- File Size: 1304 KB
- Print Length: 221 pages
- Publisher: GWL Publishing (October 18, 2019)
- Publication Date: October 18, 2019
- Sold by: Amazon.com Services LLC
- Language: English
- ASIN: B07XH2FV98
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
- Word Wise: Enabled
- Lending: Enabled
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #162,285 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
The Mermaid and The Bear Kindle Edition
An Amazon Book with Buzz: "House of Earth and Blood" by Sarah J. Maas
"Truly epic" - Laurell K. Hamilton Learn more
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With a topic of witch trials, I somewhat dreaded a heavy and dark read, but the description - and my experience from reading Ailish Sinclair's delightful blog - led me to believe the romance and style of the book would suit my appreciation of well told tales and sweet romance, as well. The pairing was artfully done!
The horrors of the Aberdeen witch trials were not diminished, but were delivered in a way that stayed true to the narrating character's sweet heart. The reasons and religious views that fueled the fires of conflict in that period (and beyond) were presented in a well-rounded way that allowed the reader to both abhor the incidents and forgive the misguided. The points (and characters) were well illustrated when showing that some darker accusers were not acting as religiously correct (or misled), but were rather using the confusion and religious/political unrest to play out the desires of their corrupted - perhaps even evil - selves.
I will definitely recommend this book, and I'm looking forward to more novels from this lively, thoughtful and enjoyable voice.
I chose this book from the review team list because I've loved looking at the author's marvellous photos of Scotland on her website for some years now; I hoped that anyone so artistic and with such a love for the area in which this story is set would be a fine writer too, though this doesn't necessarily follow, of course—but I'm pleased to say that I was not disappointed.
The Mermaid and The Bear is listed as a historical romance, but it's much more than that. At first, after protagonist Isobell escaped her London betrothal to 'Wicked Richard' and headed for a Scottish castle to work as a kitchen maid, I wondered if the book would be too 'twee' for me; beautifully written and a good example of its type, but I thought it would follow the well-trodden romance novel path of misunderstandings and awkward situations before the lovers come together, and that would be that. I was so wrong! Although the relationship is an important part of the story arc, it is not the sole focus.
Ailish Sinclair's portrayal of 16th century, wild rural Scotland is quite magical. On one recent evening I was curled up in bed, head on cushions and lights dimmed, and I found that I was revelling in every description of the countryside, the day-to-day life at the castle (particularly the Christmas revellry; this made me long to be in the book myself!), the suggestion of ancient spirituality, and the hopes and dreams of the characters. Suddenly I realised that I'd gone from thinking 'yes, this is a pleasant enough, easy-read' to 'I'm loving this'.
From about half-way through, the book becomes very dark indeed, as the witch-hunts of the time rear their gruesome head; there is a strong sense of good versus evil. This is where, for me, it became even more interesting.
Much of the locals' dialogue is written in the Scottish dialect, but this is not overdone, so it didn't become irritating to read at all—it just added authenticity. I liked how Isobell's inner thoughts and conversation took on the Scottish words and phraseology gradually, over time, as would be the case. Her development over the course of the story is so realistic, and the Laird of the castle is the sort of character you can't help falling a little bit in love with. The notes at the back add interest to the whole novel, too.
If you adore historical fiction, especially set in the 16th century, I'd recommend this book without hesitation. If you're a bit 'hmm' about historical romance, I would still recommend it, without a doubt—and this is coming from someone who usually runs a mile from any variation on the romance genre. Go buy it. Now.
Top international reviews
What Sinclair is able to do is write contentment and happiness with verve, making it engrossing in a way that is far harder to do than she makes it look. I had a hunch fairly early on the direction in which this story was going and at least for the first three quarters of the book, on many levels, it was not a surprise. Generally, that doesn’t endear me to a story as I like surprises and unpredictability, but the sheer quality of the writing, the level of detail in the world building and the cast of varied and interesting characters meant that I couldn’t put this down.
However, during the last part of the book I genuinely didn’t know where it was going. There is a core of grittiness at the heart of this book, which despite the celebration of strong love and friendship, also examines the consequences of bitter envy, greed and lust.
What happens when you become a victim of such people? How do you deal with the aftermath? These are gnarly questions that Sinclair didn’t sidestep for the sake of a cosy read and this beguiling, wonderful book is the richer for it. I will be looking out for this author – this is an accomplished story by a gifted storyteller and highly recommended.
The plot was well developed and follows Isobell’s story as she sails to Scotland to escape a wicked man. We’re introduced to a colourful cast of characters from the motherly cook, Bessie Thom, to the charismatic Thomas Manteith whose combined actions lull you into a false sense of contentment. As I was reading about the joyous developments for Isobell there was this undercurrent that told me something was about to change.
The twist at the end was brutal, graphic, and yes, I shed a tear or two. I’ve always been fascinated by the stories of the witchcraft trials, and to see how easy it was for lives to be changed forever is quite sobering. Fabulously descriptive, The Mermaid and The Bear was a delight to read. There were moments when I felt like I’d stepped into an episode of Outlander, which is no bad thing. The Scottish phrases adding to the beauty of the story.
I may have found a new favourite genre!
My review of The Mermaid and The Bear was provided for Rosie Amber’s Book Review Team. I received a copy of the book by the author in exchange for an honest review.
Well-written, easy to read, and a lovely book to curl up with at night. The witch trial scenes were more gruelling than I expected, which added a darker element to the tale and makes you appreciate just how brutal life was for women living during this period.
The themes of spirituality, faith, and friendship run throughout the book and are all bound together by the central love story. I'm not ashamed to admit to shedding a tear (p202), as I was so wrapped up in the characters and their stories.
Recommended reading for anyone who loves romance, folklore and free spirits.
As a young lass finding her feet in a new place, Isobell soon finds an ally in the cook, Bessie Thom. Through her chats with Bessie, readers find out more about the Laird and the Manteith family. And the more Isobell finds out about the elusive Laird and his son, the more she comes to like them, and indeed a chance meeting with Thomas Manteith sets in motion events that change everything.
With beautifully flowing narrative, it’s not difficult to get caught up in the story. Rich, atmospheric descriptions bring the scenes alive, readers can see the delights that Bessie and Isobell create to serve at the feasts, can feel the crispness of the cool air and waters of the loch.
The characters are brought to life so well, each of their individual personalities become so real as they develop from being mere names on a page. I found myself becoming infuriated by the actions of some, feeling appreciation for others, and will admit that I did find a fondness towards others.
This wonderful magical tale then takes a deviation towards the darkness and from here Sinclair’s research and writing really shines. Her portrayal of 16th century Scotland is entrancing, and the details of the witch-hunts taking place in that time are fascinating. Taking inspiration from events that took place in Aberdeen during this time, Sinclair has highlighted a horrific world where power wielded over innocent people under the guise of religion or witchery. The actions of those heading up the hunts were deplorable, but at the time, this was accepted as the “norm”, there was little understanding of things fell outside these parameters.
Although there is a romantic arc to the plot, there is so much more to this book and I would urge any fans of historical fiction involving tales of witchcraft to look into reading this book.
I also noticed a number of grammatical errors which should have been flagged up by the publisher before publishing the book. Several sentences had extra words which hadn't been deleted - i. e. the Laird took a 'book from his beneath his coat'. - which at time distracted from the story.
Overall it was a good story, but it didn't suck me in and I don't think I'll be reading any more from this author. Sorry.