What I loved about this book was how easy it was to see it unfolding in my mind, and how much it reminded me of those old black and white films, where the hero and heroine exchange snappy dialogue and circle round each other, but you just know that they are made for each other – however much she makes sarcastic comments, and however much he tries to play his cards close to his chest. This would make a great film, although preferably in colour! It has all the ingredients, after all:
Setting? The story takes place on the Scottish island of Eilean na Sgairbh, which is cut off from the mainland twice a day, and is reached by a causeway called The Narrows, so there is a fantastic setting.
Heroine? A sassy, independent, intelligent young woman called Ishabel Stuart, who has returned to the island after the death of her father – a man, it has to be said, who was not exactly easy to like. Issy returns to her Aunt Esme’s home, hoping to find peace and quiet, and some sort of refuge, with the woman who has been like a mother to her, since her own mother, Isabella Tartaruga – a famous opera singer – more or less abandoned Issy in pursuit of her career. What Issy finds is that Esme is about to leave the island for one of her “missions” and she is leaving behind a paying guest. Issy isn’t happy about having unexpected company. Not only does she have to organise the service for her father, but she has secretly broken off her engagement to her boss’s son, Jack, and also quit her job. She intends to start afresh on the island, and having to care for a house guest isn’t part of her plan.
Hero? The unwelcome house guest turns out to be Brodie, a tall, auburn-haired hunk of gorgeousness, all the way from America. Brodie is charming and friendly, and soon has the islanders eating out of his hand, not least the impressionable young Lindy, who helps Esme out at her guesthouse.
Secondary characters? Lots of them. Lindy channels various guises, refusing to accept that her future lays on the island. She is determined that one day, she will lead a more glamorous life. When Issy arrives home, Lindy is being Lola, who intends to head back to the USA with Brodie. There are plenty of other characters who add colour and cause amusement, too. Irene runs The Pickled Herring pub, and plenty of fun is to be had within those walls. Then there’s Mary Tennant who is Lindy’s long-suffering mother, running the post office with very little help from her flighty daughter. Best of all, there’s Pershing the parrot, whose vocabulary is colourful, to say the least. Pershing seems to have a pretty good grasp of what’s going on, and provides useful commentary and unvarnished opinions at every opportunity. He also causes some damage to Brodie, which leads to quite a revelation for Issy! Issy’s parents are larger-than-life characters. Isabella, who was actually born in Scotland, has adopted the persona of the grand Italian opera singer, and is desperate to be the centre of attention wherever she goes. Then there’s Issy’s father, a successful businessman who became a lay preacher, strict and unforgiving, leaving his daughter not a single penny in his will – his shadow looms large over her life, long after he’s gone.
Plot? Ah, full of twists and turns. Secrets and lies, heartache and loss, a mission and a hidden history. A mysterious tattoo. A ruined distillery, owned by the Stuarts, which once made the fabulous Twa Burns Whisky. A cruel deception and a big surprise. It’s all there, and it unfolds beautifully through the narrative.
Romance? The best kind. It starts off with mistrust and doubt, sparks fly, passion ignites and then…Well, some romances are forever. There’s nothing so romantic as a hero who vows never to hurt the heroine, never to leave her, and to love her forever. Especially when you just know he’s speaking the truth. And I do love a hero in a kilt, not to mention that auburn hair. Sigh.
So you see, this would be a great film. For now, though, read the book and watch it all unfold in your mind’s eye. Sometimes the imagination is even better than celluloid, after all, and Lizzie Lamb’s assured writing is all you really need. Another winner. Can’t wait for book four. 5/5
You can buy Scotch on the Rocks here.