Author Nancy Jardine talks Celtic Britain

I'm thrilled to welcome back fellow romance author, Nancy Jardine, just ahead of her latest release, The Beltane Choice. Set in Celtic Britain, it is a tale of Celtic tribes and their fate at the hands of the expanding Roman Empire. At the same time, the fate of two enemies is at stake. Can enemies unite against the mighty Romans?

So, to find out more about this rather elusive time, I've asked Nancy to pull some background information together for us. It's fascinating! Listen up!

Why Selgovae and Brigante tribes for The Beltane Choice?

Many aspects of the Roman invasion, of the island they named Britannia, fascinate me. The varied successes, and failures, in what was the outer fringe of their massive Roman Empire make wonderful reading. The failure of the Roman might to completely subdue the northern Britannic tribes, and keep them suppressed, holds particular appeal. What were the circumstances that made them conquer inhospitable territory in northern and eastern mainland Europe –yet not Britannia? The answers to questions like that made me want to know more about what actually happened-and I still do, if truth be told. 

Evidence written by affected Celtic tribes would have provided incredible information, but since it wasn’t customarily done I’ve yet to encounter that data. The more biased accounts by Roman historians, like Tacitus, made superb reading but second hand descriptions– as in Tacitus’s account of the Agricolan campaigns – must be read with caution. Letters, translated from the original Latin, written by generals in the field are also full of wonderful details, though again they tend to only reveal one viewpoint: a conquering Roman one. 

When I set out to write the first draft of my historical novel, The Beltane Choice, I had been reading various materials to use for teaching purposes. As an introduction to the Celt and Roman Period in Aberdeenshire, my home area, I’d wanted to give the kids a simple, but accurate, reason for the Roman Army being in that geographical area. I re-read about the earliest invasions of Britannia by the Roman Empire - that first phase of domination when they subdued the Celtic tribes of the south-east of the island and marked a frontier along The Fosse Way. That historical phase provided lots of exciting opportunities for teaching, and might have been perfect for writing a novel…though I wasn’t convinced that was the right location and situation for me. I’d previously read quite a few stories over the years that had been set in the south-east. Some had covered the fall of Celtic tribes from a conquering Roman perspective. Others had centred on the Celtic Queen Boudicca’s revolt; on the slaughter of the Roman, and Romanised, inhabitants of Camulodunum (Colchester); and the successful march of the Celtic tribes on Londinium (London).  I decided I didn’t want to cover that period in my own novel, but what could I write about? 

The second phase of supremacy to the west of Britannia - the fall of the rebellious Druid priesthood and the attack on the island of Mona (Anglesey) in A.D. 60 was also fascinating to read about. Though, again, although I loved reading about that time, I also made the choice not to write of the subjugation of the west, present day Wales. I wanted something else for the basis for my novel.

I was definitely fascinated by the Agricolan campaign that was waged through northern Britannia during the Flavian period when Agricola subdued and maintained control of the Brigante tribes in the area we currently call Yorkshire. Having established his block forts, and communication centres in northern Britannia, Agricola marching northwards over the high border hills into what they named Caledonia was even more appealing to write about. I was basing most of my classroom studies on what was known of the Agricolan advance as far north as the Grampians, but did I want to set my historical novel for adults so far north?

I’d already started a novel for children, aged 9-12 years, set in the ‘Aberdeenshire’ area of Caledonia at the time of the battle of Mons Graupius A.D. 83/84, but I wasn’t going to use that geographical area for an adult historical novel as well. I reckoned that far too confusing for a fledgling author!

A story set further south than Aberdeenshire, and before the time of Mons Graupius, then got the green light for a historical with romantic elements. I’m Scottish, and admit to being biased enough to want to include the Celtic tribes of southern Caledonia. I then set about learning what I could about the Selgovae of north of the border hills, and the Brigantes federation of tribes to the south of the high hills. What could I use to bring the tribes together in amity? A marriage bargain as the premise for a novel with romantic elements is very common, but it was also the most useful idea for me to create a situation of accord between what were constantly warring Celtic tribes. 

So the plot evolved – I would have a Selgovae princess and a Brigante prince. Why such elevated members of the tribe? It made it easier for me to have them be out of their home territory, and gave me ideas for why their first interaction could take place. 

Though my work is entirely a piece of fiction I wanted to use recorded evidence as much as possible, and use facts as accurately as possible, yet still within an account that was totally imagined. I felt the need, though, to be specific about the time period.  What could I contrive, a concrete enough reason, for having those two main tribes - Selgovae and Brigante - come together and work as a separate entity to repel the Roman scourge? 

I read about the Roman General Petilius Cerialis having pushed his forces to Eboracum, the place we now name York. The Brigante Queen Cartimandua’s tactics of making treaties with the conquering Roman Empire and becoming their ‘client-queen’ was tempting to write about, but just wasn’t quite what I wanted either. Queen Cartimandua’s rebellious husband Venutius, who against her authority stirred up a few Celtic revolts, seemed a possibility, but I’d also read at least one novel about him as well. 

I, then, decided to go for a Brigante hero who was a total fabrication instead, though mention of some sort could be made about the pacts between Queen Cartimandua and the Romans having broken down by A.D. 70. The subsequent fall of Cartimandua, and the push of the Romans to the north of Eboracum was perfect! 

