Book One of the Dark Birthright Saga. Mystery, Romance, and Violence in 17th century Scotland! A child born of mysterious parentage is given to fisher folk to raise as their son. Dughall grows up in a family bound by love and morality, becomes a healer, and displays psychic abilities.
His life is torn apart when he’s claimed by his real father, a cruel and powerful lord who tries to mold him in his image. Dughall must define himself, in the midst of a struggle between an Earl, a Duke, and the family who wants him back. All the while, he’s determined to marry the lass he left behind, a woodland priestess with eyes as green as a peacock's feather.
This book has been illustrated by fantasy artist Jane Starr Weils.
The midwife wrapped the child tightly, opened the door, and walked a path to the stone cottage where Jessie Hay lived. It was the last day of October and the wind from the sea was bitter cold.
Maggie had been a midwife for forty years, and never witnessed such brutality. No one knew the young woman who came on horseback, showing signs of labor. Her body was dark with bruises and rope burns marred her wrists. She gave birth, held her son tenderly, and whispered something in his ear. Then she bled to death.
Maggie’s heart ached as she walked the stony path. How could a man beat his pregnant wife? A fierce wind blew the skirt about her legs, chilling her to the marrow. The small boy snuggled against her bosom, lifting her spirits. He was seeking a nipple, a good sign.
“Poor laddie,” she crooned. “What will I do with ye?” Maggie’s head throbbed as she considered the possibilities. The stranger never spoke her name, so it would be impossible to find her husband. Even if she could, would she want to? The man had beaten the lass nearly to death. He might blame her for the woman’s demise or accuse her of sorcery. Her inner voice insisted that the child live. She prayed for divine guidance. “Goddess, help me. Am I doing the right thing?”
The blanket was thick with the smells of birth, blood and mucous and the rose-like scent of newborn skin. It spoke of life. Her first idea seemed right. Close by, a fishwife named Jessie Hay nursed a newborn son. Perhaps she would have enough milk for this wee orphan.
She arrived at the woman’s door and hesitated. What would she say? Jessie was a good friend and fellow healer. For years she’d been childless, even called barren. It might please her to have two sons. Maggie knocked.
Jessie opened the door and the midwife entered. The cottage was dark, but for the glow of the hearth and a single candle. Jessie held baby Ian in her arms, stroking his red hair. She laid him in the cradle. “What have ye got there, friend?”
Maggie shifted her bundle and uncovered the lad’s face. “Poor child, he’s shivering.”
Jessie’s eyes widened. “Let me feed the fire.” She stoked the fire with a bundle of peat. “Whose child is this?”
Maggie took off her shawl and sat at the table, holding the precious bundle. She was weary to the bone. “Sit with me, lass.”
Jessie left the hearth and joined her.
The midwife stroked the child’s face. “His mother came on horseback, showing signs of labor. She was a lady.”
Jessie’s brow knotted. “How did ye know?”
“Her clothes and shoes were well made, of silks and fine leather.”
“Who was she?”
“I asked her name, but got no answer. The lass removed her ring and pressed it into my hand. Payment, I suppose. I put her to bed and made ready for the birth.”
Jessie leaned forward to get a glimpse of the baby. “The child looks good. What happened?”
Maggie’s throat tightened. “Her arms were dark with bruises where a man’s hands grabbed her. He’d taken a belt to her legs, leaving great welts. I wondered how she rode that horse.”
Jessie’s eyes widened. “What kind of devil would beat a woman with child?”
“That’s not all! I saw rope burns on her wrists; she must have struggled.”
“Poor lass. Did she say who did this?”
Maggie frowned. “Nay. She wouldn’t tell and she didn’t cry out, though the birth was hard. I would have thought her dumb if she hadn’t spoken to the child.”
“What did she say?”
“She held him so tenderly and whispered in his ear.” Her voice cracked with emotion. “Oh dear.”
“Please friend. What did she say?”
“Poor little one, yer father must never find ye.”
Jessie shuddered. “Mercy! What happened to her?”
Maggie glanced at the blood under her fingernails. “She’s dead. The afterbirth came and the bleedin’ wouldn’t stop. There was nothing I could do.”
They were silent for a moment.
Maggie searched her eyes. “Take this child. I’ll swear he’s yer own.”
Jessie bit her lower lip gently. “Let me see him.”
They placed the infant on the table and uncovered him. The wee lad shivered as they counted fingers and toes and admired his black curls. He was perfect but for a birthmark on his shoulder that looked like the head of a stag. He fussed as they wrapped him, sucking his lower lip fiercely. Jessie picked him up and responded to his search for a nipple, nursing him until he fell asleep. When she put him in the cradle, the children stirred and touched each other.
Jessie smiled. “Two sons. My husband will be pleased.” She touched the lad’s cheek. “Wee stranger. We’ll name ye Dughall, after my own dear father.”
