Many years ago, I read an unverified report that Isabel and Christina Bruce corresponded, and that Isabel, in her role as Dowager Queen of Norway, contributed a contingent of Norse soldiers at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314. It seemed remarkable given the times, but, upon consideration, appeared entirely possible. The spark grew and has now found its focus in this novel backed by a decade or more of prior research into Scottish history and a long stint working in Edinburgh with my own family. A more recent visit to the beautiful land of Norway opened my eyes to its complex history and compounded my fascination. The juxtaposition of these two countries as experienced by the Bruce sisters provides a counterfoil and balance to the drama and sadness of war. In doing so, I have made great use of the outstanding expertise and resource material provided by the Bryggen Museum in Bergen, the Viking Ship Museum and the Norse Folke Museum in Oslo.
Much has been written about Robert the Bruce and the Scottish Wars of Independence; important stories, for the most part written by men about men, and their triumphs and tragedies. I give credit here to the robust scholarship of renowned authors, such as GWS Barrow, whose historical texts shone a beacon of light upon my path.
In essence, this story is a social history of times far more difficult than we can comprehend today. Can any of us imagine corresponding without the benefit of the post or email, or having at our fingertips the richness of photography to remind us of home and family? For the women of Scotland and Norway in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, life could be exhausting, difficult, violent, traumatic, restrictive, lonely or even dull. Early death of oneself came frequently through illness, war and child birth and losing family members to death was the norm. The miracle was that anyone survived.