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

Today’s Review-A-Book Challenger is Arra. She blogs here https://arrastoneglade.wordpress.com/

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

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This is a historical romance set in late 16th century Scotland.  Isobell, along with her brother Jasper and their friend Ian, have run away from London in order for Isobell to escape marriage to ‘Wicked Richard’, and are to start a new life in rural Aberdeenshire.  So begins the ‘fairy tale’ story of the Mermaid and the Bear.  I call it a ‘fairy story’ because it contains so many elements of that genre and is charmingly written, although the magical elements are more prosaic than the title might imply.

The book starts with a bold and intriguing statement – “The first time the sea killed me…” a portent that is echoed much later in the book. However, we are soon led from the grime of nausea, retching and an unpleasant sea voyage to the imagery of fairy tales and stories conjured up by Jasper to remind Isobell of their destination.  Faced with an arranged marriage to a man whose actions and attitude frighten her, Isobell has arranged to escape to a castle in Scotland where she is to assume the role of kitchen helper; whilst Jasper and Ian are to work at a nearby farm belonging to Ian’s cousin. Brought up in a grand house in London it is difficult to see how she would pull off this transformation, and indeed the housekeeper, Bessie Thom, sees through her straight away.  However, as Isobell relates her story, Bessie is swayed to take Isobell under her wing.

We are soon introduced to the other main characters connected to the castle; Agnes the governess who feels resentment at Isobell’s intrusion into the household not least because they have to share a room. Duncan the friendly greeve (steward) of the castle who lives in a charming little house in the woods.  Christen Michell, secret Catholic and the stern and forbidding lady of the castle whose deceased daughter Mary had been the Laird’s wife. Wee Thomas the sweet little son of the Laird and Mary, and whom Agnes looks after, although not with any particular skill or affection.  And of course, Thomas Manteith the Laird himself, the bear of the title, and whose first glimpse of Isobell brings blushes to her cheeks.

Isobell falls naturally into the rhythm of castle life, and with a few setbacks here and there, progresses from kitchen helper to governess, supplanting Agnes along the way. Christen Michell warms to her when she nurses Wee Thomas and tries to introduce her to the Catholic faith. Isobell meanwhile relishes in the countryside surrounding the castle, the pool that she swims in and the stone circle, and the old ways that she feels connected to.

It is no surprise that romance blooms along the way, and we would be forgiven for thinking that all involved would soon live ‘happily ever after’.  However, romantic fiction needs a cruel twist, and Sinclair introduces the element of witchcraft into her fairy story with unhappy conclusions.

As you discover in the historical notes at the end of the book Ailish Sinclair took the names of three real women accused of witchcraft in 1597 – Isobell Manteith, Bessie Thom and Christen Michell, and has woven them a sumptuous story based around some basic facts.  A timely reminder of the horrors of the 16th century witch hunts, and one which Sinclair has used well in her story.

If you want to be whisked away into a magical world of 16th century Scotland with beautiful descriptions, delightful characters and an easy to read style, then this book is probably for you.

I enjoyed the book and hesitate to offer any criticism because it fits very well into the genre of historical romance that it is aimed at.  I don’t tend to read many books in this genre in general as I find it can be a bit cliched at times.  We all know who Isobell will end up with, and her life feels slightly unrealistically charmed at times.  I suspect a young girl from a grand house in 16th century London would not have fitted into a rural Scottish castle quite so well in real life and may not have even been able to understand the language spoken.  But this isn’t ‘history’ this is ‘romance’ and Sinclair has a lovely way with words that is perfect for escapism (and something we have all needed this year).  The book does take a dark turn and I think Sinclair could have done even more with the witchcraft section of the story as she has obviously done her research.

If you are drawn to historical romances I would highly recommend it, and I am sure you will be delighted with it.  I hope Sinclair has more stories within her and continues to charm her readers.

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 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 https://jenniferdebie.com/

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

Today we have another Review-A-Book Challenger, Claire can be found on Instagram here @saintorrow

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

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The Mermaid and The Bear is a whimsical title and although the first half of the story does weigh a little heavy on the whimsy (in the most delightful way), it is certainly intriguing in equal measure. For this is definitely a tale of two halves. Set in Scotland in the late 1500s at the height of the witch trials, I began the book knowing what direction it was going to go in but was hooked from the start with the exciting opening line, “The first time the sea killed me, my brother brought me back to life.” The heroine, Isobell, describes her sea sickness as she travels with her twin, Jasper and his friend, Ian. It becomes clear that they are in fact, escaping, as we are told of their arrival after dark by boat at the castle, which is central to the story. Secret tunnels, hidden doorways and shadowy figures drew me in to a whole other world immediately.

