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The Stormy Petrel


Mary Stewart

Release Date:


  Modern romance, Scotland, Cambridge professor, mystery  
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I had to. Really, I couldn't resist when my friend handed me this! I was expecting a sappy romance, poorly written and just funny. Happily, instead I got a well written mystery, centered on a poetry teacher at Cambridge, Rose Fenemore. The story is told in first person from Rose's point of view.

Rose has writer's block. She decides to take a vacation and finds an ad for an "Ivory Tower" in Scotland. Thinking this is just the thing she needs, she decides to take a chance and makes the reservation, including her brother who is to join her later. The Ilse of Moila is beautiful, with a very small population and little use for cars. The charming cottage seems perfect, and she's settling in nicely when a storm hits. During the storm, a stranger with a key lets himself into the kitchen, scaring her half to death. Ewen Mackay is handsome, and claims the cottage is his old family home, which he was unaware had been sold.

Then a second man, John Parsons, appears out of the storm, with an equally uncertain story. Both men seem to be natives of the Ilse of Moila, and people in town have mixed opinions of both. There is quite a bit of mystery surrounding their past, and the past of their families. Which is the good guy, and which the bad? Are they both bad? Both good?

Rose explores the old family gardens, the large mansion on the cliff, and the small rocky side island looking for clues about the two men's personalities and pasts. Meanwhile, some of her students are also travelling and come to see her, her brother's arrival is postponed, and many intriguing characters wander in and out of the story.

This is not your typical "boy meets girl, steals a kiss, they marry and live happily ever after" tale. Well written with engaging characters and a thankful lack of sappiness, I might even want to re-read this one. The story includes many modern elements, including real estate investors, old lady's wills, independent women, men who travel without their wives and aren't hitting on other women while they do, and tent camping on tiny islands where the petrels nest.

Along with this is the charming picture of a small town in modern Scotland and the wonderful moors that are a character in themselves. Most of the characters reminded me of real people I've known. There was romance, but none of that unbelievable "eyes met across a crowded room" stuff. All in all, this was definitely a fun read. Fast paced, believable and engaging, I would recommend this one, especially if you went to Oglethorpe University (whose mascot is, you guessed it, the Stormy Petrel)! (BRENDAN'S DISCLAIMER: A disproportiant number of my Minions attended Oglethorpe University.)

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