The midwife was relieved. “Bless ye, lass.” “Maggie, can ye tell the child’s fortune?”
“Born on the day of the dead. This child will have the Sight.”
“You said that about my son Ian.”
Jessie frowned. “I must know the truth, and don’t tell my husband. You know how he feels about the old religion.”
The old midwife hesitated. Did she dare tell a fortune? Her body was weary, and her emotions were raw.
“Please, friend. I must know if we’re to keep him.”
Maggie took a breath. She touched the lad gently between the eyes, until her mind filled with a vision of another time. Two men rode horses along a dry riverbed. She reached out with her other hand and touched Ian between the eyes. “This is not the first time these two souls have been together.”
“Tell me, Maggie.”
“Wait, lass.” She closed her eyes. “They were brothers during a time of death and destruction. I feel love and admiration, and something else.” Maggie saw a vision of what had been, and touched Ian’s crown. Will ye stand by him this time, or let him die? Pain and regret flooded her senses, and she pulled her hand back suddenly.
Jessie was startled. “What do ye see friend? What shall this child bring?”
The midwife hid her true feelings. “Sweet lass, he will bring ye luck.” Maggie pulled on her wrap and left the cottage, tears falling on her cheeks. She would tell no one. Her mother had been hanged a witch for less.
At the sight of this 400+ novel, I admit to at first being completely overwhelmed, but once I let myself into Dughall’s world I wouldn’t dare put it down! So complete and so intricate were the details of this novel, you would think that Jeanne Treat walked straight out of the seventeenth century to tell this story.
Born to a mother that suffered pain at the hands of his father, Dughall is given to a loving fisher family by the midwife. He grows up learning to love and respect and to hone the Second Sight he has inherited from his birth mother. He dreams of a bonny lass named Keira that he met long ago in his childhood and knows she will be his wife. Of course all of that before his true father finds him and claims him as his own. Under the rule of the evil Earl of Huntly, Dughall will endure a pain and suffering like he’s never known.
I don’t think Jeanne Treat needs me or anyone else to tell her how fantastic this book is, but if you must know… this book is indeed fantastic. Never mind the length, grab a mug of coffee and curl up. You will soon find yourself feeling the spray of the sea on your face and smelling the apple wood burning on the hearth. This is one book not to be missed.
DARK BIRTHRIGHT is a lovingly crafted piece of fiction that was written by Jeanne Treat, a woman of extraordinary insight and ability. Originally a native of Western New York, Mrs. Treat spared no expense and instead visited Scotland - not the touristy areas, mind you - to get a feel for the sighing winds of the lush green forests, the salty air of the coastal regions, and the castle ruins that dot the landscape and that speak of victories, defeats, and so much human suffering and triumph. Not a stranger to the written word, Mrs. Treat has seen her writings published in local papers and magazines, yet is making her novel debut with this book.
DARK BIRTHRIGHT tells the story of two children - both boys - one who is born to a hardworking fisherman and his wife, and one who is adopted by them - albeit somewhat covertly. Set in the year 1619 where religious strife leaves many at odds with one another, while also spawning the witch scares
of that century which have seen many men and women and also children burned at the stake, tortured, or hanged - life is not easy, and the daily struggle for survival is amplified by the desperate struggle to also survive spiritually. For the followers of the goddess, Christianity has become a religion of intolerance and hate, while for the followers of Christ, the goddess is a thing of threat and bad fortune. Dialog is impossible and the battle lines are drawn. The Highlands and their mists serve as the backdrop for this story that speaks of two boys who grow up as brothers only to find out later that one is actually the son of a Earl, while the other one is simply an ordinary fisherman. Both gifted with intensely spiritual gifts, they rebel against the apparent status quo of religiously fueled cruelty, and more than once seek to help others understand that the differences in spirituality are not meant as a dividing factor but can actually be the one thing that truly draws them together. Yet in the midst of this struggle, the boys, too, must struggle against a fate that seeks to kill one and quite possibly the other one as well. Will they succeed in rebelling against the status quo, or will they fall victim to the narrow mindedness of those on both sides?
Mrs. Treat has indicated that DARK BIRTHRIGHT is the first book in a trilogy, and that the next book will follow some time in 2007. If you love the stories that take place in the mists of the Highlands, you will treasure this historical novel, and you will quickly fall in step with the characters that struggle and strive to eek out a corner in life for themselves and their loved ones. The writing is done beautifully, and Mrs. Treat is able to capture the lyric undertones that make up the melody of life in those days. Because of her strenuous research, this book has all the qualifications a historical novel requires to be truly head and shoulders above the rest of the genre, and you will simply love the fast paced action, the facts about the time period and the location, as well as the language that simply seems to flow from Mrs. Treat's pen. This book is highly recommended!
Tregolwyn Book Reviews
Fantastic! Lucky me to be picked to review this book.
