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Carpe Librum

Bookish conversation with author Samantha Wilcoxson.


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Historical Novel Society

Review: Scotch Rising by SJ Garland

Scotch Rising (Markinch Series) (Volume 1) - S J Garland Scotch Rising is an interesting selection of historical fiction taking place in Scotland in the early 18th century. Some of the storyline also refers to early America and the English Civil War. By the end of the book, I found myself rather attached to the main character though it had taken some time to warm up to him. This is a novel worth sticking with. Captain Esmond Clyde-Dalton (maybe it's the name that takes some getting used to) has recently returned to England from the New World after a scandal that led to his imprisonment. While his backstory is slowly revealed, he is sent to Scotland to serve as excise officer in the Highlands. Once he is there, he becomes embroiled in murder investigations, betrayal, mystery, and rebellion - much more than he had in mind as a tax collector. The characters that he interacts with include friendly Beathan, his strong-minded but petite sister Philomena, and lovable scamp Kieran. Each was developed into a realistic and enjoyable addition to the story . . . when I could understand what they were saying. Garland takes the Scottish dialect a little too far in his writing, making some excerpts almost imperceptible. For example: "och, here is the gauger newly from London, and we hae Clunes making couthy with him, nae respect fur the fact it's our labour going intae those taxes." Yeah, that took a few rereads. Other selections were lovely, but could have used a little bit of an edit: "The terrible days of civil war only lived in the memories of boys reading texts now, as the men who fought had taken their places in the grave. Families pitted against one another, the shame of regicide still hangs over our Parliament like a plague, a generation of honourable men dead, only to return a king to his thrown, a terrible waste." The action moved a little slowly through the first half of this book, and Esmond's past was revealed at slightly awkward intervals. Other reviewers point out that he has a few too many close-call adventures. Maybe, but I enjoyed that part. The last 10% of this book was the most enjoyable for me and encouraged me to look for the next volume. An well researched look into the early 1700s, Scotch Rising introduces a series with good potential.