Rosie’s Review-A-Book Challenge #RRABC #Histfic #Romance THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR by @AilishSinclair #TuesdayBookBlog

Today’s Review-A-Book Challenger is Jenni; find out more about her here

Jenni chose to read The Mermaid And The Bear by Ailish Sinclair

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There can be a claustrophobia to first person narratives. Trapping readers entirely inside a stranger’s thoughts, emotions, and experiences is a foreign thing, something few novelists can accomplish with finesse.

Fortunately, Ailish Sinclair is a novelist with finesse.

The narrator, and our eyes in the world of The Mermaid and the Bear, is Isobell. A young woman escaping a dangerous fiancé by fleeing to a remote estate in Scotland with her brother and a friend. The setup for the narrative is simple enough—she is a fish out of water, a high born lady from London masquerading as a kitchen maid in a Laird’s castle with various new friends and rivals coming into her life as she and the readers explore this foreign land where Isobell has placed herself.

Like many “not a normal girl” heroines, Isobell loves reading, has a penchant for being alone in the woods, and has some difficulty settling into her new role, from ignorance of the work, if nothing else. She is also virginal, innocent enough that a bawdy joke about men and pipes flies over her head at one point.

This final trope, that of the virgin girl, is something of a sticking point for me, personally. There are times when blatant innocence in female characters gets fetishistic: the idea of the virgin who never entertained an impure thought. Who is beautiful and doesn’t realize it. Who is just waiting for the right man to awaken her passion.

A protagonist cliché that gets retold again and again in novels written for young women.

And in many novels, and in the hands of a less skilled storyteller, this would be the story of that virgin’s awakening. Her falling in love, and it would happily end with her in the marriage bed.

Sinclair’s The Mermaid and the Bear hits the marriage bed roughly halfway through, and then keeps going.  Lovingly crafted and extensively researched, this is not the historical romance it was advertised as. There is romance, multiple love interests, breathless confessions dire circumstances that led to those confessions (again, well-worn tropes for those who frequent the historical romance genre), but at heart this is a story about women.

Women and the love they have for each other, not their love for men.

Women and the power they take for themselves, and the powers that abuse them.

Women and their faith.

This is a story about the women murdered by witch hunters, and about those who survived the witch trials.

And the trials are arduous. Isobell is no modern surgeon to describe the physical toll wrought in clinical detail. The intimacy of the first-person narrative makes her pain inescapable. Visceral. The 16th century was no time for the faint of heart, and during the trial, as in every thread of this novel, Sinclair’s research shows in brutal, effective detail.

This is a novel for the daring and for those who believe that the past can still speak through modern works- this is a necessary narrative.

A narrative about the hurt that can be given carelessly, and the pain that can be survived. A fairytale, and a myth, and a Shakespearean epic all rolled to one—The Mermaid and the Bear is a delight for those brave enough to tackle it.

5/5, would re-read most any day of the year.

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 Of #Histfic #Romance The Lady Of The Glen by Michelle Deerwester-Dalrymple

The Lady of the Glen: The Glen Highland RomanceThe Lady of the Glen: The Glen Highland Romance by Michelle Deerwester-Dalrymple

3.5 stars

The Lady Of The Glen is an historical romance set in Scotland in the early 1300s.

Elayne is not the usual dutiful daughter of a Laird; she’s loud, opinionated and known as a ‘harpy’. The only child of James MacNally, she has grown up getting her own way.

Declan MacCollough is a supporter of Robert the Bruce. He returns home after ten years fighting for his king. Clan MacCollough has been without the presence of women for too long. Called the Beast Clan, it’s made up of rough men with slovenly habits. Few women want to be part of such a wild family. What it needs, Declan believes, is a wilful woman to turn the situation around, and he has just the women in mind.

This is a sweet romance in a lovely setting. The story moves at a fair pace, especially after Elayne arrives at Castle MacCollough. I would have preferred just a sprinkling of Scottish dialect among the dialogue rather than it being so full-on; I found working my way through all the Scot’s tongue awkward and affected the smooth flow of the narrative. Written for those who enjoy a good dose of cultural nostalgia with their story, this would suit those looking for an easy romantic read.

View all my reviews on Goodreads

Book description

Elayne MacNally knew one thing for certain:  Her reputation as the willful harpy of the highlands was well earned.

