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The Mermaid and the Bear

4.41  ·  Rating details ·  78 ratings  ·  30 reviews
Isobell needs to escape. She has to. Her life depends on it.

She has a plan and it’s a well thought-out, well observed plan, to flee her privileged life in London and the cruel man who would marry her, and ruin her, and make a fresh start in Scotland.

She dreams of faery castles, surrounded by ancient woodlands and misty lochs… and maybe even romance, in the dark and haunted
Kindle Edition, 221 pages
Published October 18th 2019 by GWL Publishing
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Average rating 4.41  · 
Rating details
 ·  78 ratings  ·  30 reviews

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Shelley Wilson
Oct 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
What a beautiful book! Historical romance is not my preferred genre to read but I’m committed to stepping out of my reading rut and was hooked in by the blurb and promise of faery castles and misty locks. I was swept up by Isobell’s story and the flow of the prose.

The plot was well developed and follows Isobell’s story as she sails to Scotland to escape a wicked man. We’re introduced to a colourful cast of characters from the motherly cook, Bessie Thom, to the charismatic Thomas Manteith whose
Steve Wiggins
Feb 08, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One of my favorite parts of reading challenges is being exposed to books I might not otherwise read. As I mentioned elsewhere (Sects and Violence in the Ancient World), I read Ailish Sinclair’s blog. She mentioned her debut novel The Mermaid and the Bear and since debut novel was a category in this year’s Modern Mrs. Darcy challenge, I put one and one together and, remarkably for me, came up with two. I’m not Scottish, but I read for my doctorate at Edinburgh, so I have a fondness for native-gro ...more
N.A. Granger
Oct 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Ailish Sinclair has written a captivating romantic fairy tale for adults, set in 1597 Scotland.
Isobell has been pledged by her father to marry a man she calls Wicked Richard. Together with two boys, Ian and Jasper, she flees her intended husband and a life of privilege in London, sailing in the hold of a ship to a smugglers cave below a remote castle in Scotland. There she will work as an assistant cook.
With no training for her menial job, she is taken under the wing of Bessie Thom, the castle
Wee Lassie
Nov 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Hands down the best book I read all last year. I'd recommend The Mermaid and the Bear to anyone who loves a good book, well-rounded characters and heart-stopping suspense.
D. Peach
Jun 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I finished this book a few days ago and it’s stuck with me. I didn’t realize until I’d reached the end that it’s historical fiction based loosely on real women in 16th century Scotland when witches were rounded up, tortured, and murdered. Somehow it was easier to read when I thought it was pure fiction. After getting to know the characters, the author might as well have stabbed me in the heart.

The whole book is beautifully written. Beautiful prose, beautiful characterization, deeply emotional. F
Elizabeth Lloyd
Oct 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Scotland in 1597 was not a place to be a woman, especially a woman of faith, opinions or healing gifts. But Isobell has fled from her London home to avoid marriage to a cruel Englishman and has found kindness and friendship in a Scottish castle. Hiding her wealthy background, she starts work as a kitchen maid but her clumsy mistakes reveal her lack of experience. While Bessie, the housekeeper guards her secrets, Isobell must be more cautious with Agnes, the spiteful governess and Christen, the a ...more
Terry Tyler
Oct 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I read this book via an ARC from the author, for Rosie Amber's Book Review Team. The fact that it was free has not affected this honest review.

I chose this book from the review team list because I've loved looking at the author's marvellous photos of Scotland on her website for some years now; I hoped that anyone so artistic and with such a love for the area in which this story is set would be a fine writer too, though this doesn't necessarily follow, of course—but I'm pleased to say that I was
Trana Mathews
Mar 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Very enjoyable read. Just when I thought it was getting a bit too sweet and romantic, Ailish Sinclair came up with a great twist. Not what I expected at all. Kudos on a job well done! ...more
Dec 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
A beautiful story told through the use of equally beautiful prose. Set in Scotland in the 16th century during the time of witch trials, Ailish Sinclair's THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR tells the tale of English maiden Isobell who escapes her home and the evil intentions of the cruel man she's been promised to marry. Fans of Diana Gabaldon's OUTLANDER will enjoy this book. With that said, there is something more poetically moving about Sinclair's novel. That sentiment does not detract from OUTLANDER. T ...more
Tamara Rendell
Jul 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I was expecting this to a good book (the blurb is compelling: romantic love fighting the good fight in the midst of the Scottish witch trials, Ailish writes interesting blogs, and her Instagram makes you feel like you are on a tour of magical Scotland).

