From the marvelous cover to the splendid prose, everything about Island of the swans is simply wonderful. If you grew up loving the novels of Anya Seton and Elizabeth Goudge, you'll be happy to know that Ciji Ware follows in their footsteps.

Island of the Swans is both a lyrical love story and a carefully researched portrait of a fascinating era. The novel's unforgettable protagonist is the 18th-century historical figure Jane Maxwell, wife of the Duke of Gordon. She was one of the most famous women of her day, a patroness of Robert Burns, an intimate of William Pitt and many other political luminaries, and the mother of five daughters-all of whom grew up to marry nobility.

Jane was a feisty, headstrong young Scottish girl when she fell in love with her childhood friend, the dashing Thomas Fraser. She only agreed to marry the Duke of Gordon after Fraser was reported killed in an Indian attack in the colonies. The rest of her life is swept up in passionate complications, both romantic, artistic and political.

Readers will be transported through the streets and castles of Edinburgh with its candlelit halls and myriad political intrigues and taken behind the scenes of the London Court of the half-mad King George III, where politicians and pets alike congregated.

Ciji Ware has the makings of a great historical writer and has probably written the best historical novel of its type (fictionalized biography) in the last five years.

Don't miss Island of the Swans. Like Haley's Comet, grand, rich historical novels of this kind don't blaze on the firmament that often. (Reprint, Apr., 544 pp., $5.99)

Reviewed by: 
Anne Sullivan