Lowlands of Scotland
This series, written by Liz Curtis Higgs, is historical fiction based in Scotland. The books are Thorn in My Heart, Fair is the Rose, and Whence Came a Prince (there is another book called Grace in Thine Eyes that takes place probably 16 years later, but it can be a stand alone). Since the characters are Scottish they speak a little differently then us, so they ken rather than know and say things like dinna fash yourself to mean don’t be worried or vexed. And they say och! a lot. The story of this book reflects the story of Jacob, Leah, and Rachel in the Bible. If you know the story, then you might be thinking, but isn’t Jacob a polygamist? How is that supposed to work in the 18th century? Well, we’ll see.
In the first book, Thorn in My Heart, we see Jamie, under the influence of his mother, tricking his father into giving him the inheritance over his twin brother. He escapes to his uncle Lachlan’s house afterward, under the guise of trying to find a wife. His options are his cousins, Leana and Rose. Leana is twenty, kind, not very pretty, rather weak. Rose, 15, is beautiful, selfish and spirited. Leana falls in love with Jamie but he has determined that he wants Rose as his bride. Rose tries to get Jamie to return his sister’s affections but she fails, and before you know it, it is a week before the wedding. As tradition dictates, Rose goes away for a week, not to see her fiance until the wedding. And while she is away she realizes that she loves Jamie. But there is a blizzard that everyone assumes will prevent her from making it to the wedding. And Lachlan, greedy man that he is, doesn’t want to have wasted all that money preparing for the wedding just to postpone it. So he orders that the wedding continue with Leana acting as proxy for Rose. She does this, and Jamie and Rose are now married.
But Lachlan, evil man that he is, manipulates Leana because he knows she is in love with Jamie. She goes to his bedchambers, seeing if maybe his heart turned her way. He, drunk out of his mind, thinks that she is Rose, and so Rose arrives the next day only to find her husband married to her, without her, and tricked into sleeping with her sister. To make a long story short, Lachlan strikes a deal that if Leana gets pregnant within the next few months, then they will stay married. So Leana, of course, gets pregnant, and Jamie despises her and spends all his time with Rose. After Leana gives birth, however, Jamie realizes that he has been acting wrongly and decides to start acting like a husband should, learning to love Leana, even though he doesn’t, currently.
In book two, Fair is the Rose, he eventually does come to love Leana, while Rose is doing everything possible to try and reclaim his affections. Things go terribly wrong though when Leana and Jamie are told that their marriage is not valid and that Jamie is really married to Rose (it’s a mess). Well, they have to go to the church and prove that Jamie’s intention on his wedding day was to marry Leana (which we already know is not true), and Jamie is willing to lie, but Leana cannot. And so Rose must become Jamie’s wife (with no possibility of divorce since she never committed adultery) and the mother of Leana and Jamie’s child, Ian. And Leana must stand on the stool of repentance for three Sundays in a row at church for her sin of hochmagandy, in other words, fornication.
I read all this and I probably was crying at how unfair it all was. I had been rooting for Leana since the beginning, and although she obviously went about things the wrong way, it was really all a misunderstanding. But Leana was a godly woman, and she only depended on God more and more as these books went on. She told the complete truth about what she did to the church elders even though Rose and Jamie didn’t. And when she stood on the stool of repentance in front of all the church congregants, many who scorned her and were just plain nasty to her, she was trusting in God the whole way and stood strong, repentant, and forgiving.
Thankfully many people that actually knew Leana stood by her, because even if she made a huge mistake, she was still a woman of integrity, and they knew it. They also knew that Rose was selfish, self absorbed and foolish. What hurt the most, though, was seeing how Leana had to give up her son. She ended up moving with her aunt because it was too much to bear, seeing her sister now considered as Ian’s mother. She leaves Jamie a letter telling him to let go of her and learn to love Rose.
Leana is the type of person that I would aspire to be. I felt like Jamie was a betrayer when he did what Leana asked and fell in love again with Rose. And I hated Rose. But Leana loved her and forgave her, even if Rose didn’t reciprocate. And she was unselfish enough to let go of Jamie, who she knew she would love for the rest of her life. I will say that eventually Rose began to change and even grew on me, so I didn’t hate her by the end of the third book, Whence Came a Prince. And I forgave Jamie for letting go of Leana. His character also grew as the books went on because, frankly, I only liked him because Leana did and not for any qualities that he himself possessed.
I love it when books cause you to examine yourself and imagine how you would react in certain situations. I for one had to evaluate the idea of forgiveness and even though I believe I should forgive, would I actually do it when the wrong was great? This is also why I feel that reading fiction books are not at all a waste of time because they teach you, maybe not about business or science or law, but about life.
This isn’t really a review, but I gave recommended ages for my other posts. These books, while not explicit, do deal with topics such as physical intimacy and, in Grace in Thine Eyes, rape (remember Dinah, the daughter of Jacob and Leah? That book is her story). For those reasons, I would recommend this to, well, let’s say last two years of high school and up.