But I didn't expect it to be such a GREAT book. Beautifully written but so perfectly not over-written. It's powerful stuff.

I shed a few tears reading through the historical notes at the end but mostly due to how perfect it is that the author has
Oct 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A haunting, romantic story based on history and witch hunting. It combines old an new religion in a
beautiful way. Very impressive and realistically told.
Jenny Gaitskell
The Mermaid and the Bear is a charming mix of dark history and romance, lightly dusted with its own magic.

Isobell leaves Shakespeare's London to escape marriage to a murderous brute arranged by her calculating older brother. A lover of faery tales and ancient myths, she hopes Scotland will match her daydreams. Though not much good as a kitchen maid, she falls in love with the castle, its kindhearted people, the landscape, and then she meets the laird.

Told in Isobell's warm and witty voice, the s
May 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Meet Isobell, on the run from a cruel husband-to-be, arriving secretly by night, to the castle where she hopes to begin a new life as a kitchen maid.
Meet Thomas Monteith, the stunning Laird of the castle and his young son “ Wee Thomas “ who Isobell falls hoplelessly in love with after mistaking him for a bear.
After Isobell confesses the real reason why she escaped her past life to Bessie Thom, the cook for the castle,who is also a herbalist/wise woman, she takes care of Isobell and educates her
Tonya Ulynn Brown
Sep 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the most beautifully written books I have ever read. Yes, it is written in one of my favorite time periods, and yes it takes place in one of my favorite places in all the world, but when you combine that with the almost poetic style of Sinclair’s writing—sigh!

Ok, I know it sounds like I’m gushing, and maybe I am, but deservedly so. Sinclair’s development of characters is charming, making you love the characters she loves and hate the characters that she hates. Or, if she doesn’t h
Jan 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Such a beautifully written story!
Sally Boocock
Nov 17, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I did enjoy this book but felt all the action about witches was crammed into the last 100 pages. I really admire the way history was bound into the fiction story but would have liked more about witches. In places it was quite atmospheric and the characters were great except some who were so wicked. All in all a good read and I look forward to more from Ailish Sinclair.
Nov 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This was a pleasure to read. A glimpse into the past, complete with joy and sorrow. All lovers of Scottish lore will like this, and be sure to follow the author of Twitter for some beautiful photos!
Susana Rapallo
Apr 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Dear Ailish,
I was fascinating about Isobel and Thomas love story. I loved the way you mixed up historical elements and create such a compassionate story about all the character's living in the castle. Stay safe!
Jul 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
It has everything!

Enjoyed slipping away to a different time and place. Loved this book! History, love, friendship, betrayal, suspense, grief...perfection. Empowering for women. Beautifully written!
Sheri J.
Jan 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I teetered between 4 and 5 stars, but decided this book is indeed amazing since it had the perfect combination of good, fun storytelling and authentic and 'deeper' historical context. Before I go into detail, I'll declare this an entertaining and satisfying read with a playful and dear aspect that kept it at the top of my reading list each time I considered what to pick up on an evening. I loved the characters and was eager to return to their story-world.
With a topic of witch trials, I somewhat
S.J. Higbee
Dec 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Historical romance isn’t my go-to genre. But I was intrigued by the talk of faery castles and mermaids. Isabell is a delightful character who pings off the page. The first-person description of her struggles with seasickness is riveting and dramatic, establishing Sinclair as a talented writer with a flair for words. There is a lushness to the prose throughout, which could so easily have tipped into sentimentality, or just become a tad annoying. It doesn’t.

