Friday, May 6, 2011

Review of Blue Bells of Scotland by Laura Vosika

This is a well-written and entertaining time-travel novel. I enjoyed the author's rather different take on time travel, and the fact that, for a change, it was men who were the "victims" of the phenomenon. Two men 700 years apart are ripped from their places in time. How does it happen that they look so much alike that they can be mistaken for each other? That may well be related to the mysterious cause of the time-travel, but it is left to be explained in later novels. This doesn't detract from the story.

Shawn Kleiner is a world-renowned musician, selfish and self-indulgent. It took about five minutes for me to be ready to slap him up the side of the head. Niall Campbell is a medieval warrior and bard, loyal to his clan and the opposite of Shawn in every way, except in looks.

One day, Shawn's much put-upon girlfriend has had enough and leaves him stranded at a Scottish castle. While he sleeps, the two men are time swapped. Suddenly, Niall is trying to figure out how to cope with modern life, and Shawn is traveling through Scotland to the Battle of Bannockburn. However, this is a different Battle of Bannockburn. It is one that the Scots would tragically lose instead of winning unless Niall does something to change history to what it should have been and save King Robert.

The puzzlement and attempts of the two men to cope with their situation made for an entertaining novel. Whether it was Niall trying to fend off adoring women while he finds his way around a modern symphony hall. Meanwhile, in medieval Scotland, Shawn is being chased rather improbably by an English army.

I was put off, I must admit, by the story having an English army freely roaming around in Scotland just prior to the Battle of Bannockburn. This was historically inaccurate. It simply wouldn't have happened, and since the novel seemed to go to some length to try for historical accuracy, it rather stuck out like pimple on one's forehead. Nor were Scots still in Scotland debating their loyalty to King Robert. Either they were loyal, or they were expelled from Scotland.

Also, the Campbell's were very closely associated with the Scottish crown at that time and the head of the Campbells was married to King Robert's sister. Ignoring this rather important fact struck me as odd. The fact that the Campbells are represented as some poor, ill-connected clan bothered me.

I also simply didn't believe that King Robert, who had spent eight years successfully forcing the English out of Scotland, suddenly couldn't figure out how to win a battle, but an inexperienced young man could. Nor did I believe that Allene would have run off to try to take part in a battle. It simply isn't how medieval women behaved. I raised an eyebrow at that. I must admit these were issues that probably wouldn't bother most readers.

However, the author managed to get the reader invested in the characters, which helps one get past some improbabilities. The two protagonists are very well-fleshed out and fully drawn. They grow and mature over the course of the story. The secondary character of Amy was also very believable. I found that I came to like her a lot. The story did draw me in spite of my criticisms, and the prose was strong.

So as a story, I would give this 5 stars. As a historical novel, I'm afraid I would only give it 3 because of the inaccuracies about what was happening in Scotland at that time. On balance, I'd give it 4 stars, and it is well worth the price as a fun read. You can buy Blue Bells of Scotland on Amazon priced at $2.99.


My new novel, A Kingdom's Cost, is now available on Amazon and Smashwords for $2.99.

Freedom's Sword is price reduced to 99 Cents through May 14 at Amazon and Smashwords.

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