If You Like….

Since I’m honeymooning in Scotland (and like to theme read on vacations) this week’s If You Like is Scotland-set books. Which, it turns out, can be a very, very broad category. So I’ve divided it up into two. This week’s will be historical set and next week will be modern (including mystery/thriller).

If you like historical novels set in Scotland, you’ll probably like….

— Sir Walter Scott’s swashbuckling romanticized vision of the eighteenth century in Rob Roy and Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Master of Ballantrae. They set the mould for so many of the Highland dramas that were to come later.

— Sticking with the Jacobite rising, there is, of course, Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander, which has probably done more to popularize the place and time period than any other modern novel. This saga, in which a 1945 Englishwoman catapults back to mid-eighteenth century Scotland starts a few years before the Rising and goes on from there.

— For a glimpse into a Scotland that Robert Louis Stevenson would have recognized, Darci Hannah did a wonderful job bringing early nineteenth century Scotland to life in The Exile of Sara Stevenson, in which an Edinburgh-bred heroine finds herself exiled to a remote lighthouse. Also check out The Angel of Blythe Hall, also set in Scotland, but in the 15th century, against a backdrop of warring clans.

— For those who like their history almost straight up, with a hint of fictionalization, there’s Nigel Tranter’s immense oeuvre, which covers most of the monarchs of Scotland, from the medieval on up. Back in my college days, working on a thesis about Marie de Guise, I was particularly taken with his James V Trilogy, but he’s also covered Robert the Bruce, William Wallace, Queen Margaret, and just about anyone else of who you can think.

— Margaret of Scotland has also been covered, more recently, by Susan Fraser King in Queen Hereafter.

— Moving a bit later in the Middle Ages, there’s Kathryn Lynn Davis’s Child of Awe, set in the troubled fourteenth century as a wealthy heiress becomes mixed up in the ambitions of the powerful Campbell clan.

— Of course, I couldn’t possibly leave out Dorothy Dunnett’s Lymond Chronicles, in which Francis Crawford of Lymond intrigues his way through the mid-sixteenth century. Much of the Lymond saga is set outside Scotland, but since the hero is a Scotsman, it counts all the same. If you haven’t read these yet, start with The Game of Kings and read your way through.

— Moving from the sixteenth century to the seventeenth, we arrive at my favorite book of 1990, Heartstorm. There’s a dashing Highland rogue, an evil English courtier, the evil English courtier’s spunky (and half-Scottish) daughter, Big Family Secrets, even bigger family feuds, a conniving Other Woman…. So much happiness and the Highlands, too.

— While we’re on the romance side of things, does anyone else remember Arnette Lamb’s highland rogues? (Of which my favorite was the aptly titled Highland Rogue). They had all the elements anyone would want in a Highland-set romance novel, dashing lairds, lost governesses, spunky clansmen– sheer fun.

— Also on the romance side, how could I leave out Julie Garwood’s The Bride, in which, if I recall properly, the English heroine is married off to a Scottish laird with the requisite Dark Family Secret and naturally, after much sparring, wins over both the laird and his clan. (I adored this book, but it’s been a while since I’ve read it, so apologies for the sketchy plot summary.)

— For those Julia Quinn fans out there, look for her hilarious short story, Gretna Green, in the anthology Scottish Brides. It is well worth tracking down a copy.

— I could go on and on, but I’m going to finish up with a quirky favorite: George MacDonald Fraser’s The Reavers, a laugh out loud spoof of the marauding Border clans of the 16th century. Seriously, it is that funny. Fraser is best known for his nineteenth century Flashmanbooks, but he also wrote one of the best non-fiction books out there about the early modern Anglo-Scottish border raiders, The Steel Bonnets. In The Reavers, he takes all of that information and uses it to create an Errol Flynn meets Mel Brooks sort of absurdity.

Okay, I’d better stop now. What are your favorite Scottish-set historical novels?


  1. Leslie on June 18, 2012 at 11:10 am

    Hey married lady! I spent my honeymoon tramping through the Scottish Highlands. Best summer ever!
    I love “The Legend” by Kathleen Givens.
    Set in the 17th century, around the time of the Battle of Dundee. Highlander James McCurrie and Lowlander Ellen Graham are two of my favorite lovers.
    Of course “Outlander”. It’s hard to beat Jamie Fraser and Claire Randell when it comes to Scottish Historicals.
    I also like Lynn Kurland’s “Dance Through Time”. I think thats the title of the first in her time travel series.
    I recently reread it and it made me laugh so hard when the 14th century laird comes to the 20th century. A bit of fun to be sure.

    Have fun! Drink Whiskey! Stay Warm!

  2. Joanne M. on June 18, 2012 at 11:25 am

    Honeymooning in the Highlands sounds wonderful! (Just be careful around those standing stones…..!)

