Donati’s sequel (after Into the Wilderness, 1998) to James Fenimore Cooper’s Leather-Stocking Tales is sluggishly plotted
and a-brim with a confusing collection of stock characters.
The story has some of the basic elements of a good historical novel: Elizabeth Bonner, a strong-willed, daring heroine, and
a man to match her, her husband Nathaniel, son of "Hawkeye," a rough-hewn but sensitive woodsman. As the tale opens,
Elizabeth has borne twins. A nursing mother, she nevertheless leaves Lake-In-the-Clouds, her home near Paradise, New York,
in the dead of winter to follow Nathaniel to Montreal, where he’s gone to get his father out of jail. It’s unclear why he’s been
detained; the charge is espionage, yet there’s also rumor he’s secreted a cache of Tory gold. Father and son and a few of their
buddies soon find themselves slated to be hanged. The narrative becomes especially difficult to follow as Donati adds a little
more intrigue with the Earl of Carryck’s claim that Hawkeye is his heir. The Bonners, married into the Mohawk family of
Chingachgook, may also be pawns in a scheme to bring the sachem, Stone-Splitter, around for a little real-estate negotiation.
Throw in some spice from Nathaniel’s—and everyone else’s—former lover, Giselle Somerville, daughter of the lieutenant
governor, plus a few interchangeable Scotsmen, and you have a plot so congested as to defy the most attentive reader. Donati
(real name: Rosina Lippi-Green, Homestead, 1999) allows her characters to talk, talk, talk their way through the action en route
to Canada and the denouement in Scotland. The dialogue is often stilted, artificial ("This is most irregular. You cannot be in
earnest"), and the prose unintentionally funny when Donati most wants to be dramatic: "She swept into the sitting room on a
breeze of her own making."
Lacks the dash, verve, and clarity of quality historical romance. Rafael Sabatini, where are you when we really need you?