As the author, Ciji Ware, claims, Island of the Swans is a biographical novel based on the life of Jane Maxwell, the Duchess of Gordon. Jane's life was destined to be tumultuous (to say the least) beginning with her childhood when she spent her days making mischief alongside her best friend turned childhood sweetheart, Thomas Fraser. Jane and Thomas slowly fell in love and made plans to be together, however Jane's mother has other plans for her beautiful daughter. And the marriage plans did not include a poor, disinherited boy from a disgraced Scottish family. Jane's mother's plotting turns out tragically too well and Jane Maxwell becomes the Duchess of Gordon, married to Alexander, the 4th Duke of Gordon. And even though Jane grows to love her husband, her life was never meant to be uncomplicated because it will always be marked with her deep, undying love for Thomas Fraser.
Island of the Swans was my first encounter with Ms. Ware's writing and I am yet again grateful to Sourcebooks for re-issuing the works of another great historical fiction author that I otherwise would not have read. It was quite a ride reading this epic, historical romance. I am almost wary to even categorize it as such because this novel is everything: romance, history, biography and adventure. And I enjoyed every part of it because of the richness of content and especially because of what an incredible woman Jane was. I admit, I didn't necessarily agree with some major decisions Jane made in her life and it made me dislike her for a while there. But the more I got to know her and the difficult choices she had to make and live with as a wife, a mother and an important figure on political scene, the more I respected this strong woman that would be a remarkable figure even in today's society. Ciji Ware did this woman a great justice by portraying her in as objective a light as possible. There was no character 'photoshopping'. Instead, we get served a full personality with the good and the ugly, and it concerns every major character in Island of the Swans, not just Jane. My personal favorite was one brutally honest and full of menace young lady from Maryland, Arabella. If you read the book you might question my choice but Ms. Ware created in Arabella's person a true to life, grown old too young and brave woman who had to fend for herself without the help of any man. She is in a way Jane's American equal.
Enough of the ramblings. I simply enjoyed Island of the Swans very much and despite the length, I couldn't put it down until every last tear was shed and every last sigh sighed. The love element was truly amazing and will satisfy every romance fan out there. As tainted and heartbreaking as the love between Jane and Thomas was, it was also the perfect love between the two human beings. Ciji Ware certainly knows how to touch hearts.
Special Thanks to Danielle J. from Sourcebooks, Inc. for sending me a copy of this book for review.
Island of the Swans by Ciji Ware was published on February 1, 2010 by
an imprint of Sourcebooks, Inc.