Island of the Swans
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Island of the Swans

3.75 of 5 stars 3.75  ·  rating details  ·  1,215 ratings  ·  123 reviews
In this resplendent love story a dazzling era comes vividly to life as one woman's passionate struggle to follow her heart takes her from the opulent cotillions of Edinburgh to the London court of half-mad King George III . . . from a famed salon teeming with politicians and poets to a picturesque castle on the secluded, lush Island of the Swans. . . .
Best friends in child...more
Paperback, 581 pages
Published February 1st 2010 by Sourcebooks Landmark (first published January 1989)
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Can't really decide between 2 or 3 stars so have plumped for 2.5!

This wasn't a bad book, but it annoyed me in several ways:-

1. It focused primarily on the (fictitious) love triangle rather than on the lives of the real people concerned.

2. It focused on general history of the period rather than on the lives of the real people concerned.

3. It was obvious that the author had done her research and she crammed in every fact she could which often made the story unwieldy and meant that the focus was...more

The story begins in 1870 in Edinburgh, Scotland. The Maxwells of Monreith are well-born but always in financial difficulty. Jane is ever the tomboy, much to the chagrin of her grasping mother who has plans to marry the blossoming beauty into a wealthy family. Jane's great friend and cohort in *crime* is Thomas Fraser and as the two grow older their friendship develops into something stronger. They hope to wed one day, although Jane's mother and Thomas' guardian Simon Fraser have other plan...more
Lori Anderson
This was another of my lucky Kindle finds -- I believe it was only available for a few days and then POOF, it's no longer available on Kindle. After 20 years, it was re-issued in its original length, and I'm SO VERY GLAD I bought it. Not only is it a passionate, amazing story, but it's a TRUE story.

My favorite books of all time are Diana Gabaldon's "Outlander" series, and any fans of hers will love and devour this book. First, it involves clan Fraser, and occurs right before the Revolutionary Wa...more
WHAT a disappointment.

The first 100 or so pages of the book had me completely hooked - and completely convinced this was going to be an amazing ride. The characters were so well-defined, so rich and complex, and I was really looking forward to following a story with some subtlety...nothing is more tragic than good people who just can't make each other (or themselves) happy. not what happened. First, the book just follows the same cycle over...and over...and over...and over...and over...more
There’s nothing better than discovering a new author - one that you fancy so much you must read everything they’ve ever written. This just happened to me with author Ciji Ware after reading Island of the Swans and fortunately, I won’t have to wait too long because Sourcebooks Publishing will be re-issuing her past novels – YIPPEE! They sure started off with one doozy of a historical fiction novel!

Island of the Swans tells the story of Jane Maxwell, an 18th century Scottish woman who may be an an...more
I have to admit that I was rather distracted by my real life while reading this book. It didn't grab me and pull me in at any point, though I think the last two hundred pages or so were much more compelling that the first three hundred. I generally read a book every five days or so and this one took me two weeks. I stuck with it because the back cover made it sound so interesting and I love the period. But I didn't think it lived up to the back cover's description.
I couldn't taste the Scottish f...more
I was sorely tempted to give this book two stars, but Ciji Ware's vivid descriptions of the political and social scene in 18th century Scotland, England, and America made me bump it up to three. This was one of the most frustrating books I've read in a long time, because it focused on an epic love story (much in the tradition of Anne Easter Smith and old school Rosalind Laker), and the characters spent the entire book whining and fighting and pining to the point where I just wanted to scream. It...more
This is the story of two men who love the same woman, Jane Maxwell. Thomas Fraser grew up her in Edinburgh and knows her through and through. Alexander Gordon first saw her riding a pig when she was ten years old.
Meeting her again as a young woman, he woos her. Jane, on her part is angry at Thomas for putting his Uncle's wishes above her own.
She marries Alexander but never ceases to love Thomas. She comes to feel Alexander will never understand her as Thomas does.
Fraught with deceit, misfortune...more
I love reading books with strong women, and when that woman is an actual historical person, so much the better. Ciji Ware tells the story of Jane Maxwell, Duchess of Gordon, in this novel.

The history covered in this book is great. Jane lived in Scotland and England during the late 1700's. In her lifetime, she was received at George III's court, championed William Pitt to become Prime Minister, was painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds, was Robert Burns' patron, and helped raise troops to support the cr...more
Mandi Schreiner
This book follows the life of Jane Maxwell, who after her father abandons the family, her mother puts the hopes of the family into her lap. But Jane is anything but obedient. She is a free-flying, spunky soul who even from an early age is in love with Thomas Fraser. Thomas grows up never knowing his parents after they died supporting Price Charles, and losing everything in his place.