As the spoiled daughter of the successful Laird MacNally, Elayne got whatever she wanted, until the man she thought she would wed rejected her.  Dejected and reconsidering her lot in life, her father comes up with an opportunity that could change the course of her life and perhaps her reputation as well.

Declan MacCollough also knew one thing for certain: He did not want to follow in his father’s footsteps as Laird of the reputed “Beast Clan.”

Following his father’s death, Declan had a lot of work ahead of him to reclaim any sense of respect for his people.  Families had fled; fathers would not permit their daughters to wed into the clan. Declan wanted, more than anything, to recreate his clan into one deserving of service to the King. The first step Declan must take is to find a wife with enough backbone to help him tame his clan, help it grow, and gain back respect.

Learning of Elayne and her reputation, Declan offers to wed the lass – an arranged marriage of sorts.  With no other choices open to her, Elayne decides that the Laird of the Beast Clan is her best, if only, option.

What happens when she arrives is a strange and passionate meeting of the minds between herself and Declan.  Playing on each other’s strengths, they maneuver around those who attempt to prevent the marriage as a play for power. However, Declan’s past affiliations with the King are not welcome by all, and the challenges to their marriage become the least of their worries.

Can Declan and Elayne trust each other enough to face the threats to the MacCollough clan and their very lives?

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

Girl In The Castle by @lizzie_lamb #Romance with a rich Scottish setting #MenInKilts #Castles

Girl in the Castle: Henriette's Highland HideawayGirl in the Castle: Henriette’s Highland Hideaway by Lizzie Lamb
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Girl In The Castle is a romance set in Scotland. Doctor Henriette Bruar (Henri) has run away from a scandal at her university to spend a few months cataloguing the contents of the library at Castle Tèarmannair. She is employed by Laird Malcolm MacKenzie, and hopes to find enough valuable books to help pay off some of the castle’s many debts.

Henri faces a frosty reception from the lecherous laird’s employees and his son, as they all believe she is one more in a long line of useless, money draining floozies. But she isn’t in the mood for romance, and intends to do the work she was employed to do and write her university paper in her free time.

There are few books in the library worth saving, but Henri does find old household accounts which might be of some value, and she shares her find with the Laird’s son, Keir. They agree to keep the find secret from Malcolm until they can get them valued in case he rushes to sell them off. However Henri is convinced that she’s missing something important in her search.

The author paints a great picture of the Scottish landscape and the castle setting adding details about Scottish traditions, legends, tartan and whisky. The dialogue is interlaced with lots of Gaelic and lowland Scottish dialect which, at times, slowed down the book, but this is my own preference in reading; others will find it a great addition.

As always one of the great strengths in this author’s work is her secondary characters, such as outspoken Aunt Alice, chatelaine of the castle, and controversial Lachlan, the Laird’s man. Together they add humour and ground the story when it threatens to take flight, and rumours about Henri and Keir abound.

This book will appeal to readers who love a traditional romance and who enjoy historic Scottish settings.

View all my reviews on Goodreads

Book Description

Her academic career in tatters, Dr Henriette Bruar needs somewhere to lay low, plan her comeback and restore her tarnished reputation. Fate takes her to a remote Scottish castle to auction the contents of an ancient library to pay the laird’s mounting debts. The family are in deep mourning over a tragedy which happened years before, resulting in a toxic relationship between the laird and his son, Keir MacKenzie. Cue a phantom piper, a lost Jacobite treasure, and a cast of characters who – with Henri’s help, encourage the MacKenzies to confront the past and move on. However – will the Girl in the Castle be able to return to university once her task is completed, and leave gorgeous, sexy Keir MacKenzie behind?

About the author

Lizzie Lamb

With Scottish, Irish, and Brazilian blood in her veins, it’s hardly surprising that Lizzie Lamb is a writer. She even wrote extra scenes for the films she watched as a child and acted out in the playground with her friends. She is ashamed to admit that she kept all the good lines for herself. Luckily, she saves them for her readers these days.

Lizzie’s love of writing went on hold while she pursued a successful teaching career, finishing up as a Deputy Head teacher of a large primary school. Since deciding to leave the profession to realise her dream of becoming a published novelist, Lizzie hasn’t looked back. She wrote Tall, Dark and Kilted – which echoes her love of her homeland in every page, not to mention heroes in kilts – and published it. Lizzie loves the quick fire interchange between the hero and heroine – like in old black and white Hollywood movies – and hope this comes over in her writing.

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