This is the first Linda Gillard novel I have ever read. I was attracted to it by the fact that it was compared with Daphne Du Maurier’s classic, Rebecca, and by its rather gothic cover which was intriguing.
Imogen Ryan, a successful novelist, has turned to ghost-writing for other people as J J Ryan, after a very difficult time in her own life. After deliberately keeping quiet about her gender, she is hired by the famous explorer and adventurer, Sholto McNab, to tell his story. Jenny travels to Sholto’s ancestral home, Cauldstane, a castle in the highlands of Scotland, to begin work on the book, and is made welcome by the laird’s family – his two sons, Alec and Fergus, his sister Zelda, and loyal housekeeper Wilma. She soon wins over the laird himself, despite his initial reluctance to hire a woman, and begins work on his story, interviewing him daily as he recounts his adventures both exploring the world and at home. Sholto has been married twice and both wives died tragically. Alec, his eldest son, was also married but his wife met a tragic end, too. Fergus is unmarried and it seems he will remain so. Before long, Jenny hears of the family motto, “Let Fear be Far from All” and the reason for it – the McNab curse.
As she becomes involved in the lives of the family and grows to love the castle itself, Jenny finds herself in grave danger – because someone at the castle doesn’t want her there, and that person is determined to get her out of the way, whatever it takes.
I was drawn into this book from the beginning. The idea of a remote Scottish castle, a curse, and a family who have suffered, and continue to suffer, because of it, was irresistible. Each character was interesting and the castle was a character itself, beautifully described and so crucial to the story that I found myself rooting for its survival.
Cauldstane is more than it appears at first. It is a ghost story, a love story, and also a study in fear and what that fear can do to a family living in its shadow. Can a curse destroy your life, even if you don’t believe in it? As Jenny sees the family members losing faith and all hope, and faces the real possibility that Cauldstane will be lost to the McNabs, she has to somehow remind them of their family motto, and together they have to deal with their fears and find a way to defeat them once and for all.
At the heart of the story is the love between Jenny and Alec, Sholto’s eldest son, who carries a burden that threatens to destroy him. He is well-written, noble, proud and honourable and I found myself quite falling for him. I’m a sucker for a laird, or even a laird-in-waiting it seems.
I am thrilled to have found a new author (to me) with several other novels that I can now download and enjoy. I read Cauldstane over the course of two evenings and it was with a heavy heart that I said goodbye to the castle and its wonderful inhabitants and closed down my Kindle. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it. 5/5
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