Friday, October 21, 2011

Island of the Swans by Ciji Ware

A Passionate, Flamboyant Duchess and a Cruel Twist of Fate.....

Jane Maxwell, the fourth Duchess of Gordon, was one of the most influential women of her time--a patroness of poet Robert Burns, advisor to King George and friend to Queen Charlotte, the mastermind behind her husband's political success, and a rival of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire.

Rich in historical detail, passion, and intrigue, Ciji Ware's Island of the Swans paints a fascinating portrait of one of the most celebrated and controversial beauties of eighteenth-century England.

my thoughts:

I spent quite a bit of time savoring this fascinating portrait of the historical figure, Jane Maxwell, (who became the fourth Duchess of Gordon) and I loved every page! Ciji Ware did a wonderful job of capturing the historical and social details of the time period spanning 1760 - 1797 while weaving in the heartbreaking fictional account of her great first love, Thomas Fraser. From beautiful Scottish landscapes to plantations in Maryland, this rich and dramatic tale of lost love and secret longing kept me glued to the pages!

As young people, Jane and her true love, Thomas Fraser, planned to marry....but Jane's ambitious mother and Thomas' godfather, Simon Fraser, have other plans. The Frasers lost their lands and titles after the defeat at Culloden, and the Master of Lovat devises a scheme to train his godson in military skills to receive a commission in the Black Watch -- a regiment sent to fight in the Colonies. Through this maneuver, the Frasers would have influence with the king to get back what was rightly theirs. Declaring their love for each other and dreaming of their future marriage, Thomas leaves for his duty....but fate is cruel. Their marriage can never be and Jane painfully tries to put the hurtful past aside and forge ahead with life. She is indeed a strong and beautiful woman, intelligent and charismatic, and if she had not been deeply affected by her first love, perhaps her marriage would have been a happy and successful one. On the surface, the Duke and Duchess of Gordon seemed to have everything - children, beautiful homes, a prestigious place in society, a comfortable attraction to each other - yet complete peace and happiness eludes them as they are both haunted by ghosts from the past.

The only place that Jane finds a bit of peace and solace is at Kinrara, one of her smaller homes near Loch-an-Eilean:

"....a body of water in the shape of a perfect oval sapphire. A small
green island on which stood a miniature, vine-covered fortress, studded
its center like a precious emerald jewel. Sun poured down on the center
of the loch, leaving the gravel beaches at its edge shrouded in billowing
mist. ....Two large white swans, their necks arching proudly, swam in a
stately procession from a thicket of reeds, encircling the castle walls."

If you'd like to know why this is an enchanting place for Jane, you must read Island of the Swans for is not to be missed! It's going right next to A Cottage by the Sea as my favorites from Ciji Ware.

5/5 stars Highly recommended

Title: Island of the Swans
Author: Ciji Ware
Sourcebooks 2010
579 pages
genre: historical fiction


Julie at Outlandish Dreaming said...

I'm so pleased you loved this book too! Now you know why Jane's Island was the first place I went to as soon as I arrived in Scotland!

What do you think of the connection she made with Cottage by the Sea? I was a little bit miffed by it! Poor Thomas, if you ask me! This is my favorite C.J. Ware book, though I loved A Race a lot too!

Melissa @ Confessions of an Avid Reader said...

Lovely review, Joanne. Good thing I've already got this book waiting for me on my shelf :-)

Joanne said...

Julie -- Now I can connect your pictures and words at the Island of the Swans with the story of Jane must have been absolutely stunning to see in person and experience the beauty and tranquility of the landscape!! You know, you have such a great memory -- I have to go back and reread the ending of A Cottage by the Sea to remember all the details of what happens to Antrim mind is fuzzy on the facts! :( I still have A Race to Splendour to read, too!

Melissa - You will love it -- promise! :)

Svea Love said...

Excellent review, Joanne! This has been my favorite novel by Ciji Ware. The detail and intense emotion was simply stunning. So glad you found it to be just as wonderful!

Danielle said...

Since I, too, absolutely loved A Cottage By The Sea, perhaps it is time that I gave Island Of The Swans a chance. I have had an older edition on my bookshelves forever but somehow never quite got around to mustering up sufficient interest - afraid, I think, that the sum of it would be too weepily depressing. But your ringing endorsement is making the story sound more rich and sweeping than I had imagined, so I think I may just dust it off and place it on my desk in my "next few reads"-stack. Thank you for the inspiration :-)

Joanne said...

Hi Svea -- Yes, I think this is Ware's best...her jewel in the crown.

Danielle -- It's really not a depressing book at all as Jane Maxwell is such a strong and vibrant character who meets her challenges head on. It's a poignant story yet you always know Jane's strength and determination will sustain her throughout her lifetime.

Pam (@iwriteinbooks) said...

Wow what a glowing and delightful review! I haven't come across this before now. It looks lovely.

Unknown said...

I only recently read my first Ware book (A Race to Splendor) and LOVED it - the style, the descriptions, the characters. I will have to pick up this one now too. Can't wait to see the rival of Georgiana from a different angle. Thanks for the review.

Staci said...

I loved your review of this one. I bought it for my Kindle when it was like 2.99 or something. Even though I wasn't crazy about Midnight on Julia Street, I really feel that I'll love this one!

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