The Legend Behind Duchess of Sin

Laurel McKee's new series of Irish-set historical romances all have their roots in the mythology that the author has loved since she was a child. Discover what tales inspired these romances and don't miss the special excerpt of the newest Daughters of Erin novel, Duchess of Sin, at the end of the post!

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been obsessed with mythology. It all started with a volume of children’s stories about the Greek gods (not quite as naughty as the adult versions!) followed by library books about Egyptian and Russian tales. I loved stories of gods and goddesses, magic, and feats of bravery as well as the exotic settings. But my favorite tales of all were in a book of Celtic mythology I found on my grandparents’ bookshelves. These were full of danger and adventure with the fascinating, complicated characters I loved, all in a gorgeous Irish setting. It also featured dark, dangerous warriors sent on vital quests—and they’ve inspired my heroes to this day.

For my Daughters of Erin books I had the fun of using “The Three Sorrowful Tales of Erin” stories to illustrate the characters and their own quests. In Countess of Scandal (February 2010), we saw “Deirdre of the Sorrows,” the sad story of the most beautiful woman in the world and her true love; in the third book, Lady of Seduction (June 2011), we will hear the story of “The Children of Turireann”. In Duchess of Sin, the story of Anna Blacknall and her dangerous Irish duke, I feature “The Children of Lir.” All of these tales feature dark men, strong women, and the themes of being outcast and focused on a vital personal quest for love and freedom. I can’t resist stories like that.

- Laurel McKee

Here is an excerpt from Duchess of Sin, as Anna tells Conlan the story of The Children of Lir:

“Long ago,” Anna began, “the five kings of Ireland met to decide who would be crowned the head king, and King Lir of the White Field was expected to be elected. But Dearg, son of Daghda, was chosen. Lir left, angry, and the others would have cut him down for his disobedience. But Dearg said instead, “Let us bind him to us by the bonds of kinship, so that peace may always dwell in the land.” And he was given Dearg’s kinswoman Aoibh, the fairest maiden in the land, for his wife. She gave him four children, a daughter Fionnuala and three sons, Aodh, Fiachra, and Conn.

But Aoibh died, and Lir was overcome with terrible grief. The king, who feared Lir would die of this grief, sent him Aoibh’s sister Aife to be his new wife. At first all seemed well, but Aife grew bitterly jealous of Lir’s love for his children, and she used a Druid’s magic to turn them into swans, bound together by silver chains. In punishment, she became a demon of the air for all eternity. But that did not help the children of Lir. For nine hundred years they lived as swans, cursed to remain so ‘until the woman from the south and the man from the north’ came together. And so it came to pass after hundreds of years that the prince of Connaught was to wed the daughter of the king of Munster, and she had a desire to possess the beautiful swans, which after much journeying had come under the protection of Saint Mac Howg of Glory Isle. When the prince went to seize the birds for his lady, their feathery coats fell away and they were revealed as humans again.

“And thus was the fate of the children of Lir,” she finished. “After nine hundred years of suffering they were free.”

Conlan was silent as her words faded. The tale was done, yet it seemed those enchanted swans lingered in the room with them, their gleaming white wings enfolding them. The children of Lir found their freedom at long last, but could she?”

Want more of the magic of this mythology-inspired tale? You can pick up your own copy of Duchess of Sin in stores now!