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The Cover That Launched a Career

What do Ewan McGregor, muddy kilts and poultry have in common? Aside from sounding like an oddly conceived riddle, it's actually an artfully grouped photo on the cover of Vanity Fair's Dec. 1998 issue that inspired Elizabeth Holcombe to pen her debut historical romance.

Heaven and the Heather, her award-winning novel for Jove's Highland Fling imprint, was plotted in "such a funny and strange way [that] the rest of the book springboarded from that one idea," the author and stay-at-home mom admits.
It didn't hurt that Ewan McGregor was so easy on the eyes—Elizabeth was instantly enchanted and knew he could be her next hero. But her heroine took some convincing! "Of course, Sabine and Niall are not enraptured with each other at the start," she says. "She thinks him a common Highland savage, and he thinks she's nothing more than a pampered French snob."

When he tosses a chicken in the lovely queen attendant's path and it then takes refuge beneath her gown, Niall craftily "saves" the lass and wins her over—by diving under and sending the hapless bird on its way. Together they discover the wrongs against Niall's clan are part of a much larger problem—a plot against the life of Mary, Queen of Scots.

As for Ewan, well, for many of us that connection is obvious. "Ewan's expression [held] a wry grin and [there was] a mischievous twinkle in his blue eyes. So, I began thinking about a story. All of my stories begin with a 'what if?' question. I borrowed from the title of Jane Numeroff's children's book If You Give a Mouse a Cookie and asked myself: 'If you give a Highlander a chicken… what will he do with it?' My answer to that was: 'He'll get a bonny lass.'"

Visit www.elizabethholcombe.com


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