Review: Island of the Swans by Ciji Ware

Island of the SwansRe-issued in its original full length, this acclaimed and bestselling romantic historical novel by award-winning author Ciji Ware tells the true story of passionate and flamboyant Jane Maxwell, the 4th Duchess of Gordon (1749-1812). In love since childhood with Thomas Fraser, when she hears that he’s been killed in America, she marries the Duke of Gordon with disastrous results. But Fraser, very much alive, returns to England to claim her love.

In addition to telling a heart-wrenching love story, Island of the Swans also paints a fascinating portrait of a powerful and controversial woman and the tumultuous era in which she lived. Patroness of poet Robert Burns, advisor to King George, painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds, Jane Maxwell was a towering figure in her own time and is an unforgettable heroine.

Island of the Swans by Ciji Ware
February 1, 2010 (Reissue)
Historical Romance
Paperback, 592 Pages
Sourcebooks Landmark

This book follows the life of Jane Maxwell, who after her father abandons the family, her mother puts the hopes of the family into her lap. But Jane is anything but obedient. She is a free-flying, spunky soul who even from an early age is in love with Thomas Fraser. Thomas grows up never knowing his parents after they died supporting Price Charles, and losing everything in his place.

When they both reach young adulthood, they love each other yet financially they are unable to convince their parents and guardians that they are a good match. They secretly engage, but before they can do more, Thomas is sent of to America to fight with the Scottish. He promises Jane, when he returns in two years time, he will have money and land and they can marry.

Before that two years is up, word reaches Jane that Thomas has been killed. Devastated, Jane turns to an unlikely source of support – Alexander, The Duke of Gordon. Alexander and Thomas had a strenuous relationship at best. Both dealing in grief, an odd, relationship develops and a marriage results.

But Thomas is not dead – he is very much alive in America. When he returns, heartbreak over past events will turn both of their lives upside down.

Island of the Swans is the kind of book I loved reading growing up and it really was fun to read such an epic tale again. The love between Thomas and Jane is so rich and intense, and then to have Thomas reappear after she marries his archenemy – oh the tension!! They try so hard to respect her vows of marriage and move on with their lives, but true love is hard to ignore.

Jane is such a fierce, independent heroine, it is hard not to root against poor Alexander. Don’t get me wrong though, Alexander does plenty to hurt his cause. Jane is very outspoken and never fits the mold her mother wants for her beautiful daughter. While Jane and Alexander have a good physical relationship, the emotional distress of knowing Thomas is out there, fighting for her heart, dooms them from the beginning.

Island of the Swans is a romantic tale that reminds you love does not always play a fair game with your heart.

Rating: 4/5

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  1. A Buckeye Girl Reads says

    I can't believe I haven't heard of this book before. I love historical fiction books like this. I'm adding this one to my list!

  2. Erin says

    Yay! I'm so glad you liked it. This is one of the first romance-ish books I ever read, and I LOVED it. I'm scared to re-read and ruin it, but it sounds like it held up okay.

  3. Donna [F.D. Ramblings] says

    I went through a period in high school where this type of story would have rocked my world. Very nice review!

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