    I enjoyed Bride of the MacHugh and
    My Lord Monleigh, both by Jan Cox Speas. Her books are a bit hard to find, but I read them after Susanna Kearsley highly recommended them. Thanks for the great list….my amazon cart is full of books today!

  3. Ashley on June 18, 2012 at 12:01 pm

    Congratulations Lauren! Best wishes!

    I adore Susanna Kearsley’s The Winter Sea – for some reason, when I think of Scotland, I think of brooding, atmospheric tales and her novel has it all for me!

  4. Kam on June 18, 2012 at 2:00 pm

    Congratulations Lauren.
    I’m a recent convert to the pink books and live in the UK – although not in Scotland (hope the weather’s good to you!!)
    One of my fave books is Milly Johnson’s The birds and bees. Can’t remember if it’s set in Scotland but it does features an adorable Scottish hunk…

    PS The pinks are so good – thank you so much for them. I’ve raved about them so much my local bookstore are now recommending them too!

  5. Kam on June 18, 2012 at 2:24 pm

    Ooops, sorry – my recommendation would come under next week’s modern Scottish category! On a historical note, I think “When he was wicked” by Julia was set north of the border.

  6. Jessica @ Quirky Bookworm on June 18, 2012 at 4:02 pm


    Several of the books in Patricia Veryan’s Golden Chronicles series are at least partially set in Scotland — Jacobites fleeing the English, etc. That series is a lot of fun.

    And there was at least one Elizabeth Peters set in Scotland. The title escapes me though…Legend something? Legend in Green Velvet?

  7. SusanN on June 18, 2012 at 5:39 pm

    Dunnett and Gabaldon top my list, to which I’d also add Nigel Trantor.

    (And congratulations on your wedding!)

  8. Céline on June 18, 2012 at 5:57 pm

    Congratulations Lauren!!
    Honeymooning in Scotland! Lucky you!
    (will our favorite pink spy have a mission in Scotland one day?) 😀

    I do agree with Leslie on Kathleen Givens! Her books are really good!

    And for the French speaking willig-maniac, I’d like to recommand Sonia Marmen’s books (not sure if she was translated)… Set in Scotland mostly, around the 18th century. Really good books, with a Diana Gabaldon feeling!

  9. Amy N. on June 18, 2012 at 8:30 pm

    @Jessica — You are correct, Legend in Green Velvet by Elizabeth Peters.

    @Lauren, Congratulations! Thanks for the recommendations — there’s always room for new reads~ Go enjoy yourselves!

  10. carrie on June 18, 2012 at 8:48 pm

    Margaret George’s Mary Queen of Scots is very good. Which is good because that sucker is huge and so it needs to be good to make it through.

    Note: not a good one to carry on a plane – very heavy.

  11. Pam on June 19, 2012 at 10:30 am

    Congratulations, Lauren! I saw your lovely photo in the NYT Style section wedding announcements on Sunday. I hope that you have a wonderful honeymoon and a happily ever after.

    Arthur and George by Julian Barnes is partially set in Scotland and is wonderful. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Murial Spark, set at a school in Edinburgh, is another one that Spoke To Me.

    On the cozier side, Alexander McCall Smith’s Sunday Philosophy Club mystery series is set in Edinburgh (ditto his 44 Scotland Street series). A Royal Flush (#3 in Rhys Bowen’s Her Royal Spyness series) is set up at Georgie’s mouldering family pile in the Highlands.

    Or if you want (modern) gothic suspense there is Wildfire at Midnight by the divine Mary Stewart.

    I can’t wait to check out all these recommendations!

  12. Imani on June 19, 2012 at 11:39 pm

    ur married now?? i had no idea lol. funny u mention this since i just picked the book The Winter Sea by susan kearsley? sum1 else mentioned it here, so it must be a good book

  13. Tina on June 20, 2012 at 10:32 am

    No reading recommendations, but I wanted to say congratulations on your wedding and that I hope you have a wonderful honeymoon. Scotland is beautifull and I bet nicer in June than I it was when I visited in November.

  14. jada on June 20, 2012 at 11:09 am

    I wish I could say Lorna Doone is a Scots tale (as my Scots grandmother read it to me and Lorna is a Scottish name) …but it could be…

  15. cate on June 21, 2012 at 11:14 am

    Many many congrats on your nuptuals…I wish you both a long and happy life together. I also hope it’s a lot drier in Scotland than it is in Dorset !!!!
    No Scottish novels for me… too many writers try to emulate the accent which just hacks me off !

  16. Bridget Erin on June 24, 2012 at 2:45 pm

    I also have no reading recommendation, but Congrats on your wedding! Have a wonderful honeymoon!

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