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The Strathavon Saga #2

The Blood And The Barley

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A powerful story of love, justice, and belonging.

"This novel is beautifully written and thoroughly researched." - Historical Novel Society

A Discovered Diamond and winner of Book of the Year 2018 at Discovering Diamonds (independent reviews of the best in historical fiction).
Winner of a Chill With A Book Reader’s Award.
A B.R.A.G. Medallion Honouree (Book Readers Appreciation Group).

The north-eastern Highlands, 1780. The disaster of the last Jacobite Rising has forced momentous changes on the Highlands and her people. Torn from an ancient clan way of life into a harsh world of taxes, rent rises, land reforms and evictions, the proud folk of Strathavon struggle to survive. Still rooted in their Highland traditions and superstitions, whisky smuggling seems their only hope.

Eighteen-year-old Morven MacRae treads a perilous path—smuggler and healer, apprentice to a suspected witch. Her friend and guide Rowena is singled out for special attention by the authorities, particularly the local exciseman, who wants her for his wife. When Rowena’s kinsman Jamie Innes returns to the glen of his birth, Morven prays he’ll protect her friend.

Only Jamie’s path is riskier still. Torn between honour and love, he chooses a dangerous course, driven by loyalty to his kin and by a desire to belong—potent qualities. Morven is soon drawn to him. But when it becomes apparent there’s a traitor in their midst, his true motives are less clear. Can she trust him? This is a mystical land of lore and superstition where loyalties are tested, and secrets kept close…

“… written through and through only as a Scot can do.” Amazon Reviewer.

“… the author’s description of the Highlands is so evocative one can almost feel the texture of the heather. MacRae conjures a mystical land of crags and burns, where belief in the old ways still hold and are made plausible by its isolation from what Wordsworth described as the ‘getting and spending’ of everyday life. This is a well-told tale, and I’d love it to become a saga along Poldark line.” J.G. Harlond, historical fiction award-winning author.

294 pages, Paperback

First published March 3, 2018

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About the author

Angela MacRae Shanks

2 books20 followers

Angela MacRae Shanks was born in Garmouth, a village near the mouth of the River Spey in northeast Scotland, and still lives near here. Her mother was born in Strathavon, a real place, and this remote glen is very dear to her heart. Here she first heard tales of the dramatic history of the area, its people and their struggles, and became fascinated by it.
Growing up in Moray, a beautiful part of Scotland known as ‘malt whisky country’, an interest in the area's illicit past grew, particularly the smuggling of whisky and the reasons behind it. Her fascination with the natural world and the folklore of the Highlands, combined with her training in natural therapies spawned a need to weave herbal lore into her tales. Those who healed using plants and the wisdom of nature, usually women, were often condemned as witches - she felt the need to explore this injustice. And so The Strathavon Saga was born.

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5 stars
136 (40%)
4 stars
123 (36%)
3 stars
59 (17%)
2 stars
12 (3%)
1 star
6 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 29 of 29 reviews
Profile Image for Coco.V.
47.3k reviews4 followers
Want to read
April 10, 2018
💝 FREE on Amazon today (4/10/2018)!💝

An Evocative Tale of Smuggling and Survival.
Loyalty and Love.

The North-Eastern Highlands, 1780. The Jacobite cause is lost and in the repressive aftermath of Culloden, the government seeks to crush the ancient and proud clan system. In Strathavon, crofters risk their lives smuggling illicit whisky to scrape together the means to remain on the precious land of their fathers. For here land and kinship mean all.

Fiercely independent, Morven MacRae is the daughter of a notorious smuggler. To be a healer like her enigmatic neighbour is her greatest wish. Only her neighbour is allegedly a witch, her life and those of the glen smugglers blighted by a ruthless exciseman. A man possessed – both with the want of her and the fear of her.

