Thursday, May 3, 2012

Review - - Sound of the Heart

Sound of the Heart
By Genevieve Graham
Publisher:  Berkley Sensation
Release Date:  May 1, 2012


The Highlands of Scotland and Colonial America are two of my favorite settings for historical romance.  Genevieve Graham combines the two in a sweeping saga that takes the reader on a breathtaking, and often heartbreaking, journey from the battlefield of Culloden to the wilds of Colonial America. 

For a man like Dougal MacDonnell, the Battle of Culloden is a nightmare.   Faced with the loss of his family and friends at the hands of English soldiers, Dougal experiences the added pain of being able to “hear” the thoughts of the dying men around him, including his own father.   Dougal has been able to hear other men’s thoughts his entire life but never in such a heartbreaking way. 

When the fighting ends, Dougal is the only member of his family left to endure the brutal torture of English imprisonment.  Hope appears in the form of a fellow prisoner, a young lad who helps Dougal escape and, together, they make their way back to Scotland.  For two years, they live in an abandoned cottage and work the land, slowly returning to a somewhat normal life but always watching over their shoulders.  It is during this time that Dougal discovers Glenna, a young woman with a most unusual background who captures his heart deeply and completely.  Their happy ending is within sight but, unfortunately, the English are not quite finished with them.  (This was a time in history when England was determined to erase the people and traditions of Scotland from existence or at least from the British Isles.)  Captured, Dougal is once again imprisoned while Glenna is destined for a life of indentured servitude in America.  Only by agreeing to serve the hated English in a military regiment comprised of Highland warriors does Dougal have any hope of ever finding his beloved Glenna.  But America is a huge country and he has only the strength of his love to guide him.  Will he ever again hold her close and hear the sound of her heart?

I enjoyed this book very much.  It’s filled with fascinating bits of history, without making me feel like I’m in a history lecture, and the kind of sweeping, epic love story that keeps me reading into the wee hours of the morning.  Her vibrant voice, richly emotional story and fast paced story kept my attention from the first page to the final word.  Graham has created a hero and heroine that I liked and admired from start to finish and their actions throughout their joint, and separate, journeys only reinforced those feelings.  

This book is true to the times in which it is set and those were not easy times.  Therefore, there are some scenes that are hard to read, especially some that involve Glenna’s life after arriving in America.  Sure, the author could have glossed over the more unappealing aspects of the life servants and prisoners were forced to endure back then but I, for one, am glad she remained true to her characters and the conditions in which they were forced to live.  It may break my heart and make me uneasy at times but, by giving us the entire picture, she gives us the entire person.  Not a surface shot but the richly layered, complex individual; forged by both the good and  bad events in their lives.  

I'll look forward to reading more by this talented author!


Genevieve Graham was gracious enough to answer a few questions for me about SOUND OF THE HEART.

Thanks for answering a few questions for me, Genevieve!  

I've long been a fan of romances set in Colonial America but they're hard to come by these days.  You send your characters on a journey from the Highlands of Scotland to the American Southeast - two of my favorite places.  What led you to set SOUND OF THE HEART in this time and place?

I’m surprised at how difficult it is to find colonial romance. It was such a romantic (though violent) time to live! Imagine starting a whole new civilization? All the challenges and adventures?

And the Highlands? Well, there are a couple of reasons for that. One is because I’d been reading Highlander adventures and getting caught up in the vast Scottish world. The other is that I’m Scottish—well, third generation Scottish. I’m Canadian now, but all my roots are still firmly entrenched in Scotland.

Since my first book ended up in South Carolina, I loved the idea of someday the brothers maybe finding each other. Then I started researching and discovered some facts that aren’t so well known … did you know hundreds of thousands of Europeans were shipped to the colonies as slaves? I’m not talking about “indentured servants”, though there were thousands of those as well. These were actual slaves! I won’t go into all of that here, but the facts really surprised me and left me quite annoyed that it’s something very few people know about. To me that’s huge! Anyway, writing this story allowed me to shed a little light on the issue while incorporating the characters’ adventures and romance.

Your books are rich with history and you don't shy away from the gritty
details that were part of the reality of life in those times, especially Dougal's 
experiences during and following Culloden and the life awaiting Glenna when 
she lands in America.  What type of research did you do for this story?

When I started researching for my debut, “Under the Same Sky”, I was a newbie. I knew nothing about history and had no idea where to start on research. I brought home books by the pound then fell asleep because they were too dry for me. I combed the internet but came across so many conflicting sites it was boggling. So I tried something different. I went to the sites of re-enactors, people who spend their weekends reliving the past down to the smallest detail. They are passionate about being true to history, so when I asked what I thought was a simple question, like about the length of a sword, I’d receive a two page response. It was wonderful! Like looking for a square of chocolate and discovering an entire bar! For “Sound of the Heart” I was back at it with the Highlander re-enactors, and was even able to speak with some of my local 78th Highlanders (I live near Halifax). I also got to speak with Lawrence Clark from Bushcraft Ventures in Scotland! Lawrence is a survival expert, so he helped Dougal make it out alive after one traumatic event!

Reading SOUND OF THE HEART brought to mind many of the sweeping  
historical sagas I've read over the years.  What authors do you read?  Are 
there any in particular who inspired you to begin writing?  

I’m a huge fan of Diana Gabaldon’s writing, and it was she who unwittingly inspired me to write. I read her series four times, then listened to the unabridged three more times. I read Sara Donati’s “Into the Wilderness” series, dove into the work of Penelope Williamson and Jennifer Roberson and Marsha Canham … then finally decided it was time to try and create my own adventures.

