Mountain Heather is one of those books that refuses to be pigeon-holed. According to its spine, it is fiction, but the back blurb touts a romantic angle. It was originally published last year in Great Britain under the title Grianan, which makes much more sense, since there were neither mountains nor heather anywhere to be found. I think the new title was chosen to lure romance readers, which I think is a mistake. If you go into this book expecting a straight romance, you are sure to be disappointed. On the other hand, if you adore slow-moving British stories similar to Rosamunde Pilcher’s, this could be the book for you.
When Sally Buchanan’s fiance ditches her for his ex-wife, she leaves her high-powered job and luxurious new home. She is not sure what to do, so she comes north to Scotland where her beloved Aunt Janey runs an inn, Grianan. She figures she will help her aunt out for the summer, and then decide what course to take. Along the way, she stops at a cottage owned by her aunt. There she meets Mike Danaher, who manages the parks in the area. Mike is trapped in a loveless marriage, but Sally is his soul-mate, and the two soon start having an affair. They both know their relationship can go nowhere, and Sally eventually leaves him and goes to Grianan. There she sorts out her recent problems and her troubled childhood. Periodically she goes back and meets up with Mike. At the end of the summer, Sally and Mike seem to make a final break. Sally decides to stay near Grianan and open her own business.
I can’t say more about the story without giving too much away, but there are several more things that happen to make Sally a more grown-up and happy person. Be forewarned: this is not a sunny book with an HEA ending. Something truly awful happens, and the ending is more of the bittersweet variety.
Some additional caveats: This is a very slow-moving story, especially at first. It takes forever for the plot to develop. Once I got to the end I could hardly put it down, but at the beginning it was really slow going. It is also hard to figure out which man Sally is supposed to end up with. For the first three quarters of the book I genuinely could not tell. This may not bother you, but for some reason it drove me crazy; I guess I wanted to have someone to root for. Mountain Heather is also replete with extremely detailed nature descriptions. You may enjoy all this vivid detail, but maybe not.
The book is extremely choppy at first. It tends to leap from scene to scene with no transition, and this can pull you right out of the story. The problem is more prevalent during the slow beginning. It is also difficult to ascertain how much time is passing. At the end of the book Sally thinks about how it has been three years since she first came back to Grianan. I was glad she mentioned it, because I had no idea how long it had been. It could have been a year. . .or six. Some dates at the front of the chapters would have been helpful.
On the other hand, this is a very heart-warming story, and definitely a multi-hanky read. The character development is slow, but in the end is very satisfying. You get to know Sally as a person through her interactions with the secondary characters, all of whom are richly drawn. Aunt Janey was one of my favorites, and there is an nosy neighbor who is really fun. Predictability is also not a problem here; I had no idea where this story was going to go.
At the end, you’ll have to make the call on this one. If you crave lots of action and excitement, look elsewhere. But if you really enjoy slowly unfolding dramas, your patience will be well rewarded.
I've been at AAR since dinosaurs roamed the Internet. I've been a Reviewer, Reviews Editor, Managing Editor, Publisher, and Blogger. Oh, and Advertising Corodinator. Right now I'm taking a step back to concentrate on kids, new husband, and new job in law...but I'll still keep my toe in the romance waters.