Thursday, February 18, 2010

Book Review: Island of the Swans by Ciji Ware

 


Synopsis: (From the Publisher)
Re-issued in its original full length, this acclaimed and bestselling romantic historical novel by award-winning author Ciji Ware tells the true story of passionate and flamboyant Jane Maxwell, the 4th Duchess of Gordon (1749-1812). In love since childhood with Thomas Fraser, when she hears that he's been killed in America, she marries the Duke of Gordon with disastrous results. But Fraser, very much alive, returns to England to claim her love.

In addition to telling a heart-wrenching love story, Island of the Swans also paints a fascinating portrait of a powerful and controversial woman and the tumultuous era in which she lived. Patroness of poet Robert Burns, advisor to King George, painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds, Jane Maxwell was a towering figure in her own time and is an unforgettable heroine.


My Review:
In this epic story of tragic love, the life of Jane Maxwell the 4th Duchess of Gordon is reviled to us in a spectacular way. Rich in historical accuracy and detail, Jane Maxwell comes to life as you read her story.

Jane Maxwell was a child who loved adventure, this was quickly apparent in one of the opening scenes, when we find Jane pig racing with her little sister through the center of town. Of course her mother was very displeased after finding out about the race and the horrible accident that occurred afterward. Jane and her mother never saw eye to eye on anything. While Jane wanted a happy life full of love, her mother only cared for titles and riches and aimed to use her daughter to obtain them. Thomas Fraser, Jane's best friend and childhood sweetheart, was the main obstacle in her mothers grand aspirations for Jane's marriage. Jane cared little for her mothers displeasure of Thomas; and being very opinionated and stubborn, Jane secretly agreed to marry Thomas as soon as possible. Unfortunately their happy secret would not come to pass. Due to plotting between Jane's mother and Thomas's Uncle, Thomas was soon sent to America as a solider. Soon after Thomas left, Jane received the heartbreaking news that Thomas had been killed in battle.

Jane threw herself into deep mourning for Thomas and completely disengaged from all society. Only when Alexander, the 4th Duke of Gordon, offered her his friendship and felt sympathy for her heartbreak did she begin to live again. Things moved quickly between Jane and Alex; and with her mothers constant pushing, a wedding was soon underway. Everything seemed wonderful for the newly wed couple as they embarked on their honeymoon and traveled to Gordon Castle. Alas, their bliss was short lived. Jane soon received a letter informing her that Thomas was still alive and on his way back to Scotland and her...

A tragic love triangle quickly ensued, with its intensity never seeming to cease. Spanning two decades, we read about the immense hurt they cause each other and their constant struggle for reconciliation.


This was an excellent and moving book. There are so many emotions felt as you read Jane's story. It was told in such a captivating way that you find yourself lost in the characters struggle for happiness and love. This is definitely a book I could see as an epic movie; right up there with Gone With the Wind. In the authors note at the beginning of the book, we are told that a full-length biography of Jane Maxwell does not exist. Therefore, I definitely have to give a huge thank you to Ciji Ware for bringing the historical figure of Jane Maxwell to life in such a remarkable way.
 

A Little Extra:
I have been able to interview the very talented Ciji Ware; and she has some wonderful things to share with us about Island of the Swans! Please check it out here.


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