Lori McD's Reviews > On a Highland Shore

On a Highland Shore by Kathleen Givens
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Oct 18, 11

bookshelves: viking, tear-jerker, romance, medieval, historical-fiction, highlander, scottish-lit, 2011_read
Read from October 17 to 18, 2011

This book feels more like a sweeping saga than a single novel. So much happens within one story and within a just a few weeks.

The year is 1263, on Scotland's western shore in a village called Somerstrath. The laird's eldest daughter, Margaret MacDonald, is watching her many brothers with her sister Nell and best friend Fiona. Margaret is day-dreaming of leaving Somerstrath -- she's betrothed to Lachland Ross, a cousin of the current Kind of England. As she thinks of her new life, Margaret remembers a woman who, 9 years before, was hired to tell fortunes. Margaret rushed after the old woman, after she left, to have her own fortune told. The woman told her that she was like her namesake, Saint Margaret, who fought dragons to hold back the darkness. She also tells Margaret that her life will not be easy, but that she should look for the golden man -- he's the one who can bring life from death... and he's her true love. Margaret thinks how silly it all is. Until she finds Lachlan in bed with Fiona, just weeks before her wedding. Hurt and shamed by the betrayal of her fiancee and her best friend, Margaret tries to find a way out of the betrothal. But none seems possible. On her way back from court with her eldest brother and her sister, Margaret and her siblings find that their home has been destroyed -- all the people killed in brutal ways (including her family) and the town and castle burned. Only her 8 yr-old brother Davey and a handful of other young boys are missing.

Coming to help with the aftermath and find the culprits of this horrible event is Gannon MacMagnus - 1/2 Irish and 1/2 Norse. Gannon and his brother come at the bidding of their uncle who is an old friend of Margaret's uncle William. Several villages in northern Ireland and the western Scottish shore have been recently raided, but none as badly as Somerstraith. Gannon and Margaret feel an almost instant connection... and Gannon has the golden long hair of the Norse and the golden torque and arm bands of the Irish. Is Gannon her golden man? And how will Margaret's life and town ever be the same again?

I found myself involved early on in this book... especially with Margret discovering Fiona in bed with Lachlan. The injustice of how she's been shamed but still expected to continue with the betrothal as if nothing happened. Margaret's not dumb enough to think that all marriages are for love alone; her own father took several mistresses. But I think Margaret is crushed that Lachlan was so obvious about it -- most of the town knew -- and she's especially angry at Fiona's betrayal. She'd been sharing her heart with Fiona about Lachlan. How could her friend do this?

But all of that pales in comparison with discovering the death and destruction of her family and town. Only Gannon and his brother Tiernan seem to truly understand, having lost their own family in similar raids years ago. And Margaret's brother, Rignoir, is more concerned with being the new laird and pursuing Dagmar, the town whore, than taking care of their people or even finding their little brother.

Yes, there is a lot of bloodshed and a lot of death. Yes, there is a lot of evil and politics. But as much as the story is about those things, it's about the characters: Margaret, Nell, Gannon, Tiernan, Rignoir, Lachlan, the townspeople, and the Norseman (Nor Thorkelson) who is behind the raids. The beauty of the story is that it focuses on the characters and their feelings and motives. You don't like everyone; you don't understand everyone; but you can see how their minds work.

And yes, ultimately, it's a romance between Margaret and Gannon. And you cheer for them, over and over again. And yes, there is a bit of a happy ending. The book is somewhat dark and bleak, but there is life and love and laughter within it.
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