The Wolf of Dalriada
Confused by the frequent changes of location, date and point of view, it took some time for me to come to grips with this episodic novel of derring-do and villainy set in Western Scotland in 1793.
Amid echoes of Culloden and Glencoe, the Highland clearances are underway in Argyll. Powerful men and schemers, both Scottish and English, jockey for position and control in Dalriada where Malcolm Craig Lowrie must fend off overt and subtle attacks as he strives to protect his people, preserve his lands and defend his honour. When fate brings his cousin’s bride, Emma, into the orbit of the mysterious Lady Robinson, a new sequence of events begins that will change everything.
Gates steers the reader through her intricate plot with a steady hand. She describes a society that is more feudal than modern, where might is right and the rule of law—any law—has a tenuous hold at best; an impression that is reinforced by reports from France of the beginning of the reign of terror and the execution of the queen. The scene-setting is excellent, whether of an uneasy midsummer’s ball, a daring ride or a sleazy, quayside inn, and the characters are well-drawn and well-defined. As the villains’ nets tighten around their quarries, we never lose hope that our hero will manage to foil their plots and gain his lady.