Published January 2012 by HarperCollins
My paternal grandmother's people were Scottish; one of my favorite books is Jane Eyre. How could there ever have been any doubt in my mind that I would read this book?
Gemma Hardy is an orphan who has been taken in my her uncle and his family. When her uncle dies, her aunt (who has never cared for her) ships Gemma off to a boarding school where she is a "working girl." Certainly Gemma spends more time working than she does studying and even among the other working girls, Gemma is unable to make friends. Eventually, Gemma is forced to find her own way in the world, taking on a job as an au pair for the niece of a Scottish gentleman. When a secret comes to light, Gemma runs only to find that she is not the person she thought she was but also finding that she can be loved.
As the book began, I worried that I liked the book because it was so very much like Jane Eyre and I knew that I would soon lose interest if things continued that way. I'm not a fan of derivative works; they really have to be able to stand on their own.
Much to my delight, things were enough different to keep me interested and then things really took a turn that veered well off the source material. Livesey has kept enough of the story so that those who have read Jane Eyre will recognize the essentially the same plot. She has also brought in enough new characters, altered the existing characters, and added enough plot elements to allow this book to stand on it's own.
Now I might have lost interest in the book during Gemma's wanderings a bit except of two words: Castle Menzies. Gemma finds herself talking refuge in the small town of Aberfeldy, Scotland and at one point, when she is out walking in the hills, Livesey has Gemma overseeing Castle Menzies. Which, of course, means nothing to most readers. Unless you happen to have ancestors who were of Clan Menzies. Oh yes, Gemma was wandering in the lands that my ancestors had roamed hundreds of years ago. I knew where she was at then - could picture the castle, the surrounding lands. I guess an author can never really know what will hook a reader!