After embarrassing themselves at the social event of the year in high society Philadelphia on New Year’s Eve of 1942, Maddie and Ellis Hyde are cut off financially by Ellis’s father, a former army Colonel who is already embarrassed by his son’s inability to serve in WWII due to his being colorblind.
To Maddie’s horror, Ellis decides that the only way to regain his father’s favor is to succeed in a venture his father attempted and very publicly failed at: he will hunt the famous Loch Ness monster and when he finds it he will restore his father’s name and return to his father’s good graces (and pocketbook). Joined by their friend Hank, a wealthy socialite, the three make their way to Scotland in the midst of war. Each day the two men go off to hunt the monster, while another monster, Hitler, is devastating Europe. And Maddie, now alone in a foreign country, must begin to figure out who she is and what she wants.
I didn’t think I was going to enjoy this as much as I did. Its basically a romance and I don’t typically like romance novels, and yet I loved this. First of all it’s set in Scotland, and I might be a bit biased here, but Scotland is a lovely place and as a setting for a book you won’t find anywhere nicer. Next it’s set around Loch Ness and though I did just say that Scotland is pretty nice, some bits of it are nicer than other. Loch Ness is one of those nicer bits, if grass, sheep and really tall mountains are your kind of thing.
But then its about a bunch of Americans coming to Scotland looking for the Loch Ness Monster, and it’s so wonderful because you get to see that culture shock of a bunch of posh pampered Americans, used to being waited on hand and foot coming to Scotland thinking everything is going to be done for them. And then Sara Gruen has brilliantly captured the personality of the Scottish people, especially when these Americans arrive thinking everything will be done for them, it’s hilarious how the locals don’t beat around the bush and will say straight out “fuck off, do it yourself” to these pampered Americans (okay so they didn’t say that exactly but you get the idea).
Its also set during World War 2 and I really loved how the war is going on in the background. Its not hugely important to the plot. But you really get a sense of how these people in the Highlands were living during WW2. Gruen must have spent a lot of time doing her research. Though one slight thing I noticed was that a number of characters had a habit of slipping into Gaelic, now I may be wrong here but I’m pretty sure it’s more folk on the west coast of Scotland who speak Gaelic, though that could have been different 70 years ago.
I feel like I’m rambling here but this book was really great. Its a weird mix of romance during WW2 with a side of Scottish history and a little bit of magic, but all together it works brilliantly. I loved it and you should read it. Meanwhile I’m off to find a copy of Water for Elephants.
*I received a copy of this book from Two Roads in exchange for an honest review.