go without having to waste time on finding the sequels. And even better, it's cheaper than buying the books individually.
What are you waiting for...
Read the complete Infernal Descent trilogy in one volume for the very first time. Hell just got a whole lot hotter...
The devil has taken Ciera's sister. To save her, she has to travel through all nine circles of his domain, filled with demons, monsters and sinners.
Luckily, she's not alone.
Accompanied by a fallen angel, a werewolf and a hellhound, she ventures further into the lands of the dead than any human ever before. But there's a reason the living are not supposed to be in Hell, and with every circle, there are more enemies to overcome.
With the devil out to stop them, Ciera and her men need to hurry before it's too late for both her and her little sister...
An action packed fantasy adventure based on Dante's Inferno, but with a kickass heroine instead of a lovesick old poet, and a reverse harem romance that'll make you swoon.
She was born to serve. Pity she doesn’t want to.
DX-4, also known as Dex, is a hybrid: not quite human, not quite machine. She spends her days running errands for her three masters, until one day she ends up in a bit of a pickle.
Meaning she could be killed for what she did.
Her masters try everything they can to help her, but will it be enough? And is her heart human enough to return their love?
A steampunk reverse harem novella set in a dystopian world, featuring a strong heroine and her loving, protective men.
Previously published in anthologies as 'Kiss my Corset' and 'Kiss my Snowflake'.
After long deliberation, I've decided to give my Claiming Her Bears series a makeover: new covers, new titles, a completely new style. Read more about this series' cover evolution on my Patreon page.
I'm in the process of updating the covers and titles everywhere and hopefully they'll show at all retailers soon.
Rescued by Bears is currently free, so this is the perfect time to start the series and dive into a post-apocalyptic Scotland full of hunky bear shifters and ancient mythology.
Hot Vikings, bearded Vikings, yummy Vikings! My Norsemen Academy is now available to pre-order and will be released on Saturday the 13th July.
Lainie never expected to be admitted to the prestigious Time Travel Academy.
She never expected to study runes, ancient languages and meet real life Vikings.
And she certainly didn't expect to fall for her teacher... and a Viking... and a mysterious archivist.
When a forbidden jump in time goes wrong, Lainie will have to draw on everything she's learned to make her way back into the present - and into the arms of her men.
A full-length steamy reverse harem full of action, intrigue and hot Vikings, set in both past and present. Includes resources to learn basic runes and Old Norse!
Norsemen Academy has been released as a serial previously and this omnibus combines all the episodes plus a bonus scene. If you've read the serial already, you can read the bonus scene here.
If you like cats, you're in for a treat. If you don't - let yourself be purrsuaded!
The day has finally come, Meow is ready to pounce onto your bookshelves and ereaders. It's been a long time coming and I can't wait to hear what you think!
Meow is a purr-fectly hilarious urban fantasy full of cats, body parts and sassy assassins. That's right, Kat isn't just a kick-arse assassin, but also a cat shifter with a catnip addiction (pssst nobody knows about it) and some very sharp claws. If you're in the mood for action, suspense and a gritty world full of crime, but also want a lot of fun and cat puns, this is the book for you.
The second book Scratch is up for preorder now!
This book has been a long time in the making, but now I can finally announce that Meow is available to pre-order! It's a hilarious, action-packed book full of cat puns and body parts. Scroll down for a teaser.
Kat is used to killing people, but for a blank cheque, she's willing to do the opposite and help solve a murder - even though it sounds boring as hell. That is, until she finds some body parts in her fridge, makes friends with the neighbourhood cats and realises there may be an assassin better than her…
Suddenly, things have become purrfectly exciting.
**An urban fantasy full of cats, secrets and murders. This is a slow-burn reverse harem where Kat will find her love interests over time. Book one in the Catnip Assassins series.**
I blink open my eyes only to stare into big yellow pupils lined with black. Whiskers stroke my cheeks.
I groan and close my eyes again. It feels way too early.
"Shut up," I mutter and hide my head beneath a pillow.
In response, the kitten begins to claw my shirt. Great. An alarm clock with claws. Worst invention ever.
"Piss off," I growl, but the cat doesn't budge. It's probably hungry.
I breathe in deep. It's a male. Usually, I don't let males into my bed. I sleep with them in theirs and leave before sunrise. That's the rule. No attachments. Luckily, this little male isn't human.
"Okay then," I sigh dramatically and sit up, surprising the kitten. He tumbles and lands on my thighs, meowing indignantly.
I don't apologise. It's his fault for standing on my chest.
Yawning loudly, I pick him up and climb out of the hammock. Usually, I'd get dressed, but the kitten won't stop asking for food. I'm far too easily manipulated.
I take him downstairs into the kitchen. The house is quiet, I seem to be the first one awake.
"Don't look," I warn him and open one of the cabinets, revealing my stash of cat food. It's my guilty little secret. Even to me, it smells appetising, but I've got enough of a grip on my feral side to resist the temptation. I put some of the food in a bowl and hand it to the kitten. He starts eating greedily, leaving me with an amused smile of my face.
While he's enjoying his breakfast, I make myself some beans on toast. It's that kind of day. In a way, the beans almost look like wet cat food. Not sure if that makes them more or less enticing.
He's already finished his food and still sounds hungry. Cats. Greedy little bastards.
I grin and give him some more. I feel like giving him a name, but he probably already has one. To find out, I'd need to shift but I'm not in the mood. I know cats can understand me when I'm human, but I only understand the intentions behind their meows, not actual words like names.
Maybe I'll shift later, although by then, he'll likely be gone. Unless what Lily said is true and I am training the local cats to come here for food. I can't help it.
Suddenly, a thought strikes my mind and I almost meow myself. I think I've just had the most brilliant idea.
I crouch down so I'm closer to the little kitten. He ignores me, busy eating the last remaining crumbs. No idea how he's managed to devour two bowls of cat food this fast. Even I would have taken longer than that.
"Hey little one," I say quietly. "Shall we make a deal?"
His ears twitch but he continues eating.
"How about I give you food every day and in return, you run some errands for me? Go to places and check them out? Tell me if there are any humans around? Stuff like that?"
I can feel how he's thinking about it, but he's too distracted by his meal. I sigh and wait for him to finish.
He rubs his face with his front paws and I think my heart is close to melting. He's too cute for my cold assassin heart. Maybe I shouldn't get involved with baby cats. They're bound to change me into a bubbling mess.
"So, what do you say?" I ask again. "Want to spy for me?"
Scottish men in kilts, sexy bear shifters, sassy heroines with magical powers... Three books, three women and a total of 11 juicy men!
I've put three of my most popular paranormal RHs into one box set, which means you can now start three different series for the price of one!
This set contains:
1. Winter Princess (Daughter of Winter #1 - angels, Celtic mythology, Gods, demons)
2. Polar Destiny (Claiming Her Bears #1 - bear shifters, Greek mythology, post-apocalyptic)
3. From the Deeps (Seven Wardens #1 - kelpies, ghosts, selkies, loooooots of Celtic mythology)
If you've only read one of them, it's still worth getting this set!
Come on, what are you waiting for? Peek beneath the kilt and cuddle your own personal bear shifter!
Storyteller. Tea drinker. Bunny cuddler. Highland walker. Scottish by choice.