What Sinclair is able to do is write con
Helen Culyer
Dec 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This enchanting tale set in the sixteenth century comes complete with a mysterious castle, ancient stones, and a handsome laird. I know...what more could you want?

Well-written, easy to read, and a lovely book to curl up with at night. The witch trial scenes were more gruelling than I expected, which added a darker element to the tale and makes you appreciate just how brutal life was for women living during this period.

The themes of spirituality, faith, and friendship run throughout the book and
Anya Pavelle
Dec 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I absolutely love this book! I'm an art historian and fond of Scotland and references to the faery realm, so the historical texture and imagery the author weaves into this plot engaged me as I read the book.
Apr 07, 2020 rated it liked it
It’s well written and I liked it enough to read it to the end, but some of its characters and contexts seem to me to be drawn more as the author (or perhaps her intended audience) might wish society to be in semi-feudal rural Aberdeenshire in the late 16th century than how it really would have been; or, to be fair, perhaps my understanding of the period in that locality is uninformed. In summary, I think it lacks nuance and tends to divide too neatly between “goodies” and “baddies”, but as a his ...more
Nov 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is an astounding and beautiful novel. It's hard to say much about it without spoiling things for those who are interested but have not read it yet. It is about a woman in London whose father has betrothed her to an abusive lout, so she flees to Scotland, where she takes a position as a kitchen maid in a laird's castle, and the events that unfold thereafter. Truly a magical book and so beautifully written!
Max Knight
Jun 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
In 1597 in Aberdeen, Scotland several individuals were executed for alleged witchcraft or sorcery. The majority of those accused were women, many of them midwives or healers whose abilities were thought to be satanic powers derived from devil worship. Confessions of said diabolical activity were obtained by various forms of torture or physical abuse, after which the “guilty” were usually burned at the stake. This is the historical background for Ailish Sinclair’s debut novel The Mermaid and the ...more
Feb 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
In reality a 4.5 but I am rounding it up because it did make me cry and laugh, and any book that gets to me in that way deserves to be rounded up.
This book was recommended to me by another goodreads member. The plot sounded intriguing, so I decided I would give it a go.
I was worried when I started the book, as the start felt a little slow, and some of the writing felt a little rough. It felt a little unpolished and quite honestly like something written by a new author that had not fully honed
D.G. Kaye
Aug 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This was a bit different of read than my usual genres, and although my genre of choice is historical fiction, I tend to shy away from books (and definitely parts) that describe violence, just as I turn my head or the channel when I see physical abuse done to a human being. I did also feel a bit slow of a pace to where it was going for almost half the book, but felt invested in the protagonist Isobel who'd escaped from London by ship, fleeing to Scotland away from an arranged marriage with a bad ...more
E.J. Randolph
May 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I wasn't sure what to expect. As a kid I read a lot of historical novels. Then I studied history and could no longer stand to read historical fiction that basically put someone of today in historical costume eating historical foods. But this book is good. The author tried her best to get into the mindset of the people of the age she is writing about. I loved her mixing of the old and newer religions. It happened that way in many places. To this day where my ancestors came from in Northern Scandi ...more
Apr 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Amazing story you must read

Amazing story. I really enjoyd it and then all thetorture horror pain tears from that grizzly witch bit. At least it turned about a little at the end.
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Ailish Sinclair trained as a dancer and taught dance for many years. She now lives beside a loch with her husband and two children where she writes, dances and eats a lot of cake (chocolate).

Her historical novel, THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR, featuring the 1597 Scottish witchcraft panic, is out now.

FIREFLIES AND CHOCOLATE, a story inspired by the kidnapped children of 18th century Aberdeen, is out Sp

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Ashley Poston made her name with Once Upon a Con, a contemporary series set in the world of fandom, and her two-part space opera, Heart of...
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