Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT Witch Trials And A Scottish #HistoricalRomance THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR by @AilishSinclair

Today’s team review is from Noelle, she blogs here https://saylingaway.wordpress.com

#RBRT Review Team

Noelle has been reading The Mermaid And The Bear by Ailsish Sinclair

Ailish Sinclair has written a captivating romantic fairy tale for adults, set in 1597 Scotland.

Isobell has been pledged by her father to marry a man she calls Wicked Richard. Together with two boys, Ian and Jasper, she flees her intended husband and a life of privilege in London, sailing in the hold of a ship to a smugglers cave below a remote castle in Scotland. There she will work as an assistant cook.

With no training for her menial job, she is taken under the wing of Bessie Thom, the castle’s cook – a large, jolly woman who is also an herbalist – who reminds me strongly of Mrs. Fitz in Outlander. Isobell meets Agnes, a sour and bitter young woman who is the governess to Wee Thomas and who loves to tell tales of witchcraft; the handsome Duncan McCulloch, Greeve of the castle; Christen Michel, an elderly woman who is the mother of the Laird’s first wife, Mary, who died giving birth to Wee Thomas; and finally the Laird himself, Thomas Monteith. All of these characters are so well drawn, I could easily see and hear them. The authentic use of Scottish words and phrases draws the reader into this medieval world.

I called this a fairy tale – Isobell falls in love with the laird, a bear of a man who is kind and gentle and sad – and the reader is lulled into contentment by both their love and the beauty that surrounds the castle: fairy pools and standing stones and beautiful woods. But this tale turns grim and gritty when it delves into accusations of witchcraft and witchcraft trials, prevalent at the time.

Thus the narrative encompasses hope and despair, good and evil, friends and enemies. The author writes beautiful descriptive prose of the Scottish countryside and delves into the heart of Isobell in an astonishing way, encompassing her views of conflicts between the Protestant and Catholic faiths and the feeling of the ancient religion, carried on by women, when Isobell finds the standing stones.

I really liked this book, despite the fact I expected and got a satisfying conclusion.  Isn’t this usual for fairy tales?

A truly enchanting tale!

Book description

Isobell needs to escape. She has to. Her life depends on it.

She has a plan and it’s a well thought-out, well observed plan, to flee her privileged life in London and the cruel man who would marry her, and ruin her, and make a fresh start in Scotland.

She dreams of faery castles, surrounded by ancient woodlands and misty lochs… and maybe even romance, in the dark and haunted eyes of a mysterious Laird.

Despite the superstitious nature of the time and place, her dreams seem to be coming true, as she finds friendship and warmth, love and safety. And the chance for a new beginning…

Until the past catches up with her.

Set in the late sixteenth century, at the height of the Scottish witchcraft accusations, The Mermaid and the Bear is a story of triumph over evil, hope through adversity, faith in humankind and – above all – love.

AmazonUK | AmzonUS

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #HistoricalRomance THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR by @AilishSinclair #TuesdayBookBlog

Today’s team review is from Shelley, she blogs here https://shelleywilsonauthor.com/

#RBRT Review Team

Shelley has been reading The Mermaid And The Bear by Ailish Sinclair

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What a beautiful book! Historical romance is not my preferred genre to read but I’m committed to stepping out of my reading rut and was hooked in by the blurb and promise of faery castles and misty locks. I was swept up by Isobell’s story and the flow of the prose.

The plot was well developed and follows Isobell’s story as she sails to Scotland to escape a wicked man. We’re introduced to a colourful cast of characters from the motherly cook, Bessie Thom, to the charismatic Thomas Manteith whose combined actions lull you into a false sense of contentment. As I was reading about the joyous developments for Isobell there was this undercurrent that told me something was about to change.

The twist at the end was brutal, graphic, and yes, I shed a tear or two. I’ve always been fascinated by the stories of the witchcraft trials, and to see how easy it was for lives to be changed forever is quite sobering. Fabulously descriptive, The Mermaid and The Bear was a delight to read. There were moments when I felt like I’d stepped into an episode of Outlander, which is no bad thing. The Scottish phrases adding to the beauty of the story.

I may have found a new favourite genre!

5 stars.

Book description

Isobell needs to escape. She has to. Her life depends on it.

She has a plan and it’s a well thought-out, well observed plan, to flee her privileged life in London and the cruel man who would marry her, and ruin her, and make a fresh start in Scotland.

She dreams of faery castles, surrounded by ancient woodlands and misty lochs… and maybe even romance, in the dark and haunted eyes of a mysterious Laird.

Despite the superstitious nature of the time and place, her dreams seem to be coming true, as she finds friendship and warmth, love and safety. And the chance for a new beginning…

Until the past catches up with her.

Set in the late sixteenth century, at the height of the Scottish witchcraft accusations, The Mermaid and the Bear is a story of triumph over evil, hope through adversity, faith in humankind and – above all – love.

AmazonUK | AmzonUS

50828661. sx318 sy475

 

Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #HistoricalFiction THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR by @AilishSinclair

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

#RBRT Review Team

Liz has been reading The Mermaid And The Bear by Ailish Sinclair

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Scotland in 1597 was not a place to be a woman, especially a woman of faith, opinions or healing gifts.  But Isobell has fled from her London home to avoid marriage to a cruel Englishman and has found kindness and friendship in a Scottish castle.  Hiding her wealthy background, she starts work as a kitchen maid but her clumsy mistakes reveal her lack of experience.  While Bessie, the housekeeper guards her secrets, Isobell must be more cautious with Agnes, the spiteful governess and Christen, the aristocratic lady of the house.

Soon Isobell is captivated by the impressive castle and its fairy tale setting and she finds meeting the Laird is an overwhelming experience. It is a pleasure to read of their growing romance despite misunderstandings but as they grow closer, others gather to cause pain and suffering.

