The Bluebells of Scotland

Book One
By Laura Vosika

I'm actually a bit amazed that I'm bothering with a review of a novel of such insignificant proportions, but hey, that's never stopped me before. And anyway, it's summer!

The Good. The general subject matter is fun, even if it's been done to death. No, it's not about vampires. Nary an undead to be dug up. Not even a werewolf! No, this time it's time travel to Scotland, 1300-something. In this take on a familiar subject, doppelgangers, one good, one bad, are switched while sleeping in the same castle. The good boy (Niall) is a Laird in the making, soon to be sent on a mission to find a clan leader whose aid is needed to repel a massive British invasion, a make-or-break defense of Scotland. The bad boy (Shawn) is a brilliant musician who uses and abuses everybody, but gets away with it because he's gifted, handsome, funny, and charming.

While most novelists can't help but inject a bit of their politics into their writing, the better ones keep it to a minimum. Vosika is tasteful, but her Niall is a faithful Catholic (appropriate for a Scotsman of the period), and his daily devotions, including praying to Jesus even for the Shawn he has learned to despise (seeing the fallout of his many heinous actions), are an unusual touch in a character in this agnostic, if not atheistic day and age. Moreover, there is an undertone - if you care to look for it - of concern for the unborn, as Niall learns that Shawn has demanded his girlfriend undergo an abortion, and Shawn lives to regret it as he develops a man's sense of duty and honor in his new (old!) life.

The story is fast-paced, and the tried-and-true formula of  learning about yourself by observing yourself - whether you want to or not - never fails to fascinate.

The Bad (and the Ugly). Well, ok, Vosika isn't the best writer in the world. She used the world "flash" or "flashed" about 10 times in the first two pages. I kid you not. Eyes flashed, hooves flashed, a dirk flashed, everything was flashing.  Then she couldn't make up her mind if Scots said "doona" or "dinna" in dialect. (Generally, most writers opt for "dinna," but that's neither here nor there. She just needs to pick one and stick to it!) For that matter, it's unlikely that Scots in the 1300s were speaking English with Scottish accents, anyway, particularly if they were Highlanders.

One of my great laments in general about current novels is the lack of good (or any) editing. Most writers need an editor. As writers, we have a difficult time hacking words out of our own copy, or recognizing holes in our plotlines. In this case, Vosika could have use some gentle prodding to expand her vocabulary, and to be told when enough is enough.

She spends way too much time telling us about Shawn's sick tummy (to the point where I was starting to feel a little nauseous) following his time displacement. And if I heard one more time about his heart (or his head) hammering a "timpani" I was going to send her a polite note suggesting there were other options for making her point. Beating that particular, er, drum, got to be a bit tedious.

Still, the book is a great beach read: easy to pick up and put down, it doesn't demand a lot of mental energy and it does amuse and lightly satisfy. And yes, I will be reading the rest of the series. I do have to find out what happens, dinna I?


DonCrossett said…
Hi Nancy-
This is a round about way of contacting you! I want to tell you I enjoyed your performance as Grace Crouse a few weeks ago. I have a blog - The Eclectic Fencepost - and I did a post on the Ghost Walk, in which you are featured (picture and all). Thought you would like to check it out. I also enjoy your columns in Table Hopping. And I wish Point n' Click were back.
Don Crossett

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