In honour of the referendum today (I’m very excited as I’m working on the coverage overnight – but think of my poor partner having to put up with my moodiness afterwards) I thought I’d put together some of my favourite Scottish set books.
We’ll start with a classic of its genre – The 39 Steps – which you can get for Free on your Kindle. If you haven’t read this adventure caper – where Richard Hannay attempts to escape spies – you really should. It’s a bit like an Indiana Jones film but a book, set pre-World War One and in Scotland rather than than somewhere more exotic. Definitely worth a look – and the play version in London is a hoot (if not at all the same feel!).
Moving on to cozy crime and M C Beaton’s Hamish Macbeth series. There are 30 novels about the perpetually single-but-romantic-yet-indecisive policeman and his flock in the village of Loch Dubh. You don’t need to start at the beginning with Death of a Gossip (although it helps with keeping track of Hamish’s romantic entanglements) and they’re all fun (if increasingly formulaic) detective capers as murders crop up in lazy Hamish’s vicinity.
Falling in love with a Highlander (or being thrown together with one) is a popular theme historical romance. It is, however, one that I struggle with. I don’t know why, but they give me the giggles and the internal cringes if you know what I mean. The men tend to be particularly thick headed and the women a bit shrill and irritating. But then I haven’t read that many of them – I’m sure there are many excellent examples (leave your suggestions in the comments!) – as even reading the blurbs for some of them makes me embarrassed to read historical fiction. So I’m offering you one recommendation – Julia Quinn’s When He Was Wicked – which to my memory includes no kilts, caber tossing or haggis, just a Scottish earl, who is in love with his cousin’s widow. This was one of the very earliest of Quinn’s books that I read, and it is still one of my favourites. A good blend of old school romance in the style of Georgette Heyer and the sexy bits that you never got from her!
And for a modern Scottish set romance, I give you Katie Fforde’s Highland Fling – about Virtual Assistant Jenny Porter who goes on a business trip to assess a failing Highland textile mill after a fight with her boyfriend. Jenny manages to get thoroughly wrapped up in the village life – as her personal life gets more and more complicated. A lovely read for a cold night in front of the fire – and yes, I know it’s not winter yet, but it’s definitely coat weather at the station at 4.15 in the morning now, so I’m including it!
It wouldn’t be a list from me if I didn’t get a bit of Lord Peter Wimsey into it, so I have to mention Five Red Herrings – which is the novel between Strong Poison and Have His Carcase and sees Peter on holiday to Scotland (one suspects to escape after the stress of the Vane case) and stumbles across a murder. Its a complicated tale, involving artists and train timetables amongst many things – and if you’ve read Busman’s Honeymoon (I think, it’s a Harriet novel anyway) the source of the quote about “a murderer eating two breakfasts to lend verisimilitude to an otherwise unconvincing narrative.”
So there you are – some Scottish themed reading to add to your list. On my list of Scottish-set books to read are: Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series (the first is Cross Stitch) which several friends have recommended and has just been turned into a TV series and Alexander McCall Smith’s 44 Scotland Street.