The Last Summer (The Wild Isle Series 1 ) by Karen Swan #FridayReads #BookReview

Summer on St Kilda – a wild, remote Scottish island.

Two strangers from drastically different worlds meet . . .

Wild-spirited Effie Gillies has lived all her life on the small island of St Kilda but when Lord Sholto, heir to the Earl of Dumfries, visits, the attraction between them is instant. For one glorious week she guides the handsome young visitor around the isle, falling in love for the first time – until a storm hits and her world falls apart.

Three months later, St Kilda falls silent as the islanders are evacuated for a better life on the mainland. With her friends and family scattered, Effie is surprised to be offered a position working on the Earl’s estate. Sholto is back in her life but their differences now seem insurmountable, even as the simmering tension between them grows. And when a shocking discovery is made back on St Kilda, all her dreams for this bright new life are threatened by the dark secrets Effie and her friends thought they had left behind.

My Review

It is 1930 and the remote settlement of St Kilda 40 miles west of the Outer Hebrides will shortly be evacuated. The population has declined to 36, 13 of them children, and a harsh winter has left them short of fleeces and bird oil to pay their rent to the island’s owner Sir Reginald MacLeod. But 18-year-old, Effie Gillies, has no desire to leave her home. A tomboy, she has had to take over a man’s role after the death of her brother. Her climbing skills, down the cliff face, impress the tourists and her knowledge of the bird species which populate the island is second to none. When Mathieson, the Factor, employed by Sir Reginald to collect their dues and supply their needs, arrives by boat, he often brings a present for Effie of a book about birds but this time he is also accompanied by Sir Reginald’s friend the Earl of Dumfries and his son Lord Sholto. The two visitors wish to see the island and collect eggs for the Earl’s collection. They are friendly and treat Effie with great respect. She feels an immediate attraction to Sholto and he seems to feel the same, but there cannot be any future relationship.

At the end of August, the islanders are transported to the mainland with their possessions and farm animals. Effie is shocked to find she cannot work with the men for the Forestry Commission but must spin with the other women, for an inferior wage. Despairing that she cannot earn enough to support her disabled father she is amazed to receive the offer of work by the Earl of Dumfries, collating his bird collection. As a naïve girl, who has never seen a tree before, she finds life at his estate overwhelming, especially as Lord Sholto treats her coldly.  Only the friendship of the household staff make life bearable in the enormous house, where for the first time she sees herself in a mirror. She enjoys her work, but she is concealing a dreadful secret which threatens even this new life.

The first half of the novel, set on Hirta, the largest island gives a vivid picture of community life of hard physical work with no luxuries but cooperative dependence on each other.  Effie is a determined young woman, not content to take a back seat. Her sudden discovery of love causes her to deceive her father but she continues to put him first. Sholto shines brightly as a handsome, good natured man with loving intentions but no plan. In the second part of the story, on the mainland, the plot becomes more serious. Effie is in trouble and it is extremely unlikely that she will have a fairy-tale ending. The conclusion is sudden and inconclusive. It is unsatisfactory unless and until the next book in the series solves the mystery. For this reason I have given this book four stars rather than five.

The day St Kilda was evacuated

Click on the map below for details of the true story.

The Last Summer on Amazon UK

Published by lizannelloyd

Love history, reading, researching and writing. Articles published in My Family History and other genealogy magazines.

2 thoughts on “The Last Summer (The Wild Isle Series 1 ) by Karen Swan #FridayReads #BookReview

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