Romancing Words

Romancing Words–It’s All in the Name! by Nancy Jardine

Today, I welcome back Nancy Jardine to the blog…

It’s all in the name!

Hi Cera, I hope all is progressing well towards the Christmas season for you, in whatever way you celebrate. I’m hoping, soon, to have some days off from recent very heavy book promotions-and maybe even writing-to just laze about for a bit and enjoy my family. I’m extremely glad to be here with you today, though, before that happens.

I decided to share how I choose names for my characters in this blog post, which just happens to be the last of my guest spots for the launch of TOPAZ EYES, my ancestral mystery from Crooked Cat Publishing. I know authors who choose names purely because they like the sound of them. I do that, too, but there’s a bit more to my final choices.

Image free from

Image free from


In my first published novel from The Wild Rose Press – Monogamy Twist – my hero is half-Italian and was originally called Bosco. I’d given him the name Bosco as a sort of ‘pun’ since a translation from the Italian was ‘wood’, and wood was perfect as part of the mystery of the novel. Being a Scot, I’d not realised that there had been an American TV series with someone with that name, and my editor thought it might not go down too well as ‘hero’ material. Since I had no knowledge of the TV character I changed the name to Luke  and tweaked some bits to make it still seem ‘appropriate’ for my mystery. From that point I determined to be very choosy about names for my characters!

My second Wild Rose Press novel – Take Me Now – also a contemporary is set on a Scottish island, so thinking up Scottish names for that was very easy. Nairn Malcolm was chosen because the name is a simple Scottish one and the surname of Malcolm is indigenous to the area where I’ve placed my invented island, Lanera. Even my Canadian Vancouverite heroine, Aela Cameron, was easy to name since she has a Scottish background – and Cameron is also a name traditionally associated with the area around the town of Oban which is opposite my island of Lanera.

My third novel – The Beltane Choice – published on Aug 31st 2012 is a historical, set way back in the Roman Britain of A.D.71 in what we would now term as the border areas between the present Scotland and England. Choosing names for characters for this novel was much harder. Since it’s a historical romance, based on as much historical fact as I could reasonably include, I wanted names that would be as authentic as possible. Some authors who want Scottish sounding names for time-travel novels and historicals often totally invent names which they think sound good, or tweak existing ones to suit. I considered that but wanted to do a bit more. I wanted the names to sound different from current names, yet also wanted them to have some meaning i.e. the translation for the original Gaelic would be appropriate to the character. Brythonic Gaelic being the oldest forms of Celtic names that are found around my part of the world.

Unfortunately I don’t speak any kind of Gaelic, Scots or otherwise, so my best recourse was to go to ‘baby naming’ books which had Gaelic names with translations. My hero in The Beltane Choice is namedLorcan which means ‘the fierce one’. Painting isn’t my best skill but this is how my Lorcan turned out – though maybe not as fiercely handsome as I wanted!


New Lorcan


Many of the names in that novel were chosen in the same way. They may not have any significance to the average reader, but it was important to me to have as close as I could manage to really old meaningful names. Lorcan’s father is named Tully – Tully meaning leader seemed very apt since he’s the clan chief for most of the novel.

My recently released ancestral mystery –TOPAZ EYES has a bunch of third generation cousins coming together to search for a missing jewellery collection which has been scattered amongst the family. The plot required many of the names to be of European origin. Back I went to the ‘baby naming’ books and used them to pluck out names. I needed German, Dutch and Austrian names and wanted to be sure they were as accurate to the ‘birth’ country as possible.

Some may find that kind of naming an anal and tedious process. Not me! It was more a case of deciding why to reject some fascinating sounding names. As a non-German/Dutch/ Austrian speaker I chose names which seemed easier to phonetically sound out for the reader.

My heroine in TOPAZ EYES is Scottish so Keira Drummond was easy to name. Keira’s from Edinburgh and Drummond is a name associated with clans around Edinburgh. My hero, Teun Zeger, is of Dutch extraction. His name was easy to decide on. It’s short and easy to say. The main problem I encountered was in deciding my German cousin’s name. I originally had him as Torsten till I discovered that ‘googling’ that name brought up someone quite popular just now. Torsten was replaced with Jensen! Something else I wanted to avoid if possible was using names that are in common use at present in popular novels and/or the real name of someone ‘Google worthy’. I changed quite a few names during the course of writing TOPAZ EYES and tracking those changes was quite a challenge to make sure no sneaky ones were missed. (I’m pretty sure my editor would have noticed)

What about you? Do you spend ages naming your characters? And if so what criteria do you work under? I’d love you to share with me.