Evicted from Strathavon as an infant, Jamie Innes is driven by honour and an abiding loyalty. To protect his kinswoman and her young apprentice, he will risk his life. Only secrets set them against each other, loyalties are tested, and superstitions abound. To save his last remaining kin, Jamie must let the woman he loves believe he has betrayed her. But this one man will rouse an entire community to protect his kin, his love and his way of life.
Profile Image for Space Cowgirl.
3,670 reviews92 followers
July 10, 2018
To Live💘 And Die💀 In Scotland

Scotland 1780

This very interesting book leads us through a time period in Scotland's history when Catholicism was outlawed by the English 👑Crown. People found practicing could even be put to death.
The Scots in this book are involved in the making of illegal whiskey. They have to hide their stills and pay off officials to allow them to make the whiskey. The book follows the life of Morven, a young Scottish woman, her family, her 💘love, Jamie🐺🍆🌋🔪,and her involvement in making Scottish whiskey. The sale or barter of whiskey made the difference between living a decent life and bare survival and desperation.
Morven is also being trained by her friend Rowena, Jamie's aunt, to be a healer.
The book is an epic tale of life, death, and love in Scotland in The late 1700s.
Of course, it's also a romance!

ARC Received from HG.
I also got The book with KU.
Profile Image for Melissa.
2,182 reviews205 followers
September 14, 2021
This was not my normal read. This is more a story of history. Like a BBC historic film. It was very real to life and a hard read for me because I love the lightness of romance novels over the heaviness of real history. This had a great ending and the story was so well told. The writing gets 5 STars all the way. The 3 stars is because it just wasn't my cup of tea and that's on me it has no reflection on how well this was written and how true to the times it was. If you love historical novels especially about the highlands this is your book! I read this as a stand alone and never felt like I had missed something not reading the first book.
Profile Image for gj indieBRAG.
1,487 reviews63 followers
January 2, 2019
We are proud to announce that THE BLOOD AND THE BARLEY (The Strathavon Saga) by Angela MacRae Shanks is a B.R.A.G.Medallion Honoree. This tells readers that this book is well worth their time and money!
Profile Image for Cindy Woods.
1,058 reviews14 followers
November 12, 2018

This tale of two families in late 1700's Scotland is written with such beautiful detail to dialogue as well as descriptions of ceremonies, festivals and locations.

The hard life endured by these crofter families is told as each character is detailed through their emotions and actions in their daily lives. Their fortitude in the face of adversities and strong love of family and their lands and heritage is told with clarity. The use of gaelic phraseology is often, but translated in the text so there's no question of their meaning.

And the story itself is one of determination and kinmanship.... a rather beautiful story all told.

I absolutely recommend to readers of historical fiction. Refreshing accuracy in culture and tradition.
Profile Image for Helen Hollick.
Author 43 books505 followers
July 17, 2018
This book has received a Discovering Diamonds Review:
Helen Hollick
founder #DDRevs
"This is a first novel and definitely an author to watch – I suggest a stricter technical editor, however, for her future novels.
Nevertheless, this is a well-told tale, and I’d love it to become a saga along Poldark lines."

5 stars because the story is superb and the author has taken the #DDRevs reviewer's advice & found herself a good editor. Definitely an author to watch! Shortlisted for Book of the Month selection (Helen)
2,838 reviews19 followers
July 12, 2018
🌾It's a hard-knock life in their Highland farming community; will they ever get a break?!😕
July 10, 2018
Format: Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
👍This book was well-written and exciting, as Scottish Highlanders depending on illegal whiskey production to make ends meet deal with injustice, cruelty and graft in the late 18th century. It's also a sweet, clean 💜 romance between crofter's daughter Morven and honorable, handsome Jamie, orphaned by disease and returned to the area after years of exile in Inverness. There's treachery, sly injustice, bribery, beatings and even murder, all part of the warp and weave of the harsh Highland farming life in the wake of the Jacobite defeat by the English at Culloden Moor over thirty years previous.

I love history and am especially interested in Scotland; this book gave me both.
Some elements of the story, like the painstaking description of whiskey distillation and detailed, mysterious rituals performed by Rowena, the local healer and expert on herb, fairy and folk lore, slowed the story's momentum occasionally. But they were an integral part of the action and key to understanding the superstitions and way of life during the period. The English attempts to totally subdue the Highland culture and stamp out Catholicism, and the perils of repeated pregnancies and childbirth, are also highlighted. Author Angela MacRae Shanks did an admirable job of bringing the era to life.

