Monday, November 4, 2013

“The Sweetest Hours” and Robert Burns

My new Scottish-set romance is available on the eHarlequin website this month.  The title comes from a line in a Robert Burns poem.  One of my favorite scenes in the story is centered on a “Burns Night” celebration, which is a supper traditionally held on January 25th, the poet’s birthday.

In my story, Kristin, the heroine, has always held romantic dreams about going to Scotland, the land of her grandmother’s birth.  But as the story opens, her reality is that she’s stuck working on a Saturday in a bodycare-products factory in her Vermont hometown, and left solely responsible for a shift of overtime workers as her bosses tend to their personal lives.  When she hears a Scottish accent coming from the plant manager’s office, she is thrilled, but she thinks she is dreaming.
Malcolm is at Kristin’s factory with a mission to acquire it for his uncle’s Scottish-set family business.  It’s critical that he keep his true plans—and his identity—secret.  Having attended school in the States, he’s pretty good at keeping his accent under wraps--the overheard phone call to his sister his only lapse--and easily explained away.

But it’s Kristin that gets to him—her care to the employees in her factory, her kindness to him, her enthusiasm for all things Scottish, including the dreaded, surprise Burns Night celebration he’s forced to sit through when the wintry Vermont weather delays his ride from picking him up.  Malcolm is determined that Kristin and her family not learn he’s from Scotland.  He will not slip!  And yet—he can’t help it.  For Kristin, he reads one of Burns’ poems, in his best Sir Sean Connery accent. 
Here’s a bit from the poem “To a Mouse”:

The best laid schemes of mice and men
Go often awry,
And leave us nothing but grief and pain,
For promised joy!

Still you are blessed, compared with me!
The present only touches you:
But oh! I backward cast my eye,
On prospects dreary!
And forward, though I cannot see,
I guess and fear!

Maybe you recognize some of the lines? 
I took a few photos relating to Robert Burns when we toured Scotland.   Above at a whisky store, here are some lines from Burns’ famous “The Selkirk Grace.”

To the right is his portrait from The Scottish National Portrait Gallery.

To the left, the Writer’s Museum in Edinburgh features Burns, Sir Walter Scott, and Robert Louis Stevenson.

I’m giving away copies of The Sweetest Hours to randomly-selected commenters.  Do you like poetry—any favorites?  Or just drop a quick hello—I’m interested in hearing from you!

Thanks for reading--I’ll post winners on Saturday.

Cathryn Parry has written four Harlequin Superromances.  She lives in New England with her husband and neighbor’s cat, Otis.  Please see her website at


Mary Preston said...

I do enjoy poetry. A lot more now then I ever did at school. Some of the language & imagery can be so beautiful.

This is one of my favorites:

Shall I compare thee to a summer's day? (Sonnet 18)

by William Shakespeare
Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate.
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath all too short a date.
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimmed;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature's changing course, untrimmed;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow'st,
Nor shall death brag thou wand'rest in his shade,
When in eternal lines to Time thou grow'st.
So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

Kaelee said...

I enjoy poetry but it's been a while since I read any.

My favorite is ~ I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud (also commonly known as "Daffodils") by William Wordsworth.

I also enjoy the story poems like The Raven, The Ancient Mariner, and others.

Cathryn Parry said...

Mary, that is beautiful! :-)

Cathryn Parry said...

Kaelee, that poem was new to me, so I searched it out. You just made my day. Thank you!!!

;inda s said...

Great post. My grandmother was from the Scottish highlands. I've been to many Robbie burns nights but I still won't eat haggis. I love this poem but I learned it as "The best-laid schemes o' mice an' men
Gang aft agley,"
One of my fav quotes. I look forward to reading your book.

Colleen C. said...

I have to admit that I have not read any poetry since school. I remember some really stood out for me at the time, but I do not recall them. I squeeze in romances for my free time.

Unknown said...

I love to hear someone read poetry read aloud to me. I heard Richard Blanco (the most recent inaugural poet) speak and he was WONDERFUL!!!! Seriously, you should find the videos of him reading aloud on the internet and go have a listen. My dad is a big reciter of poetry for all occasions, so I grew up with it. Probably because of my dad, I'm a big e.e. cummings fan. I also like Mark Strand and I recently discovered John Betjeman. I like poetry with a little humor to it.

Kim said...

Congratulations on the new release. It's terrible to admit, but I've never been a big fan of poetry. There are some poems that are nice, but I don't make a habit of reading poetry.

Di said...

I've long been a fan of Robbie Burns - I first learned of him when I asked about the statues in my grandparents house that they said were of 'Robbie Burns & Highland Mary' - 'To A Louse' made me both giggle & shiver when my grandfather would perform it (tho he had an Irish accent).

Christy Olesen said...

I love all things Scottish. I'm intrigued by your Scottish hero. I'd like to find out how he 'covers up' is Scottishness. :-)

Cathryn Parry said...

Hi Linda,
You're right, "gang aft agley" it is! I just put it in the English here (it's read both ways in my story, LOL). And I'm giggling about the haggis. I did try it, and it's um, different. :-) Thanks for commenting!

Cathryn Parry said...

Hi Colleen, Yay for romances! I squeeze them in, too. And I have to admit, I switched to a digital reader, which has increased my reading habit...

Cathryn Parry said...

Jennifer, you inspired me to listen to Richard Blanco read his poem "Boston Strong." Thank you. A very gifted writer and speaker!

Cathryn Parry said...

Kim, I understand how you feel--I don't search it out either, but sometimes it finds me. :-) Thanks for visiting and reading!

Cathryn Parry said...

Okay, now you have me giggling, Di...I'm imagining a grandfather reading this to his granddaughter in an Irish accent:

To A Louse (On seeing one on a lady's bonnet in church)

Ha! whare ye gaun, ye crowlin ferlie?
Your impudence protects you sairly;
I canna say but ye strunt rarely,
Owre gauze and lace;
Tho', faith! I fear ye dine but sparely
On sic a place.

Ye ugly, creepin, blastit wonner,
Detested, shunn'd by saunt an' sinner,
How daur ye set your fit upon her -Sae fine a lady?
Gae somewhere else and seek your dinner
On some poor body.


Cathryn Parry said...

Hi Christy! Aren't Scottish heroes awesome? I'm very much looking forward to the Outlander miniseries, coming soon. I even got my husband reading it, after we'd visited Culloden Battlefield and he was "volunteered" to dress up like a Highlander in battle...

Anonymous said...

I love poetry and I am Scottish, so I love a Scottish hero.

Jo's Daughter said...

I write my own poetry and don't really read other peoples any more. In my teens I did enjoy Emily Brontes poems, but now it doesn't move me as much.

Anonymous said...

I use to love poetry when i was in high school, I would read several poetry book every year but since I graduated I just do not read it any more. I try but I just do not get into it as much as I did.

Emily B.

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