The lady of the loch by Elena Collins

Zoe’s twin sister Leah finds a new job as a caretaker and tour guide at Ravenscraig Castle in Scotland after a tough period. She isn’t allowed to live there alone and Zoe agrees to go with her. Once there, Leah immediately feels at home, but Zoe senses a strange chill in the castle and sees a young woman appear at night. In the 13th century, kitchen maids Agnes and Effie must flee their home when Robert De Bruce wages war against the English king Edward I. They seek refuge in Ravenscraig, only to find that rumours of war are never far.

The lady of the loch‘ is a dual timeline story set in the Scottish Highlands. It’s very modernly written (that annoyed me a bit at first) and the historical part is set during’s Robert De Bruce’s reign. His wife Elizabeth De Burgh and daughter Marjorie flee to Kildrummy Castle where Agnes and Effie work in the kitchen. When they are betrayed, Elizabeth and Marjorie are taken prisoner and Agnes and Effie barely escape alive. Their path takes them to Ravenscraig (which is a fictional place) where the owners are also loyal to De Bruce.

Most of the time I do enjoy the historical timeline more, but this time that wasn’t the case. It took me a long time to get to know Agnes and to sympathize with her. I preferred the modern perspective of Zoe and Leah. They live in a flat in Birmingham, only Leah feels very unhappy. When she gets the job at Ravenscraig she hopes for a new start. But the place seems haunted.

Yes, this is also a little ghost story. Apart from that there are a lot of fast-paced romances of people falling in love instantly (a pet peeve of mine). And yet I quite enjoyed reading this novel, especially the second half of the book is much stronger. Maybe Collins felt a bit lighter than e.g. Gill Paul or Nicola Cornick. But you can compare the style and I’m curious enough to try one of next novels.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for a copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

The bookseller of Inverness by S.G. Maclean

Iain MacGillivray survived the Battle of Culloden six years ago, when the Duke of Cumberland -nicknamed the Butcher- mercilessly crushed the Jacobites during the 1746 uprising. His face was badly injured and he’s still traumatised by the death of his cousin and best friend Lachlan. Iain now keeps his head down and runs a bookshop in Inverness. One day, a man comes into the shop rummaging through the books of the ‘old fox’ – Simon Fraser, Lord Lovat. The next morning he finds the same man murdered in the shop, with the symbol of the Jacobites stabbed under the knife.

This is my first book by Maclean and I was particularly curious about it because it’s set after Culloden. We meet Iain who owns a bookshop with some regular customers, but suddenly there’s an unknown man looking for Lord Lovat’s books. That man is later murdered and it seems that there’s a link with the Jacobites, especially when Iain’s father – who was supposed dead – turns up on his doorstep.

Iain’s family has been fighting for Bonnie Prince Charlie for years and was also involved in the 1715 Rebellion, during which Iain’s grandfather was executed in London. His grandmother is still a great fighter for the cause, but after Culloden Iain’s enthusiasm for the Jacobite cause had cooled down.

The book contains quite a lot of characters and it was not easy to follow in the beginning. Besides the murder, there’s a lot to tell about what happened six years ago and in the previous rebellions. This makes it a bit complex at times, luckily I already knew the history a bit.

Because of this, the mystery is not so much about finding a murderer, but rather about some old secrets that come up again after all those years. I guessed quite early on who the murderer was and by the end I had more or less figured out why.

In terms of style and plot, it was not quite my thing. There’s also the side perspective of Lady Rose, but I did not really understand the added value of her story. Maclean did a good job exploring the time period, it’s just not a story that grabbed me. I also don’t know if the author is planning a sequel, but I’m not inclined to read it at the moment.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for a copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

This is book 8/20 of ‘20 books of summer‘.