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From the Auld Rock to a Hard Place by Wendy Cheyne

Buy From the Auld Rock to a Hard Place by Wendy Cheyne at Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

Category: Historical Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: Well researched and highly readable romantic saga beginning in Shetland but taking us to mainland Scotland, England, North America and New Zealand. Fascinating historical detail is woven into a large cast of credible characters.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 460 Date: November 2019
Publisher: Matador
ISBN: 978-1838591755

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After the Jacobite defeat at the Battle of Culloden, many Scottish estates were given to English lords. They were not kind to their crofting tenants. Many on the mainland were cleared and while this did not happen much on the islands such as Shetland, the new exploitative conditions led many Shetlanders to leave - to port cities on the mainland, to North America and even to Australia and New Zealand. 

Our story opens on Shetland during a storm. Catherine is praying for the return of Jamie, her betrothed - the wedding is only a few days away, which is a good thing because Catherine is pregnant. Someone else wants Jamie to return also - Arabella, daughter of the laird, who is in love with Jamie and determined to use her wealth and status to take him away from Catherine. Arabella is also pregnant? Is the child Jamie's? Has he cheated on Catherine? Jamie does return - but not without losses in his fishing crew. And Arabella's scheme succeeds. Finding his fiancee missing and believing her dead, Jamie marries Arabella on the promise that they will move to Edinburgh and he will be able to study at the university. It doesn't quite work out like that...

... both Jamie and Catherine are decent people. They were desperately in love. But fate has intervened and they must carry on with their lives as best they can. The next twenty years will be hard but eventful. I thoroughly enjoyed From the Auld Rock to a Hard Place. It's an absorbing romantic saga, covering a full two decades in some very busy lives. Beginning in 1858 on Shetland during the period of the Highland Clearances after the Jacobite defeat at Culloden, it paints a vivid picture of the hardships experienced by Shetland crofters at the hands of their English lairds but it also details the community, solidarity and strength of identity these people had. The book has been a labour of love as the author has researched her own family history in the writing of it and this shines through, making the story immediate and impactful.

The story begins on Shetland but takes us right across the world - from Scottish cities to London, North America and New Zealand as various characters are separated and then come together again. Lives led at the time are described so well and with such intricate research. The account of life onboard a whaling ship is harsh and austere but will stay with me for a long time - I'm not surprised that Jamie did not like it.

If you enjoy a good historical saga with some romance attached, From the Auld Rock to a Hard Place is one for you. It's well researched, vivid and evocative and full of drama while remaining true-to-life. You can follow two likeable characters around the world and back, rooting for them all the while, and hoping that they'll find happiness in the end.

Do they? Will your heart break? Is there a happy ending for Catherine and Jamie? I'm not saying! Read the book to find out for yourself? If you enjoy a good romantic historical saga, you could try Lovers' Hollow by Orna Ross, an epic story of two families on the opposite side of the political divide in the Irish Civil War of the nineteen-twenties.

Buy From the Auld Rock to a Hard Place by Wendy Cheyne at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy From the Auld Rock to a Hard Place by Wendy Cheyne at Amazon.co.uk

Buy From the Auld Rock to a Hard Place by Wendy Cheyne at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy From the Auld Rock to a Hard Place by Wendy Cheyne at Amazon.com.