Joan Wolf






Onyx/NAL Penguin, Inc., Oct. 1987
Reviewed by Joy Calderwood

Britain, 1745

Vanessa’s father, the Scottish Earl of Morar, raised her in the hope that one day the Stuart kings would return with an army to drive out the Hanoverians, who currently occupy the British throne. Many of the important families of Scotland hold themselves ready to take part in any rebellion led by a Stuart heir to the throne.

Vanessa’s English mother is not interested in politics. She appeals to Vanessa’s other love, music. No pianoforte teacher good enough for Vanessa’s talent would be willing to come into these wild mountains, to live in their sprawling castle among uncultured herdsmen. Since it seems so unlikely that the Stuarts will get the help of a French invasion army, Vanessa is sent to England for an experience of culture. There she will be under the wing of her mother’s sister Katherine, the mother of the Earl of Linton.

Vanessa and Edward, Earl of Linton, are poles apart politically. Emotionally, they strike irresistible sparks. But when Bonnie Prince Charlie arrives alone, determined to risk everything with the Scots who are loyal to him, the separation of Vanessa and Edward is just one more casualty of war.

HIGHLAND SUNSET is peopled with family and friends to love. Vanessa’s charismatic brother Niall has a suspense-filled story line. The love of Vanessa’s parents Frances and Alasdair, material for another novel in itself, had me in tears. The twists and turns of the plot come not from unlikely intrigues but from horribly true situations. The barriers between Vanessa and Edward are very real, not contrived misunderstandings. Their passionate love sweeps overwhelmingly through the pages.

Author Joan Wolf tracks the course of the rebellion as the people behind it, on both sides, make the decisions that determine their countries’ fate. Edward plays a fascinating role, one so real my reaction was, “Someone had to do it.” The titles of earldoms of Linton and Morar did not exist, yet Wolf has integrated them so well into the social tides of the times that one is tempted to search the records for these men. An entire culture died in the crushing of this rebellion. Fortunately the people who live through it are strong enough to carry our hopes for their futures.

HIGHLAND SUNSET is out of print, but I quickly found forty copies available on the internet. Sadly, this is not the kind of romance that is often republished now. Wolf built her story around the dramatic realities of life during these true events, using genuine conflicts and tragedies. By comparison, so many of the romances that are published these days, even Wolf’s own recent offerings, are weak and thin next to HIGHLAND SUNSET. Here is another candidate for my Favorite Romance Read of 2005.

Sep 2005 Review


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