Isobell is a sweet and relatable character, on the run from her betrothed – an abusive man who is in cahoots with her father and nasty older brother. She must take on a new life and act the part of kitchen assistant in the castle, but the cook, Bessie, quickly susses her out and takes her under her wing. However, she also has Agnes to contend with, the spiteful, self-proclaimed governess to Wee Thomas, The Laird’s son.

My interest in reading this book was very much with regards to the witch trials, however the first half of the book is quite a sumptuous love story: Isobell’s love for the gorgeous Scottish landscape is second only to the growing love she feels for the Laird. I’m not a big love story fan, but Sinclair writes beautifully and manages to avoid any kind of cringiness. Plus, Isobell is portrayed so brilliantly that you can’t help but root for her – yes, she’s sweet but she’s no fool, and she deserves her prince.

What I found interesting was the very real and true depiction of how accusations of witchery came about. There were no pointed hats and broomsticks, frogs or cauldrons – often only a plain dislike or mistrust, as well as jealousy of women with knowledge or wisdom (particularly in relation to healing and herbalism). And that is exactly what unravels between Agnes towards Isobell and Bessie. I will say no more, but from the midpoint onwards, the story hurtles onto a very different trajectory from the initial dreaminess of Isobell’s seemingly magical new life. There is always the gnawing feeling that her past will catch up with her, but how it plays out is genuinely terrifying. It struck me as a grim parallel with today’s politics of polarization and finger-pointing, and as a reader, it was easy to empathise with the nightmarish quality of what transpires.

I loved this book much more than I thought I would. It has a depth that I did not expect but at the same time, it had an open-heartedness and generosity that I’m not used to when compared to my usual contemporary fiction reading. I think Ailish Sinclair is a wonderful writer and managed to keep true to history in a way that some more well-known authors who have chosen to write about this increasingly popular subject matter of the witch trials – both in the UK and the USA – do not always manage. She has clearly done her research and literal groundwork, which comes through vividly via her knowledge and descriptions of the Aberdeenshire landscape. I follow her on Instagram, and it is great to get a peek into her writer’s mind, her inspiration, and mythic gnosis of the land. Someday, I’d love to visit that beautiful pink castle and the mystical stone circle which are both as much lead characters as Isobell. Looking forward to the second novel to come from this talented author in Spring 2021, Fireflies and Chocolate.

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

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99% Of The Reading Public Never Post A Review. Rosie’s Review-A-Book-Challenge #RRABC

It’s true!  99% of the reading public don’t post reviews for the books they’ve read. If you’re an avid reader, you probably take a look at the reviews for a book before you decide whether or not to buy.  The average … Continue reading

14 Extra-Special Books Celebrating 6 Years of Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT: Part 2 #TuesdayBookBlog

Welcome to Part Two of #RBRT Gold  – if you missed Part One, it’s HERE

#RBRT Review Team

How time flies – Rosie Amber’s Book Review Team has now been up and running for six years!  During that time we have done our best to spread the word about novels, novellas, short stories and non-fiction from self-published authors and independent publishers – to showcase talent found outside the mainstream publishing world.

Each month we are inundated with review requests from authors and publishers alike.  Every book that I accept is passed on to my team of twenty readers, which is made up of book bloggers, writers, editors, creative writing tutors and people who just love reading.  Most gain just one or two reviews, but once in a while a gem comes along that piques the interest of several team members, and receives highly favourable reviews across the board.

I hope you’ll enjoy #RBRT Gold Part Two: seven extra-special books that were greatly enjoyed by three or more team members.

Under the title of each book, you can read its team reviews, which include Amazon links.  Enjoy!

 

Jonah by Carl Rackman

Nautical Thriller

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Click the picture to see the book on Goodreads

Excerpt from blurb:

The North Atlantic, 1940. A British destroyer pounces on a seemingly abandoned U-boat, leading to a spine-chilling encounter.

Five years later, the US Navy destroyer Brownlee grimly prepares to battle a swarm of Japanese kamikazes at Okinawa.

Mitch “Lucky” Kirkham, a young gunner on the Brownlee, wakes up miraculously unscathed after his crewmates are killed in a fearsome kamikaze strike.

Far out in the boundless emptiness of the Pacific, a strange madness begins to seize the sailors on the Brownlee. Terror, hysteria and suicide torment the men amid sightings of ghosts and a terrifying monster that stalks the ship by night.

Jonah is a searing, psychological suspense thriller, the latest from Carl Rackman, author of Irex and Voyager.

Reviewed by

Cathy Ryan

Georgia Rose

Liz Lloyd

Olga Miret

 

The Code For Killing by William Savage

Historical mystery

The Code for Killing (The Dr Adam Bascom Mysteries Book 2) by [William Savage]

Click the picture to see the book on Goodreads

Excerpt from blurb:

Dr. Adam Bascom, 18th-century physician and gentleman, is called to Norwich to treat a young man who’s been brutally assaulted and left with total memory loss. Why was the man attacked? What was he doing wandering on his own along the river bank late at night? Is his lack of memory real — or assumed to hide what is really happening?