When they both reach young adulthood, they love each other yet financially they are unable to convince their paren...more
The story of Jane Maxwell Duchess of Gordon, in the 18thc, as told by the excellent author, Ciji Ware is a masterpiece read; an epic on its own. I hadn’t really read much about this feisty Duchess who climbed to the highest rank of nobility. Fashionable, politically savvy, doting mom, business woman…but in this magnificent novel, she mostly wears her role as a love-torn woman whose soul could never find peace.

The story begins with Jane as a mischievous young girl, who defies her mother in more w...more
Allison G
Wow, this was the first book I've read by Ciji Ware and I *REALLY* liked it. The historical background, the true-to-history characters, and actual events were well-researched and made the book very interesting. The story was INCREDIBLE! WIthout both history and a good storyline, it just doesn't cut it as a quality piece of historical fiction for me. I found all of the characters - historical and fictional - to be quite interesting. She weaved enough story and description for me to care about all...more
I originally found this book in seventh grade and absolutely fell in love. An 18th century setting, a tumultuous love triangel spanning the years, & royals... what more could a young girl want in a novel?

On this revisit, ten + years later it was still an interesting read, but definitely not the book that I remembered and fell so hard for.

This time around I found myself routing for the "bad guy" in the fourth Duke of Gordon, Alexander & slightly annoyed with the childhood "romance" formed...more
This was an excellent and moving book. There are so many emotions felt as you read Jane's story. It was told in such a captivating way that you find yourself lost in the characters struggle for happiness and love. This is definitely a book I could see as an epic movie; right up there with Gone With the Wind. In the authors note at the beginning of the book, we are told that a full-length biography of Jane Maxwell does not exist. Therefore, I definitely have to give a huge thank you to Ciji Ware...more
Nov 21, 2011 Jess rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: NO ONE!
Recommended to Jess by: my sister

Should be a great story. Is well-researched. Jane Maxwell had a very interesting life but she single-handedly ruined it.

The book is like a romance novel, sans the sex. The sex scenes are so sterile and strange.

If you want Scottish-themed historical fiction there are ton of better places to turn. (*cough* Outlander *cough*)
With Island of the Swans,Ciji Ware gives readers a sweeping historical romance of Scotlands's Jane Maxwell, the Fourth Duchess of Gordon. In love since childhood with impoverished Thomas Fraser, Jane is devastated when news reaches Edinburgh that Thomas has been killed fighting with the Black Watch regiment against the French and Indians in the American colonies. While still mourning Thomas, Jane begins to attempt to heal her heart by re-entering Edinburgh society, often in the company of Alexan...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
(3.5 stars) Based on the actual Jane Maxwell, the 4th Duchess of Gordon, this is a fictionalized account of the actual events in her life from the mid 1700's to the early 1800's. Starting with Jane as a young child living in Scotland with her parents living separate,and consequently, somewhat impoverished lives,the Scottish are still suffering after the defeat at Culloden, which has reduced the fortunes of many of the former gentry. We see Jane as somewhat of a reckless daredevil, with her devot...more
This is the story of a tragic love triangle (or bizarre love triangle for you New Order fans). The characters in this story are:

*Thomas Fraser, of the Fraser Highlanders who participated in the '45 with the Young Pretender, and thus lost everything. Thomas has struggled all of his life and must join the army to make a living. He and Jane have loved each other since childhood. (And yes, theses are the same Frasers as those featured in the Outlander Series)

*Alex Gordon, the Duke of Gordon. His fam...more
Author Ciji Ware’s fascinating dipiction of Jane Maxwell, the fourth Duchess of Gordon was simply breathtaking. The young passionately beautiful rebellious second daughter of the mostly absent drunken baronet Sir William Maxwell of Monreith and his overbearingly strict wife Lady Magdalene Maxwell of Blair, never ceased to amaze people with her free-thinking ideas and dreams involving her family, friends, and lovers. Jane was a young girl of ten that was inseparable from her good friend, 14-year-...more
This book had all the ingredients for a book that I truely love; romance, history and most important of all- a strong female herione. And it didnt disappoint.

Island of the Swans takes you back to the lowlands of Scotland several years after the disasterous Culloden. It follows the life of the young and beautiful Jane Maxwell, a girl of some fortune who falls in love with Thomas Fraser who lost his lands when his family fought against the crown in 1747. Thomas leaves to fight in the colonies to r...more
Lady Jane Grey
For the sake of friends that may read this in the future, I won't go into much detail about my thoughts on this book and just make them vague. Why have I been writing my thoughts down so much lately, though? Anyway, this book was not how I thought it would be as far as subject/content, writing style, or length (for some reason I had thought it was on the average size but it is a more lengthy tome). For a while I was thinking it would only have three stars until I realized how much I had fallen i...more
April Wilkerson
I debated for a few minutes about whether to give this book two stars or just one. To be honest, I didn’t like the book and if I could go back and tell myself to skip it, I would. However, I went with two stars because the last 100 or so pages brought a better light than the first 400.

