After what feels like a century trapped in the desert, I have discovered a new-to-me author and a historical novel that I loved! The last time this happened was years ago when I was writing Ride the Fire and read Elizabeth Lowell for the first time. Apart from a handful of books I read written by her, I'd begun to think that it was impossible nowadays to find a historical author who writes what I want to read.
Okay, so I know I'm picky. When I read a historical novel, I want complex characters, a story that seems epic in nature, and historical veracity. I want dialogue that, as much as possible, feels genuine for that time and place. I want believable heroines who feel like real women, not proto-feminist "sheroes." I want heroes who feel like men, not metrosexuals. I want to feel the past surrounding me, carrying me away. I want a meaty story. And I want it to be as seamless as possible.
I don't want wallpaper historicals. I don't want "light, breezy" reads that feel like foam in my brain. I don't want novels about gowns and frippery and ballroom banter — unless they go to a deeper place than the wardrobe and the ballroom. I don't want anachronistic novels that put modern-day heroines into historical settings.
This week, I dug around in my TBR and found a novel I'd brought back from RWA this summer. It was Kathleen Givens' On a Highland Shore. I opened it up, plopped onto my bed... and vanished into 1263 Scotland.
Here's a description I stole from B&N:
On Scotland's western shore, the village of Somerstrath prepares for the joyous wedding celebration of Margaret MacDonald, the laird's daughter. But a dark storm of bloodshed and betrayal is closing in, as a merciless band of Vikings threatens the Highlands. Margaret is determined to hold the MacDonald clan together and to locate her abducted younger brother. But can she trust the noblemen from King Alexander's court, who insist that only by adhering to a betrothal conceived for political gain will she find safety? Or should she put her trust in an imposing half-Irish, half-Norse warrior? Gannon MacMagnus alone offers her hope of reuniting her family and vanquishing the barbarous Norsemen who would continue to rob her people of their God-given right to determine their own destinies. In whom should Margaret entrust the fate of the rugged, magnificent land she calls home?
There's sexual tension in this book, but very little sex. It's not a "hot read," but it's an amazing story. I ate it up, and at the end I wanted to read it again. That never happens to me. As I read the last page, I had a rush of goosebumps such as I haven't had... I can't remember when, really. I felt so satisfied by the story.
It's dark, gory, rich in history and full of believable, wonderfully drawn characters.
Kathleen Givens rocks. She's a RITA winner, and I can certainly see why. I sent her a slobbering fan-grrrl email, unable to help myself.
Historical novels are my absolute faves. And it's funny that any time a message board or readers' group asks readers to list their all-time favorite novels, so many of those are historicals. But, in part due to worries about being politically correct, and etc., historicals have been so muted lately. I think the publishing industry is in part to blame for that, as few houses want to venture outside the realm of Regency or European historicals. But that's another topic.
I don't make recommendations all that often, but I loved this book. It's a five-star keeper for me.
Needless to say, I haven't been writing...