By Elizabeth Hutchison Bernard
Publication Date: January 19, 2023
I love a novel comped to Outlander so I had high hopes going into this book. They were partially fulfilled.
Sibell and Constance Mackenzie were close as sisters growing up at Castle Leod, despite having opposite temperaments. Sibell was quiet and reserved, preferring the company of books and her dog to other people. Constance was free-spirited and athletic, always doing what she wanted despite how shocking it was. But when Sibell inherits her father’s land, wealth, and title, another wedge is driven between them; this one, they might not be able to overcome.
Throughout Sibell’s life, as she begins a family and tries to process her own history and how it affects her present, she struggles to connect with her sister and relive those halcyon days in the Castle before wealth and title drove them apart.
This is not an easy book to summarize because there’s a lot more happening than what I mentioned above, but at its heart, it’s a story about the conflict between two sisters. Set in the last years of the 19th century and running into the early 20th century, the historical fiction aspects of this novel are wonderful. Sibell’s thought process and paranoias might seem odd to us today, but were really well done considering the time period and her upbringing. The writing itself is confident and brings this era and part of the world to life. I’ve added visiting the Scottish Highlands back to my bucket list. And I have to applaud the author on basing the entire book on the life of real people. I tend to shy away from that, afraid I’ll get something factually incorrect.
However, I think this novel tried to tackle too much. My expectation going in was that the focus would be on Sibell and Constance. For a bit, that’s where the plot line stayed. Then it meandered between Sibell’s personal life and tragedy, then brought Constance back in again before trotting off to cover reincarnation and a potential romance that had almost no bearing on previous plot points, only to leave that behind and settle once again on Sibell’s family, her writing ambitions, and finally, back to Constance. The end result, for me, was that there was so much territory that the author tried to cover, I didn’t know what was meant to be important and wound up feeling like everything got skimmed over. Personally, I would have loved to have seen this novel cover a shorter time span and have the chapters alternate between Sibell’s and Constance’s points of view to give us the opportunity to really get to know them.
Still, a lovely book even if it didn’t meet my expectations.
3/5 stars ⭐⭐⭐
Thank you to Booksirens for providing the ARC ebook. I’ve left my review honestly and voluntarily.
Until next time, thank you for visiting.