Review: Sisters of Castle Leod by Elizabeth Hutchison Bernard
I'm thrilled to share my review of Sisters of Castle Leod, a novel based on the lives of Sibell and Constance Mackenzie, of Cromarty estate in the north of Scotland, by historical fiction writer, Elizabeth Hutchison Bernard.
As you know, I love everything to do with Scotland (having lived in the country for 17 years, with my heart firmly rooted there), so I just had to read this novel. And I can highly recommend it.
It's currently on blog tour with The Coffee Pot Book Club. Find other posts here!
Sisters of Castle Leod
Elizabeth Hutchison Bernard
In Sisters of Castle Leod, we head into an area often overlooked in novels set in Scotland: Cromarty and Ross! We meet sisters Sibell and Constance, daughters of Francis, 2nd Earl of Cromarty, in their younger years, when the older Sibell enlists her small sister's help in spotting a famous Castle Leod ghost, the Night Watchman. But only Sibell can see him, and this small scene begins to set out the glaring differences between the sisters. Fast forward a few years, and Sibell – interested in books and the paranormal – ends up inheriting the title and estate by her father's wishes, and Queen Victoria's consent.
This puts a massive divide between the sisters, now in their teens, that they both struggle to overcome. Sibell finds Constance envious of her wealth, even though the young girl received a respectable sum herself. But as they grow up, they grow even further apart, and Sibell begins to mistrust her sister.
Aware of her status as head of a family, Sibell knows she has to marry, though she's not really keen on the fashionable suitors she meets during three seasons. Under pressure from her aunt and uncle, the Duchess and Duke of Sutherland, she finds it hard to agree to any match.
Constance, meanwhile, keeps enjoying hunting and horse-riding, a total contrast to her bookish elder sister.
When Sibell meets dashing Major Edward Walter Blunt, she becomes interested in the man who wants to bring electricity to the Highlands through a large hydro project. She agrees to marry him, but remains in charge of her estate, something not everyone agrees with.
But the loss of their first child, a baby daughter, shortly after her birth leads Sibell down a dark path of depression – then merely regarded as melancholy, something to ’get over’ swiftly, but when she becomes fixated by an old legend, and Constance's apparent involvement, the fall-out between the sisters is spectacular. Edward remains firmly on Constance's side, and the couple become estranged.
In order to get away from it all, she returns to Venice, alone, where she'd been happy during her honeymoon. Will she be able to find common ground with Edward, and to have a chance of being a ’normal’ family again? Keep reading!
Sisters of Castle Leod is told from Sibell's point of view, in a beautiful, somewhat wry, narrative which suits the woman's personality well. I was able to identify with her, to be frustrated when she is, to feel the pain at the tragic loss of baby Janet, and to relate to her annoyance at being belittled and misunderstood for her paranormal sensitivities. I sensed her displeasure at Constance's misdemeanours, and also her envy at her sister's perceived freedom. Sibell's life was one of duty, of status – something she could not escape from.
This novel is as fascinating as it is gripping. The characterisation of both women, their adventures, and their experiences are described beautifully. I read it deep into the night, and found it hard to tear myself away from their world, so far removed from our modern one.
I'm delighted that Elizabeth Hutchison Bernard has plucked this lady from her obscurity and presented her to the world. Readers who love riveting fiction about real women of the past will enjoy this novel.
A highly recommended read. Don't miss it!
**Finalist in the 2022 American Writing Awards**
Millions are fans of Diana Gabaldon’s popular Outlander books and television series, but few know that Gabaldon’s fictional Castle Leoch was inspired by a real Scottish castle, Castle Leod. The two sisters who lived there at the turn of the twentieth century were among the most fascinating and talked-about women of their era.
Lady Sibell Mackenzie is a spiritualist, a believer in reincarnation, and a popular author of mystical romances. Petite and proper, she values tradition and duty. Her younger sister Lady Constance, swimming champion and big game hunter, is a statuesque beauty who scandalizes British society with her public displays of Greek-style barefoot dancing. The differences between the sisters escalate into conflict after Sibell inherits their late father’s vast estates and the title 3rd Countess of Cromartie. But it is the birth of Sibell’s daughter that sets in motion a series of bizarre and tragic events, pitting sister against sister and propelling Sibell on a desperate mission to challenge the power of fate.
Sisters of Castle Leod, by award-winning author Elizabeth Hutchison Bernard, is the emotionally charged story of two sisters torn apart by jealousy and superstition, and the impossible leap of faith that could finally bring them together.Buy Links:
This title will be available on #KindleUnlimited on release on January 19th, 2023.
Universal Link: https://books2read.com/u/3RzAJY
About the Author:
Elizabeth Hutchison Bernard
A former touring musician/songwriter and public relations professional, Elizabeth Hutchison Bernard is the author of two Amazon bestsellers: THE BEAUTY DOCTOR, "a compelling historical novel steeped in mystery with strong elements of a medical thriller" (Readers' Favorite, 5 stars), and TEMPTATION RAG: A NOVEL, a "resonant novel ... about the birth and demise of ragtime ... luxuriously crafted" (Publishers Weekly).
Her books have been finalists for the Eric Hoffer Book Award, National Indie Excellence Awards, and Arizona Literary Contest; they have received 5-star ratings from Readers” Favorite, Book Readers Appreciation Group, and historical fiction Discovered Diamonds. Elizabeth and her family live near Phoenix, Arizona.
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