The Vanished Days by Susanna Kearsley

The Vanished Days cover

The Vanished Days by the Canadian author Susanna Kearsley is a prequel to her book The Winter Sea which I haven’t read, but I think this one can quite happily be read as a standalone. The setting is mainly Edinburgh 1707, the Union of Scotland and England, something which most ordinary Scots didn’t agree with but the ‘aristocracy’ sold the country for their own gain, so there’s discontent in the country. The tale loops back to the 1690s from time to time, and the disastrous Darien Venture which more or less bankrupted the country and led to the union with England. It’s suspected that the whole thing was an English plot. It was such a nice change to be reading about a different part of Scottish history as most authors stick to writing about the 1745 ‘Rebellion’, as if nothing else of significance ever happened in Scotland. Rebellion is in the air though with rumours of the French standing by to invade and help the Stewart King James III to regain the throne from the Dutch usurper King William.

Part of the settlement for the union is that England will provide money to pay off debts incurred because of the Darien scheme, including payments to the dependents of those who had lost their lives in Jamaica. Lily Aitcheson (Graeme) comes forward to claim her late husband’s wages, and Adam Williamson a former soldier has the job of investigating her claim, it’s suspected that she wasn’t actually married to her husband. But Adam is attracted to Lily and becomes embroiled in her life. There are lots of surprises along the way. This is not the sort of book that you could call a light read, but I loved it.

I was sent a digital copy of this book for review by Simon and Schuster via Netgalley.

Season of Storms by Susanna Kearsley

Season of Storms by Susanna Kearsley was first published in 2010. It’s only the second book by her which I’ve read but I’ll definitely be reading more because this one was really good. Her writing reminds me so much of Mary Stewart and yes, even Daphne du Maurier, this one was perfect summer reading.

A young actress, Celia is given the lead part in a play which is being staged in an Italian villa. The whole idea for it has been set up by Alessandro D’Ascanio, whose grandfather wrote the play decades earlier. The villa originally belonged to D’Ascanio the elder and when his play was about to be performed originally, the leading actress disappeared the night before the performance.

Celia’s friend is a dab hand with the tarot cards and when some worrying cards turn up whilst doing Celia’s reading she advises her not to go, the cards are disastrous. But Celia hasn’t been to Italy before and there’s a trip to Venice in the offing before travelling on to the villa’s location above Lake Garda, it’s a great experience beckoning to her and she’s not going to give up on it.

The setting is a beautiful house with wonderful gardens and with Alessandro D’Ascanio turning out to be very handsome everything should be perfect, but there are strange goings-on almost as soon as she gets there and some of the other actors are a bit on the dodgy side.

The only thing about this book which annoyed me was the fact that Alessandro, who is half Italian and half English and is mainly called Alex, is forever going into rooms completely unheard, all I can say is he must have been wearing rubber soled shoes! Oh and although the setting is Italy, there was an awful lot of bad weather, just when we were having awful weather, I could really have been doing with some Mediterranean sunshine, even if only at second hand.

According to this book Oscar Wilde described travelling in a gondola on a Venetian canal as ‘like going through a sewer in a coffin’ – before that I had been thinking I was missing out on something, never having been there, I’m not so sure now!

The Shadowy Horses by Susanna Kearsley

My thanks go to Peggy Ann for pointing me in the direction of this book. I really enjoyed it. Again, it’s set in Scotland so it’s not exactly exotic for me, but although Susanna Kearsley is actually Canadian she did very well at getting the correct speech patterns and of course the book is sprinkled with a plethora of Scots words.

Verity Grey is a young, ambitious English archaeologist who is travelling to a dig near Eyemouth in the Scottish Borders. Peter Quinnell is in charge of the dig, he’s getting on in years and the archaelogical world sees him as a bit of a nutter, but Peter is determined to be taken seriously and he has the money to pay for plenty of assistants.

Peter is looking for the lost Ninth Roman Legion. Although there is no evidence of any Roman camp in the area, Peter is sure there is one because young Robbie, a local 8 year old who has the ‘second sight’ has seen a Roman soldier walking around in the fields.

This book did remind me of Mary Stewart and Rosemary Sutcliff, which can’t be bad. It’s a mixture of mystery, history and the supernatural and has romance thrown in for good measure. I could quite happily do without the romance but I understand that for a lot of people the romance will be the most important aspect of the book. I must admit that I think I have a 10 year old boy stuck in me somehow as my reaction to romance is generally yeuch – but it’s probably something to do with me having been married for a very long time indeed!

You might know that I never see anything as being perfect – in fact I don’t think perfection is possible or even desirable, so here are my few gripes.

I could have been doing with a bit more description of scenery, but that goes for nearly every book which I read. The other thing is my bugbear because although the author says that she had the book checked to make sure that there were no mistakes in her Scots I have to report that one did get through the checkers – and it was on page 300. It’s not the first time that I’ve found this mistake in Scots and in fact the word might have been ‘corrected’ by an English editor. That has happened before I know, and I happen to know that the author involved had words with his editor who realised that he had been wrong and it was put back to the original version. I am of course speaking about – amn’t I, because there are not only Scots words but also Scots grammar and there is just no way that a Scottish lad from Eyemouth would be saying – ‘I’m a finds assistant, aren’t I, Miss Grey?’ Of course he should have said amn’t I.

What’s she making a fuss about? I hear you say. But it is important that we don’t lose the correct way to speak Scots and it is in danger of being wiped out because from time to time Scottish actors do occasionally say aren’t I on TV, obviously because they aren’t confident enough to say to the director that it’s wrong. They should because it sounds awful in a Scots accent, but more than that we will get Scottish youngsters speaking like that because someone on the telly did, and I happen to think that the Scots language is every bit as important as the Gaelic language, so we have to be vigilant otherwise it will disappear and we will be left with just an accent rather than a dialect and language.

As my m-i-l grew up in Eyemouth I know for sure that it isn’t some kind of weird anomaly that they speak in an English way there. She definitely said amn’t I despite the fact that she was a daughter of the rectory, meaning that her father was the minister of the Scottish Episcopal Church there, and they were always seen as being a bit posh/snooty/English!

Of course the same goes for all languages, they are mobile to an extent but it can be taken too far. Another of my pet hates is the English word fulsome – well I don’t hate the word but I hate the fact that people use it completely wrongly. We’re always hearing people on TV speaking about ‘fulsome praise’ – when they mean that someone or something has been praised a lot. However the word fulsome means – cloying, excessive, disgusting by excess, which is a very different meaning altogether. Honestly, look it up if you don’t believe me. Call me Mrs Pedantic if you like, I don’t mind!

Anyway that’s my rant over, to get back to the book, I’ll be looking for more books by Susanna Kearsley in the future and if you are doing a Canadian reading challenge, which I’m not, remember that she is a Canadian author.