Welcome to the surprisingly sophisticated world of 18th-century British intelligence — a story rich in excitement, deceit and subterfuge, involving the rarely revealed forerunners of MI5 and Bletchley Park.

Reviewed by

Noelle Granger

Liz Lloyd

Terry Tyler

Jenny Worstall

 

Night Porter by Mark Barry

Contemporary Drama

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Click the picture to see the book on Goodreads

Excerpt from blurb:

Four writers are invited to stay at a sixteenth century hotel in the fictional town of Wheatley Fields, as they have been nominated for a prestigious award ceremony.

Seen through the cynical, ever-open eyes of the hotel’s night porter, the lives of the four meet and intertwine – and as the ceremony approaches, one of them takes a hit…

Based on the famous Saracen’s Head hotel in Southwell, England, The Night Porter combines the author’s experience of the hotel business with his work as a writer and adds humour, pathos, thrills and a wry look at the world of publishing and writing in the Kindle era.

Reviewed by

Barb Taub

E.L. Lindley

Vanessa Wester

Emily

 

October Rain by Dylan Morgan

Dystopian scifi novella

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Click the picture to see the book on Goodreads

Book blurb:

The human race teeters on the brink of extinction in a solar system choking under the glare of a dying sun. An assassin for the Martian Interstellar Correction Agency, Steele has one more assignment to complete before a big payoff and the chance of a new life: a job that will reveal the true horrors of man’s futile existence and threaten the very people who make his life worth living.

As mankind draws its final breath, what would you do to save your family?

Reviewed by

Shelley Wilson

Teri Polen

Cathy Ryan

Terry Tyler

Steve Forster

Suraya Dewing

 

The Mermaid And The Bear by Ailish Sinclair

Historical romance

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Click the picture to see the book on Goodreads

Excerpt from blurb:

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

She has a well thought-out plan to flee her privileged life in London and the cruel man who would marry 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.  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.

Reviewed by

Noelle Granger

Shelley Wilson

Terry Tyler

Liz Lloyd

 

Rack & Ruin by Carol Hedges

Historical mystery

Rack & Ruin (The Victorian Detectives Book 4) by [Carol Hedges]

Click the picture to see the book on Goodreads

Excerpt from blurb:

The city is in the grip of railway mania when the gruesome discovery of several infant corpses in an abandoned house forces Inspector Lachlan Greig of A Division, Bow Street Police Office and his men to enter the dark and horrific world of baby farming. It will take all Greig’s skill and ingenuity to track down the evil perpetrators and get justice for the murdered innocents.

Meanwhile, school friends Letitia and Daisy stand side by side on the threshold of womanhood. One longs for marriage to a handsome man; the other craves an education. Will their dreams come true, or will their lives be shattered into little pieces by the tragic and unexpected events that are about to overtake them?

Hope meets horror, and Parliament is threatened by anarchists in this rumbustious fourth Victorian crime novel, set once again amongst the dangerous twisting alleyways and gaslit thoroughfares of 1860s London.

Reviewed by

Barb Taub

Noelle Granger

Cathy Ryan

Terry Tyler

Liz Lloyd

 

An Empty Vessel by J.J. Marsh

Historical crime novella

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Click the picture to see the book on Goodreads

Excerpt from blurb:

Today’s the day Nancy Maidstone is going to hang.

In her time, she’s been a wartime evacuee, land-girl, slaughterhouse worker, supermarket assistant, Master Butcher and defendant accused of first degree murder. Now she’s a prisoner condemned to death.

The case has made all the front pages. Speculation dominates every conversation from bar to barbershop to bakery. Why did she do it? How did she do it? Did she actually do it at all? Everyone has an opinion on Nancy Maidstone.

The story of a life and a death, of a post-war world which never had it so good, of a society intent on a bright, shiny future, and of a woman with blood on her hands.

This is the story of Nancy Maidstone.

Reviewed by

Alison Williams

Jessie Stevens

Terry Tyler

 

Thank you for taking a look at the favourite books of Rosie Amber’s Review Team, a fine selection that can’t be recommended too highly.  Happy reading!

6 Reasons To Fall In Love With #HistoricalRomance during 2020

Happy New Year & New Decade!

What will you be reading this year?

I’m going to begin by enticing some of you to try a new genre.

6 reasons to fall in love with historical romance.

1) A refreshing change from email, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter!

Historical fiction brings back the art of conversation and hand-written letters. There is no constant checking for updates on social media, no stalking friends via the internet. Words like catfish and ghosting have completely different meanings in a bygone era.

