The Scottish Thistle
This romantic historical novel chronicles the events of Scotland’s Rising of 1745 for “Bonnie Prince Charlie,” as experienced by Rory MacGregor and Duncan Cameron, members of two Highland clans. Rory, the 22-year-old female chieftain of the outlawed MacGregors, was secretly betrothed by her father as a child to Duncan Cameron, foster son and bodyguard of Sir Donald Cameron of Lochiel (who really lived). Learning of the betrothal when Duncan comes to her village to claim his bride, Rory is angry she wasn’t given a choice, but reluctantly accepts due to the benefit to her clan of Cameron protection. Duncan soon grows to love her, but Rory is reluctant to love one who shares the blood of her family’s enemy, Clan Campbell.
In an author’s note, Vallar explains her decision to write the dialog in a blend of Scots (a Lowland dialect) and English, with occasional Gaelic words to give a Scottish flavor; during this period, the real Highlanders spoke Gaelic. She also describes other instances of literary license and anachronistic usage.
The Scottish Thistle features a wealth of actual historic detail, a colorful setting, and characters that genuinely care for each other. The love scenes are restrained and tasteful. However, Rory’s improbable attributes, from her name–a man’s–to her prowess with all kinds of weapons, to her chieftainship of the clan, detract from enjoyment of the story as one reflecting its stated era.