Many of the characters were well-defined and complex, with strengths and flaws, particularly Morven, her father, Rowena, and Rowena's precocious daughter Sarah. The local exciseman and his sidekicks were portrayed as evil through and through, as the farmer distillers they bedeviled would have seen them. Jamie is a tragic hero who seems to have no good choices and, as a newcomer, raises suspicion and bad feeling from his first appearance. I found him the most sympathetic of the bunch. I could not envision a happy ending for him and was surprised by how the author provides a solution for him in the 😱thrilling climax.:-)
Profile Image for Tony Parsons.
4,156 reviews73 followers
January 2, 2019
1780, North-Eastern Highlands. Time of the Jacobite cause.
2 of Morven MacRae (18, daughter/sister) family members: Malcolm MacRae (father), & Alec MacRae (son/brother) sold illegal whiskey.
Morven was learning a different trade from Rowena Forbes (neighbor, healer).
So many of the PPL have turned to the Jacobite faith.

Isobel McBeath (Hugh’s wife) warned everyone the Redcoats were on their way.
Life is not well blessed for her/husband Hugh McBeath (tax collector).
9 pregnancies & nothing to show for it.
Isobel & her next infant died.
Morven did her best to comfort the family.
It had been 80 yrs. since the Catholic faith was allowed in Scotland.
What a joyous day for some.
What happened between Donald Gordon, & Angus?
What happened to Duncan Forbes (smuggler, farm laborer)?
Hugh McBeath challenged James “Jamie” Innes (Rowena’s nephew, Tomachcraggen) to a duel.
Swords were the choice.
Ghillie, Malcolm, Morven, Rowena Forbes (37, widow), Rory, Eliza (older sister), Alec, & Dougal, were all searched to make sure they weren’t carrying any weapons.

Father Ranald Stewart had come to watch also.

I did not receive any type of compensation for reading & reviewing this book. While I receive free books from publishers & authors, I am under no obligation to write a positive review. Only an honest one.

A very awesome book cover, great font & writing style. A very well written Highlander historical fiction book. It was very easy for me to read/follow from start/finish & never a dull moment. There were no grammar/typo errors, nor any repetitive or out of line sequence sentences. Lots of exciting scenarios, with several twists/turns & a huge set of unique characters to keep track of. This could also make another great Highlander movie, or better yet a mini TV series. There is no doubt in my mind this is a very easy rating of 5 stars.

Thank you for the free author; Braeatha Books; 1 edition; Justkindlebooks; Amazon Digital Services LLC.; book
Tony Parsons MSW (Washburn)
Profile Image for Kimberly.
10 reviews
November 19, 2018

Best book I’ve read in a long, long time and I am an avid reader! I wanted to stand up and cheer! Truly drew me into the land, the people, and the characters . It was such a relief to read really good writing and well developed plot - without the cheap reliance on sex or gore. For once, the heroine was not a willful spoiled brat and the hero was someone that could be held in high esteem. Bravo, bravo! I can’t wait for her next book!
14 reviews
March 28, 2022
Wonderful book!

I absolutely love this book. I fell in love with the characters, who were so richly described, they seemed to come to life! I appreciate the author's use of accurate Scottish sayings and language. I learned so much about the way people lived in Scotland during the late 1700's. Strathavon sounds beautiful and I would love to go there.
538 reviews3 followers
July 9, 2018
Scottish Novel

This novel takes place in the late 1700's in Scotland. It is the love story of Morgan and Jamie. During this time the Scottish were often mistreated by the Brits. They suffered from poverty and were evicted if they could not pay tent. Income was sometimes supplemented by the making and selling of illegal whisky. This is an interesting , well written novel.
Profile Image for Pauline Burling.
26 reviews
April 28, 2019

This is so like Outlander, brilliant and a page turner. It conjures up a picture of life in the Highlands amidst the poverty and hardships of life. Fighting to survive and keep the family alive.
Highly recommend this book.
Profile Image for Judy Lea.
87 reviews
April 26, 2021
Whiskey runners

