CREATURE COMFORTS by Jessica Stirling
Kirkus Star


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This second novel in Stirling's gutsy doom-booming trilogy easily matches Treasures on Earth (1985) for the juiciest of amorous messes, horrific predicaments, clashing egos and events at a gallop--again in an early-19th-century rural, but rapidly industrializing, Scotland. The daughters of dead ex-drover's woman Gaddy (whose bootstraps' struggle for Treasures on Earth comprised Book I) are both beautiful--and miserable. Passionate Anna is married to Matt Sinclair, restless son of the grieve of the nearby estate of Ottershaw, whose laird has recently died. Never more than lust-linked only, Anna and Matt hate their lot and each other. Both crave excitement that a humble forester's life and cottage cannot give. Elspeth's social status is secure as the wife of severe, tough-as-gristle James Moodie, self-made factory owner. But Moodie's refusal to bed his all-too-willing wife is (as readers of Treasures know) the ultimate in bitter secrets: Moodie is married to his own illegitimate daughter! Inevitably, bewildered Elspeth will take a lover--a young man who is dying, unbeknownst to Elspeth. Moodie--always on a tight rein--will be driven to near madness, not only by Elspeth's pregnancy, but also by blackmail via a sleazy pair who discover Moodie's scarlet secret. In the meantime, Anna, too, has found a lover--in the third laird of Ottershaw, the abrasive, canny, yet curiously conscience-tender Randall Bontine, who takes over Ottershaw with an iron grip. In a night of fire and murder and a heart-and-hoof-pounding chase, the focus is on Matt Sinclair--target of Anna's callous betrayal (Matt is now a boyishly vulnerable whiskey smuggler)--and on revenue officers and Moodie, who suspects Matt is Elspeth's lover. At the dose, both sisters leave--one driving, one driven--into exile. Can Anna's unborn, and Elspeth's daughter, ever hurdle the clutter of bar sinisters in their gloriously untidy ancestries? Keep tuned. Top-flight period melodrama, with curiously attractive characters (the principals here have just enough complexity to anchor empathy), the most titillating of situations, and a shrewd use of period mores and ambiance.

Pub Date: Aug. 29th, 1986
Publisher: St. Martin's