Sunday, March 21, 2010

Here Burns My Candle by Liz Curtis Higgs

book cover

Here Burns My Candle
by Liz Curtis Higgs

Trade Paperback: 465 pages
Publisher: WaterBrook Multnomah
First Released: 2010

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Source: This was book was provided as a review copy by WaterBrook Multnomah.

Back Cover Description (highly modified):
One by one the Kerr family secrets begin to surface when bonny Prince Charlie and his rebel army ride into Edinburgh in September 1745 intent on capturing the crown.

Lady Elisabeth Kerr is a Highlander by birth and a Lowlander by marriage. She secretly supports Prince Charlie, and she hides her worship of the moon, the Nameless One, from her Christian husband and family.

Her husband, Lord Donald, feels shamed by his past indiscretions against his wife, which his family doesn't suspect but the town gossips whisper about. He wishes to please his wife and to do something noble for once.

His mother, the dowager Lady Marjory, hides guilt inside her heart. Her two passions are maintaining her place in society and coddling her grown sons, but Marjory’s many regrets continue to plague her.

A story of love and betrayal, loss and redemption, flickering against the vivid backdrop of eighteenth-century Scotland, Here Burns My Candle illumines the dark side of human nature, even as hope lights the way home.

Here Burns My Candle is a historical general fiction set in 1745 in Scotland. The novel was described to me as a retelling of the Biblical book of Ruth. However, you could read this novel and never catch the resemblance if you weren't already looking for it. This is partly because the novel covered only the first eighteen verses of Ruth. I was expected a poverty-to-riches love story and got a tragedy about a rich family self-destructing instead.

Taking the novel on it's own merits instead of by what I was expecting, it's very well-written. The characters were complex and had realistic struggles. The historical details covered the politics of the time down to the tiniest detail of manners without getting heavy-handed. These details were woven skillfully into the story as needed.

The pacing seemed a bit slow in spots, but that might have been because I was expecting certain events and the story didn't seem to be moving fast enough for those events to occur.

Some Scottish words were used in the novel, but I never had a problem figuring out what was meant. However, there was a glossary in the very back for those who need it.

The religious content was mainly the characters quoting from the Pslams, a few, brief prayers to God and a number of more detailed prayers to the moon, and Elisabeth changing her allegiance from a god who failed her to a new one. Jesus was never mentioned.

There was no bad language. There was no explicit sex. Overall, I'd recommend it as well-written, clean reading.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt from Chapter One
Milne Square, Edinburgh
14 September 1745

Lady Marjory Kerr heard a frantic tapping at the bedchamber door, then her name, spoken with marked urgency.

“News from the Royal Bank, mem.”

At this hour? Marjory lifted her head from the pillow, her gaze drawn to the wooden shutters, closed for the night. The coals in the fireplace had faded to a dull glow. She squinted but could not read the clock on the mantelpiece. Had she slept at all?

“What is it, Peg?” Marjory called out.

Her maidservant answered in a breathless rush of words, “They’re moving the bank’s effects to the castle.”

The hair on the back of Marjory’s neck rose. Transporting money and documents from the foot of New Bank Close to Edinburgh Castle involved a long climb up a winding street where brigands and thieves lurked in the shadows. The Royal Bank would never embark on so risky a venture. Not unless the day’s alarming reports had proven true.

“ ’Tis the Hielanders,” Peg whispered through the crack in the door as if the word itself might bring a hoard of savages thundering up the stair, brandishing their swords. “Folk say the rebel army will reach Linlithgow by morn.”

At that, Marjory flung off her bedcovers, any notion of sleep forgotten. Linlithgow Palace was less than twenty miles west. The army was too near her door. And far too near her sons, one of whom stood ready to bear arms at the slightest provocation. Was there nothing she could say to dissuade him?

She hurried across the carpet barefooted, too distraught to hunt for her brocade slippers. All of Edinburgh had followed the ominous approach of the Highland rebels led by their bonny Prince Charlie. Determined to reclaim the British throne for his exiled father, James—Jacobus in Latin—the young prince and his loyal Jacobites were marching toward Scotland’s capital, intent on capturing the city.

Read the rest of chapter one.

1 comment:

Genre Reviewer said...

When I was talking with Liz for an Author Quirk's interview, she told me this interesting fact:

"You mentioned in your review that 'Jesus' was never mentioned by name in my novel. That's absolutely true! It's because in 1745 religious folk would have referred to "Almighty God" or "the Almighty" or "the Lord," but would not have used the name "Jesus" in the familiar manner that we do today. Just didn't want you to think I was ashamed of His glorious Name!"

Having read some of her nonfiction, I was a bit puzzled by the lack of His name in this book, though that's not why I mentioned it. :)