Guest: Ashley York & The Bruised Thistle
New England native Ashley York writes historical romance novels full of passion and intrigue set in 11th and 12th century Ireland, Scotland, and England. Her debut novel, The Bruised Thistle, is the first in The Order of the Scottish Thistle series.
Ashley is a member of Celtic Hearts Romance Writers, Hearts through History Romance Writers, and the Historical Novel Society. After pursuing an MA in History, she has realized her lifelong dream of bringing history to life through vibrant and meaningful characters.

When she is not writing, talking about writing, or thinking about writing, she enjoys going to sessions with live Celtic Music. She lives in southern New England with her husband, three children, and 3 very spoiled animals.

Q: Welcome Ashley! Please tell us about your latest release. Do you have a review you could share with us?

A:   My debut novel is The Bruised Thistle which is the first in The Order of the Scottish Thistle Series.

Iseabail MacNaughton, the orphaned daughter of a Scottish laird, is forced to flee her home and seek assistance against her lecherous uncle, who has usurped her family’s land. When she meets Seumas, a strong and valiant mercenary, she cannot help wondering if he could be the one to stand with her against her uncle. But with a price on her head and enemies on all sides, her trust is not something she can afford to give lightly… 
Seumas MacDonell is a man wounded in body and soul, driven by guilt. When he rescues Iseabail from one of his men, he cannot deny the attraction he feels for her, despite the wound that left him unable to act on it. In the hope of finding redemption for his sins, he agrees to help Iseabail…but will his feelings for her prove to be the ultimate obstacle to his salvation?

"Powerful, and brilliantly written with engaging, and charismatic characters. The storyline is compelling, complex, and intriguing to say the least. A must read and a keeper. You will stay up all night reading BRUISED THISTLE. Well done indeed!! This was my first read by the author but it will not be my last."
Q: Way to go on the great review! I have this book on my Kindle and am very much looking forward to reading it! What inspired this story?
A:  I took a history class on the Middle Ages and the first thing the professor did was have us brain storm what we thought of when we heard the term "medieval." Nothing was off limits - knights, dragons, princesses, whatever we came up he wrote on the board. When we were done, it was clear that we believed they were very superstitious, ignorant, and different from us. He then went on to show us over the next 15 weeks how very wrong we were.
I thought about the soldiers coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan and how they struggle to fit in again, the challenges they face, and compared that with a medieval soldier.  That's Seumas. He has to deal with his guilt, his injury, and find a way to live, a purpose for his life. That's where Iseabail comes in.
She was "privileged" by today's standards but her uncle, whom she should have looked to for protection, used her for his own purposes. The challenge of how to deal with the abuse is something else I believe transcends time. How does she deal with her own guilt, her own worth, how can she find a way to move beyond what's happened to her.
Q: Fascinating! Why do you write romance?
A:  I love romance. I love to see couples in love, I love to hear their stories about how they met and that look in their eye when the talk about each other, I love the romantic movies: Robin Hood Prince of Thieves, PS I Love You, and The Princess Bride. I think romance makes life a little easier to get through.
Q: What do you enjoy most about writing romance?
A: Creating characters that readers can care about. I loved writing about Seumas and Iseabail but was really surprised at how much the reader's related to Calum. They loved him. I'm so glad because I thought he was a pretty great character, too.

Q: Why did you choose your setting and why was it perfect for your book?
A: I visited Scotland and fell in love with everything about it. I started researching and just found more and more amazing facts. It's such a tragedy that their history has been marred by conquest. They've been treated terribly by the conquerors, making them turn away from everything that made them who they were. I took a class in Gaelic and the teacher, an MA in Celtic languages, couldn't really explain why Ireland's language was able to stay so intact when the Scot's was so fragmented. It's because the English outlawed their language! They outlawed bag pipes, kilts, clans…don't get me started. How could I not write about them and during a happier time in their history when things could still have gone either way for them.

