This was the To Be or Not to Be…Read winner and I’m particularly glad to have gotten the opportunity. Highlanders, Jacobite intrigue, spies, light romance…need I say more?
I read another book from this author and after enjoying her old-style romantic suspense tone I wanted to read more of her work. I spotted this one which promised a split story with two heroines a few centuries apart with a diary at the center of matters for them and settled in for an engaging set of stories.
This is a standalone story, but fans of the Author’s earlier Jacobite-centered stories like The Winter Sea and The Firebird will recognize a few crossover characters doing cameo scenes.
The book opens with contemporary heroine, Sara Thomas, being offered the task of deciphering a 300 year old diary for an author’s research project. Sara joins the household of the diary’s current owner and slowly settles in to the French household and beginning her own little romantic adventure. While reading about the intrepid Mary Dundas, the girl’s story captivates Sara and challenges her for the first time to take a chance and reach for what she really wants even if the negative voice in her head tells her she can never have a normal life.
Born in exile to a Jacobite sympathizer and his French wife, Mary Dundas is sent to live with her aunt’s family when she was just a little girl until the time comes that her brother comes for her. Mary discovers that all is not what it seems and she is now caught up in intrigue, espionage and danger. The people around her are keeping secrets and these are the people she must trust for her welfare. She wished to travel and for adventure. Now if she can only survive to appreciate it.
Split stories between contemporary and historical times are an iffy venture for me. I usually end up preferring one story line over the other. And I did in this case, as well. Mary Dundas’ story from the past held me attention much more over Sara’s. However, that is not to say that I disliked Sara’s story.
Mary lives in dangerous, changing times with the English spying and keeping track of the Jacobites in exile and the Jacobites are constantly scheming to put their king back on the throne and gain Scottish. She is an ordinary young lady who only dreams of life outside her uncle’s quiet home until she finds herself in the midst of a desperate adventure and a man she isn’t sure she trusts holds her life in his hands.
Sara has Asperger’s syndrome and it controls her life to a certain extent. I loved seeing her work with it and figure out how to put things in place to work with it. She has kept quietly to herself preferring isolated jobs and assumes she can never have a long-term relationship until a handsome and lively Frenchman teaches her differently.
While I didn’t mind Sara’s story, I did find the repetition that occurred a bit between Mary’s narration and then Sara reading it again in the diary slowed things up somewhat and was a distraction more than anything. I also liked the romance she had, but it was fast and underdeveloped because the focus was more on Mary and the diary.
Now Mary’s story was the gem. I never wanted to leave off and go back to the present. She’s surrounded by secretive and desperate characters. The reluctant adventure she is on hones her and shows her to be much more than she knew. She is surrounded by people who have seen tough and hard times and her opinion alters as she grows to understand how the world works.`
So in the end, this was a solid two for one story with well-drawn characters and a particularly compelling historical story full of suspense and a surprising romance.
My thanks to Sourcebooks Landmark for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Romance Roundabout #270 HR
Mt. TBR #98
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