I must say when I first started reading this book I had a hard time getting into it. I thought I wasn't going to like it. But, as I continued on, I couldn't put it down. It reminded me of my relation in Eastern Kentucky here in the USA. No bad sexual content and very little bad language. Thank you Angela continue the good writing
June 29, 2018
I want more

I love the Gaelic tongue and the passion of the highlands. A beautiful and intelligent story especially for a first novel. I want more of Morven and Jaime!
Profile Image for Pat .
18.3k reviews3 followers
July 11, 2018
This historical love story was well written with characters that were so well rounded that I ended up reading this book in one sitting!
217 reviews
October 2, 2018

The struggles of the lower class and their resolve to meet and ride above the challenge made the country what it is today.
87 reviews4 followers
December 28, 2018
A little slow at first but keep reading

Keep reading and the story develops into a fine tale. The characters are developed and they suck you in. Good read!
956 reviews
May 16, 2019
Great Story!

I was blown away by this book about families in Scotland. And to find out that it is this author's first book makes it even more awesome.
6 reviews2 followers
July 11, 2021
A wonderful read!

I adored this book. Strong Scottish women, a compelling love story, a proud and close community. It was a joy!
Profile Image for ChillwithabookAWARD With.
443 reviews14 followers
September 5, 2018
The Blood and The Barley by Angela MacRae Shanks has received a Chill with a Book Readers' Award.

"Extremely well-written, beautifully descriptive, and full of historical detail. "

Pauline Barclay - Founder of Chill with a Book Awards
Profile Image for Linda Van roo.
62 reviews1 follower
April 24, 2018
Nice easy read. Love stories about Scottish history based of facts, which this seems to be.
Profile Image for Ann Reagan.
9 reviews
April 4, 2018
Good first effort

I enjoyed the use of the Scots speech. Well written and researched. I recommend this one. Look forward to the next book.
Profile Image for Sherry Sharpnack.
809 reviews20 followers
October 1, 2018
If you like novels w/ Scottish words and a more historically-accurate post-Culloden Scotland, read the “Outlander” series instead. This book is hopelessly derivative of Diana Gabaldon’s books, down to the names of the hero and the doomed infant, only w/o the time travel. Frankly, Ms. Gabaldon should sue for copyright infringement.

I did like the small bits of description for whisky production and the description of the duel at the end. Otherwise, the plot is predictable and the writing frankly is not up to par. I gave two stars b/c I liked the ending, even if it was saccharine.
Profile Image for Lisa.
130 reviews10 followers
April 24, 2022
I like the world building and the themes surrounding post Jacobite Scotland featuring a female protagonist, but the descriptions and writing style is way too hard to get into. I couldn't figure out what was happening half the time and couldn't connect emotionally to the characters as much as I would like.

Plus, it's probably not a good idea to name the male love interest Jamie and set it after the Jacobite rising- as people will make too many comparisons with Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series.
Profile Image for Martin Dey.
Author 4 books1 follower
February 21, 2023
A powerful story of love,justice and belonging

From the evocative cover design through all the pages, the Blood and the Barley brings to life the people whose families lived, loved and worked the land of Strathavon for generations. Yet they rarely owned that land and by 1780 their language, customs and way of life were at odds with that of their landlords and Government. Against this backdrop, the main couple, Morven and Jamie just want to live their lives but they are dealt a heartrending and tortuous path indeed! A powerful novel that reminds us that Highland folk had to struggle not just against the land and the elements but also against a lowland hierarchy that regarded them with suspicion and as inferiors, when they were anything but.
Profile Image for Elisa.
216 reviews
December 9, 2019
This was an OK read but I just could not get invested in the characters or the story. I found myself starting other books and putting this aside. I finally gave up.
Profile Image for BookAddict.
1,035 reviews4 followers
June 14, 2018
This was a longer read than I thought it would be, in places overly long but so well written. I know this was the first in an intended series but I don't know if there was enough tension or anything left I'd want to discover. That said the use of Scottish speech was well done, good history of the post Culloden Scotland and the whisky trade, good interesting characters.
Displaying 1 - 29 of 29 reviews

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