The end of SOUND OF THE HEART leaves open the possibility of future  
stories.  Will we be revisiting these characters again?  I sure hope so!

I hope so too. I tend to write “companion” novels rather than sequels, though. We’ll see. I’ve written a third book, which Penguin is considering at the moment, called OUT OF THE SHADOWS. If you’ve read the first book, you’ll know who Maggie is. Well, this third book is about her quiet, scared sister, Adelaide, and it has my first non-Scottish hero. Jesse is kind of like an early cowboy, and I adore him. Then again, I love all my heroes!


  1. I found Genevieve thoughts fascinating and loved the interview.

    My Ryon ancestors left Scotland from Glascow and while we know they landed at the coast line of southern Connecticut we also think many of their kin traveled onto or directly to North Carolina. Of course the question also keeps us wondering if they were indeed Scotish as we had been told or with the spelling RYON were they English instead?

    Tracing the geneology has been difficult with the movement of families thru the centuries since and I can only imagine how much harder it would have been during the time period of Sound of the Heart!

    I will definately be following Genevieve and looking forward to more stories to come. Who know it might even help me locate some of my own family!

  2. Hi Jeanne
    Thanks for your comment!
    I would love to have the patience to sit down and figure out my roots. Genealogists amaze me. I'm a Scot on most sides (though 3rd generation Canadian) with a spattering of Irish. And I'm very proud to be a Scot!

  3. SOUND OF THE HEART goes straight on my list.

  4. You write my favorite type of stories. History isn't pretty and most people know only the sanitized versions of events. From 1641 to about 1653, 500,000 Irish were killed and over 300,000 sold into slavery in the Colonies and the West Indies. This was the same tactic they used in Scotland. If England wanted the land, they murdered and sold those who owned and worked if. During the "Irish Potato Famine" the English had warehouses of food they were exporting from Ireland, forcing the irish to starve to death. In the 1650's Cromwell took over 100,000 Irish Catholic children from their parents and sold them as slaves many to Virginia and New England. The English rulers were on a par with Hitler and Stalin among others acting out today in Africa. Again, where in our history does it say Queen Elizabeth I carried out a campaign of genocide and white slavery. We were taught they were indentured servants repaying their ticket to the Colonies, but they were not. In addition, they were not always released when the time (usually 7 to 10 years) they were sold for was up. If a woman had a child while serving as an indentured servant/slave, the baby belonged to the owner and she could not take it with her when her indenture finished. The owners often guaranteed she would have a child. More often than not these women would not leave their children and the owner had her as a slave for free. The whole situation with the Scots and Irish was brutal and heartbreaking. They were branded, beaten, raped, tortured, and sold as breeding stock. It wasn't until 1839 that a law was passed that ended the English slave trade.

    The Canadians did much to save the Irish during the potato famine. They sponsored boats to bring them to Canada and many settled there overflowing the border into Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, and New York. That is how my Irish ancestors came over.

    Sorry about the rant, but our history has been so edited and cleaned up that what is commonly known is often far from the truth. It is one of the reasons I read historical fiction. Many authors have extensively researched the time periods and events. The good ones give us an real feeling for what it was like for someone to have to try and survive what was beyond their control. There were few HEAs for these people and those few that did happen were hard earned. I want a story that gives me the heart wrenching feel of what their lives were like.

    Totally unrelated, but I can't believe you have read Diana Gabaldon's series 4 times. I have had it sitting on my shelf for a long time and am too intimidated to even start. I know once I do, I won't want to stop until I have finished them all. Audio would be a good option, but I don't spend enough time in the car to make it through the books in a reasonable time. I need to learn to read faster. Also, you are so right about re-enactors. We attend many events portraying many different time periods and enjoy talking with the participants.

    SOUND OF THE HEART joins UNDER THE SAME SKY at the top of my wish list. I will be getting to them sooner than later and will be watching for OUT OF THE SHADOWS. Thank you for a most interesting post. I hope the release of SOUND OF THE HEART does well. I can't wait to read it.

    1. Pat! Thank you SO MUCH for sharing all that information! I can definitely sense the same outrage as I felt when I learned about the white slavery - and how no one knows about it. If they do, they tend to look away. Not unlike the way people ignore the slave trade which is still going on today! Your comments are inspiring and energizing!

      Re: Outlander ... start with book one. Once you've gotten past the first 50 pages (some people find those dull - I never did), I'd bet money you are completely swallowed up by the story. And if you choose to go with the audio, ONLY GET THE UNABRIDGED (available at libraries!) because Diana says the Abridged version only has about 23% of the story included ...

      I'm so, so happy you found this blog today, and I look forward to hearing your thoughts on my books. Please come see my site (or my facebook page) and leave me comments when you've read them!

  5. Great blog today. This is a book I must read!

  6. Under The Same Sky is one of my favorite reads.Sound of The Heart is at the top of my wish list. Genevieve is an auto buy for me now. I love Historical Fiction with romance thrown throughout. :) Congrats on the second book's release.
    Carol L
    Lucky4750 (at) aol (dot) com

    1. I'M AN AUTO-BUY!!! I'M AN AUTO-BUY!! *dancing deliriously around my office* Thank you SO much!

  7. Wow! I'm going to have to get my hands on this one!! I love early American history and this certainly sounds like something I'll love!

    1. I'd love to hear your thoughts when you've read them!