This carefully researched story is based on true events in Aberdeen when cruel men gained power over innocent women by accusing them of witchcraft.  It is a horrifying story from our history, mirrored in other parts of the United Kingdom.  Thankfully in The Mermaid and the Bear the sadness is tempered by love and kinship in a believable and satisfying conclusion.  An enchanting novel.

Book description

Isobell needs to escape. She has to. Her life depends on it.

She has a plan and it’s a well thought-out, well observed plan, to flee her privileged life in London and the cruel man who would marry her, and ruin her, and make a fresh start in Scotland.

She dreams of faery castles, surrounded by ancient woodlands and misty lochs… and maybe even romance, in the dark and haunted eyes of a mysterious Laird.

Despite the superstitious nature of the time and place, her dreams seem to be coming true, as she finds friendship and warmth, love and safety. And the chance for a new beginning…

Until the past catches up with her.

Set in the late sixteenth century, at the height of the Scottish witchcraft accusations, The Mermaid and the Bear is a story of triumph over evil, hope through adversity, faith in humankind and – above all – love.

AmazonUK | AmzonUS

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #Scottish #HistFic A House Divided by @MargaretSkea1

Today’s team review is from Noelle, she blogs here http://saylingaway.wordpress.com

#RBRT Review Team

Noelle has been reading A House Divided by Margaret Skea

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A sweeping tale of compassion and cruelty, treachery and sacrifice, set against the backdrop of a religious war, feuding clans and the Great Scottish Witch Hunt of 1597 – What’s not to like about A House Divided? I couldn’t wait to read it and savored it for as long as I could.

This is the second book in series about the Munro family and their enemy, the arch-villain of their story, William Cunninghame. Although I have not read the first in the series, The Turn of the Tide, A House Divided can be read as a stand-alone novel with no problem…except that I now feel compelled to treat myself to that first book.

The Munro family has been forced into hiding to escape their enemies, the wealthy Cunninghames. While Adam Munro fights in France with the Scots Garde, which is supporting Henri IV, Kate Munro takes shelter with her children at the Montgomerie stronghold of Braistane. There she takes the surname Grant to hide her and the children’s identity. The Cunninghame son, thinking all the Munros are dead from their persecution, takes possession of the Munro’s home at Broomelaw and is rebuilding the estate for himself.

Kate supports herself by working as a ‘wise woman,’ the term used for an herbalist and a midwife. These woman are often accused of being witches, and Kate courts danger during a period when witchcraft trials and burnings are common in Scotland. Kate is partially identified when she attends the wife of a Cunninghame supporter, and her daughter, who is training with her mother to be a wise woman, also becomes visible in the countryside when she answers some of the calls for Kate to provide medical help. When Kate’s growing reputation results in her being asked to attend Queen Anne, the wife of James VI, the chances she will be seen by the Cunninghame family at court increase exponentially.

Although the story focuses on Kate, Adam is not forgotten as the reader is treated to the vicissitudes of the war in France, King Henri’s increasing reliance on him, and Adam’s attempts to find a way home to see his family, from whom he has been separated for several years. I found these interludes to be less compelling than Kate’s story, but necessary to the direction of the overall plot.

This is an exceptional book, combining the tensions of several story lines with exquisite detail of life in Scotland in the 16th century. I loved the descriptions of herbal remedies and as the wife of an obstetrician, I found the midwifery fascinating.

The characters are exceptionally well wrought, pulling you into each scene. Skea is a master of description, from the lovely countryside to the details of siege warfare, the trials of witches, and the daily, mundane chores of everyday family life. Set against this rich tapestry is the rising and falling tension that Kate and/or Adam will be discovered, which did not play well with my blood pressure!

Skea also weaves into her story broader issues of morality, science vs superstition, loyalty and justice. This is a must read for all lovers of historical fiction, and I think Skea’s writing  is comparable to that of Phillipa Gregory and Diana Gabaldon.  I’m hooked and looking forward to reading the next in the series.

Book description

Eleven years on from the Massacre of Annock, the Cunninghame / Montgomerie truce is fragile.
For the Munro family, living in hiding under assumed names, these are dangerous times.
While Munro risks his life daily in the service of the French King, the spectre of discovery by William Cunninghame haunts his wife Kate. Her fears for their children and her absent husband realized as William’s desire for revenge tears their world apart.
A sweeping tale of compassion and cruelty, treachery and sacrifice, set against the backdrop of feuding clans, the French Wars of Religion, and the Great Scottish Witch Hunt of 1597.

About the author

Margaret Skea grew up in Ulster at the height of the ‘Troubles’, but now lives with her husband in the Scottish Borders.

Awarded the Beryl Bainbridge Award for Best First Time Author 2014 and Historical Fiction Winner in the Harper Collins / Alan Titchmarsh People’s Novelist Competition for her debut novel Turn of the Tide, the sequel A House Divided was longlisted for the Historical Novel Society New Novel Award 2016. The third book in the series will be published in autumn 2017. She is passionate about well-researched, authentic historical fiction and providing a ‘you are there’ experience for the reader.

An Hawthornden Fellow and award winning short story writer – recent credits include, Overall Winner Neil Gunn, Chrysalis Prize, and Winchester Short Story Prize. Third in the Rubery Book Award Short Story Competition 2013, a finalist in the Historical Novel Society Short Story Competition 2012, shortlisted in the Mslexia Short Story Competition 2012 and the Fish Short Story and long-listed for the Historical Novel Society Short Story Competition 2014, the Matthew Pritchard Award, and Fish One Page Prize, she has been published in a range of magazines and anthologies in Britain and the USA.
New collection of short stories – Dust Blowing and Other Stories, including some of those from competitions mentioned above is now available.

Margaret Skea

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