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Angela MacRae Shanks

Strathavon Saga



Under A Gravid Sky

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In A Ravaged Land, Can Two Wounded Souls Find Love?

The northeastern Highlands, 1747. In the weeks following Culloden, a victorious Hanoverian army rampages through the glens, committing atrocities, intent on crushing the rebellious Highland clans. In occupied Strathavon, persecuted families struggle under repressive new laws and rent rises. Five-year-old Rowena loses her mother, while Duncan witnesses the brutal events that make him an orphan.

A sensitive child told she must harden herself, Rowena turns to Morna, the green woman, who takes her on a journey of discovery into the magic of the natural world, passing on her healing skills. But as she blossoms into a woman, Rowena catches the eye of Hugh McBeath, a ruthless exciseman sent to extinguish the scourge of whisky smuggling from the Duke of Gordon’s lands. Beguiled, McBeath believes her a witch. Nevertheless, he must have her for his wife.

Smuggling illicit whisky has long been a tradition in Strathavon; the fiery spirit brings coin for paying rents. Now smuggling is deemed a traitorous act that helped fund the Jacobite Rising. Duncan is the best smuggler the glen has ever seen, but having hidden while his family burned, how can he ever be worthy of tender-hearted Rowena?

Rich with the language and lore of the Highlands, Under A Gravid Sky is a powerful portrayal of a land and people in turmoil.


First in The Strathavon Saga, this is a prequel to The Blood And The Barley.


The Blood & The Barley

The Blood and The Barley Cover


A Scottish Historical Saga.

A Tale of Kinship and Love, Loyalty and Betrayal.

A Discovered Diamond and winner of Book of the Year 2018 at Discovering Diamonds - Independent Reviews of the Best in Historical Fiction.

Winner of a Chill With A Book Reader's Award.

A BRAG Medallion honoree (Book Reader's Appreciation Group.)


The northeastern Highlands, 1780. The disaster of the last Jacobite Rising has forced momentous changes on the Highlands and its people. Torn from an ancient clan way of life into a harsh world of taxes, rent rises, land reforms and evictions, the glenfolk of Strathavon struggle to survive Still rooted in their Highland ways and superstitions, whisky smuggling is their only hope.


Morven MacRae treads a perilous path - whisky smuggler and healer - apprentice to a suspected witch. Her friend and guide Rowena is singled out for special attention by the authorities, particularly the local exciseman, who wants her for his wife. When Rowena's kinsman Jamie Innes returns to the glen of his birth, Morven prays he'll protect her friend.


Only Jamie's path is riskier still. Torn between honour and love, he chooses a dangerous course, driven by loyalty to his kin and by a desire to belong - potent qualities. Morven is soon drawn to him. But when it becomes apparent there's a traitor in their midst, his true motives are less clear. Can she trust him? This is a mystical land of lore and superstition. Here loyalties are tested and secrets kept close ...


The Blood And The Barley is a fascinating glimpse into a lost way of life and a sensitive love story.

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"Angela has created a convincing world for her novel and given us characters to believe in and care about. This is a strong story crafted in a period and setting that readers are interested in. She has a sophisticated writing style that's also sensitive and intelligent and lends itself extremely well to historical fiction."


Lesley McDowell, writer & literary critic with the Herald, the Scotsman & the Independent on Sunday.



Angela MacRae Shanks was born in Garmouth, a village near the mouth of the River Spey in northeast Scotland and still lives near here with her family.

Her mother and grandmother were born in Strathavon – a real place – and this remote glen is very dear to her heart. Here she first heard tales of the dramatic history of the area, its people and their struggles, and became fascinated by it.

Growing up in Moray, a beautiful part of Scotland known as ‘malt whisky country’, an interest in the county's illicit past took hold, particularly the smuggling of whisky and the reasons behind it. This sparked a few ideas. Her fascination with the natural world and the folklore of the Highlands, combined with her training in natural therapies, prompted a desire to weave herbal lore into her stories. Those who healed using plants and the wisdom of nature, usually women, were often condemned as witches, and she felt the need to explore this injustice.

Hence The Strathavon Saga was born.



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