A.D. 71 gave me the year to start the story. The breakdown of the Brigante and Roman negotiations seven years later gave me reason for changing the location at the end of the novel to north of the border areas, to the lands of the Selgovae which were not overrun by Roman presence till the surges of Agricola in his campaign of A.D. 83/84.  

That was a neat place for The Beltane Choice to finish, leaving the opportunity for subsequent novels to go on to the Battle of Mons Graupius if so desired! 

The Beltane Choice: -  
Book Trailer for The Beltane Choice: 

Can the Celtic Tribes repel the Roman army?
Banished from the nemeton, becoming a priestess is no longer the future for Nara, a princess of the Selgovae tribe. Now charged with choosing a suitable mate before Beltane, her plan is thwarted by Lorcan, an enemy Brigante prince, who captures her and takes her to his hill fort. Despite their tribes fighting each other, Nara feels drawn to her captor, but time runs out for her secret quest.

As armies of the Roman Empire march relentlessly northwards, Lorcan intends to use Nara as a marriage bargain, knowing all Celtic tribes must unite to be strong enough to repel imminent Roman attack. Nara’s father, Callan, agrees to a marriage alliance between Selgovae and Brigante, but has impossible stipulations. Lorcan is torn between loyalty to his tribe and growing love for Nara.  

When danger and death arrive in the form of the mighty Roman forces, will Nara be able to choose her Beltane lover?

Tags: historical, romantic, Celtic, adventure

My word is yours, Lorcan of Garrigill.”
The next howling cry came from neither Nara, nor the boar, but the animal was the target of the vehemence when a jagged stone slammed its rump. It whirled around, yowling in fury, and charged off in the direction the sling-shot had come from. Close to Nara’s tree, a lithe warrior surged from behind a dense clump of bushes to swoop up her spear. 
   The spear hurtled up. She grasped it while the irate beast squealed its return. Lorcan’s bloodthirsty cry boomed, and then his spear slashed through the air to spike the boar full in front, Nara’s thrust from above a powerful one to its head. The animal keeled over and lay twitching and groaning.
She jumped down from the tree as he plunged his sword into the beast; the boar’s writhing slowing to a halt. One foot balanced on the animal’s belly, he yanked out her spear then straightened up, the muscles of his powerful shoulders stretching the material of his orange and brown checked woollen tunic. 
Ill-tempered eyes confronted her, black brows puckered tight. Absorbing the warrior’s dark scowl, Nara felt a strange rush of awareness sweep through her, despite that he looked angry. The exhilaration continued, causing her breath to falter, her heart an erratic beat inside her chest. The trembling of her leg muscles was in reaction to her drop to the ground, but such an act did not normally make her whole inside quiver. 
The handsome, yet glowering, warrior in front of her caused it. She had endured two long lonely moons waiting for a response like this to happen, and now could not believe it had come to pass. Her mouth curved, delight widened her eyes, because this instinctive affinity with a man was what she needed to restore her spirit. 

The Beltane Choice will be available in ebook format from Amazon, Smashwords and Crooked Cat Books from Friday, 31st August 2012, and in paperback on Amazon later this year! 


  1. Good morning, Cathie. The sun's shining and it's going to be a lovely day. It's great to visit you again, especially so close to my release date, and I'm really excited to have The Beltane Choice published by Crooked{Cat}Publishing this Friday! I'm looking forward to having a good day with your visitors.

    1. Thank you for such a fascinating post, Nancy. It's a part of history I dug a little deeper into over 10 years ago, when I lived in Aberdeenshire. It's such an interesting place with so many historical sites. Not just castles, ruins and breathtaking landscapes, but also hill forts and the highest number of stone circles in the UK!

      Good luck with The Beltane Choice on Friday! :-)

    2. Thank you! I can't wait now for Friday to come.

  2. Wow! That's some process getting through this history to find just the right angle for your story. All very exciting. This story looks very interesting. Can't wait to read it. Good luck with it and your new print version.

    1. Thank you, Kemberlee. It's a period in history that I'm particularly fond of.

  3. Oh, my co-author, Lynette Willows is going to LOVE this!

  4. I'm so glad to hear that! I'm guessing she likes the Cletic and Roman period? Thanks for popping in.

  5. OOps. Guess I can't spell Celtic very well today!

  6. I loved the excerpt, and also the details of your historical rundown. This sounds like a fascinating story---gotta get through Storm's Interlude this week so I can get this one too!! I'm loving it... you're a success machine, Nancy!

  7. I'm delighted you like the excerpt and my reasons for choosing who I did. Thanks for popping in!

  8. Great post and excerpt. Best of luck with your release!

  9. I like the dynamism of the excerpt and how only a few sentences can tell you a lot ... !
    I feel like I'm going to read this book with great enthusiasm ; I cannot wait to discover the story and learn about this so unusual and intriguing period in history ... Best of luck *^_^*

  10. Thank you, Lisa for the good wishes! And to you, too, Black Tulip. I do hope you like it.

  11. Thanks to everyone for visiting. I'm glad you enjoyed Nancy's fascinating post. And I'm sure you'll enjoy reading The Beltane Choice to see what she was talking about... :-)

  12. Thank you,too, for inviting me Cathie. It's been a lovely visit!


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