First thing first: I love to read historical fiction. That is….where an author takes pieces that are found in history and links them all together with a flowing story. Doing a little bit of research myself, the st...more
Julie Barrett
What a disappointing book! I had such high hopes for it - it's one of my favorite periods of history and I've read quite a few books about other notables of the era. I knew of the Duchess of Gordan from other books and was interested to get her Tory side of the story, since most of the books I've read have favored the Whig point of view. I thought a novel of historical fiction would be just the thing to bring all that history to life. Unfortunately the book is more a standard romance with some h...more
Feb 01, 2010 Marie rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: own
This is such a wonderful piece of historical fiction that Sourcebooks Landmark publishers picked it up after twenty years and decided to republish it. And I am so glad that they did, because this is a story that needs to be told, but hasn't been. Based on a true story, Jane Maxwell is an infectiously delightful young lady who soon grows up to be a rival the Georgiana the Duchess of Devonshire. But how she got that way is the charm of the story. Set against the backdrop of Scotland, Ciji Ware bri...more
Ana T.
When I discovered this book was being republished, last year, and was marketed as historical fiction I was very glad that I had an earlier copy on my shelves. So last week I was in the mood for some HF and decided to pick it up.

Based on the life of Lady Jane Maxwell, the Duchess of Gordon, who was a leading society lady in her time and a rival of the Duchess of Devonshire, this sounded like an interesting read. It starts with Jane as a child and her friendship with her neighbour Thomas Fraser an...more
I had a hard time getting through this book. It started well and ended well, but I had a hard time motivating myself to keep reading through at least two thirds of it. If it hadn't been based on real people I probably would have quit. I even thought of quitting about 2/3 through the book. It read too much like a romance novel: undying love for the main character's first love, etc. and a lot of steamy love scenes.

Jane Maxwell and Thomas Fraser had planned to marry over her mother's and his uncle'...more
For a book this size and depth of the characters, I was slightly disappointed how the story evolved between the three characters. It was obviously a love triangle, I was expecting more and there's naught but repetitive and almost predictable scenarios.
In terms of the historical background, it was entertaining.
That's it.
So this took me awhile to read, and its not like it was bad or anything, I was just distracted.

I could spend the time in the review spoing all my excuses, but why bore you

I liked the story, and yes it kinda reminded me of the ups and downs I had to endure while reading In the Land of the Long White Cloud...very depressing, but then very hopeful one minute to the next.

The characters were well written, and I liked the fact that we got to see a little of the Revolutionary war from the British/Scot...more
A work of fiction on a grand scale that "puts flesh on the skeletal details that exist" of the life of an actual historical woman. It almost takes on the proportions of a biography but does not include the last 15 years of Jane's life; in that, I found the ending dissatisfactory because by that stage I had become engrossed in the tale of this woman's life and I wanted to know the whole of it.
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Book Giveaways: Giveaway - A Light on the Veranda by Ciji Ware 2 10 Mar 20, 2012 05:18PM  
  • The Highest Stakes
  • On a Highland Shore (Highland, #1)
  • Blue Bells of Scotland (Blue Bells Trilogy, #1)
  • The Time of Singing (William Marshal # 4)
  • The Forever Queen (The Saxon Series, #1)
  • Midnight Honor (Highlands, #3)
  • The Founding (The Morland Dynasty, #1)
  • The Traitor's Wife: A Novel of the Reign of Edward II
  • Season of Storms
  • Great Maria
  • Now Face to Face
  • Courtesan
  • The Queen's Pawn
  • The Flower Reader
  • I Serve: A Novel of the Black Prince
  • To Dance with Kings
  • Queen Hereafter: A Novel of Margaret of Scotland
Ciji Ware, a graduate of Harvard University in History, is a New York Times & USA Today bestselling author of historical and contemporary fiction, and two works of nonfiction. A former radio and TV broadcaster for 23 years in Los Angeles, she lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and has been married 37 years to the same gent. Her family circle includes a grown son and daughter-in-law and now tw...more
More about Ciji Ware...
A Cottage by the Sea A Race to Splendor Midnight on Julia Street (Time Travel, #1) A Light on the Veranda That Autumn in Edinburgh

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