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Book Review: Island of the Swans by Ciji Ware

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Jane Maxwell (1749-1812) a recalcitrant and headstrong young girl developed into a politically active, powerful, charming and always fashionable woman of wit, as the 4th Duchess of Gordon. As the story opens, Jane, frustrated with the role of dutiful daughter, argues with her mother Lady Maxwell as she demands that Jane finishes her sewing. Feisty, stubborn and full of mischief, Jane joins her sisters and childhood friend Thomas Fraser for an adventurous game of pig racing. The day proves disastrous for Jane when a freak accident causes an injury to her index finger leaving only a stub.

As Jane matures she realizes her childhood fondness for Thomas has been replaced with wanton love and desire. She hopes to marry him but is thwarted by her mother who wishes her daughter to marry someone of the aristocracy. Undeterred, Jane and Thomas vow to marry anyway. Both are desperately in love with deep searing desire. When the war in America breaks out, Thomas decides to fight for King George III against the colonists. Jane pleads with Thomas to marry her before he leaves, but fate will step in. Thomas is driven to be a soldier, to make money and gain a respectable rank to enable a better future together. One day word arrives that Thomas has been killed in a bloody massacre with Indians. Some time later it is discovered that Thomas has survived, but by this time Jane has married the son of the Duke of Gordon.

Island of the Swans is a romantic historical drama based on the turbulent life of Jane Maxwell. Ciji Ware has presented an intense story of this star crossed trio as their lives intertwine to produce a stirring sensually tantalizing read. Scenes of lust and desire are so beautifully written, they glow with sparks and simmering embers. Jane is portrayed as an amazingly strong woman of independence, with a deep commitment to her children. Jane’s life unfolds with historically accurate scenes that show her raising recruits for the King’s army, as well as serving as his advisor. She was known to have promoted the young Robert Burns and posed for the famous painter Sir Joshua Reynolds.

The tempestuous relationship with the Duke, and her untouchable life with Thomas, abounds with lover’s secrets, misspoken words and communications gone awry. Jane Maxwell, the Duchess of Gordon, a 17th century woman considered property, had strength and a strong sense of survival. Ahead of her time, a woman you’d want to meet. Unfortunately, according to history, her waning years were sadly inauspicious.

Published originally in 1988, Island of the Swans is an emotionally enveloping story that will tug at your heart with each page turned. Phenomenal storytelling by Ciji Ware.

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About Wisteria Leigh

  • Great review! This was such a heart wrenching story. I just reviewed it on my blog along with an interview with the author. Check it out.

  • Thanks Svea….I just went over to your blog. Thanks for sharing this. 🙂