Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #HistoricalRomance FIREFLIES AND CHOCOLATE by @AilishSinclair

Today’s team review is from Barb. She blogs here https://barbtaub.com/

#RBRT Review Team

Barb has been reading Fireflies and Chocolate by Ailish Sinclair

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5 stars out of 5

Some time after moving to Scotland, I happened to meet with a group whose Jewish families had settled in the north of Scotland generations ago. I asked how that happened, and one lady said her family had been migrating to America, after investing almost everything they owned to book passage. When their ship had a stop in Scotland, they were told they’d arrived, as evidenced by people speaking English there. Of course, they discovered the deception, but by then that ship had literally sailed, leaving them near-destitute in Scotland. With no other choice, they made the best of things, settling in small villages and building new lives. I laughed at what I thought was an amusing, if improbable, tale. Until I heard it again. And again. In fact, it seems to be the main origin story for many, if not most, of the Jewish families in the north of Scotland.

Apparently, this kind of deception wasn’t new. A century earlier, over six hundred children and young people were kidnapped from the streets of Aberdeen and sold into indentured servitude in the American colonies, while city officials pocketed the proceeds and congratulated themselves on their novel solution to the homeless problem.

But if official history has ignored their story, how can you make sure it doesn’t disappear? Like the Banana Massacre by the United Fruit Company, which could only be told in a fictionalized version such as Gabriel García Márquez’ One Hundred Years of Solitude, or like Gravity’s Rainbow, Thomas Pynchon’s 400-plus character “intro” to modern times, Ailish Sinclair uses fiction to deliver historical fact.

When we meet sixteen-year-old Elizabeth Manteith, she’s a lonely young girl living in the north of Scotland. Although her father is the lord of their castle, their family fell apart when her young brother died. Her mother retreated into a world of mental illness while her father buried himself in the political machinations of the Jacobites seeking to return Charles Stuart, “Bonnie Prince Charlie” to the thrones of England and Scotland.

But Elizabeth doesn’t care about politics. Effectively abandoned by both parents, she dreams of the exotic drink—chocolate—she once had on a trip to London, of the magical bugs called fireflies that lived in far off lands, or even of meeting her true love.  All that is about to change.

As a birthday treat, Elizabeth is going to Aberdeen to choose a new horse. But when she’s assaulted, kidnapped, and forced onto a ship heading for the American colonies, she realizes her old life is over. Thanks to the physical isolation of the Manteith estate, the emotional isolation of her dysfunctional family, and to her rank as a member of the gentry, Elizabeth’s life has been sheltered and lonely but safe. Now she’s confronted with almost every type of evil, deprivation, and cruelty, along with natural disaster and danger.

Saved from despair by friendship with fellow prisoner Peter, she finds the strength to make it to the new world, where they are to be sold at Philadelphia’s slave markets. The story follows Elizabeth over the next four years, as she encounters racism, misogyny, greed, and despair, but also finds friendship and even a family.

Author Ailish Sinclair weaves many strands into this history. There are actual historical characters from Peter to Ben Franklin. Racial prejudice is a foreign concept to the young girl who has met few people in her life, and none from other races, so Elizabeth forms her new family from all those she encounters—slaves, fugitives, idealists, wealthy planters, and scholars.

I’m in awe of the research that went into building Elizabeth’s worlds, from Scotland to America. There’s just enough dialect in character’s speech to give a flavor of their accents, and I loved hearing words from my life in Scotland, as well as from Highland history. But most of all I loved watching as Elizabeth claims her emerging character as a strong woman and staunch friend, but also as a girl whose romantic dreams meet the reality of romantic love.

I absolutely have to comment on the writing itself. Not only is it lyrical and descriptive, but Ailish Sinclair has a gift for showing us a world instead of telling us about it. She weaves symbolic strands through Elizabeth’s story, like the fireflies and the chocolate she dreams of in Scotland, experiences in America, and realizes what they can—and cannot—accomplish in her life. Or like the onion the young Elizabeth uses to make her last dinner in Scotland, her first dinner in America, and her final decision between the two.

As an American now living in Scotland, I found Fireflies and Chocolate offers a rare look at the sometimes uncomfortable history we never learned in school. Author Ailish Sinclair takes the stories of real life characters and believably intertwines them in Elizabeth’s experience, while never losing sight of her main goal: telling a roaring good story with all the romance, danger, and dawning strength of character you could ask.  But Elizabeth’s story also puts the ‘story’ back in ‘history’ with an unforgettable coming of age tale for both a young girl and the new world she claims as her own.

If you’re looking for a beautifully plotted story which draws you in and has you racing for the finish—while googling for more information about all the new views of history—then Fireflies and Chocolate is for you.

Book description

Elizabeth craves adventure… excitement… love…

For now though, she has to settle for a trip from her family’s castle, to the port in Aberdeen, where her father has promised she’ll be permitted to buy a horse… all of her own.

Little does she suspect this simple journey will change her life, forever. And as she dreams of riding her new mount through the forests and glens of the Manteith estate, she can have no idea that she might never see them again.

For what lies ahead is danger, unimagined… and the fearful realities of kidnap and slavery.

But even when everything seems lost, most especially the chance of ever getting home again, Elizabeth finds friendship, comfort… and that much prized love, just where she least expected it.

Set in the mid eighteenth century, Fireflies and Chocolate is a story of strength, courage and tolerance, in a time filled with far too many prejudices.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #HistoricalRomance FIREFLIES AND CHOCOLATE by @AilishSinclair

Today’s team review is from AJ Lyndon. She blogs here http://ajlyndon.com.au

#RBRT Review Team

AJ has been reading Fireflies And Chocolate.