The book’s dynamic cover shows lightning over a field of ancient ceremonial stones. Superimposed are symbols currently fueling the debate among historians of the influence of "Shriners" (Masons of the Temple of Scottish Rites or some such) on US history. Specifically the emblems are also incorporated into the US one-dollar bill, the eye and the obelisk or sword shape. I predict this to be a good omen for the book’s sales. Throughout the text are excellent visual sketches of the imaginary characters as interpreted by Jane Starr-Weils. Current photos of the sites mentioned grant authenticity to the text.
The story takes place in 17th century Scotland with abundant action, including sex and violence, for the price. As Ayn Rand wrote, a writer should give the reader their money’s worth if free enterprise in the publishing world is to flourish and Jeanne Treat emphatically does just that. The plot, rich in paranormal powers and mysticism, twists and turns with swiftness and agility equal to the action of the Celtic sword that plays a defining role in the story. The characters are well and truly drawn. Many would be writers if only they could create an evil character as truly as this author did. Finding good in sometimes bad people and the reverse is common but pure evil is more complex, at least in current American writing. Perhaps this is a result of our heterogeneity. Jeanne Treat, in this her first novel, owns villain characterization in my opinion. The history of the period, the daily life of the people from the highest noble to the lowest peasant and the science of the primitive healing arts were obviously thoroughly researched. Life in individual families as well as local communities was masterfully captured. The author depicted the deep love, scalding competitiveness, pride, loyalty and vengefulness involved in such relationships quite realistically.
I am thankful that the sex and violence were not hybridized. I, so far, have found violent sex to be an intolerable combination. As noted in my previous reviews I am no voyeur when it comes to sex. This writer handles the sex with a beauty that is both artful and appropriate. I am even less appreciative of violence particularly when handled as realistically as in this story. Yet that is one place where the written word as art form is far superior to theater and video. The performing art viewer is forced to take violence or leave it in one gulp or lose the story line. A reader can put the book down and come back to it when it becomes too graphic, taking it in more tolerable bits. Believe me, with this writer, you will come back.
Description is both a delightful strength and the only weakness of the author. Occasionally she breaks one of the written word’s commandments. If not the first commandment, then it should be: Do not insult the intelligence of your reader with repetition. Even if, PERHAPS, it emphasizes the character of one of the main figures? I found the first description of the coast of Scotland and the tactile pleasure of heather and flowers in the field wonderful. I question that it required repetition particularly as it noticeably slowed the progress to the second phase of the plot.
The reader should be prepared for false endings. Perhaps this is due to the author’s enthusiasm but it is more a welcome bonus for the reader. Be prepared to be introduced to alternative ancient religions, the latter particularly in the first part of the novel. Since this "new" theology is so in-line with the current versions of such theological questions as the "gender" of God, the cycles of life, etc., I only mention it because traditional fundamentalists are a part of the American book market. Perhaps they need the challenge but, as with Harry Potter, they may choose to avoid it. What a loss!
Medieval Scotland: Dughall is born and his poor mother, who had been severely mistreated, perishes. He is given to the Hays, who shower him with love, giving him the foundation to be a good and honest man.
Dughall and his brother Ian Hay share the same birthday of Oct. 31st, the day of the dead. They have the sight and can sense each other’s pain and pleasures. Doughall also has a connection with Keira, a pagan priestess. They dream of each other and hope to marry one day. For a while, everything is wonderful at the seaside village of Whinnyfold, until Dughall’s real father shows up to bring him home to Huntly.
At the castle: The Earl of Huntly gives a new name to the word evil. He is cruel and deals out punishment sometimes without reason. Dughall tries to understand his father, but there seems to be no pleasing the man. There’s Kate, the Earl’s mistress who has her own agenda and Fang, who takes great pleasure in torturing people. Dughall does find friendship with Murdock, who is assigned to protect him. He realizes there is more to his brother Gilbert than meets the eye and he meets his mother’s father, the Duke of Drake. He is a kind man who would like to take Dughall away from the Earl, but law states he cannot interfere.
As the story unfolds, the reader will find out how the characters shape each others lives and their futures.
Ms. Treat has captured the life of medieval Scotland with clear and vivid prose. You’ll enter a world where you can almost feel the spray from the sea, the warmth from the peat fires and the love as you enter the homes of the seafaring people of Whinnyfold. She shows how a noble may rule with grace and understanding or with unforgiving bitterness. She’ll take you to the stone circle to honor the goddess with pagan rituals and celebrations. She touches on the healing powers of herbs, and the medieval superstitions concerning these rites. The relationships are believable whether there’s love, loyalty or vengefulness. This is definitely a tale for everyone. It is rich with history, myths, magic, and the paranormal. Characters you’ll fall in love with and those who you may actually hate. Review at: paranormalromance.org