Q: Scotland is fascinating and heartbreaking. How do you choose names for your characters?
A: I was taking a Gaelic class and these were the names on the CD's. Seumas is pronounced the same as Shamus and Iseabail is pronounced Ish-uh-bel.

Q: Did you choose the title of your book and if so how did you do it?
A: I chose the title of my book about four years ago. I like to choose the title right away. The thistle is the national flower (?) of Scotland so if someone were an injured Scot…it just made sense to me.
Q: Where is your favorite place in the world?
A: The ocean - the coast of Maine, probably, and Scotland is very much like it. I want to go to Cape Breton - I think that would be a great place to go, too.

Q: Please tell us about your other books.
A: My next book is from The Norman Conquest Series. It's about a Norman soldier, very loyal to King William, who is wed to the last remaining Godwinson (that's the family William deposed when he conquered England). Very interesting chemistry. The clash of cultures, and how they melt into one unique country.
Q: Sounds incredibly interesting! When did you know you wanted to be an author?
A: When I was 8 or 10 years old, I wrote a poem based on a picture I'd seen on a Reader's Digest Magazine. My mother was never a big supporter of me but she just acted like it was the best thing I'd ever done. I never stopped after that.
Q: What is your writing process or method?
A: This is the way The Bruised Thistle and The Saxon Bride both started out - I got a scene in my head and said "what if…" and it went on from there.
Q: Please describe your journey to publication.
A: I became a member of our local chapter of Romance Writers of America and started going to meetings and workshops. I learned pretty quickly that paranormals books were the thing, and medieval books did not sell. Since I wanted to write in the 11th and 12th centuries, I looked into indie publishing.
Getting involved with Celtic Hearts Romance Writers Chapter was the best thing I ever did. I started taking classes and learning about self-publishing. I even entered the Golden Claddagh Contest and had the nicest judges with such helpful comments. I finalled in the Historical category. I'm still a member there.
Q: What was the most important thing you learned (the thing that made all the difference) just before you made your first sale?
A: That there were established writers out there who were willing to answer my questions at the drop of a hat. The community of well-know, best selling authors at CHRW is the nicest group of people I've ever met. They (including you) guided me, encouraged me, and got me to the point where I was able to get published.
Q: Would you like to ask readers a question?
A: "What do you like the most about romance novels? The characters? The love scenes? The HEA?"

Ashley is giving away an ebook copy of The Bruised Thistle to one commenter! Be sure to leave your email address in some form so we can contact you if you win.
Here is a wonderful excerpt of The Bruised Thistle:
"Ye have been hiding much, I see." His voice was deep and quiet. Husky.

She lowered her eyes and dried her hands. The room was suddenly very hot. She wiped at the water slipping down her neck. "M'lord, I do not—"
Seumas put his finger to her lips to silence her and gently took her chin, turning her face from one side to the other, inspecting her. Their eyes met, and she saw his admiration. "Ye are truly lovely, Iseabail." He stroked her cheek, slower this time. "Why do ye sleep on the castle floor with the dogs?"
"We came in from the cold, like everyone else."
"Ah, but ye are not from this area. I hear it in yer voice. Ye sound like a Scot, a Lowlander to be sure, but ye are not from around here."
She struggled to remember the story she and Calum had made up in case they were ever caught, but his hand was warm, making it hard for her to think.
"Nor do you dress like a peasant. That gown is for a noblewoman."
He was too observant. "No, m'lord, I am—we are traveling east—"
He stroked her cheek again. "And yer skin is smooth. Not like one who has to work to survive."
She had to distract him. "We have no place to call home. Our parents are both…dead." The word caught in her throat as the realization struck her hard. Both of them dead—they were truly alone in the world.
His gaze was intense, measuring the truth of each word. She would not be telling him that they had been living in the woods because they were being hunted down like dogs or that her uncle had put a price on their heads.
"I beg your pardon." The story they had worked out came flooding back. She took a deep breath, stood tall, and recited their well-planned fable. 
The Bruised Thistle is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other online booksellers.
Please visit Ashley online:

Twitter:  @ashley1066york


Unknown said...