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This historical romance, by the Scottish author of The Mermaid and the Bear, continues following the Monteith family. Sinclair’s second novel is set in the 1740s during the fateful years leading up to Bonnie Prince Charlie’s Jacobite rebellion and its aftermath. Beginning in the castle near Aberdeen, the action quickly shifts away from Scotland however, with most of the story taking place on a tobacco plantation in Pennsylvania.  The Scottish heroine, Lady Elizabeth Monteith from “the castle” is kidnapped from her native Scotland and views its tragedy from the far-off American colonies. She is sold as an indentured servant, cook to an enlightened, mysterious “master”, Michael.

The novel is written in the first person with Beth relating the events in chronological order. Elizabeth, or “Beth” as she becomes, is a warm, likeable and very determined character. Her humanity and sense of humour rarely desert her. It is only in the aftermath of Culloden when she hears of the Jacobite defeat that her resilience flags and she succumbs to depression. Wisely, Sinclair chooses not to second guess the events of Culloden. Although most readers will already know the outcome of the Jacobite rising, Beth does not and a suitable period of time rolls by until the news crosses the ocean from Scotland.

The story follows Beth’s transformation from scared teenage captive to a capable and confident, practical young woman as she adapts to her new situation, ultimately leading to a decision between the old life and the new. It is set against the background of slavery, the social inequalities between free whites, indentured servants, native Americans and black slaves. Beth has a disarming acceptance of all races which today might be dismissed as “colour blindness” but in the context of an 18th century character is refreshing. Relations between the different racial and social groups are handed sensitively, even if it is sometimes a little difficult to believe in Beth’s naïve and childlike views.

There is an interesting range of characters from the evil (historical) Alexander Young, first mate on the ship which transports Beth to her new life, to the central figures of Sarah, the unpleasant Mrs Sauer, the elderly man Comfort and the two men in Beth’s life. Peter, her young companion in captivity, a fellow Scot, disappears from the story for much of the book, while Michael, the manager of the estates, emerges from the shadows in a series of revelations and surprising twists. 

The sense of time and place is well drawn; and the modest sprinkling of Scottish dialect words adds to the authentic voice of the narrator. Despite the central themes of slavery and racial intolerance, the occasional savagery of a scene (the pregnant Nivvie being whipped by the foreman) and the references to the brutal traitors’ deaths of the captured Jacobites, this is a gentle, hopeful and entertaining book. The plot keeps the reader guessing its outcome until the very last page.

Book description

Elizabeth craves adventure… excitement… love…

For now though, she has to settle for a trip from her family’s castle, to the port in Aberdeen, where her father has promised she’ll be permitted to buy a horse… all of her own.

Little does she suspect this simple journey will change her life, forever. And as she dreams of riding her new mount through the forests and glens of the Manteith estate, she can have no idea that she might never see them again.

For what lies ahead is danger, unimagined… and the fearful realities of kidnap and slavery.

But even when everything seems lost, most especially the chance of ever getting home again, Elizabeth finds friendship, comfort… and that much prized love, just where she least expected it.

Set in the mid eighteenth century, Fireflies and Chocolate is a story of strength, courage and tolerance, in a time filled with far too many prejudices.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

57222240

Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT #HistoricalFiction FIREFLIES AND CHOCOLATE by @AilishSinclair

Today’s team review is from Liz. She blogs here https://lizannelloyd.wordpress.com/

#RBRT Review Team

Liz has been reading Fireflies And Chocolate by Ailish Sinclair

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The new novel written by Ailish Sinclair, Fireflies and Chocolate is set in the 1740s in Scotland and colonial Pennsylvania. Young Elizabeth Manteith tells her own story of boredom in a lonely castle replaced by a terrifying adventure on the high seas, leading to forced servitude in America. A spirited teenager, she survives the deprivation and threats on board ship due to her own determination to survive and the friendship of a young boy, Peter Williamson, who had also been abducted on the streets of Aberdeen.

The plot is based on the true story of 600 children and young people to whom this actually happened. If they managed to stay alive through the perilous journey, they then had to face being sold in a market without knowing where they would end up. Parted from Peter, Elizabeth is taken by an arrogant old woman to be a housekeeper for an invalid on a tobacco plantation. Not meeting her master for some time, there is a hint of, “the beauty and the beast”.

Finding some of the local community kind and helpful, Elizabeth sends letters to Scotland in hope of rescue, but her father is engaged in fighting with Bonnie Prince Charlie and her mother lies in bed under the influence of laudanum. Soon Elizabeth is actively involved with her new friends and finds some happiness, but she longs to find Peter and return to her home.  Is this to be her future or will she spend her life in lonely drudgery?

This is a wonderful story of fortitude and kindness against a background of prejudice and misadventure. Ailish Sinclair writes vividly of carefully cooked food which sounds delicious and amazing scenery in the countryside. She entices you to engage with the heroine and believe in her values, with just a hint of magic.

Book description

Elizabeth craves adventure… excitement… love…

For now though, she has to settle for a trip from her family’s castle, to the port in Aberdeen, where her father has promised she’ll be permitted to buy a horse… all of her own.

Little does she suspect this simple journey will change her life, forever. And as she dreams of riding her new mount through the forests and glens of the Manteith estate, she can have no idea that she might never see them again.

For what lies ahead is danger, unimagined… and the fearful realities of kidnap and slavery.

But even when everything seems lost, most especially the chance of ever getting home again, Elizabeth finds friendship, comfort… and that much prized love, just where she least expected it.

Set in the mid eighteenth century, Fireflies and Chocolate is a story of strength, courage and tolerance, in a time filled with far too many prejudices.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

57222240