Friday, December 8, 2017

A Strange Scottish Shore

Title:  A Strange Scottish Shore
Author:  Juliana Gray
Publication Information:  Berkley. 2017. 400 pages.
ISBN:  0425277089 / 978-0425277089

Book Source:  I received this book through the Penguin First to Read program free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "The man stood near the corner of the booking offices as I emerged from the ladies' waiting room, pretending to read a newspaper."

Favorite Quote:  "Haven't I always warned you not to judge a man by the mask he wears?"

Juliana Gray is a pseudonym for Beatriz Williams. Between the two pen names, she is the author of many books in several different series. Her tag line as Juliana Gray is "the author of elegant period adventures." This series is the Emmeline Truelove series, Scottish adventures that begin in 1906.

Emmeline Rose Truelove, with quite the memorable name, was the secretary of a duke. With his death, her job shifted to that of assistant to his heir, Maximilian Haywood, the new Duke of Olympia. Let's just say, adventures of the most unusual sort seem to find the new Duke. Emmeline along with the very handsome, unscrupulous Lord Silverton come to his rescue often. Society, including Emmeline's mother, deems her adventures quite inappropriate, and rumors abound about her relationship with the new duke and with Lord Silverton.

In this book, the Duke finds himself an unusual object in the north of Scotland. Emmeline is beckoned to assist. Lord Silverton appears to follow. The object has historical and scientific significance. It comes from a different time and place. The adventure of the search for its origins begins. Of course, the Duke is not the only one interested. Opposing forces enter the picture. The mystery, adventure, and growing love story continues to a dramatic conclusion that clearly leaves the door open for the series to continue.

This book and series reminds me of the Veronica Speedwell series by Deanna Raybourn. The setting among English/Scottish nobility, the strong female lead, and the tension of a growing romance all create a similar feel. For both, I happened to read Book 2 in the series. I do wish I had started at the beginning. Having read book 2 in a mystery and adventure series makes it challenging to then go back and to read the first because you already know what happens. However, not having read the beginning makes it more challenging to enjoy the second.

This book then takes the story in a direction that is more reminiscent of Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. The Scottish setting, the time travel, and an underlying love story give the books a similar feel. Both stories have the shows of violence although there is considerably less in this book than in Diana Gabaldon's books.

This book eventually claims its uniqueness by embedding the story in the Scottish folklore of the selkie, seals who shed their skins to become human. They live among the humans for years, forming relationships and family. One day, however, the selkie reclaims its skin and returns to the sea. Selkie stories are often tales of romance and love. This one incorporates a mystery in the middle of it all for a different twist.

Sadly, I did not know that this book is the second in a series. Be aware that my enjoyment and consequently my reviews suffers from the fact that I have not read the first book. Background from the first is needed to really understand the characters, relationships, and plot of this book. Reading this one alone is entertaining but feels incomplete without the background.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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