I read Ashley's book and I loved it!! She is very good. I cant wait to read her next

vickie dailey said...

great interview - loved the insight behind your writing - added the book to my to read list

Gwyn Brodie said...

A great post, Ashley! I will definitely be reading this one soon!

Dawn Marie Hamilron said...

Enjoyed the interview, Vonda and Ashley! Good luck with the book, Ashley!

Kimi's Blog said...

Great Interview. You asked, What do you like the most about romance novels? The characters? The love scenes? The HEA?"

I like both the characters and the scenes.

Ashley York said...

Thanks for stopping by. I'm so glad you enjoyed the book, Adriana.

Unknown said...

I love the characters and the stories

Unknown said...

The characters and their relationship is what makes a romance for me, Ashley. Everything else is just 'window dressing' to showcase them.
The Bruised Thistle is a great book. Looking forward to The Saxon Bride.

Unknown said...

I sure hope I win this book!! It sounds and looks great!!

Lane McFarland said...

Wonderful post, Ashley... I loved The Bruised Thistle! Wishing you much success with it!

Lani said...

Wonderful interview and excerpt! I can't wait to read this book! So I'm including my name in the giveaway lavina80 @ aol . com (no spaces.) Yay! Even if I don't win, I'll be getting that book!

Julie Robinson said...

That's a wonderful way too look at history---through human emotion that pretty much stays the same no matter the time or place or circumstance. I think your book will help readers to connect and see that people in the past--like the Medieval Ages---were not so different from us. But then that's probably the reason we all love writing and reading historical, especially Celtic, romances. Emotions do transcend time! Love the excerpt. Email: rebelheart{at}cox(dot)net

Barbara Bettis said...

Lovely post, Ashley. I have The Bruised Thistle--now if I can just get a chance to read it! In a romance, like the characters and their journey, of course, but I also do like the plot and if it's an historical, the surroundings :) But if the characters and their story aren't right, the rest falls short. Best of luck with the release!! Barb Bettis

Ashley York said...

I've answered a lot of your comments directly. I'm new to blogger so I apologize. I appreciate you leaving your comments. Thanks for stopping by and making me feel welcome.

Ashley York said...

I hear you, Barbara. So many books - so little time. Thanks for you comment.

Lana Williams said...

Can't wait to read this story, Ashley! Love the excerpt! Tweeted as well!

Ashley York said...

Thanks, Lana. I appreciate it.

sheila said...

A new author!!! Love it!!!

sheila said...

A new author!!! Love it!!!

Unknown said...

The Bruised Thistle sounds delicious, looking forward to reading it.

Ashley York said...

Thanks, Sheila and Margaret. I hope you enjoy Seumas and Iseabail's story.

Vonda Sinclair said...

Ashley had a difficult time leaving comments. I'm posting the rest for her here.

I think characters and their relationships are paramount. That's probably why there can be so many on going series on television. The characters are what make different episodes work each week. Thanks, Mairi.

Me, too, Stephanie.

Thanks, Virginia. Good luck.

Thanks for stopping by, Lane. I'm so glad you enjoyed The Bruised Thistle.

Thanks, Lani. I like that attitude ;)

You're right, Julie. Thanks for commenting.

Vonda Sinclair said...

Thanks so much for being our guest, Ashley! I enjoyed it!

Ashley York said...

Thanks for having me visit, Vonda. I had a lot of fun. Thanks to all your visitors for stopping by with their comments.

Julie Robinson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Julie Robinson said...

THANK YOU! I see in my email that I won an ecopy of your book. I've downloaded it from Amazon and look forward to delving into it.
Oh, and I deleted my former comment because I had a grammatical error in it!

Vonda Sinclair said...

Yes, I forgot to announce it here. :) Julie is the winner!


Thanks so much for commenting, everyone!

Ashley York said...

Congratulations, Julie. Hope you enjoy Seumas and Iseabail's story.