Authors Showcase: Highland Lass by Rosemary Gemmell

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The Book: Highland Lass

The Author: Rosemary Gemmell

The Story: Eilidh Campbell returns to her Scottish roots from America with one burning ambition: to discover the identity of her real father. But her mother’s past in Inverclyde is a mystery with family secrets, a book of Robert Burns’ poems with a hidden letter and a photograph link to the Holy Loch at Dunoon when the American Navy were in residence.

Staying with her childhood friend, Kirsty, while searching for answers, Eilidh begins to fall in love with handsome Scot Lewis Grant, but just how divorced is he? Together they trace the story of Highland Mary and Robert Burns, with its echoes to her mother’s story. From Dunoon, to Ayrshire and culminating in Greenock, Eilidh finds the past is closer than she realises

Reviw by Cynthia Harrison:

Rosemary Gemmell
Rosemary Gemmell

Determined and quietly courageous Eilidh Campbell never knew her father. At age 12, she traveled with her mother from Scotland to America, where they made a new life. Despite her mother’s refusal to identify her father, Eilidh was happy enough as a bookstore owner with an avid interest in all things Scottish. Then, when Eilidh is in her thirties, mother dies and daughter finds a clue to father’s identity. It leads her home to Scotland.

This finely layered novel evokes place with vivid realism, both in contemporary Scotland and in the past, with a compelling parallel story featuring Scottish poet Robert Burns and his “highland lass” Mary Campbell. As Eilidh searches down the clues to her own heritage, she also delves into the historical records of Burns and Campbell, teasing out a seemingly innocuous link between the two Campbell families.

Helping Eilidh with this task is her “cute meet” crush, history professor Lewis. Delicate echoes of the Burns and Campbell romance resonate for the contemporary couple, making those 18th Century chapters even more poignant. I’d not heard the story of Mary Campbell and Robert Burns, and this novelistic retelling is so splendidly wrought it could stand on its own, yet adds delicious foreshadowing to the Eilidh and Lewis plot.

Lewis is an intriguing character, both charming and mysterious, and readers, knowing how the tale of Burns and Campbell ends, will anxiously anticipate the unfolding of Eilidh and Lewis’s love. Yet there’s more: the primary reason Eilidh has traveled across the pond. Her initial goal was to find her father. Author Rosemary Gemmell does not disappoint, delivering a masterful and deeply poignant resolution.

Review by J Fleming:

Rosemary Gemmell has succeeded in telling two stories which, at times, seem to merge into one, yet they remain distinct. The contemporary romance of Eilidh and Lewis runs parallel to the historical (fictional) story of the love affair between Highland Mary and Scottish poet Rabbie Burns.

The skilful structure of the book ensures there is no confusion between the two stories. The 18th century tale is told in short chapters, in the present tense using the first person; the reader follows Eilidh’s romance with Lewis in longer alternate chapters, using the past tense and the third person; quotes from Burns’ writings link the two together.

When Eilidh returns to Scotland to trace her roots, the tale of her romance unfolds, but it is only towards the end of the novel that the reader discovers if it will be doomed – as Highland Mary’s love for Burns was.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel with its convincing characters, interesting plot and its setting in the beautiful west of Scotland

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