Thank you, Cera, for hosting me today! Merry Christmas to all your readers!

*Merry Christmas to you too, Nancy!!!  And best of luck with TOPEZ EYES!!*

Topaz x500


A peculiar invitation to Heidelberg embroils Keira Drummond in the search for a mysterious collection of extraordinary jewels once owned by a Mughal Emperor; a hoard that was last known to be in the possession of Amsterdam resident, Geertje Hoogeveen, in 1910.

Who among the progeny of Geertje – hitherto unfamiliar third cousins brought together for the quest – can Keira rely on? Distrust and suspicion among them is rife.

Which one is greedy, and determined enough, to hire thugs to tail her… and worse… as she travels to Vienna and Minnesota?  Can Keira even trust Teun Zeger – a Californian she is becoming very drawn to – as they pair up to unearth the jewellery?

As they follow a trail of clues, will they uncover the full collection before the hired gun kills them? Details remain furtive and undisclosed until danger and death forces their exposure. And who harbours the ultimate mystery item that is even more precious than the Mughal jewels?

Greed, suspicion and murder are balanced by growing family loyalty, trust, and love.


“Would you ditch the mystery, Jensen, and just enlighten me as to what you think I have that interests you? And tell me why you couldn’t have asked for it in the letter you sent to me? I came here of my own free will – granted – but I’m not hanging around any longer if you’re going to drag this out, for I’m damned sure I’ve no idea what you’re referring to.”

Jensen’s reply lacked emotion, his face a blank screen, his gaze focused on Teun as Keira regarded the by-play.

“Teun. It may come as a surprise to you, but you actually know more about this invitation than Keira. At least you knew from my letter I had something of family interest you might be glad to take back to the USA with you. Keira had no such suggestion made to her.”

Tension rose in the room, which didn’t only radiate from Teun.

Keira sat uneasy, also unwilling to be in the dark any longer. “Would you please explain why you think I may have something you want, Herr Amsel?” She found herself reluctant to use his first name, considering the antagonism now mounting.

“All in good time, Keira. And please call me Jensen. I don’t set out to be anyone’s enemy. I believe each of you can provide access to items belonging to the collection. All the pieces are likely to vary in monetary value but, viewed as a complete entity, it will make an impressive display. It’s a historic set… and unique.”

Author bio:

An ex-primary teacher, Nancy Jardine, lives in the fabulous castle country of Aberdeenshire – Scotland. Her husband mans the kitchen, her NancyJardineoffspring only an hour’s drive away. When time permits, ancestry research is an intermittent hobby. Neglecting her large garden in favour of writing, she now grows spectacularly giant thistles. Activity weekends with her extended family are prized since they give her great fodder for new writing.

A lover of history, it sneaks into most of her writing along with many of the fantastic world locations she has been fortunate to visit. Her published work to date has been two non fiction history related projects; two contemporary ancestral mysteries; one light-hearted contemporary romance mystery and a historical novel.


Author and buy links:

Amazon UK author page for all novels and book trailers author page for all novels and book trailers

Ebook versions also available from B&N, Smashwords, Kobo and other e-book retailers.

5 * reviews & ratings, for The Beltane Choice-Goodreads and Amazon ‘That is a powerfully sensual opening chapter, and the richness of the prose draws even this reader, unused to this era, into the story…’    Twitter @nansjar



10 thoughts on “Romancing Words–It’s All in the Name! by Nancy Jardine

  1. Interesting post Nancy. I love choosing names and often write down names to keep “on file” for a future work maybe….but generally a name will just come to me out of the blue. And since my books are contemporary I’m lucky that I can usually go with one of them without much research, just based on what I like and if it goes well with the character’s personality.

    Congrats on your book…love the title and the blurb!

    • Nice to meet you Sharon (At least I don’t think we’ve met before). I’d be pleased not to have to make changes but sometimes the whole gamut of names don’t quite fit, and that annoys me till I get it to my liking.

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