2) Lessons in history that don’t feel like the schoolroom.

Historical romance can give readers insights into the past in the same way as other categories of the history genre, even if the main theme of a book is the romance.

I’ve learnt about real historical characters, social etiquette, smuggling and the Scottish witch trials, to name just a few examples.

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The Dressmaker’s Secret by Charlotte Betts,

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The Kings Elite series by Virginian Heath,

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The Beauchamp Betrothals by Janice Preston

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and The Mermaid and The Bear by Ailish Sinclair.

3) Escapism!

Modern life is fast paced, full of stress and worry. A well-written historical romance can transport you to another era and help you to forget about the outside world for a few hours. You can join characters in London ballrooms, country houses, foreign countries, or travel by horse-drawn coach and ocean steamer. Here are a few titles that I’ve escaped with:

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The 20’s Girl, The Ghost and All That Jazz by June Kearns,

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From Governess To Countess by Marguerite Kaye,

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Secrets Of A Highland Warrior by Nicole Locke,

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The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough.

4) We all deserve a chance on love.

For some readers the thought of a ‘Happy Ever After’ ending will have them running for the hills. However, for others the warm fuzzy feeling that you can get when you read a romance can be as healing as a strong cup of tea with two sugars. Reading about a couple who found love after adversity can be uplifting.

5) If you find a setting that you enjoy, you can stay for the series.

Who doesn’t love a series? If I discover an author that I like, I’m thrilled when I know they’ve written a series. Many authors offer book one of a series for free or at a reduced rate, which helps me to try an unfamiliar author, and once I’m hooked by a series I like meeting characters that I fell in love with when they appear again in later books.

6) You can appreciate romantic elements in other historical works.

I read quite a lot of historical romance and one point that stands out is that it needs to be believable. It has to fit the era and the actual romance, no matter what level of heat is used, it has got to be realistic. A good piece of romance can enhance an historical novel by helping to create passionate, layered characters that the reader wants to invest their time in. The books below had romance which supported the main themes:

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The Wild Air by Rebecca Mascull,

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The Alice Network by Kate Quinn,

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Never Say Goodbye by Hilary Green

What books in the historical romance genre can you recommend to me?

 

If you’ve enjoyed this post, then you might also enjoy:

6 Reasons To Read Books That Feature The Paranormal

5 Reasons To Start Reading Urban Fantasy

 

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

Today’s team review is from Terry, she blogs here https://terrytylerbookreviews.blogspot.co.uk/

#RBRT Review Team

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

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5 out of 5 stars

I chose this book from the review team list because I’ve loved looking at the author’s marvellous photos of Scotland on her website for some years now; I hoped that anyone so artistic and with such a love for the area in which this story is set would be a fine writer too, though this doesn’t necessarily follow, of course—but I’m pleased to say that I was not disappointed.


The Mermaid and The Bear is listed as a historical romance, but it’s much more than that. At first, after protagonist Isobell escaped her London betrothal to ‘Wicked Richard’ and headed for a Scottish castle to work as a kitchen maid, I wondered if the book would be too ‘twee’ for me; beautifully written and a good example of its type, but I thought it would follow the well-trodden romance novel path of misunderstandings and awkward situations before the lovers come together, and that would be that. I was so wrong! Although the relationship is an important part of the story arc, it is not the sole focus.


Ailish Sinclair’s portrayal of 16th century, wild rural Scotland is quite magical. On one recent evening I was curled up in bed, head on cushions and lights dimmed, and I found that I was revelling in every description of the countryside, the day-to-day life at the castle (particularly the Christmas revellry; this made me long to be in the book myself!), the suggestion of ancient spirituality, and the hopes and dreams of the characters. Suddenly I realised that I’d gone from thinking ‘yes, this is a pleasant enough, easy-read’ to ‘I’m loving this’.  

From about half-way through, the book becomes very dark indeed, as the witch-hunts of the time rear their gruesome head; there is a strong sense of good versus evil. This is where, for me, it became even more interesting.


Much of the locals’ dialogue is written in the Scottish dialect, but this is not overdone, so it didn’t become irritating to read at all—it just added authenticity. I liked how Isobell’s inner thoughts and conversation took on the Scottish words and phraseology gradually, over time, as would be the case. Her development over the course of the story is so realistic, and the Laird of the castle is the sort of character you can’t help falling a little bit in love with. The notes at the back add interest to the whole novel, too.


If you adore historical fiction, especially set in the 16th century, I’d recommend this book without hesitation. If you’re a bit ‘hmm’ about historical romance, I would still recommend it, without a doubt—and this is coming from someone who usually runs a mile from any variation on the romance genre. Go buy it. Now.

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 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

50828661. sx318 sy475