Author Carla Laureano’s latest romance, Under Scottish Stars (Tyndale House), is the third and final novel in her MacDonald family trilogy. Recently widowed Serena MacDonald Stewart focuses on her children to the exclusion of her career, her art, and her sanity. Malcolm Blake gave up everything to return to Skye and raise his late sister’s teenage daughter. Before long, Serena and Malcolm have to admit the spark between them is more than mere irritation—but will their commitment to family be the thing that draws them together or the only thing that could keep them apart? In this interview, Carla shares the ideas she was exploring within the series, identifies the most challenging aspect of protagonist Serena’s story, and offers a peek into why she thought this was going to be her first romance without a happy ending.
Under Scottish Stars is the third in your MacDonald family series. Share with us what ties the trilogy together.
The MacDonald Family series is at its heart about people taking a hard look at their lives and reevaluating what’s most important to them. All the characters in these books have idols that are interfering with their relationships with God, whether it’s work, romance, or family, and as a result, they struggle to find happiness and contentment with their lives. I think all of us go through times in which we look at our habits and priorities and realize something has to change, so even if we don’t completely relate to the characters’ exact circumstances, we can connect with the emotional turmoil that kind of soul-searching causes.
What is it about the Isle of Skye that intrigued you to use it as a setting for the series?
Originally, I just had the intention of writing a single book, Five Days in Skye, which was in large part based on my own experiences as an overworked marketing executive. It was on the isle that I started questioning the path laid out in front of me and started dreaming of a change. So, it was a natural setting when I wrote a character who was going through the same kind of upheaval. But besides that, it’s one of the most beautiful places on earth. I can’t think of a better setting for a romance. The natural beauty simply demands that you sit still for a moment, breathe, and dream.
Did you know going in that the third book would be Serena’s story?
Serena played a small part in the first two books in the MacDonald Family series, and even as I wrote them, I knew there was far more to her than the harried mum that she appears to be. I wrote this book a couple of short years after I was getting started in my writing career after several years away from full-time work, and I was struggling with many of the ideas that I explore in the book: finding an identity away from the needs of my children and justifying my desire for a creative life when it sometimes took me away from domestic duties.
All the books in this series in some way have to do with being hurt by people we trust, whether it be a family member, a romantic partner, or the church. Subsequently, all the books explore how those hurts impact the way we relate to God. In Serena’s case, she has to come to grips with the question of why God allowed so many painful experiences into her life when she had done everything “right.”
What was the most challenging part of writing this story?
Not being a single parent myself, I had to delve deep into what it would feel like if something happened to my husband and how I would deal with the idea of starting over in a new relationship. How would my kids react?
Not necessarily topics I wanted to dwell on, but Serena’s uncertainty and concern for her children became very real to me. Single-parent romances where the kids’ feelings feel like an afterthought never ring true to me; to someone who has lost their partner and their children’s parent, they’re of primary importance. That concern colors the entire dating and falling-in-love experience.
How do you hope this book encourages single parents?
This book was a love letter to my single parent friends who work so hard to put their children’s needs first, often at the expense of their own dreams and desires. We see you struggle and admire your strength and love for your kids. Your needs are important, too!
What did you enjoy most about developing Serena and Malcom’s characters?
Serena and Malcolm are such interesting people, with colorful backgrounds and varied interests. Their relationship starts out antagonistic, changes to flirtatious, and eventually melts into a really sweet, heartwarming romance. I had so much fun any time the two of them were on the page together.
Honestly, the hardest part of the story was coming up with the the thing that threatens to keep them apart. They were so well-suited and so open with each other that I didn’t want it to be a simple misunderstanding or fear of moving forward in a relationship.
I knew it had to be a real, solid, insurmountable obstacle—which of course makes it a challenge to figure out how they’re going to overcome it! I honestly didn’t know how the book was going to end until I wrote it. I started to wonder if this was going to be my first romance without a happy ending.
What would you like your readers to take away from Under Scottish Stars?
This story is about faith in the face of seemingly impossible obstacles and painful events. Both Serena and Malcolm suffer loss, upheaval, and doubt.
But in the end, they realize that they were unable to see the entire picture and how God was moving behind the scenes for their best interests. The epilogue to this book, and this entire series, was so incredibly satisfying to write, because it’s the glimpse of wholeness coming out of brokenness that can be waiting on the other side of trials.
Visit Carla Laureano’s Author Page HERE!
Under Scottish Stars
MacDonald Family Trilogy #3